Into the bubble: Annie’s off to the Olympics — Sydney Leroux talks Orlando Pride — Must-click woso links

The IX: Soccer Monday with Annie M. Peterson for July 12, 2021

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This is technically my last post before I head off to Tokyo. I’ll have something next week, but when you’re reading it I’ll be in the air.

For the next several weeks, I’m planning to treat my Soccer Monday posts of something of a diary, because I thought you might be interested in what this really, really weird Olympics is going to look like from the perspective of someone who is going to be traveling around the country to different stadiums and watching soccer while dealing with the restrictions of coronavirus.

Tokyo is in a state of emergency, declared by Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga. It runs from Monday until Aug. 22 — for the entirety of the Olympics and beyond. As of Sunday, the seven-day average of daily infections was 733.9, up just over 26 percent from the previous week. Yep, that’s a problem.

As a result, most Olympic competition will be held without fans, including soccer.

Here’s what is going to be required of the reporters going to to the games, including yours truly.

First, I have to get two very, very COVID-19 specific tests. One within 92 hours before departure. One 72 hours before departure. Some airlines are requiring additional tests before boarding.

Upon landing, I’ll stand in line to be tested again. There’s no eating or drinking before the tests. The line has been about 2 hours long this week. I’ll have to show proof of my two negative tests, uploaded to a special app that will track my movements at all times, as well as other documentation: My vaccination record and a letter from my company that shows I have insurance coverage, and a letter “pledging” I will follow all the rules. Plus my passport and a pre-credential for the Olympics. If anything is not in order, I will not be allowed in the country.

Once I get through the line, and also customs, and get my official credential approved, I will be ushered to a bus, that will take me to a drop-off point, and then put in a special car and driven to my hotel.

Once there, I cannot leave, not even to go for a walk. There “may” be a small convenience store (or not) that I can go to near my hotel for small necessities, but I’m only allowed to be gone from the hotel for 15 minutes or risk getting my credential pulled. Convenience story sushi, here I come.

I am allowed to eat only at the hotel or order takeout. Under the state of emergency, all restaurants must close at 8 p.m. No fourth meal for me!

And at the games, because there are no fans at the stadiums, there will be no concessions. So no food there. I will likely be at my stadiums for 8-plus hours.

I will not be able to go outdoors for a walk or a run.

I am not allowed to walk to my stadiums. Even if my hotel is close to a particular venue, I must board a bus, head to the main Olympic media center, then take a bus to the stadium from there.

I cannot take public transportation to the other cities hosting women’s soccer. Rather than Japan’s efficient bullet trains, I will have to go to the main media center and catch a bus to my next city. Again, I’ll be able to go only two places: My hotel and my stadium.

At all times, an app will track my whereabouts. I will need to input health data daily. Who needs a fitbit?

Yes, I am fully vaccinated. But that does not matter in Japan. Because of equity, all reporters will be treated the same, vaccinated or not.

Basically, I will be in a bubble, although the Japanese government doesn’t call it that. It’s a “soft quarantine” which really means incredibly strict bubble.

Kinda like what the U.S. women’s national team does every single tournament. We’re gonna shut off the outside noise and focus soley on the soccer. Because basically, that’s all that’s allowed.

I’ll be there 23 days, which is actually shorter than previous Olympics.

I am not whining about this, honestly. I know I’m really lucky to cover the USWNT and get paid for it. I know I’m really lucky to be going to my fifth Olympics. And we all knew that Tokyo was going to be challenging.

I thought that this Olympics was going to be interesting. But just never imagined this.

Anyway, if you have questions about Tokyo, or the Olympics, feel free to ask and I’ll answer in upcoming posts.

On to the links.


Reminder: First, the underlined words are the links. Second. CLICK these, even if you’ve already read them. ESPECIALLY NOW, as newsrooms are forced to make difficult choices. Clicks = Attention from editors, producers and webmasters. Third, if you want to push out stuff you’ve written or read, email me!

Caitlin Murray looked at the right-wing freakout over the anthem for The Guardian. Be prepared for more of this as the games get closer and during the Olympics. If there’s any certainty in the world right now, there will be bad-faith attacks on the USWNT — and may other U.S. women heading to Tokyo. I like the way Caitlin addressed this, but generally I believe we shouldn’t even acknowledge this stuff, because then we’re spreading it for them.

Julie Foudy wrote about all the weapons the USWNT has, now including Tobin Heath and the roster expansion rules.

The Courage and the Pride denied the release of New Zealand players for the Olympics, drawing the ire of Tom Sermanni.

All for XI addresses the best goal that never was, from Andre Carlisle.

Excited for this: CBS Sports launches the Attacking Third podcast from Sandra Herrera and Lisa Roman!

Abby Wambach is hosting a new ESPN+ show called Abby’s Place.

Crystal Dunn is one of the “10 to Watch” at the Olympics, from USA Today’s great Nancy Armour.

Pop Sugar looks at seven fun facts about Christen Press.

