The IX: Soccer Monday with Annie M. Peterson for June 24, 2019
Just a brief reminder that in the end, soccer is a game. And a few words with Alyssa Naeher, who definitely keeps it all in perspective
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Just a game
Some things are bigger than sports. Yep, total cliche. But totally true. I’ve always known this, obviously, but I got a good reminder last week in France.
I’ll be honest, while these big tournaments are cool (especially when they’re in France!), they’re also a grind. Long days, in my case, for nearly six straight weeks. There’s a lot of pressure to perform well and lots of random people offer their opinions about what you should be doing.
I don’t know how it impacts other people, but I always get a few more gray hairs on these trips. Not to mention it’s really hard to be away from my kids.
But something amazing happened here just when I was at a low point and really mired in self-doubt.
We went to Normandy.
We joined the players’ families at Omaha Beach and listened to Steve Melnikoff, a 99-year-old veteran from the 175th Regiment of the 29th Infantry Division. He was 24 when he landed in France, and spent 11 months here. We also accompanied him to the American cemetery at Colleville-Sur-Mer.
More than 4,000 troops were killed on D-Day. Melnikoff believes there was a reason he lived, even though he was wounded twice in France.
It’s why he comes back to tell people his story.
It hit me hard, because my father served in World War II. He never spoke about his experience, and he died when I was just 7, but I remember him tearing up when the war was depicted on TV.
After I had a good cry, I was so grateful for the experience. I appreciate how life throws these things at me right when I need them most.
With that, I’m going back to the soccer. By the time you read this, the U.S. team’s match against Spain might be over. Should the U.S. win, France will be looming.
I’ll tell you that the Americans are full of confidence. It feels like they’ve been dialed in since that 13-0 trouncing of Thailand. Every game they’ve looked incrementally stronger.
Will it be enough to beat Spain and then France? That’s the question.
And on one more final, more personal note: Darn it, Australia.
This Week in Women’s Soccer
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Again, like last week, there’s all sorts of media here telling some really great stories. I can’t possibly include them all. Here are some of the high points.
A few from Associated Press: The crushing Australia loss to Norway. I wrote about the defense. How being male limits Phil Neville’s time with his team. France is not excited about the World Cup. Important move here from Infantino on the Open Stadiums movement. Let’s see if it actually happens. There’s lots of other stuff on our World Cup page.
The Equalizer’s World Cup page is here. Too much awesome stuff to mention. These guys are killing it.
ProSoccerUSA also has an awesome Women’s World Cup page.
USA Today’s Nancy Armour wrote a great column about the trip to Normandy.
The Wall Street Journal’s Rachel Bachman is also doing some fantastic work here, and was the first to report on the lawsuit mediation.
VAR is ruining this World Cup. Here’s Sports Illustrated’s Avi Creditor on the nightmare.
Graham Hayes writes for ESPN on how the US shouldn’t overlook Spain in anticipation of France. He’s right.
Steven Goff looks at the quiet calm of Jill Ellis.
Caitlin Murray’s great column for the Los Angeles Times.
The great Jere Longman looks at how Spain has upped its game in recent years.
Five at The IX: USWNT goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher
A couple of words with Alyssa Naeher following the group stage:
Question about the progression of the defense:
Alyssa: “Every game presents a different challenge depending on the opponent that we’re playing, obviously and tonight was was a huge challenge for us and I think it’s important — it’s why we play a tough schedule and a lot of different types of teams leading into our tournaments, that we’re prepared for every type of team that we’re gonna face. Tonight was was no exception to that. I think it’s good to kind of keep checking the boxes of just kind of teams that we’re going to keep playing against and making sure we can stay solid and consistent defensively and locked in for all 90 minutes of all the games. To come away with from group play with three shutouts, as a team defensively, I’m very proud of that. It’s a goal that we have going into every game, especially as a back line, to keep clean sheets. We put a lot of time into team defending as well, and it’s you know all 11 players on the field are defending, and that cohesiveness is what helps bring that.”
Question about not seeing action in the first two games and then getting a test.
Alyssa: “Every game presents different different challenges, sometimes you see the ball once, sometimes you ball see the ball a hundred times and the challenge is staying focused for 90 minutes, regardless of what you’re going to face and be ready for ready for anything. And it’s good to play all these different types of opponents, and it’s going to help us going forward.”
Question about her opinion on the encroachment calls:
Alyssa: “I mean it’s tough. It’s tight. I mean they’re calling it very tight and I guess we didn’t really know coming into the tournament how tight they were really going to call it. I think the last few games has obviously shown what they can and will call. So I think it’s just something to keep in the back of the back of my mind, trying not to dwell on it or think about it too much and have it affect what I’m doing and how I’m playing. But it’s obviously something you have to be aware of.”
Question about having to approach penalties differently going forward.
Alyssa: “I’ve looked at some of the style that I have just to make sure that it’s it’s not really close and I don’t think as of now that I have an issue with it. So I’ll keep checking and making sure, kind of going back through some things and just make sure it’s not an issue. Like I said, something to keep in the back of my mind but not focus on. “
Question about the message the team is sending?
Alyssa: “I think it’s just that we come here, we want to win, all the time. Every game we come out with that mentality. We want three points. We want to score goals we want to get shutouts. That’s something we take pride in. To come out of the group, our first goal of this tournament was to get through the group with nine points and win the group and we did that ,and now our focus can shift towards the knockout stage. We’ve got a good Spanish team coming up ahead of us and it’s going to be a new challenge.