Qualified! — So what have we learned about the USWNT roster? — Canada’s Ashley Lawrence speaks
The IX: Soccer Monday with Annie M. Peterson, July 11, 2022
Happy Soccer Monday! Mission accomplished, although it was all but a foregone conclusion: The United States has qualified for the 2023 World Cup.
So did Canada and Costa Rica. Fourteen nations are now headed to next summer’s big event.
The final group stage matches are set for Monday night. The United States plays Mexico, and while the result doesn’t mean much to the Americans, a win would allow Mexico to salvage at least some pride out of a disappointing tournament on home soil. Even a chance at the intercontinental playoff is a long shot.
After the W Championship, the United States will have work to do. They’re going to have an absolutely jammed pool of talent to choose from for the World Cup roster.
Let’s look at the possibilities.
First, the players that aren’t there: Crystal Dunn will be back soon after having her son (she’s already regaining her form, which makes me exhausted just to think about). Julie Ertz could be back from pregnancy, too, although she hasn’t played since the Tokyo Games, which is a loooonnng layoff. She’s not expected to play in 2022. But we all know what she can bring when she’s at 100 percent.
Other injured players will return to the fold, too. Sam Mewis, Catarina Macario, Lynn Williams, Tierna Davidson and Abby Dahlkemper should be ready by 2023, although ACLs (Macario, Davidson) take time.
Christen Press also is recovering from an ACL, although coach Vlatko Andonovski did not select her for the squad before she was injured. Tobin Heath is also in limbo. (And I never, ever thought I’d write those words.)
Then there’s the vets: Megan Rapinoe, Alex Morgan, Becky Sauerbrunn and Kelley O’Hara. How many of them will make the World Cup team?
Among the youngsters, there’s tremendous talent, which bodes well for the future. Sophia Smith has played with poise and confidence in this tournament. The thing about Smith is that she’s so kind of unassuming off the field — and just lethal on it. Those kinds of players have always fascinated me as a writer.
Mal Pugh has clearly rededicated herself after missing out on the Olympics. Midge Purce, Alana Cook, Emily Fox are all looking good, too. While there will inevitably be lots of talk about how the rest of the world is catching up with the United States as the World Cup looms, it’s clear the concerns about the team in the wake of the Tokyo Games have been addressed.
Andonovski went all-in on the kids. And it’s paid off.
Before I move on to the links, there’s something I’d like to address on the other side of the world. And there’s a lot of confusion about the exact string of events, but what is happening to Barbra Banda is shameful.
Banda, who was electric in Tokyo, was ruled out of the Africa Cup of Nations after she reportedly failed a gender verification test. But let’s face it, gender isn’t always concretely defined.
Back in 1968 at the Mexico Olympics players were first subjected to chromosome tests. Players who “failed” were subjected to invasive physical examinations.
At the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, EIGHT athletes “failed” the test. They were all allowed to eventually compete, because it was determined they had chromosomal anomalies. Some of them didn’t even know.
After that, the IOC dropped those tests.
Banda was among FOUR players left off Zambia’s roster. There’s a question about what tests these players were subjected to, but it appears the issue was high testosterone levels.
The players were given the option of hormone suppressing drugs in order to compete. It is reminiscent of what has happened with track athlete Caster Semenya.
I interviewed Semenya once when she was in Eugene for a track meet. I asked her about the questions she was facing about her gender. Her answer stuck with me: “This is how God made me.”
There are a lot of bad actors asking “What is a Woman?” right now. They are trying to demonize people who don’t fit into narrow gender stereotypes. This attack on Banda is one result of those efforts. Sadly, we can expect more.
Semenya is a woman. Banda is a woman. They should be allowed to be athletes.
FIFA is reviewing the CAF’s decision and there’s a chance that Banda and her fellow teammates could play later in the tournament. There are a few reports out there that say she’s been reinstated, but I haven’t heard back from FIFA myself.
And lastly, Colombia is only paying its players $22 a day! Melissa Ortiz is calling attention to it, again. Why do we have to keep doing this?