Annie Costabile looks at the challenges the Red Stars face during the Olympic absences, for the Chicago Sun-Times.

Outsports on Bella Bixby’s request to drop the “W” from the NWSL.

Feature on Rocky Rodriguez in Oregon Live.

Jeff Kassouf for The Equalizer makes a plea for larger Olympic rosters all the time.

Jody Taylor signs with the Pride, from Julie Poe at the Orlando Sentinel. Julia also wrote this nice story on Sydney Leroux. See below!

Don’t get me wrong, I think Julie Ertz is great, but this was a head scratcher.

Clare Brennan for Just Women’s Sports wrote a nice story on Gotham’s D.

Speaking of Just Women’s Sports, loved this podcast with Katie Nolan.

A story here on the backlash over Sean Nahas and Angel City.

Blair Newman on how Allie Long has helped improve Gotham.

Fascinating story on ManU’s women from The Athletic’s Katie Whyatt and Adam Crafton.

Also for The Athletic, Steph Yang looks at Diana Matheson’s retirement.

Five at The IX: Sydney Leroux

Sydney Leroux spoke with the media about how the Pride took two points away from Racing this weekend. Here’s what she said!

Question: What are your overall thoughts on the game today?

Leroux: I wouldn’t say we had a very good game, but I think we battled and we battled to the last minute. I think we left a lot of gaps for them to play in between us. And that’s something that we’ll look at going forward. But I’m proud that we we came back and we got a point, but definitely some things to look at.

Question: On that goal scoring play, is that something that you guys have drawn up and practiced before, with having Ashlyn feeding some of those long balls. And just kind of over the what were the emotions on that?

Leroux: I don’t know. I think we just sent everyone up and she put a great ball in. To be honest, I have no idea what happened. I blacked out. And the next thing you know, the ball was in the back of the net. So, yes, no we haven’t really worked on that. But, hey, it worked.

Question: And from your perspective, why did that (flat play) kind of happen throughout the first half?

Leroux: I don’t know. I feel like we missed tackles. We kind of got pulled out of position everywhere. And so we had a pretty intense conversation at halftime. And I felt like we we came out a different team in the second half. But I still feel like we we were out of position and we were missing tackles and our 1 v. 1 battles weren’t good enough. So that is something that, like I said, we will work on moving forward.

Question: What are specific things that can be improved on offense?

Leroux: I think being able to play, I think sometimes we we just try and go over top when when we can play, we can play in front of them. I think teams are starting to drop for that long ball in behind. And so that gives us the opportunity to play in front of them. And I don’t think we did that well enough. And so we’re going to have to go into Portland with that in mind.

Question: Holly came right up to you after the game, you literally just robbed this man of two points. He gave you a big hug. Could you tell us what he told you?

Leroux: Yeah, he’s a great coach and we have a good relationship. And so we just had some funny banter, but I respect him a lot. And so it was nice getting a hug, even though I might have stolen some points away.

Question: It does feel like, particularly this season, you’ve come in with an incredible energy and this team is relying on you a lot, particularly with some some starters gone for the break. Do you find that energizing?

Leroux: I feel like every single game I try to I try to put everything I have into it. And to be honest, I didn’t have legs left. And when Abby came on and Chelsea came on, I said, you’ve got to run for me because I can’t jump. I was cramping. My calves were done. So I think our subs came in and did a great job. But for me, I try and play as hard and as well as I can and try to do the best I can for my team.

Question: When you talk about wanting to play a little bit more in front of the ball going forward, how do you think this team needs to adjust to do that, especially without having Marta and Alex due to the Olympics?

Leroux: I think we just need to continue to work on it. I mean, it’s there, it’s right in front of us. You can see the spaces. And I just think we’re not hitting it. So, again, that’s something that we’re going to have to look at, but it’s not something that we can’t do. So I’m excited to get to work and fix those little little situations that we had today.

Question: A lot has been made about the mentality of this team this year compared to in years past, the belief that you guys have when you go down, that you can come back.

Leroux: Yeah, I think that’s been been the biggest difference for us is we always feel like we can come back. We always feel like we can play ourselves back into any game. And I feel like we’ve done that this season and we need to continue to push. And I feel like it’s never over when you’re playing the Pride and especially at home because our fans bring it every single game. So we’re extremely thankful for them. But yeah, we have a never die attitude and never give up. And I think it’s it’s worked out really well for us this year.

Mondays: Soccer
By: Annie Peterson, @AnnieMPeterson, AP Women’s Soccer
Tuesdays: Tennis
By: Joey Dillon, @JoeyDillon, Freelance Tennis Writer
Wednesdays: Basketball
By: Howard Megdal, @HowardMegdal, The Next
Thursdays: Golf
By: Sarah Kellam, @sarahkellam,
Fridays: Hockey
By: Erica Ayala, @ELindsay08, NWHL Broadcaster
Saturdays: Gymnastics
By: Jessica Taylor Price, @jesstaylorprice, Freelance Gymnastics Writer

Written by Annie Peterson