The IX: Soccer Monday with Annie M. Peterson, February 22, 2021
Standing again for the anthem: Crystal Dunn's thoughts, and a few words about access — Plus a bunch o' links and a shameless clickbait interview with fan favorite Christen Press
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Crystal Dunn says the U.S. national team is moving on from the protest of kneeling for the national anthem.
There was some surprise when the team collectively stood for the anthem on Sunday, prior to the 2-0 victory over Brazil. I was always curious what this moment would look like. Frankly, I felt teams would do away with playing the anthem all together as a way to avoid controversy. But we saw what happened with Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban tried to quietly eliminate the anthem. Hint: the Mavs are playing it again.
Afterward, with just two players available on the post-match Zoom call, Dunn was asked why.
Here’s what she said:
“I think those that were collectively kneeling felt like we were kneeling to bring about attention to police brutality and systemic racism, and I think we decided that moving forward we no longer feel the need to knee because we are doing the work behind the scenes. We are combatting systemic racism. And we never felt we were going to knee forever. So there was always going to be a time that we felt it time to stand. I think we’re all proud that we are doing the work behind the scenes and it was just a game where we felt we were ready to move into the next phase and just continuously fight for change.”
Dunn was asked how the decision came about:
“No, it wasn’t a vote. Like I said before, we all knew that we weren’t probably going to kneel forever. It was only a matter of time. I think kneeling was a form of protest, it was a way to being about attention to the issues that were going on in the country, and actually across the world. But we’re really proud. We’ve been doing so much work behind the scenes. Like so much. We all encourage each other to step out of our comfort zone and be more involved the community, and not only focus on soccer. Because ultimately we are more than athletes. I just thought it was time for us to move on to the next phase. I think we are prepared to stand moving forward and it’s only because we feel very comfortable in our efforts off the field to combat systemic racism.”
The Equalizer’s Jeff Kassouf asked if the players talked about making the change:
“No, we haven’t spoken in depth collectively as a whole team. I think for me personally I always felt like I’m a testament to a lot of black experiences. I am a black athlete who has often felt like I have not been heard or not been seen. And a lot of black people feel the same way. We’ve had those initial discussions and I feel better about where this team is, but I do think moving forward that we’re prepared to just continue working off the filed and continuously having these discussions. Even though we are choosing to stand it doesn’t mean that the conversations go away or they stop. It’s all to say that we are no ready to move past the protesting phase and actually move into putting all of the talk into actual work.”
A lot was made about why Dunn was pushed out to answer for the players’ decision. So, just to clarify, the two best players of the match (at least IMHO), Dunn and Christen Press, were the only players that reporters were given access to in the postgame Zoom. In times of COVID-19, there’s no post-game mixed zone, where the entire team files past the media. Our access was limited — which is a point of contention for all sports reporters right now.
So yes, Dunn was made to answer for the team, which is NOT a good look. But I don’t believe it was necessarily on purpose: I believe Dunn was simply chosen for the Zoom because of her performance.
I would have liked to hear Rapinoe’s take, and its unfortunate that we didn’t. Perhaps later this week.
Oh, and let’s just take a moment to recognize Dunn’s amazing defense. We’ve talked before about Dunn’s obvious talents on the attack, but my goodness, this is why she plays on defense.
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Hey, so I figure many of you watched the game, so I’m not going to put the multitude of game recaps here. Y’all can find them if you’d like. But let me just say that the fact there are so many of them is great! Lots and lots of content out there, which is what we here at The IX LOVE TO SEE!
Claire Watkins for All for XI examines the importance of Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka’s involvement in the NWSL.
More celebrities jump on the NWSL train, this time Chelsea Clinton and Jenna Bush and the Washington Spirit.
Meg Linehan with a wonderful profile of Debinha for The Athletic.
Oh hey, I wrote about Crystal Dunn for The AP.
Serena Williams sings the praises of women’s soccer.
Sandra Herrera’s KC preseason profile for CBS Sports.
Annie Costabile with a preseason preview of the Chicago Red Stars for the Sun Times.
The Washington Post Steven Goff looks at the salary disparity between Jill Ellis and her men’s team counterparts at U.S. Soccer.
