Posted on: July 13, 2011 2:15 pm

U.S. women making soccer fun (really)

This U.S. women's soccer team is fun to watch, and not just because it wins. Although winning is fun. I've seen comments below similar stories like this one of mine, readers wondering how I could be so blatantly biased.

I'm an American. That's an American team. I tell you my bias up front. Any more questions? Good, we'll continue ...

This team is fun because it plays a different brand of soccer than I'm used to seeing from U.S. teams, male or female. Past American sides have played futbol like Ohio State plays football -- conservatively, smartly, boringly. Keep it close, and then win because you're more disciplined than the other team.

When it works, fine. I guess. But it's not fun.

This U.S. women's team is fun -- and just one victory away from another World Cup title. The Americans beat France 3-1 on Wednesday to advance to the final on Sunday.

And they did it Wednesday as they did it a few days ago against Brazil, with more vision and creativity than outright skill. We're not the most talented side. We're not even the most talented American women's side. The 1991 World Cup team that had Mia Hamm, Michelle Akers, Kristine Lilly, Julie Foudy -- and more -- was more talented than this one. Of course, that team was more talented than anyone, bludgeoning its World Cup foes by a combined score of 25-5.

This team isn't winning with superior talent -- Brazil and France both looked better -- but with vision, imagination and uncanny finishing.

The Americans take chances -- we take chances -- and we make them pay off. It's dangerous, but it's working. And win or lose, it's awesome to watch.

Category: Soccer
Tags: World Cup
Posted on: July 10, 2011 4:15 pm
Edited on: July 10, 2011 5:13 pm

Women win classic ... hope you were watching

That was one of the most compelling games of international sport -- any sport -- in U.S. history. Hope you were watching. Hope Solo hopes you were watching, too.

Problem is, it was soccer. And not just soccer, but women's soccer. And so society being what it is, this game -- a U.S. victory against Brazil in penalty kicks on Sunday in a World Cup quarterfinal -- probably won't go down in history with some of the others unmistakably on that list, all-timers like the U.S. men's hockey team's win over the Soviets in 1980 and the U.S. men's basketball team's loss to the Soviets in 1972.

Sunday's soccer game wasn't for the ultimate championship, but neither was that hockey game in 1980. The gold-medal game was against Finland, but I digress.

This soccer game on Sunday, this women's soccer game, was the most compelling soccer match in American history. If you won't give me the first sentence of this blogg post, surely you'll give me that last one. The U.S. women have won world titles before -- two in the World Cup, three in the Olympics -- but there has never been a game like this one.

A game with awful officiating, flopping opponents, a goal in the final seconds of extra time in the latter of two overtimes to force penalty kicks, then a final penalty kick by Ali Krieger to finish off the Brazilians.

The Americans were screwed by blind officiating on at least one goal, then had to play 10-on-11 -- and I'm telling you, it was more like 10-on-14 counting the officials -- after Rachel Buehler was sent off the field with a red card on a penalty against Marta that probably wasn't a penalty and definitely wasn't worthy of expulsion. That led to a Brazilian penalty kick that U.S. keeper Hope Solo swatted away, only to be told to do it again because, well, as of this writing I'm not sure why Solo had to do it again.

All I know is she couldn't, and Marta scored on the retake, and a 1-0 U.S. lead became a 1-1 tie. Brazil eventually went ahead 2-1, but Abby Wambach buried a second-overtime header seconds before the game would end in defeat, and it was on to penalty kicks.

This was a victory for the United States, yes, but it was also a victory for class and dignity. Brazil showed very little of it with the theatrical flopping and bush-league stalling tactics.

I'm not sure the better team won. But I'm sure the classier team won. And if you're thinking to yourself, "This blogg post sure was written by an American homer," I'd tell you that you're damn right.

Category: Soccer
Tags: USA
Posted on: November 19, 2009 8:15 am
Edited on: November 19, 2009 8:24 am

France cheated ... and NOW everyone's outraged?

Soccer is a sport where cheating is commonplace. This is a sport where players walk the ball 10 or 20 yards up the field before throwing it in, just to get an extra advantage. This is a sport where teams set up a human wall 10 yards from the ball, as the rules say, but then creep forward to close the gap.

This is a sport where players flop around the pitch field like fish trying to draw fouls or even red cards on opposing players, because playing 11-on-10 is easier than 11-on-11. This is a sport where every bit of contact requires a stoppage in play and possibly a stretcher to carry the wounded faker off the field.

And everyone's outraged because France's Thierry Henry used his hand to stop a ball in the box, leading to the pass, and the goal, that sent France into the World Cup at the expense of Ireland?

Nonsense. This is a sport where faking is celebrated, so get off your high horse, soccer fans. Thierry Henry didn't cheat worse than anyone else.

He cheated better.

Category: Soccer
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