The IX: Soccer Monday with Annie Peterson, January 28, 2019

Thoughts on Spain, ongoing drama with Sky Blue, must-read links and a few questions with Haley Carter

First off, thank you so much to our new subscribers. We’re really looking to take a “grassroots” approach to growing The IX, and your support is awesome. As usual, please feel free to reach out to me, either by email at apeterson@ap.org or just ask on Twitter, at @AnnieMPeterson. If you have a link or an idea, I’d love to hear from you. You can also reach us as a group at TheIXMail@gmail.com.

On a personal note, this past week was tough because we lost our cat Po. We found out two weeks ago she had a fatal tumor. Po moved into our yard in 2012. At first we thought she was only about 2 or 3 years old. Turns out she was much older, and our vet estimated she was closer to 15 when we discovered she was ill. We thought we might have six more weeks or so with her, but the end came very quickly. She was our first-ever cat, and I had never really understood how people loved their pets like members of the family. Now I understand. So grateful for our time with her.

On to soccer. First take from the USWNT match against Spain last week: La Roja are better than I thought. Yes, they won all eight of their qualifying matches to earn the trip to the World Cup. And yes, their youth teams have been doing well. But they were much more organized than I thought they’d be, and they displayed some deft passing. I think they will be fun to watch in France. However, they have a challenging group with China, South Africa and Germany.

I think we all need to keep an eye on Christen Press. Let’s face it, last season was a weird one for Press. The trade to Houston went awry, she went to Sweden for what seemed like just a cup of coffee before joining the Utah Royals. She missed out on some opportunities with the USWNT, as Jill Ellis made it clear she wanted her stateside. But she seems to have emerged from the experience pretty much unscathed. She’s making a strong case for inclusion as a reserve among the group that is chosen for France.

Overall, it’s encouraging to see that the U.S. rebounded from the loss to France, and that Rapinoe and Heath weren’t held out because of anything serious. Like I said last week, I don’t think that loss mattered as much as some claimed. I think it was simply tactical experimentation. If everything goes as planned for the USWNT, the U.S. and France might meet again in the World Cup quarterfinals, and we’ll all see whether the Americans learned from the experience.

On to the NWSL, the situation with Sky Blue is still unresolved. Unless you live under a rock, you know that draft picks Hailie Mace (2nd overall) and Julia Ashley (sixth overall) have opted to play elsewhere. Mace is currently playing in Australia and Ashley, a New Jersey native for goshsakes, is off to Sweden.

In Lindsay Gibbs’ article for ThinkProgress (Oh, hey, that’s The IX Contributor Lindsay Gibbs!), team owner and New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy appealed to Ashley by saying she needed to have faith that improvements would come.

Sorry Governor, faith just won’t cut it for a professional sports team.

Embattled Sky Blue GM Tony Novo promised at the draft that details about those improvements would be made soon.

That clock is ticking.

ONE FINAL NOTE, and this one’s important. Caitlin Murray @caitlinmurr wrote a book on the U.S. team. It’s called “The National Team: The Inside Story of the Women Who Dreamed Big, Defied the Odds, and Changed Soccer.” You can pre-order it here. I’m so excited about this book! Caitlin is an excellent writer, reporter and story teller.

This Week in Women’s Soccer

Reminder: Underlined items are links.

Avi Criditor’s take on the USWNT’s European trip for Sports Illustrated.

ESPNs Graham Hays on the victory over Spain.

Steven Goff weighs in on the win for the Washington Post.

Caitlin Murray analyzes the trip for The Athletic.

The folks on The Equalizer’s podcast team sat down with Alexi Lalas. No matter what Lalas will accomplish in his career, what sticks with me is all those images of him in that awful “denim look” USA jersey.

Chelsey Bush looks at how to best utilize Christen Press for The Equalizer.

The great Lindsay Gibbs on Sky Blue’s top draft pick exodus for ThinkProgress.

Deadspin doesn’t mince words about the Sky Blue situation.

NJ.com with its story on Sky Blue. NorthJersey.com with its version here.

And I didn’t get to this above, because details are still emerging, but lots of folks are confused about Alen Stajcic’s dismissal. This was in the Canberra Times.

Sophie Schmidt is super confident. I loved this interview.

Primer from FIFPro on the legal action that Maca Sanchez is taking against the Argentine federation.

Sam Kerr set the W-League goal-scoring record, because of course she did.

The great Neil Davidson on Jordyn Huitema skipping college to go pro. She’d been considering UCLA or Stanford.