Caitlin Murray also did an excellent story on pay disparity at U.S. Soccer for The Guardian
Julia Poe spoke to Aly Wagner about the U.S. prospects at the Olympics.
Goff also wrote this wonderful piece on how expectations are higher now for Rose Lavelle.
The Equalizer’s Dan Lauletta examines whether the Olympic roster is obvious at this point.
TWEET OF THE WEEK
Again, any celebration that has to do with babies, I’m down for.
Five at The IX: Christen Press!
Hey, so here is what Christen Press had to say after the 2-0 U.S. victory over Brazil. Press scored, for her 10th goal in 13 national team matches. She is a favorite of The IX readers, so this is basically a shameless appeal for subscriptions!
Question: Just hoping that you can maybe walk us through what you were seeing in what the defense from Brazil was offering up to you in terms of space, especially on that left-hand side.
Press: I think we were fairly successful today at getting into the deep areas behind their backline, to be able to create crossing and shooting opportunities. And on the goal, Lindsey played me a great ball in on a diagonal so that I wasn’t in a crossing situation, I was actually able to cut in, and open up the angle of the goal. And that’s kind of like what I like to do, it’s my signature shot and my signature style, so it was great to see it go into the back of the net.
Question: In terms of Brazil’s overall approach, obviously you’ve seen a decent amount of them over your time. Do you feel like you saw a different elements of their game. Now that Pia Sundhage is in coach — a coach that you’ve obviously had some time with as well.
Press: I actually thought that they felt similar to how they’ve felt in the past, which is, it’s always a really fun matchup. You have a lot of opportunity to attack because they want to attack and they want to be on the attack, and that caused the game to be very transitional, and that’s not unusual for a USA-Brazil matchup. And they leave a lot of numbers high, even when we’re attacking. And so it’s quite dangerous for us as a team that always likes to exploit the space, they kind of lure you into that and then as soon as they can get a touch on the ball they’re running down your throat so I thought it was actually a fair fairly familiar feeling out there
Question: How do you feel physically?
Press: I think that January/February is always a real challenge for this team because we’re coming off offseason, so we’re used to that. Historically, we’ve played a lot of games away in Europe and those have always been our most challenging times because we have to train a lot as a national team just to get touches during that period. I feel that one of the benefits of obviously being abroad right now is that I’m sharp, I’m played in, physically I felt great today. I felt like I was able to help the team carry the load defensively and stay in a high press for as long as we could because of that.
Question: What is it about you and these performances going up against the team like Brazil, getting prepared mentally for taking on a team like that?
Press: One thing that I’ve learned playing on the U.S. women’s national team is you have to prepare for every single game, as if it’s the most important game of your life. So that’s kind of the approach I take. And for me, that means, actually calming myself emotionally a lot before the game, because I tend to be very excited. And so in order to feel prepared, that’s kind of my game day routine is just to stay really chill. And then kind of feel like you’re shooting out of cannon during the game. So to get an early opportunity feels really good because it feels like that strategy’s working.
Question: Do you think South American teams are being more competitive, especially every time they face the U.S.
Press: Absolutely. I think Brazil has been a tough opponent for the US for a very long time, but you can definitely see the global game is improving, which keeps us on our toes, which means we always have to be improving to stay on top. That’s really actually really good for us and really good for the global game.
Question: I wanted to ask a little bit about the connection that you and the other wide forwards have had to have with Abby Dahlkemper in particular, playing those longer range passes today. The goal I think started with Julie Ertz kind of spreading the field out wide from a deeper spot as well. How much work has gone into that? How much of a ceiling you think there is in that avenue of attack for you as a group?
Press: Well, Abby Dahlkemper has one of the best long balls in the game so that’s no secret, and as long as she’s on the field that’s weapon that we have to use, I think it’s great. Playing on the flank, we know that we can always switch the point of attack in a blink. And I think that’s our style, our style is to move really quickly into the attack, and to find space on the far side and I think that it’s really hard to defend and if it is defendable then we have our other tactics and strategies.
Question: I think you’re just one shot from 60 goals for your country. What would that mean for you hitting the 60 mark?
Press: Every time you score when you represent your country, it’s a huge honor. A lot of work, a lot of shots go into a single goal. So, I feel very proud to represent this team, and I will continue to do everything in my power to do that well.