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Five at The IX: Ashley Lawrence
Ashley Lawrence talked to the media yesterday ahead of Canada’s match against Costa Rica. Here’s what she said!
Question: A few of the players spoke about the frustrations of the last game. As players do you just completely forget about that game and try to put it behind you or do you try to take lessons from that game moving forward?
Lawrence: I think it’s a bit of both. We know going into any tournament that it is a marathon. So we take it one one day at a time one game at a time. Coming away from the Trinidad game and Panama, there are learnings from both. I think for us, we understand that there will be frustrations, but things that are ultimately out of our control. And so for us it’s a process to stay focused on the things that we can control and that’s our game, what we bring, our style of play, how we can impose ourselves on opposition. And that’s exactly what we did. And so we’re going to continue with that mindset throughout the tournament. That’s really what has provided us with success in the past. And so we’re just going to keep on with that mental mentality.
Question: Can you just speak to maybe the frustrations that you as a team might have when you go up against your last two opponents who were so staunchly committed to committing bodies behind the ball and defending in a low block. How frustrating is that and what’s what’s the key to sort of breaking through that block and just sort of refining an attacking breakthrough.
Lawrence: Well firstly, every every opposition will have their game plan or tactics. And I think for us, it’s about starting off the game composed and kind of assessing what the opposition is presenting. It usually takes the first 5-10 minutes. And then for us once we’re really in the game, it’s just about keeping the ball, creating our opportunities. And so, again, in every game, there will be frustrations. It could be the conditions, the weather conditions, the field, no matter what it is, we know that we just have to stick to our processes. And if things do arise, we just have to keep composed. Because that is energy kind of wasted. And so I think we’ve shown, and with the players that we do have with the leadership experience, we have the players that can just manage really well in those situations. And again, the tournament is long so we just have to be very conscious of of those moments and how we can use them to our advantages.
Question: After having a couple of slow starts against Trinidad against Panama, how crucial will be to have a faster, better start against Costa Rica.
Lawrence: So for us, we know that a game is 90 minutes long and starting off a game strong can be presented in many different ways. Having the ball, having a high percentage of the ball, creating chances. We showed that against Trinidad and against Panama. Even if the ball didn’t go on the back of the net, we showed that we’re a threat, are dangerous, in the final third. And so for us that is confidence booster. We know for us the importance of being efficient in front of goal, but I think creating those chances, being very threatening in the final third is important for us. So it’s just building off of that going into Costa Rica. But we’re in a good place. We have two wins under our belt. We’ve qualified for the World Cup and now our focus is is on the next game and just ultimately starting off how we’ve been, and just building off that.
Question: I’m wondering, maybe that first game in particular, it looked like there was sort of an intentionality around making sure that you had that space on that left flank to get forward and serve balls, wondering what that process has been like for you in terms of your offensive role on this side and maybe how it relates to some of what you were just talking about when you’re up against an opposition that is sort of sat in and how you need to approach that as sort of adding layers to the attack from the fullback role.
Lawrence: So we’ve definitely been mindful of our roles as fullbacks whether it’s on the left or right, we do have fullbacks that can do both, can get forward in the attack and are great defenders. And I know for our team, we pride ourselves on adding that extra layer of attack. It’s definitely, I think, an X- factor for us. And again, it speaks volumes to the players that we do have in those positions. I think for myself in particular on the left hand side, I do like getting forward. And I think that the team has that confidence in me to get forward but also, again with other players, on the right side, we’ve really given that license to go forward, to get crosses in, to go 1-v-1 and just to cause the opposition some challenges to get to create those 2-v-1s are out wide. It’s a pleasure for me to do that, to help the team out in the attack. But of course, I’m a defender first so it’s my defensive responsibilities, being solid defensively as a backline unit. But when we can go forward as fullbacks we do have license to go forward to make the difference when we can.
|By: Annie Peterson, @AnnieMPeterson, AP Women’s Soccer|
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