US 1 Norway 0
Wasn't a real remarkable game - the Heifetz press release said they were a bit sluggish from the travel and that explains a lot. Just didn't seem to be a whole heck of a lot of zip out there. By Wednesday I'm sure they'll look sharper. On the upside, we gutted out a win in a game in which we really didn't play that well (and in bad weather - it was raining), and that's a good thing. Learning to, and that you can, pull out the ugly games is important - a win's a win, no matter what it looks like.
A few observations:
First things first - who did what to Kate's face and has that person been punished. She was wearing a formidable looking face mask and both eyes were quite swollen - looks like she's been punched so I'm guessing she must have run face first into someone or something - any substantiated info on this would be appreciated. Kate definitely gets the tough girl award for the day, especially considering after about the 30th minute she wasn't even hesitating on headers. Go Kate!!!!
Second - KILL THE DAMN MONKEY!!!!!! Can you believe that Lil's shot in the 3d minute didn't go in??? That was as beautiful a shot as I have seen and unquestionably the most beautiful that I have seen that didn't find the back of the net - a cross from Brandi flew by a couple of white shirts and was found by Lil who fired a powerful volley with her left foot - great save by Nordby. She had another one stolen from her in the 70-something minute and in the replay you could see her at the bottom of the screen looking skyward in frustration - another great Lilly game, just was the victim of one remarkable save and one awfully good save . . . argh . . . the monkey . . . must . . . die . . .
Third - I still don't like the 4-3-3 with Lorrie Fair in there. If Fair must play, we must have 4 middies. I suppose for much of the first half, Brandi was pushed up and Lil was pushed in and we had a kind of a de facto 4 midfield set, but if we're going to do that, I'd rather we do that with Mac on the right flank than Fair. We were pretty bunched up in the center of the field again - I'm never too fond of that - one of the best chances we had the whole game was when we were spread wide and sending crosses into the middle (the Brandi cross to Lil in the 3d minute). If we spread our offense, we spread their defense and we get less clogged passing lanes (aka space) and more good looks at goal.
Fourth - I don't know who's responsible for organizing the defense, but whoever it is, isn't getting the job done. Can't really put my finger on who was screwing up (actually, the wings weren't holding their forwards to the outside at all, and Kate and Joy got caught flat footed more than a few times) but they were letting Norwegian forwards (or middies pushing forward) pop through the defense pretty consistently - especially in the last half of the first half and sporadically throughout the second half. Just seemed to be some communication issues - also there were some scary misclears. We got really lucky a couple of times that the aim of Pederson and #7 (sorry, don't know her name, and since the guy calling the game was calling all the players on both teams by the wrong name he was no help at all) was a bit off all afternoon.
Gotta tell ya, the guy getting everyone's names wrong was mildly entertaining - at one point CP served a cross to herself and then failed to capitalize on the pass (Lil is the one who crossed the ball to her) - and Serlenga had a great first half and was all over the field playing everyone's positions (she was on the bench in the first half, when she finally got in the game he didn't mention her at all - at one point, Kate, Joy, Foudy, Brandi and Lil had all been called Serlenga - Brandi and Joy were called "Daniela Slah-tone" several times - and Lil was Millie and Millie was Lil for much of the match - when Mac came in Mia was Mac, Lil was CP, and Foudy was Mac, Foudy was Lilly several times throughout and Joy Fawcett is one of the youngsters on the team trying to prove herself . . . that one he fixed by the end at least - basically by calling her an old lady - note to the gentlemen on the board: there is no 32 year old woman on the planet who actually wants to be referred to as a "grande dame" . . . he was just awful, but at least the camera stayed on the action on the field so that was good. C'mon FSW - thanks for showing the game, but couldn't you bring someone in to call it who has actually watched either one of the teams play . . . ever . . . or has any interest in watching women's soccer . . .ever.
All right - I'm done griping about that - let's move on to the players:
Siri - strong game once again - as I mentioned the defense kept letting a singular player slip through and Siri met the challenge each time (well, the Norwegian players muffed some of them, but Siri made some nice saves as well). Still showing a willingness to come way off her line and she's not afraid to challenge attackers. She's put the brakes on her kicking game a bit - she's obviously trying to serve up some gentler balls that her teammates might be able to handle a bit better, but our field players are still inexcusably sloppy with their trapping and not doing much with them - I know we're not tall, I know those balls aren't easy to control, but c'mon - we're hardly winning any of them - Siri's been in there for about 15 games now, they should be getting a handle on it . . . if the defensive players can bring them down, we should be capable of it too. As I've said before - it's potentially such a powerful weapon and I wish we would make more of it.
Pearce - can't put my finger on exactly what it was, but just didn't seem to be a strong game from her. She wasn't getting up in the attack, yet she seemed to be getting caught too far forward. Just a puzzling day with the defense - they spent most of the day chasing rather than setting a defense that the attacking players had to figure out. That said, Pearce wasn't really doing much of the chasing - I don't know what the heck she was doing, actually. Kind of an invisible day for Pearce. Admittedly, she was a bit more involved in the game in the second half of the second half, but still not anywhere near as good a performance as we saw from her in the Gold Cup Brazil games. Maybe it was jet lag . . .
