The IX: Soccer Monday with Annie M. Peterson, Jan. 6, 2020

I don't like Mondays edition. But so so much is happening. And we're less than a week into the New Year.

OK guys, I’m gonna admit at the start that my mind isn’t here. My boyfriend was in an accident on his bicycle on Friday night and he was hospitalized for a time. He’s home now thank goodness and frankly, he’s super lucky it wasn’t worse. He’s got a pretty bad concussion even though he was wearing a helmet.

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So here’s my public service announcement: Wear your helmet. Even when you’re scooting! Life’s already too short.

And also, if you’re a driver, please be on the lookout for those of us who prefer to travel on two wheels!

Then everything got a little more stressful this afternoon when I was just about ready to wrap up Soccer Monday, and all of the sudden everything disappeared. So I’m kind of recreating my post by memory while still trying to get it out to you guys in a timely fashion. So bear with me. I’m a mess.

Here we are the first Monday of the new year and the WoSo realm is already nuts.

Laura Harvey was (finally) officially named as head coach of the under-20 national team.

Then The Equalizer broke a big NWSL trade, with the Dash’s Kealia Ohai sent off to Chicago in exchange for Katie Naughton.

Ohai seemed pleased.

If that wasn’t enough, Steven Goff of the Washington Post was breaking news all over the place this afternoon. He reports that NWSL President Amanda Duffy is stepping down to take a position with the Orlando Pride.

Goff also reports that Spain and England are expected to be among the teams in the SheBelieves Cup. SPAIN! YAY!

And finally, Goff added to the already persistent trade talk surrounding the Thorns by tossing Midge Purce and Emily Sonnett into the rumor mill.

Meg Linehan from The Athletic confirmed the Duffy news, teasing a story for tomorrow, so be on the lookout. Linehan also reports that the NWSL championship game this year will be in November. Could get interesting with the league’s many, many issues in dealing with weather, both hot and cold.

So yeah, we’re just six days into the new year. Whee!

But I wanted to also take a moment to amply a story I did earlier today on Graeme Abel taking over as head coach at Oregon. I had a long talk with Abel, but I couldn’t fit everything in for AP purposes.

He said he believes Hope Solo was the best goalkeeper of all time. Currently he thinks Chile’s Christiane Ender might be the world’s top GK — citing that tremendous save of Christen Press’ volley in the group stage this summer — but said Naeher is better in transition.

He said one of his favorite moments over his tenure under Jill Ellis (He joined the USWNT in early 2015) was when Naeher saved England’s penalty in the World Cup semifinals. It was an amazing moment, given everything Naeher had to go through in following Solo.

I included some excerpts from the interview below.

On to the links!

This Week in Women’s Soccer

Reminder: First, the underlined words are the links. Second. CLICK these, even if you’ve already read them. Clicks = Attention from editors, producers and webmasters. Third, if you want to push out stuff you’ve written or read, email me!

Penn State coach Erica Dambach was named an assistant on Vlatko Anodonovski’s staff.

In seriously niche reporting, Delish covered Ashlyn and Ali’s wedding cake.

Catarina Macario wins the MAC Hermann trophy for the second straight year, from the Mercury News.

Forbes looked at the Women’s World Cup bids for 2023.

Wonderful AP story on women in Sudan who just want to play the Beautiful Game.

Front Row Soccer with a nice story on Crystal Dunn.

The Salt Lake Tribune with its story on Laura Harvey’s departure for the under-20 team.

ProSoccer USA’s Mitchell Northam on Deyna Castellanos’ signing with Atletico Madrid.

The Equalizer out front on today’s trade.

Sophie Lawson’s excellent analysis of Sam Kerr’s move to Chelsea.

Caitlin Murray’s wonderful piece for Yahoo! on the changing face of NWSL advertising.

This is a bit old, it came out on Christmas Day when I wasn’t paying attention, but it’s great so I wanted to include it: Kieran Theivam’s answer to the every-two-years Women’s World Cup proposal, for The Athletic.

Five at The IX: Excerpts from my interview with new Oregon head coach Graeme Abel! Already wearing his Ducks gear!

Annie: Did you think six months ago when you were in Lyon that you’d end up in Eugene?

Abel: (in the aftermath of the World Cup) I’d spoken to Jill prior to that and said What do you think?’ And she was like, Hey, you know, you’re ready for that next step.’ I think the thing for me was, coming out of college and onto the national team, you think you’re a good coach, and you get in with the national team and all of a sudden you realize I’m just an OK coach because now you’re standing up in front of the best players in the world and you have to be spot on with what you say to them every single time. So being with the national team was really good for me in terms of that piece and the learning curve of dealing with those players day to day was huge. So it was, I think, getting done with the World Cup, I just felt, OK, I’m ready for the next the next challenge. I was lucky with Jill, you know, when I went in in 15, I was very much the goalkeeper coach just dealing with Hope.

