The IX: Soccer Monday with Annie M. Peterson, February 17, 2020

The U.S. Soccer Federation meeting turns a bit tense, loads of links and Megan Rapinoe looks toward the Olympics

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Stop policing the behavior of women

So there were some fireworks at U.S. Soccer’s annual general meeting on Saturday. I know, I know, the annual general meeting sounds like it’s pretty dry. And usually it is.

But Stephen Flamhaft took the opportunity as a life member of the federation to comment on the “recent ethics, conduct, and behavior” of the women’s national team, presumably during the World Cup last summer in France.

“Let me pose a question: Is it okay for a national team, while being successful on the field, to act in an unsportsmanlike manner specifically by humiliating their opponents and subjecting them to ridicule and then boast and preen when humility — humility — is in order?” he asked those gathered.

Flamhaft, who was on the roster of the 1963 Pan-Am Games team, spoke in an open comments portion during the meeting, which interestingly followed Jill Ellis’ address. On the livestream, it seemed that there was some applause but also a few groans.

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Mr. Flamhaft is entitled to his opinion.

I question whether this was the forum for airing that opinion. Seems to me U.S. Soccer has bigger issues to deal with than policing humility (if that were even possible).

It also feels really stale. Why bring it up now?

If he was referring to the Thailand game, which I assume he was, hadn’t this already been debated ad nauseam?

Alex Morgan offered her thoughts when asked about it in France: “I think in the moment, every time we score a goal in a World Cup — you’ve dreamt of it. I dreamt of it since I was a little girl. You know, winning a World Cup and being back there for the third time, we want that fourth star. So tonight we knew that any goal could matter in this group-stage game. And when it comes to celebrations, I think this was a really good team performance and I think it was important for us to celebrate together.”

And there it was. There’s a litany of reasons to score a lot goals and celebrate them at the World Cup. In this case, it was the USWNT’s first game. They wanted to make a statement. A number of the players were newcomers to the World Cup stage. Goal differential matters.

I’ve seen the Oregon Ducks run up the score on their opponents in football often in recent years. And players still preen in the end zone following touchdowns (although not so much as to draw a penalty) whether the score is 7-3 or whether it’s 77-6. They do it to show pride in their own ability, establish domination, and also instill a bit of fear in future opponents.

Flamhaft’s comments prompted Heather O’Reilly, who was also at the meeting, to weigh in after calling for a swift resolution to the gender equity lawsuit.

“I want to be proud of this federation. I’ve been part of it for a long time. And unlike evidently some others in the room, I am incredibly proud of the confidence, sportsmanship, and courage the team displayed this summer,” O’Reilly said.

Abby Wambach offered her thoughts via Twitter: “It’s really hard for some men to respect powerful women. These are the calls that try to silence us. The last thing these “gatekeepers” should be telling women is to be humble.”

I’m reminded once again of the local media member who called out Ashlyn Harris for using expletives in her locker room celebration after the team won the World Cup, and the whole, tired “but they’re supposed to be role models for young girls!’’ thing.

Please stop telling adult women how to act.

That is all.


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! apeterson@ap.org.

USWNT coach Vlatko Andonovski names the 26-player roster for the SheBelieves Training Camp. It will be pared to 23 for the tournament.

This is awesome, the new Japanese league requires teams to have at least one female executive.

Laura Harvey named her roster for the CONCACAF under-20 championship and a couple of names stand out: Sophia Smith and Trinity Rodman. Smith was the top pick in the NWSL draft by the Portland Thorns, and Rodman is the daughter of Dennis Rodman and a highly sought-after recruit that Washington State landed.

Elliott Almond of the San Jose Mercury News talks to Megan Rapinoe about her political ambitions.

My AP colleague Rob Harris talked to Nadine Kessler after her role in UEFA.

Mara Gomez is vying to become the first transgender woman to play in Argentina’s pro league, also from AP.

AP’s Ron Blum wrote about the USMNT’s statement that the federation should pay the women more, and also the men.

Kelsey Trainor took a look at that USMNT statement for The Equalizer.

Is the USL going to make a play in the women’s game? It looks that way, from Meg Linehan at The Athletic.

England’s Fran Kirby has been out with a heart condition, from Katie Whyatt for The Telegraph.

Also from The Telegraph: Bristol City Women to take part in menstruation study. This is a good thing.

What the last six months have been like for Thailand’s national team and what the future may hold, from The Equalizer.

