That’s a wrap from Japan! What a long, strange trip it’s been — Must-click woso links — Becky Sauerbrunn reflects
The IX: Soccer Monday by Annie M. Peterson, August 9, 2021
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When you all are reading this, I will be in the air, heading back to Portland after 23 days in Japan.
It was a weird Olympics with quarantines, spitting daily into test tubes, multiple hotel rooms and writing on long bus rides.
But what a storybook ending: Canada. Sinclair. Gold.
I have to admit, it’s way better for me clicks-wise if the United States does well. But if I had to pick a personally satisfying ending, it would be Canada’s first ever gold medal.
I have been tagging along on Christine Sinclair’s career since I first arrived in Oregon, and saw her play at the University of Portland.
When the Pilots won their second NCAA title, Portland threw the team a downtown parade and rally. Yes, Portland loves soccer. At first I was, `OK, a parade for a women’s soccer team? That’s new.’
The title came without legendary Pilots coach Clive Charles, who recruited Sinclair to Portland. He had died in 2003 after a long battle with prostate cancer.
At the parade, I asked Sinclair what she was feeling. She said: “Somewhere, Clive is smiling.”
I gotta imagine Clive is smiling again.
But while soccer rejoices in Canada’s win, I feel like it’s important to look at what happened to the United States.
The team was totally disjointed. Passes were errant. And 10 goals disallowed as offside? Holy cow. So many players that we expected to emerge as stars simply disappeared.
Lynn Williams was a bright spot but she was shifted in and out. The players that pulled out the victory for the bronze medal were 39-year-old Carli Lloyd and 36-year-old Megan Rapinoe. Not offense to the olds (I am one) but where is the future?
Rapinoe said this after the loss to Canada, putting blame on the players themselves, rather than the game plan:
“We don’t have the juice. The ball’s banging off our shins and we’re not finding open passes and we’re not doing the simple things. So, I mean we can deep dive into analyzing, and I know we will. But I think, at the end of the day, like at some point, there’s all the preparation that you can do and there’s all the analyzing and there’s all the tactics and everything, and then there’s everything else.”
I think its more likely a combination of the two, poor planning as well as poor execution.
And perhaps the team just got a bit too cocky?
I asked Vlatko Andonovski at the final press conference what he learned from his first Olympics. Here’s what he said.
Going into the tournament, I had in different different moments, different situations, I had different chats with with the more experienced players individually, even in official meetings, they were all saying that it’s different. It’s different. They were trying to prepare me and prepare the team that major tournaments are difficult especially Olympics, they’re difficult. They’re tough mentally tough physically. I was trying to prepare myself, but you can never prepare yourself for it unless you live it, you go through it, you experience it. And it was tough. There were tough moments. Obviously it started really tough for us, for our team. That first loss made a mark for the rest of the tournament, and to come out of it with that game, or finish the tournament with the game that we did, I’m just proud of the team.
Andonovski also talked about the “Come to Jesus” team meeting between the semifinals and the bronze medal match during which the players let out a lot of their frustration. The team ultimately decided they were going to pull together for the bronze.
But now what? There’s two years before the World Cup.
I’ve got a few suggestions:
Again, no offense to the olds. Thanks for your service. But it’s time for new blood.
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! email@example.com.
Before we move on to the soccer links, I wanted to share a story I did here in Japan on Laurel Hubbard, the New Zealand weight lifter who became the first openly transgender woman to compete at the Olympics. Proud of this one, not because I wrote it, but because Hubbard is so shy that I was honored that when she decided to speak, I was able to be in the room.
Caitlin Murray looks at why the U.S. fell short for ESPN.
Samantha Lewis breaks down Australia’s performance for ESPN.
CNN did a feature on Quinn.
Suzy Wrack with a nice profile of Canada coach Bev Preistman for The Guardian.
Meredith Cash for the Insider with a story on Stephanie Labbe’s incredible Olympics.
Ali Raza for the CBC writes about Canadian players asking for more support after winning the gold.
Rachel Bachman wraps up the USWNT’s Olympics for the Wall Street Journal.
Mary Louise Kelly from NPR talked to Meg Linehan about the USWNT.
Programming Note: We here at Soccer Mondays don’t care what TFG says about the USWNT because it’s completely irrelevant. So no links to that drivel.
Elliott Almond with the San Jose Mercury News argues that it’s time for new blood on the team.
Annie Costabile with the Chicago Sun-Times looks at the NWSL’s partnership with RISE.
This is a good time to revisit Steph Yang’s excellent piece for the Athletic on Christine Sinclair.
Andy Das from the New York Times with his take on the USWNT’s Olympics.
Avi Creditor’s wrapup for Sports Illustrated.
Harry Bushnell with Yahoo Sports on Carli Lloyd and whether it’s her last dance.
Will Cincinnati get an NWSL franchise, the Enquirer wants to know.
Caitlin Murray is still covering the Thorns for Oregon live, here’s her story on Moultrie’s first assist.
Jonathan Tannenwald with the Philly Inquirer says not so fast on calls to fire Andonovski.
Five at The IX: BECKY SAUERBRUNN
So here’s a bit of what Becky Sauerbrunn said to reporters following the bronze medal match.
Question: Sum up your feelings after winning the bronze medal:
Sauerbrunn: I think we all realized that we didn’t play the best this entire tournament and so to have the response that we had after a very disappointing semifinal, to show the USA mentality, the resiliency, to put the performance in that we wanted to be playing the entire time, to finally find it in a game like that. Very satisfying. I’m extremely proud of the group. A lot of highs and lows in this tournament, and I’m just so proud of the group and have felt supported throughout the whole process and can’t say more than that bronze means so much. It feels like we really had to earn that thing and we’re very proud.
Question: We’ve heard there was a team meeting between the semifinals and the bronze medal match?
Sauerbrunn: We had a lot of meetings, we had a players meeting where we just kind of tried to clear the air and try to figure out what was going on because it clearly wasn’t us. It wasn’t our identity, we weren’t bringing the intangibles and non-negotiables that we bring every single game. So I think we got to say our truths, and some of it was hard to hear and some of it was amazing to hear. And so we came back together as a group afterwards and this was the response that we had. So it was needed and I’m glad that it happened. And then tonight it’s one of those things where there’s nothing else, this was the last game of the tournament, make it to six and it was empty the tanks. Basically like hashtag empty the tank.
Question: Have you thought about retiring?
Sauerbrunn: Of course I think about it. I think that’s something for me that I’m going to get some some time and distance and perspective, and a lot of self-reflection and have some talks with people that I really trust that are gonna tell me very honestly if I still have it or not. And then talk to to myself about it: Do I still have it, do I still want to have it? And so those talks will come, but I’m not thinking about that tonight, just about the bronze and celebrating with my team.
Question: Was this a good exclamation point to leave the tournament on?
Sauerbrunn: I mean, not many people get to leave the tournament on a win. It is a good way to end the journey and obviously there’s been a lot of highs and a lot of lows for individuals and for the team. So for us as a team to be able to end on a high, I think it’s good to keep the momentum going, whatever the team is going to look like, knowing that we’re gonna have people that have played in this group that are going to carry on the identity of this team and to know what it really takes in a tournament like this to get a result.