The IX: Soccer Monday with Annie Peterson for June 10, 2019
USA preps for the opener, must-click links and BROOOOONNNNN.
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Greetings from France! The World Cup has started!
The United States is in Reims preparing to face Thailand. The team spent 10 days training in Tottenham before coming here. I was able to get to one media availability there, where Crystal Dunn and Megan Rapinoe spoke.
During the World Cup, access to players and coaches is tightly controlled. So there’s a schedule of players we’re granted time with. I was fortunate, however, to catch Becky Sauerbrunn by phone. Excerpts from the interview are below!
Since we’ve been in Reims, there have been two formal press conferences, one with Christen Press and Lindsey Horan, and yesterday’s with Julie Ertz and Alyssa Naeher.
The USWNT and Thailand are the last two teams to kick off at the World Cup. So a lot of the talk has been about the schedule and the team’s preparation.
“What were in such a secluded environment, but the environment was so amazing. And Tottenham gave us the best facilities and fields. And we were so happy to be together and I think we did kind of take all the pressure away from what we’re doing,” Lindsey Horan said. “Now that we’re in France we have a few extra days to prepare for our first game. I don’t see it as a bad thing. I think it’s an exciting thing.”
Hope Solo is causing a bit of a stir — unsurprisingly — with comments she’s making to the BBC. Solo is part of the BBC’s World Cup broadcast team. Today is the first day we’ll get to ask Jill Ellis about it, so that will be interesting. I’m not gonna replay Solo’s comments here, ya’ll who care have probably already seen them.
UPDATE: Here’s Ellis’ quote: “For me, personally, I feel over the past five years I’ve made a lot of important decisions and I have processes to make those decisions, and I own those processes,” Ellis said. “At this point, everything and every focus is about this group of players that are here and now. Pundits, out there, that’s part of it. And part of the message is always to make sure that the focus is on the internal part of the game. And that’s where we are.”
In Paris there was little buzz about the World Cup, which was sad. It was more about tennis. CNN International even did a feature on how no one there is paying attention.
But I was encouraged to see that out here in Reims there’s plenty of signs, an information desk on the promenade at the center of town. And lots of fans wearing team gear. The fans for Norway and Nigeria were wonderful, even if the crowds were sparse.
FIFA expects one billion people to watch on TV. I’d love to hear from people back in the states if there’s any buzz. If you have thought, please email me at email@example.com, or my DMs on Twitter are open @AnnieMPeterson.
This Week in Women’s Soccer
So you guys, the great thing about the Women’s World Cup is that women’s soccer gets a lot of coverage. And yes, there’s folks who just swoop in once every four years and then forget the sport the day after the final.
But for now, let’s just rejoice in the fact that the coverage is happening in a big way. Jeff Kassouf and I were talking about how, in Canada, there were just a handful of outlets who dedicated a writer to the event. Now the Equalizer has a whole host of folks at the event, as do many other news organizations. The New York Times also has a team here. AP has some great writers and editors, too.
But it’s not so great if you are compiling links. There’s SO MUCH content out there that’s amazing, and I simply don’t have the space to include it all. So I’m highlighting stories that I found particularly interesting.
Plus, one other interesting thing: I don’t have access to some websites because they are blocked in France. For example, I can’t access the full USA Today here, only select stories. So there’s that.
But first off, I want to highlight Shireen Ahmed’s tremendous piece for TIME. Yes, let’s also think about the teams that aren’t in France, and why.
Meg Linehan has a nice piece for The Athletic about New Zealand and how coach Tom Sermanni is managing expectations. We don’t get to hear much about the Ferns generally, so this was a nice change of pace.
AP Global Soccer Writer Rob Harris with a story on the World Cup happening with a backdrop of equality, visibility and funding issues.
Speaking of The Equalizer, here’s the site’s special World Cup page!
Caitlin Murray teamed up with FiveThirtyEight for this cool project.
Speaking of cool projects, the New York Times did a great survey of 108 Women’s World Cup players. This is really good, guys.
Also in the New York Times: Soccer’s Me Too movement.
