Goalkeepers Monday: Naeher looks ready for the World Cup

The IX: Soccer Monday with Annie M. Peterson, May 29, 2023

Based on her performance for the Chicago Red Stars this weekend, Alyssa Naeher certainly looks ready for the Women’s World Cup.

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She finished with six saves to reach 520 for her career, breaking Ashlyn Harris’ record of 518. She also moved into a tie for second place on the career shutouts list with 41.

She has 38 saves this season, tied for the league lead, playing on an underperforming team that is clearly missing Mallory Swanson’s offense. And while Naeher’s goals-against numbers are poor, Chicago’s defense overall is struggling. (We saw that in Portland.)

In many ways, Naeher is the quintessential goalkeeper. She’s talented, reliable and, most importantly, nothing rattles her. While she may not have the flashy persona of a certain former U.S. goalkeeper, I appreciate Naeher’s quiet style.

She stays off of social media, loves coffee and does crossword puzzles.

I thought Red Stars coach Chris Pertucelli used an interesting word in describing Naeher: Comforting.

“You have confidence right away because you know you’ve got the best goalkeeper. She’s been the best goalkeeper in the world for many years, not just right now, but she’s playing at an extremely high level. The two years I’ve been here she’s been fantastic. It’s rare that goalkeeper wins you games, but we one that wins games for us. She can win games for us because she makes saves that shouldn’t be made. And so it’s just very comforting to know that that she’s in there.”

At the 2019 World Cup in France, Naeher smothered a penalty in the United States’ 2-1 semifinal win over England. It was the first-ever penalty save by a U.S. goalkeeper in regulation in soccer’s premier tournament.

Then, two years ago in Tokyo, Naeher saved a penalty kick at the end of regulation and two more in a shootout against the Netherlands in the Olympic quarterfinals.

Naeher was honored after the 1-0 victory over the Pride on Saturday for her 150th appearance with the team, a milestone she hit in May.

But in typical Naeher style, she didn’t want to talk about herself following the game and the ceremony. Just the win.

“I think the team has been working hard these last few weeks and things just haven’t been clicking the way that we want them to. So to see the way the team battled tonight the way they fought, we earned that three points, big time and kept playing the whole 90 minutes and put in a complete game. It wasn’t always pretty, but sometimes you just have to grind it out and I think that’s what we did tonight. Obviously to be able to get to celebrate different milestones and things like that, I think it just speaks to the fact that I’ve been doing this a long time. I’ve been very fortunate and grateful and blessed to be able to for 15 years to get to do this. And I think that’s that’s what those those things represent.”

I’m guessing in Australia and New Zealand this summer Naeher will be joined by Casey Murphy and AD Franch. Vlatko Andonovski is expected to announce his roster in mid-June.

Naeher wasn’t the only goalkeeper to reach a milestone this weekend. Houston’s Jane Campbell had five saves in a 2-0 victory over the Kansas City Current on Friday night.

Campbell became the first Dash player to play 10,000 minutes with the club. She’s the fifth goalkeeper to reach those minutes in the league.

Campbell has 25 career shutouts, joining just five other NWSL goalkeepers. You can see more from Campbell below.

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Soccer player traveling tips!

Chelsea wins the WSL.

Friday night’s NWSL Roundup from Susie Rantz.

Alex Simon at Bay Area News Group tried to answer where the soon-to-be-named Bay Area NWSL team will play its matches.

Another ACL injury, this time France’s Delphine Cascarino.

The Guardian suggests women need better coaching to avoid ACL injuries.

Kansas City needs to be defensively more physical.

Ajax won’t celebrate its women because the men suck.

What’s going on with Soccer Canada?

Interesting story from the Athletic on the FA restricting players’ commercial activities.

Adam Jude from the Seattle Times on the Reign’s rebound win.

CNN chats with Nadia Nadim ahead of the World Cup.

ESPN with a story on how England can navigate all those injuries.

Vietnam’s women wins goals at the Southeast Asian Games in the run-up to the World Cup.

I don’t really expect that Rose Lavelle will play in the NWSL before the World Cup, Laura Harvey hinted as much, too, from Just Women’s Sports. The bigger question, of course, is the severity of the injury and whether she’ll be OK by July 22.

Nice story on Ashley Hatch in the Washington Post (firewall but free). .

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FIVE AT THE IX: Jane Campbell

On the victory:

“That was a huge result. The last few games, we’ve had a lot of ups and downs and lots of big highs but also lots of big, big blows. I think coming here, you know, to win a game, it’s tough to play Kansas City and especially away. They’re a good team and we just needed a result. We needed to play better and raise our standards. I thought we did that. When we say raise the standards, you know, it’s been just in response to the last week or the season in general. When we play opponents, sometimes I think we have been getting too focused on what they’re going to present to us. At the end of the day, if we play with grit and hard work, attitude and effort for all 90 plus minutes, I think the game will take care of itself. There have been moments in each of the games this year where maybe we lapse a little bit or maybe we lose concentration. I think this game, Sam really emphasized that this was just about us and that Kansas City was going to play however they played. They could have switched it up or kept it the same, but it didn’t really matter to us. This is a great W and we’re really proud of it.”

On reaching the 10,000 minutes:

“I’m really honored. I’m more so honored that it’s been all with Houston. They took a chance on me in 2017. The theories say out there that I wasn’t even supposed to be here. So I’m honored that they tookme in 2017. And, you know, I’m just really thankful and fortunate that, you know, they’ve stuck with me all this time. I love the city and I love the club. Anytime I get a chance to even just wear the jersey, I’m honored. I’m really honored to play for my teammates and represent them and represent the city of Houston. I’m just very, very thankful and you know, here’s to 10,000 more.”

On the Dash reaching their potential:

“I don’t think we’re close yet. Not in a bad way. I just think we’re not ready to peak yet and we don’t
want to peak. The goal is to be in the championship in November. If we peak now, we’d be a little early. I think we have tons of room to grow, which is really exciting. I think Kansas City’s game plan in the first half was to give us the ball, so that poses us a different problem. A lot of times we’re pressed and that’s a different problem we have to face. But Kansas City gave us something different and we did have a lot of the ball. You know, possession is something we need to harp on every week and I think teams know that. I thought we did really well in the first half to move Kansas City and exploit certain spaces that we created when we did move the ball and players move. I thought it was a really exciting first half, and like you said, they did show a ton of potential for this team I thought the second half was super gritty. Kansas City came out flying and when their subs came on, our subs came on, everybody had fresh legs and it just got even crazier. So the first half, I think we’re really proud of it. Sam said at halftime that once the second half begins, the first half is out the window and everyone’s going to forget about it. It’s definitely a proud, you know, first half of the game. The sky is the limit for this team. We just want to keep growing every week.”

Mondays: Soccer
By: Annie Peterson, @AnnieMPeterson, AP Women’s Soccer
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Written by Annie Peterson