Soccer Mondays with Annie Peterson for March 4, 2019

In Tampa y'all! Finally get to the SheBelieves Cup and all kinds of stuff in happening. Plus teasing my interview with Alyssa Naeher

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I’m FINALLY with the U.S. national team, joining up for the grand finale of this year’s pre-World Cup SheBelieves Cup. (I had to usher in the MLS season for the AP first.) Exited to get to Tampa, so let’s delve in some of the issues. Oh and thanks, as always, for letting me think out loud here. If you have any ideas or feedback, email me! apeterson@ap.org. You can even tell me I suck. I’ve got think skin cuz I’m on Twitter.

First, Adrianna Franch got her first cap, and while it didn’t got as well as I’m sure she would have liked, it was an important first step for the Portland Thorns goalkeeper. Her yikes moment was pretty bad, but knowing AD she’ll make sure it won’t happen again. It’s important for her, confidence-wise, to move on.

And the result certainly wasn’t all her fault. The team’s best defender is still easing her way back from injury and didn’t start.

But while a lot of attention is going to the goalkeeper situation, which, I’ll admit, is valid, I’d argue that U.S. as a whole has looked out-of-sorts in this tournament.

Regarding the goalkeepers, let’s get this out of the way: No one is going to be as good as Solo was in goal for in immediate future, and maybe not for a while. Say what you want about some of her antics, but she was a hell of a goalkeeper. And she’s isn’t coming back, despite those millions of “Bring Back Hope” twitter posts.

The team’s got what it’s got, and frankly, the comparisons to Solo are a little unfair to Naeher. Should the U.S. be stronger in goal from top to bottom? Yep. Shoulda worked on getting an heir apparent and backup ready long ago. I think the team was spoiled, in a way, from the last transition between Briana Scurry and Solo.

That said, it will be interesting to see who Ellis uses in goal Tuesday. One thing is certain, it won’t be Naeher, who is out for the tournament. The team needs her to be 100 percent going into France.

There are other issues but the biggest head-scratcher is Sam Mewis. Dan Lauletta summed it up Perfectly in the Equalizer: “During every pocket of the United States women’s national team’s existence, there have been players whose names inspire instant debate. The hot-button name at this year’s SheBelieves Cup is Sam Mewis.”

So look, there’s a lot going on with this team. There’s going to be much to ponder at every position and lots of hand-wringing before the Americans even set foot in France. There always is. It’s what makes it fun to be a fan. It’s what grabs eyes to columns. I’ll just point out that in Canada there were lots of folks who theorized the U.S. was finished when Rapinoe and Holiday sat out of the quarters because of yellow-card accumulation. It worked out OK in the end.

(Oh and speaking of Holiday, or Cheney if you’re like me and five years later still call her by her maiden name, no one has been able to fill her shoes, either.)

On to the links.


This Week in Women’s Soccer

Reminder: The underlined words are the links. CLICK these! Clicks = Attention from editors, producers, and webmasters. If you want to push out stuff you’ve written or read, email me! apeterson@ap.org.

Graham Hays for ESPN looks at two frustrating draws for the U.S. team.

Here’s Dan’s story again on Sam Mewis. Because really?

Harjeet Johal of The Equalizer had a nice summary of AD’s debut. Oh, and subscribe to The Equalizer, you won’t regret it.

Claire Watkins looks at how the U.S. is using Julie Ertz.

One last Equalizer post from before I went out on my run this morning, updating all the stuff going on in woso.

Speaking of AD, Jonathan Tannenwald had a nice story about her, along with Jess McDonald, chasing World Cup dreams.

Yes, it was cool for the U.S. players to pick inspirational names for their jerseys. I know some said it was silly. Let’s all lighten up.

AP’s Rob Harris reports on the possibility of a joint Korean bid for the 2023 Women’s World Cup. Interesting, but my money’s on Australia.

Gotta give my AP colleague Teresa Walker props for her coverage of the U.S. team while they were in Nashville. Not only do I work with her, but she’s one of my bestest friends.

Cup of Nations update. Who scored twice? Yes, that would be Sam Kerr.

So is Lucy Bronze really the world’s best player? Phil Neville thinks so, according to Katie Whyatt.

Suzanne Wrack was in Nashville for the Guardian. She looked at England, too.

Caitlin Murray is everywhere: Here’s her story about the issues on defense for Yahoo Sports.