And among the most interesting player moves of the past week: The Orlando Pride sign Erin McLeod.


Five at The IX: Megan Rapinoe

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This was Megan Rapinoe in the mixed zone following the final CONCACAF qualifying match. I thought it was pretty interesting so I wanted to share it.

Question about what it’s been like with all the changes and early qualifying.

Rapinoe: A lot of us have not played a lot of minutes, frankly, since the World Cup, consistent minutes. You know, I played in the NWSL, but was injured. Tobin’s been kind of playing on and off, kind of getting back in the rhythm. And then, you know, the new coaching staff and trying to balance layering on as much as possible, but also, you don’t want to come in and change everything going into a big tournament. Just having this as be the first games of the year and having so much riding on it, it’s a balance.

Question: How do you like Vlatko and the new staff?

Rapinoe: I like it a lot. Obviously, I had the benefit of being with him for two years, so I have a little bit of an idea of what he wanted and the way that he wants us to play. And before that, just watching the way his teams played and how successful they were, and having gotten the best out of all of those players. I think I said this before, but his best attribute is getting the very best out of each individual, and really bringing everyone’s game to the next level, no matter who you are, whether it’s Bethany Balcer with the Reign or some of the top players here. I think he has the attention to detail individually, and then obviously puts it all together as a team.

Question: What is the evolution of this team? What are biggest advances you guys made during this tournament and what are the biggest things between now and Tokyo?

Rapinoe: I think our control of the game when we have the ball, I think we’re still — just don’t have the balance right of when we’re going in, obviously in transition. But when that sort of breaks down or that’s not quite on, I think sometimes we force it and force it and force it. Too many turnovers and we allow teams to just stay in the game, and feel like they’r in the game. We need to control that better and really pick our moments when we’re getting the absolute best opportunity to go to our goal.

Question: What were you happy with. What do you think you guys did well?

Rapinoe: Defensively, again, phenomenal. Shutouts in all the games. Alyssa was great. I think she had one save in the tournament and she made it – on the world’s most prolific scorer.

I think for me, starting to layer in a more nuanced midfield play, and getting them on the ball more. Lindsey, Sam, Rose, they really need to be pulling the strings for everyone else. The more they’re on the ball, the more it opens up for everyone else. So I think that’s kind of the next big step.

Question: Do you think this team is becoming less direct?

Rapinoe: I hope so. I think we’ll always have that physicality, just that speed and power up top, and really all over the field. We need to balance that. I think you saw that in the World Cup, too. We were able to overcome it, but it was a weakness of ours not being able to control games with the ball. When you don’t do that, you defend a lot. And you saw that a lot in the World Cup of us having to drop back into a much more defensive position and really hit teams on the counter a lot. So hopefully we’re we’re evolving out of that and past that and I think we’ll be able to be more dangerous because of that.

Question: How important was it to get that first goal against Canada?

Rapinoe: I mean it’s huge. Obviously for us, we like to come out and hit teams hard and we didn’t have a great first half. Basically on a half-a-day rest for both teams, the game is going to be a little bit slower, but that’s not the way we want to start. So to come out second half and get that one, it was a great goal from Lynn, it was really important. That always gives us confidence to step up a little bit more and start to, I guess, exert our dominance on teams.

Question about tired legs after two games in 48 hours.

Rapinoe: I mean, my 30 minutes were really hard, to be honest. I don’t know how the players that played the other night, and played today, did such a gutsy performance. We should never play that close together. Hopefully that never happens again. I don’t think that, you know, at the professional level that that’s appropriate to even play that. But we had to do it. And you just have to dig in and play smarter and, you know, just know that this is the last game for a little while.

Question: How good a team do you have to be to have a world player of the year come off the bench?

Rapinoe: I mean, either you could say the same thing about how good do you have to be to have Christen Press coming off the bench. That’s just ridiculous. I think that’s especially important looking forward to the Olympics. We saw how important it was in the World Cup with an even bigger roster, but now going into Olympics, having that tight roster, not only are you going to have a lot of roster rotation, but the subs that you bring in that have to be the most impactful. So it’s going to be a grind going into those games and knowing that there’s not very much time in between games and a shorter roster. That really has always been the strength of this team that you genuinely have world class players coming off the bench.


Mondays: Soccer
By: Annie Peterson, @AnnieMPeterson AP Women’s Soccer
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By Joey Dillon, @JoeyDillon  Freelance Tennis Writer
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Written by Annie Peterson