A couple of things I wrote: My Sauerbrunn story is here. Also chatted with Crystal Dunn. Australia’s players’ union took a stand for equal pay. The Women’s World Cup is a platform for social change. FIFA partners with UN Women. (Wish we knew how much money was behind this!)
Five at The IX: Becky Sauerbrunn
And without further ado, here’s a few questions with Becky Sauerbrunn, who was kind enough to speak to me by phone when I arrived in London. We did not discuss cats, but I wanted to.
Annie: First off, how’s the team? Are you guys ready?
Sauerbrunn: (Laughs) Yes. Actually it’s really good. We’ve had an excellent precamp here in England. We’re in a fantastic facility. Everyone in good spirits. We just scrimmaged some the boys yesterday. And we’re feeling good. We feel very ready.
Annie: It feels like Jill was still doing a little tweaking in the last couple of matches before the World Cup. Do you guys feel comfortable with where you’re at as a defense?
Sauerbrunn: Yeah. When it comes to the World Cup you never know what can happen, there can be yellow card accumulation, red cards, whatnot. So I think for Jill to be able to know, kind of the pool of players that she can put in the back line, in case a situation like that came up, it’s really helpful. But I do feel that she — well I can’t speak for Jill, but I know that I feel very strongly about the back line of the players that are available. I think throughout the last two years we’ve played so many different combinations of players together, and I think no matter who the starting group is, I feel very strongly that it’s a very good, world class unit.
Annie: In 2015 the U.S. defense kind of emerged as a strength in the World Cup. And you guys were you guys were tremendously effective with Hope Solo in goal. Comparing and contrasting your World Cup experiences, how do you feel that this defense ranks?
Sauerbrunn: I think in 2015, it wasn’t just the back line, I think in general the whole team played a more defensive formation, and a defensive way of playing. I think we’ve changed that within the last four years and I think we’re now a more attacking group. So when you’re putting a lot of numbers forward in the attack, you just have to defend different way. So I think it’s very difficult to compare because we’re playing two different styles of soccer. But I feel as far as quality and quality of player, and quality of vision and tactics I think that the backlines are very comparable.
Annie: in regards to yourself how has your game kind of progressed or changed since Canada?
Sauerbrunn: I think that the way that we are now being asked to play, I have more of a responsibility for organizing the players that are behind the ball. We call them counter measures, because if f we are putting a lot of people on the attack we need to make sure that when the other team counter attack us, that we’re not giving up easy goals. And so that’s a responsibility for me to make sure that I’m keeping enough players back and putting them in the right spot so we can kind of squash any sort of counterattack another team can start.
Annie: At least back then you were not the most kind of vocal member on the defense. I think a lot of that was left to Hope. And Alyssa is definitely a more quieter kind of player, more low key. Have you kind of taken on a more vocal role do you feel?
Sauerbrunn: Yeah I do. I feel like I have taken on more of a vocal role, I mean that comes with organizing the people around me, you obviously have to be very vocal. But also in a World Cup setting, you don’t hear a lot, especially in Canada, like you can’t really speak beyond 15 yards to another person. And so it’s really everyone’s responsibility to kind of be looking around and aware where our players are where their players are, because it comes down to it in some of those atmospheres you can’t you can’t hear anything. But in those moments when you can say something, yes, I feel like that is a role that I have had to step into, and that I’m happy to step into.
Annie: It feels like in the past two years also you’ve kind of taken a more vocal role off the field. You’ve asserted yourself into you know matters of equity. Is this kind of your evolution of your identity as a player?
Sauerbrunn: I feel that as I’ve gotten older, I’ve gotten more comfortable with myself and my opinions, and voicing those opinions. I always feel like I’ve been a good listener, and as I’ve gotten older I feel like I do partake more in discussions and in the fights that we, as a team, support. And I do think it’s kind of an evolution for me. It mirrors the evolution of me as a player, but it’s definitely the evolution of me as a person.
Annie: Do you have a sense that with this, that you want to leave a legacy?
Sauerbrunn: I think any any player would want to leave a legacy. And if I had to think about what I would want to be known for, it’s as team-first player, always wanted to do whatever it took to make the team better. And that goes for on and off the field.