Annie: A handful?

Abel: You know what? I’ll always say this, she was unbelievable to deal with. Unbelievable. She was fantastic. She was fantastic to coach. And she was phenomenal to deal with. I really mean that.

But Jill moved me on to the full assistant coach, because all of her assistants were head coaches. Tony had been a head coach. Steve was a head coach. Michelle was a head coach. B.J. was a head coach. So she really wanted coaches who had that amount of responsibility. And so Jill was huge in terms of what she did for me with regards to that. So that’s helped me in terms of where I am right now.

Annie: So how did this new job kind of come about? Did you did they approach you? You approach them?

Abel: It was crazy. I was actually in camp in December. I got a call from Lisa Peterson (Associate AD) and she said, `Hey, your resumé landed on my desk,’ and she’s like, `Would you be interested in this position?’ And I’m like, yes. And so I had a conversation with Lisa that next day. And then literally from that day until, I mean, it was eight days later, I was the head coach of Oregon.

Annie: Holy cow.

Abel: You know what? It might have been less than that because I think a left camp on Saturday I think was less than a week later. Wow. Yeah.

Annie: So did you know anything about Oregon?

Abel: Yeah, The crazy thing is my wife was a volunteer coach here back in 2007 with Tara Erickson. So my wife was a volunteer here before she went to the University of Idaho. And I played them when I was at University in Nevada, when I was at Oklahoma and was at Washington State, we played Oregon.

We were very aware of all this (gestures out window at the facilities) at Oregon, in terms of the facilities and the resources, and it was one of those things like, `If the program ever really gets rolling momentum wise, we’re in trouble,’ You looked to all the other programs at Oregon at that time, with Chip Kelly, football was flying. And then you look at when they hired the basketball coach, and they got that moving. You thought `OK, the moment Oregon gets it going, its going to be tough to stop.’ So I knew all about them that way, and the more I did my research coming in, I’m thought this is a really, really, really good job.

Annie: So, they’ve struggled. And you’re in a conference that has Stanford, UCLA, and Washington State suddenly is surging. So what are your goals and how are you going to build a winning program?

Abel: I’ll be honest, when I came for my interview, I didn’t throw any goals out there. The one thing I learned with the women’s national team, we never spoke about goals, we never, ever spoke about it. The culture was `We win.’ It’s as simple as that. And you know, you can’t bring everything from the national team, there’s probably 90 percent you can’t bring. It’s just a different animal. The one thing you can bring over is — What we had with the national team was an unbelievable support system and network. Take Dawn Scott, for example. What the women’s national team has lost there, the quote I had was that at that point England got significantly better and the US got significantly worse. And that’s the truth. We had all these people in these different roles. We used the Aggregate of Marginal Gains, the Dave Brailsford thing with Sky Cycling, in terms of, everything that we did off the field, we always tried to do 1 percent better and that percentage adds up along the way.

So one of the things I spoke about when I came on the interview was, we need to take that approach here. We need to be the best in the Pac-12 in terms of how we prepare our team off the field. We’ve got ridiculous sports science facilities here. We’ve got the strength and conditioning side, the facilities are wonderful here. The academic facilities are wonderful. If we can continue to package those pieces even better, and we’ll continue to get good student athletes here, then we’re going to make the ground up that way as well.

So with me, once I visited and saw the resources, saw how much Rob and Lisa wanted the program to grow, it was a no-brainer.

Annie: So looking back on the past, you know, six years or whatever it was. What would you say is your fondest memory of being with the national team?

Abel: I have I have so many good memories, obviously. My fondest was Alyssa’s penalty save against England. Just because I saw a young woman grow. She had to replace the best in the world. One piece of advice I was given way, way, way back was never follow a legend. Alyssa followed the legend, but it wasn’t her choice to follow Hope. And then, you know, she gets thrust into that tournament. We had prepared her over and over and over again. We put her in difficult situations. We stood by her in difficult situations. We knew the potential that she had, and we knew it was going to be a tough road. And in between we had many difficult conversations. But seeing her have that moment for all the work we saw her put it after 2015, it was special.

Mondays: Soccer
By: Annie Peterson, @AnnieMPeterson AP Women’s Soccer
Tuesdays: Tennis
By Stephanie Livaudais, @Livaudais
Wednesdays: Basketball
By: Howard Megdal, @HowardMegdal High Post Hoops
Thursdays: Golf
By Carly Grenfell, @Carlygren
Fridays: Hockey
By: Erica Ayala, @ELindsay08 NWHL Broadcaster

Written by Annie Peterson