Stephanie Yang with a fascinating look at the second tier of women’s soccer in the United States.

This article is fascinating on FIFA and World Cup prize money.

The latest Mixxed Zone podcast is here.

And y’all should check this out. Equal Time Soccer took a look at three Minnesota players and the journey to pro careers.

Tweet of the Week

The Five at the IX

I spoke to Haley Carter, a former goalkeeper who has been an assistant coach of the Afghan women’s team, about a variety of topics for a future AP story. Here is a brief excerpt from our conversation. If you don’t know Haley, she’s a great ambassador for the women’s game and you can follow her on Twitter at @H_C_Carter 

Annie: Following the FIFA inquiry into abuse within the Afghan federation, do you believe the women’s program will be able to continue?

Haley: I think in the short term, we’re sort of seeing it a little bit that families are afraid to let their daughters come and play. I’m optimistic that FIFA is going to do the right thing, and I think over time you’ll begin to see that trust be built back up. I think it’s unfortunate that it’s happening, but I think it’s necessary. And it’s always been a battle. When Kelly and I first came on board, there were many conversations I was having with parents, even in the United States, to convince them to let their daughters play. And the fact that we had an all-female staff was probably the most appealing part. We had John DeWitt as well, but all of the dads loved John DeWitt, so that was fine. You had two western women, and Khalida (Popal), who brought in Joelle (Muro) as the team PT. People were sensitive to that and they felt a level of comfort that they were not used to because we had an all-female staff, apart from John, but it took time and it took conversations. Even going into SAFF, I was on the phone with parents two or three weeks prior to the tournament. trying to convince parents to let their kids come with us to India. So that is not new, that level of distrust is not new, but that’s kind of the devastating part of this, is that in the short term, it’s going to take time to build that trust back up.

Annie: Personally, why was it important to you join the staff for the Afghan team in the first place.

Haley: The game gave me a lot, it’s given me everything. I was recruited to play soccer at the Naval Academy, it was my identity growing up. It’s how I made friends, it’s how I met people it’s how I traveled. My parents were unbelievably supportive of whatever I wanted to do, but especially soccer. It was important to me to be able to play that forward to women who may bot have had that opportunity, may not have had that support structure or the encouragement to play. And I just know the great things that sports can open up for someone. We’ve had players that have gone on to be doctors and lawyers and they’ve avoided marriage at a young age, and it’s based on the confidence they gain in going and playing sport. To be able to support these women and empower these women and help them really grow their platform as role models for women, and women in Afghanistan, how can you say no?

Annie: Your path was unusual, to say the least. How did you end up here?

Haley: In life in gender?

Annie: To military service, to the Dash, everything.

Haley: I just say yes to everything. I joke, but not really. I just say yes to everything. I love the game, I’ve always loved the game and it’s a part of me. I got out of the Marine Corps and started playing for Randy (Waldrum, then coach of the Dash) and that was a thing where I just closed my eyes and took the leap. Things have just worked out fortuitously, I guess.  I’ve always been up for meeting new people and traveling and experiencing new cultures, and being an advocate for women. I’ve always tried to plan my life around service to others. Even with the Dash, I was always doing appearances and setting up veteran’s appreciation events. I don’t know, I’m a big believer that you get back what you put into the world, so I want to put good things into the world.

Annie: When you were a kid did you want to be a Marine or be a soccer player more?

Haley: I don’t know, I think both. I knew that I wanted to go to the Naval Academy, and conveniently they had a Division I soccer team. When I was a kid in high school the ’99 World Cup happened, and then the pro league came out, but the pro league folded. I knew going into the Naval Academy that it was going to be my life for sort of my 20s. I continued to play while I was in the Marine Corps and I was fortunate with opportunities in that then played afterword. I just sort of had my cake and ate it too, I guess.

Annie: So what inspired you to join the Dash in 2014, kind of on the ground level?

Haley: I was still playing and I was living in Austin at the time when the Dash got established in 2014. And I was talking with Randy because obviously I followed the league and the players and everything. And I knew he was going to need more goalkeepers than just Erin McLeod and Bianca. So I just reached out and he said, `Yeah, come to open tryouts and we’ll go from there.’ So I went to open tryouts and one thing led to another. He just kept me around. He tried cutting me once and I said, `I’ll see you tomorrow.’ It was really about the team, it was about supporting the team and helping them get better. You know, I only got one appearance, in my entire three seasons of playing. I’m OK with that because that wasn’t my role. My role was to be supportive in the locker room and my role was push the two goalkeepers who were in front of me. I’m comfortable with that.

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