The IX: Soccer Monday with Annie M. Peterson, February 15, 2021

The SheBelieves Cup starts this week! — Woso Links — Alex Morgan fangirls Taylor Swift with the media

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I haven’t said it for a while, but thank you to all of our subscribers. I love that every week I can get on my soapbox and extol the wonders of women’s soccer. I appreciate you all coming along for the ride.


A bit of additional news happened this weekend, if you are not already aware. The Canadian national team announced that several players were out of the SheBelieves Cup because of injuries.

Those players are pretty significant: Christine Sinclair (!), Diana Matheson, Erin McLeod and Bianca St-Georges. Additionally, Kadeisha Buchanan, Jordyn Huitema and Ashley Lawrence were not released by their club teams.

One Soccer reporter Oliver Platt said he didn’t have details on Sinclair’s injury, but understands the move was made so she and Matheson were 100 percent for April’s match against England.

Platt also noted that it’s the first time that Sinclair has been unavailable to Canada since John Herdman’s first camp with the team in 2011.

So the opening game of the tournament between the U.S. and Canada suddenly looks a lot less interesting. Coupled with the withdrawal of Japan, the most intriguing match becomes the game between the United States and Brazil — and former coach Pia Sundhage.

Oh, and this is no offense to Argentina. I’m rooting for Argentina’s rise on the national scene, so this exposure really helps. But wondering if potential blowouts against the rest of the field does anything to help the team’s efforts for funding and support from their own federation?

An interesting tidbit from this weekend’s media availability with Crystal Dunn and Alyssa Naeher: Naeher’s first cap came against Argentina. It was a 7-0 U.S. rout.

“I expect them to be very good on the ball, very crafty. Anytime you can step on the field with South American teams, it’s always a challenge, it’s always going to be a good team. And yeah, that was certainly a memorable day for me, my first cap. So I’m excited to see them now and have them be a part of this tournament.” – Naeher

Emily Sonnett also said it’s good to see South American teams because they’re, well, different.

“I think that’s what’s great about this team: We love playing different opponents. So having them in, I think they’re going to bring a great match. That’s where we kind of want to have with SheBelieves. It is interesting with Brazil and Argentina, it’s going to be a great game, I think, having a South American rivalry. But I think this team likes playing different styles, seeing different players, different teams,” – Sonnett.

One question: Does Pia have Brazil park the bus against the Americans? I mean, it seems to be a strategy that’s worked before (wink). I’m guessing she’s going to look at the game just like Vlatko Andonovski: As another chance to evaluate her team going into the Olympics. So no defensive stand.

That is, if the Olympics happen. I’m skeptical.

With that, we’re on to the links. I’m headed up to Spokane today to hang out with my daughter Evelyn for a few days! She’s something of a TikTok influencer, so I’m just gonna bask in her celebrity.


(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!

Before you read anything else, check out the Boston Globe story about an immigration probe involving soccer players. Very interesting, and an NWSL connection.

The GQ Modern Love story on Sue Bird and Megan Rapinoe is stupendous.

Becky Sauerbrunn spoke to Luis Miguel Echegaray about being a leader, for CBS Sports.

Jonathan Tannenwald wrote about Crystal Dunn for the Philadelphia Inquirer. Oh, and stay tuned, I also have a Dunn story in the works for AP.

Sandra Herrera’s preseason preview of Racing Louisville for CBS Sports.

The Orlando Sentinel’s Julia Poe has a nice story on Pride defender Ali Riley.

ESPN’s unbylined story (?) about Alex Morgan.

My story on Alex Morgan!

I also wrote about the jumbled college season.

Seth Vertelney focused on Morgan’s time at Tottenham for his story.

And the aforementioned Julie Poe looks at Morgan’s love for Taylor Swift.

The Athletic’s Matt Pentz writes about Racing Louisville’s launch.

Be sure to read Danny Colaprico’s blog at Soccer Girl Problems.

Michael Cox writes for The Athletic about the amazing Pernille Harder.

I love this story from Dan Lauletta in the Equalizer about who won the 2016 draft.

Five at The IX: Alex Morgan!

I know I promised Michelle French and Tiffeny Milbrett, but I’m going to hold that for a bit and give you the Alex Morgan availability instead. It was interesting.

I’m banking a few interviews for slow weeks, just to be transparent!

Question: With COVID and all, What has the experience been like over the last year?

Morgan: I think that we’ve realized that we just need to be adaptable and know that because the present and the future is so uncertain, we have to prepare like we’re playing an important game in the next week, two weeks, a month, whatever it is. We have to prepare for NWSL season coming, the Challenge Cup, the SheBelieves tournament, the Olympics. You have to prepare like it’s going to happen knowing that it could be shut down with a moment’s notice. And we’ve seen that in leagues all over the world. And that’s just part of the world that we’re living in right now. So it’s definitely a different mindset because I never would have imagined that you would just be told that you’re not playing a game the next day and be like, ‘OK!’ But that’s literally the mindset you have to take now. And hopefully we’ll get back to some sort of normal sense and we’ll get back to some sort of consistency. But I think that there’s still foreseeable future of uncertainty here in sports.

Question: First of all, how are you now following your little brush with COVID, how bad was it and how do you feel now? And secondly, I know you you trained right through the pregnancy and you played some games with Tottenham, but you haven’t played much with the national team. This is probably the biggest break you’ve had from games maybe since you started in AYSO. Megan and Carli said they came back from their breaks feeling years younger. And I’m wondering, do you feel much better having given your body a little bit of a break?