Joy - since I love Joy and rarely have anything negative to say about her, let me state that it is my sincerest hope that she wasn't the one responsible for organizing the D, because if she was, it needs some work - like I said, we seemed to be having all sorts of communication issues back there. She did have a couple of great plays - clearing the ball off that great Siri save was most impressive - on the replay you could see Joy focused on and barreling toward the ball as it hit off of Siri's gloves - good stuff. She was good in the air, as she has been as of late, too. Overall solid game, but nothing too remarkable. I still miss her on the right wing (and think the US team misses her on the right wing) and I still want the calming and commanding presence of Carla Overbeck on our backline - we could have used it today.
Kate - another one who was solid but not remarkable. I think I'm having a problem evaluating our defenders today - I can't really point to any one thing anyone was doing poorly - but overall, they just looked a bit off. Just seemed to be on their heels for much of the game - reacting (rather than an attacking defense) and reacting a step late for much of the day. But Kate did have some very nice moments cleaning up some of the messes coming from the flanks. As I mentioned she was a bit tentative for about the first 30 minutes with her face mask on, but after that I noted she was heading without hesitation. Have to mention my other consistent gripe with the backline here, as well. Not great clearance from our defenders today - I know Kate is capable of having a very good kicking game - we've seen it before, but unfortunately we didn't really see it today.
Brandi - not a great game. She peaked with her cross to Lil in the third minute. She was getting caught too far forward all game long. She had several misclears, wasn't winning head balls, etc., etc. And all my gripes about the defense in general apply to her as well. I wish she'd get back to the style of play that we saw before she got famous - the woman is one of the best enforcers in the game and lately we haven't been seeing that - we've been seeing "cute" play - and she's not good enough to be a "cute" player, never has been - c'mon Brandi - be a beast!!!! It's what you do best, get back to it.
Slaton (came in for Brandi at the half) - more active defensively than Brandi was - thought the defense from the US left improved a bit when she got in there. Not just a wonderful game offensively from her (wanted to see some of those beautiful crosses from her, but didn't). Overall, though, a fairly solid performance - and she remains on my Olympic roster and I have no problem giving her playing time.
Fair - don't know whether she lined up in the middle or on the right at the beginning of the game, but throughout most of the game Foudy was in the central mid. I don't know where the heck Fair was for most of the game - once again she was just about invisible. Did note that she had lots of turnovers as always - there was one point at which I was thinking "nice touch Lorrie" but then she turned the ball over and absolutely destroyed my nice Fair moment ;-) Defensively, didn't really notice her much, but since we seemed to play fairly well defensively against the Norwegian mids, she must have been OK. Still concerns me that she is so completely inactive on offense - we have Mia Hamm and Tiffeny Milbrett sitting up top - two of the best strikers in the world, and when she's in there, we have a midfield that has trouble getting the balls to the frontline - I continue to be frustrated with her play, and continue to wish she would play less . . . . much less . . .
Serlenga (came in for Fair at the half): hmmmm, she was more active than Fair offensively - much better offensive conduit than Fair was. Was OK defensively. Didn't make a huge impression on me. She still makes my Olympic team ahead of Fair (although I'm a realist and I know that Fair is going and probably will be ahead of Nikki on the depth chart . . . ).
Foudy - solid game again. Nice ball distribution - took a nice shot from the top of the box to keep the defense honest (that was for you Awe - it was only from about 25 yards out though - well within her range ;-) ). Excellent defensively once again. Foudy's strong year continues.
Lilly - well I've gone on about her a bit already so I'll try to keep it brief. Thought she had a very strong game and is only slightly behind Millie on my player of the game ballot. Was all over the field all day long. Had two shots that but for excellent goalkeeping would have been in the back of the net. Still can't believe that one in the 3d minute didn't find net - it was a beaut. She seemed to be marking Hege Riise defensively much of the match and I thought did a nice job of neutralizing her - and having such a tough defensive assignment makes the fact she was all over the place offensively that much more impressive. She and Mia almost hooked up a couple of times - no matter how many times I see it, I still marvel at how easily those two can find each other on the pitch. Can't find much to pick at with Lil, thought she had a strong outing.
Tiffeny Milbrett - gets better and better as the year goes on. All over the place up top, with tons of touches. She shows such tenacity out there and never ever gives up on the ball - even when it appears to be lost. And she still has jets - she can accelerate to the ball like no one else out there. Her goal was a combination of that speed and tenacity, that's for sure - touched it around the keeper and outran the defenders and fired off a shot. She had some near misses that were touched around defenders as well - she's just getting better and better with the ball at her feet. Great stuff from Millie today, hope she keeps it up.
Parlow - OK game from CP today - she had some good touches and she and Lil connected a few times to create some exciting possessioins. Noticed a few times it appeared she wasn't going on her runs - Mia, Millie and Lil all passed into space a few times and she was obviously the one who should have gotten there. The aggressiveness we've seen the last few games wasn't there either. She did go over the line a few times at Gold Cup, but with CP, I'd rather see that than a return to the rather "soft" player we've seen in the past. But overall, I can't really point to anything she did terribly so it was a pretty decent effort.
Mac - came in for Parlow in the 60-65th minute (I forget exactly when). Pretty invisible day from Mac. Wasn't really enough time for her to do much - still miss her starting in a 4 middie set on the right flank (and yes, that will be the last time I say that today). Not much of an impression made at all.
Mia - nice game from Mia - she was very active up top along with Millie - again, she had some nice serves, but the big girl in the middle wasn't getting to them. Was fairly well defended though, and didn't get a whole lot of good looks herself. Quiet but overall a fairly solid game from Mia.
Well that's about it - like I said at the outset - pretty unremarkable match and it's good to see we can win the ugly ones. Look for a much sharper outing against China.