Do yourself a favor and read Yael Averbuch’s blog.

One last thing: Many of you already follow @KeeperNotes on Twitter, but did you know there is a wealth of information and more to come from keepernotes.com? Take a look.

Tweet of the Week

This makes me sad. All of The IX’s best to Steph.

Five at The IX: USWNT goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher

So I spoke, pre-injury, to Alyssa Naeher for some larger stories I’m doing. AP is going to have a lot of content leading up to this year’s World Cup, and I’m super excited about what we have planned. What my news organization, and what others are clearly also doing, shows the tremendous growth of the game, even since Canada. I went to a few pre-tournament friendlies back then and there weren’t nearly the number of media outlets on hand as there are today. That said, I’m only teasing a few excerpts here and saving some stuff for later, so stay tuned.

Annie: So you're notoriously a quiet person but you're in a position that often requires a lot of yelling. How do you how do you manage sometimes to be you know really vocal when that's not your kind of natural tendency?

Alyssa: I think you just kind of switch it on when it comes to games in general. You know, you get in the moment with it. It's a necessity. It's big part of the position, making saves and keeping the ball out of the back of the net is obviously task number one and is the most important thing for us as goalkeepers, but then all the organization trying to prevent attacks and stuff before they even get to me is almost as important. A lot of that is just being as prepared as I can be, knowing that I'm confident with what I'm telling my defenders and the organization. The more prepared I am, the more comfortable I feel and the more natural it is.

Annie: Do you consider yourself a leader?

Alyssa: I do. I think the cool thing about leadership is that there are so many different forms of it. I would say I am more of -- I'm never really going to be that rah rah, in your face kind of person, kind of leader. But I hope that I can give, through how I play, how I carry myself, hopefully that gives my teammates confidence in me and that's its own form of leadership, and setting a standard of expectations for myself and for us as a team and how to come together as one unit.

Annie: Do you have any role models? Who did you look up to or try to emulate?

Alyssa: Probably not so much as as a goalkeeper, but growing up I looked up to Kristine Lilly. As a fellow native of Connecticut I thought it was cool that she came from the same state as me. Obviously she had an incredible, legendary career with the national team and professionally. Then I had the opportunity to play with her when I got to Boston. I think just watching her -- obviously she's not a goalkeeper -- but watching her and some of the other players that I had the opportunity to play with on that team, Kelly Smith, Leslie Osborne, Lindsay Tarpley, all those girls had been and around for a while, and they emulated what it meant to be true professionals. And I tried to just follow their example and take in everything that I could from them -- how to carry myself on and off the field, and how to be prepared and what it means to truly be a professional.

Annie: You're a twin and your sister was also athletic when you guys were growing up. How did that kind of shape you and did that make you a more competitive person?

Alyssa: Yes it did. We were always playing something, whether it was in the backyard, whether we were playing baseball, basketball, soccer, whatever, whether we were racing obstacle courses and timing each other, all kinds of competitions. I think that both of us were very naturally competitive anyways, and then just having the opportunity to compete against each other all the time obviously gave us the opportunity to build that. I definitely think that’s helped me, kind of instill that competitive nature in me, and I think I still have a lot of that now as I play. I hate to lose, I always want to get better. I'm always trying to make improvements.

Annie: Shifting over to the NWSL. You also played in the WPS. How do you feel about the state of the NWSL right now?

Alyssa: We're going into year seven, so I think we're in a good spot. I think every year its grown and its continued to make improvements and strides toward creating a a high-level professional environment. Obviously there's still some things that are a work in progress and there's always going to be opportunity to improve and grow. But I think that the excitement level around the league with owners and players and coaches is in a really good place. It's obviously lasted now almost twice as long as any other professional league we've had, so that in and of itself is good progress. I think the more it sticks around, the more interest is going to grow, the investments that will get made into it, and just the overall commitment from top to bottom, from players, coaches, staff, ownership, is just going to continue to keep driving the level going from year to year.


Mondays: Soccer
By: Annie Peterson, @AnnieMPeterson AP Women's Soccer
Tuesdays: Tennis
By Lindsay Gibbs, @Linzsports ThinkProgress
Wednesdays: Basketball
By: Howard Megdal, @HowardMegdal High Post Hoops
Thursdays: Golf
By Carly Grenfell, @Carlygren PGA.com
Fridays: Hockey
By: Erica Ayala, @ELindsay08 NWHL Broadcaster