Morgan: So I’ll start with the first question. I actually had a lot of symptoms from COVID. I was fairly sick, and me and my whole family got it, well my whole family meaning Servando and Charlie. So with that said, we were together for 10, 12, 14 days, kind of just recovering, sleeping as much as we could. I was fighting off a little bit of fever for quite a few days. But as I got back and kind of took the right steps to get my body back into shape, I started to feel really good after about like three weeks or so. But it did take a little bit, and it took a lot of patience as well on my end.

On my end, when I look at the break that I have had, it’s kind of been an interesting one because it’s been a really inconsistent one. I think that that’s just the theme in consistency. I think everyone has had that. So I look at myself, and although over the last year and a half I haven’t really played in that many games and I’ve kind of been barely in and out with the national team here and there due to pregnancies and COVID and other things, I don’t feel like I’m that different than a lot of my teammates because of the pandemic and just people getting COVID, people getting injuries, not having a place to play for quite a few months at a time. So we’ve all had kind of different paths over the last year and a half. But in a way, no one’s been able to consistently train and play. And I think that if there is a silver lining in this, it is that all of our bodies could have probably used to break that we would never have gotten until we retired, if not for this pandemic. So for me, I feel like it did spark just that passion for the game and me feeling really excited every day going to training. And now also having Charlie, I feel like I’m making the most of it when I go to training and I don’t want to give 90 percent, I want to make sure I give 100 percent every time I go to training because that’s pulling me away from Charlie. So I do definitely feel re-energized. Just being back in camp and here for a very important tournament is just really exciting for me. So I’m looking forward to the games a lot.

Question: First, being back with Pride, what is it like working with Sydney Leroux, another mom who’s also trying to make a comeback in a big way this year? Just what has that relationship been like? And then second, as a Taylor Swift fan. How are you feeling about the new album today? (Editors note: Bless you Julia Poe for the question).

Morgan: Best news ever that she rerecorded Fearless and like, half you guys don’t even know what we’re talking about right now. But big Taylor Swift fan and I just love what she’s doing and she is a huge inspiration to me. So I’m very happy about that news. Secondly, I’ve been playing on and off with Syd since 2007 or so. So it’s been a long time playing with Syd. We’ve gotten to know each other super well on and off the field. And even though we haven’t really played consistently together, we were doing some pre-pre-season training like a week or two ago, and we were just like linking up so well together. And I was having so much fun playing with her. And then we would walk off the field and just be like, ‘Oh, what’s Roux doing right now? What’s Charlie doing right now? Like, ‘Oh, what’s her nap schedule? What like sort of pajamas do you have?’ We talked about just like everything and it’s things that if you don’t have a kid, you would just not be interested in.

So I feel like I could talk up a storm with Syd about her kids and her journey back to playing. And I’m really happy to have Syd on the team just to be able to help guide me, because she has been here quite a few years, with kids. And this is really my first go around into a full season. Tottenham was like a mini season for me. There wasn’t really travel like there is the U.S. in the NWSL season. So I feel like having Syd on my team, having another mom to kind of be able to lean on and during times is really important for me.

Question: On a scale of one to sipping a cup of tea against England, how are you feeling match ready? And the second one, I’m going back to Taylor Swift.

Morgan: Honestly, every time I’m in the car with my husband, I turn on Taylor Swift and he’s like ‘Haven’t you listen to her enough? I’m like, no, there’s no such thing. So there’s that. But yeah, we can we can continue talking about Taylor this whole time. I’m totally fine with that. And from one to sipping tea, I would say I’m kind of like waiting for the tea to cool down right now to take a sip. I’m not quite there, but it’s like it’s coming soon enough.

Question: First, how how much of a break or an advantage was it for you to have the extra year with you? I know you’ve touched on that a little bit. And then the second question is, you’ve been around the team before when they’re been babies or kids. But I’m curious being a mom now, what it’s like to see your teammates or Charlie in that environment and what how do you look at it differently, knowing the impact your teammates are going to have on her going forward?

Morgan: I think it’s just so fun to have Charlie around and for her to get used to having a lot of people around and different people just like helping or playing with her, and for her to be just around all these incredible women that are so strong. Such a such an intense environment. And she’s just kind of, I think, brightens up the room. I think it like lightens everyone up. Just having seen this before with Kate Markgraf, Christie Rampone, Syd, Amy Rodriguez, so many others, it’s really fun to be in that position. However, my life has definitely made a 180. When we have an afternoon gap between trainings or whatever it is, it’s not like, ‘Oh, let me lay down and watch TV and take like a nap,’ whether that’s 45 five minutes or three hours. I’m hanging out with Charlie the whole time. And I’m on her schedule and I absolutely love it, but it’s just very different, for sure.

(On delaying the Olympics and whether that made things easier) If the Olympics had already taken place, I mean, it would have been an incredible challenge. And I definitely wanted to do my best to be on the field at Tokyo in 2020. But I knew that honestly, some of it really wasn’t up to me. It was up to how my body was going to recover. So I’m not having to go through that, and I’m being able to elongate my recovery and everything from the birth. There’s no other way to put it, it’s very helpful and I’m very happy that I was able to get that extra amount of time and be able to compete for a spot in the Olympics.

Mondays: Soccer
By: Annie Peterson, @AnnieMPeterson AP Women’s Soccer
Tuesdays: Tennis
By Joey Dillon, @JoeyDillon Freelance Tennis Writer
Wednesdays: Basketball
By: Howard Megdal, @HowardMegdal The Next
Thursdays: Golf
By Sarah Kellam @sarahkellam, The IX
Fridays: Hockey
By: Erica Ayala, @ELindsay08 NWHL Broadcaster

Written by Annie Peterson