As part of a new series at Backline Soccer, I will be discussing and offering my opinion on a weekly basis, gathering news and topics from all over the world in women’s soccer. That includes (but is not limited to) the U.S. Women’s National Team, National Women’s Soccer League (U.S.), NCAA, and international matters as well.
Let’s start with the good news:
The NWSL is back:
After a two-week Olympic break, the NWSL is back in action. Last week marked the return of USWNT member Ali Krieger to Washington as the Spirit beat Houston 2-1 to claim top spot in the standings. In front of a solid crowd of 5,012, this makeup game (rescheduled from May) proved to be worth the wait. With two beautifully constructed goals from Christine Nairn, the Spirit were on their way to another shutout (seven on the year), but the Dash’s leading scorer, Kealia Ohai, had something to say about that. She managed a goal in the 90th minute to bring her total to five on the season. In the next week or so, U.S. and foreign international players should be returning to their respective teams. The next game is scheduled for August 26th, as Washington travels to Orlando to take on the Pride. With five weeks left, teams will be looking to make a final push in hopes of earning a playoff spot.
College Soccer is underway:
The 2016 women’s campaign has started, with ACC and SEC powerhouses already colliding, as first-ranked Florida State opened the season by defeating eighth-ranked Texas A&M 1-0 in a tough battle at Ellis Field. Another top 10 encounter saw West Virginia and reigning champions Penn State take a 1-1 draw in a grueling double overtime contest. Santa Clara and USC played a thrilling match that was finally decided in overtime, a 3-2 decision in favor of the Broncos. Plenty of talent on display every week as young players are eager to make their mark while veterans look to lead their teams to the promised land. That’s what is so great about college soccer—a star could be found anywhere. Sure, big name schools usually have great recruiting classes, but smaller schools in Division I are full of surprises that will unfold throughout the season.
The planned retirement of Silvia Neid:
Ok, so this isn’t exactly the best news, but I feel we should take this opportunity to celebrate what she has done for women’s soccer in Germany over the last few decades. While she is stepping away as head coach, she will now take part in setting up a scouting department for women’s soccer at the GFB (German Football Association). In charge since 2005, Neid has certainly set the standard for women’s soccer in her home country. Under her direction the German Women’s National Team won the 2007 World Cup, two EURO titles in 2009 and 2013, Olympic Bronze in 2008, and now an Olympic Gold, to add to her long list of accomplishments. Neid first captured my attention in that 2007 tournament when she took down Marta and Brazil to claim the championship. What was most impressive about that run was the fact that they didn’t give up a single goal and scored an impressive 21 goals in 6 games. Neid has always shown a desire for winning, and she has done it on every stage.
It wouldn’t be a conversation about Neid if I didn’t mention her choices over the years when it comes to her game-day outfits. She has set the bar extremely high when it comes to fashion on the sidelines. Seriously. Neid has shown an impeccable style and a quiet intensity to match. What I will miss most about Neid on the sidelines is the way she carried herself and the way she wanted the team to carry itself. The expectations were to be champions every year, whether that be the World Cup, Olympics, or Euros—she has done it all. Twice named FIFA World Coach of the Year (2010 & 2013) and hailed by many as the greatest female to ever coach, I forever applaud what she has done for the game as a whole and hope the work she has completed be remembered for a long time.
Moving on to the bad news:
Brazil failing to medal in Rio:
This team always has high expectations as long as Marta is on the field. With fellow veteran Formiga once again in the mix and leading the way, this team could’ve and probably should’ve medaled. As the host country of the Olympic Games, the pressure was probably the highest it’s ever been; even for a women’s team that has not quite been embraced like the men’s side has in its rich history. When they finally reached the bronze medal match, it was not secret they looked tired after playing in back-to-back 120 minutes + penalty kicks in a win vs. Australia in the quarterfinals and a loss to Sweden in the semifinals. Add on the travel Brazil had to do and (not to diminish Canada’s effort) Marta and Brazil just didn’t have enough left to earn that Bronze medal. Not medaling in these games was extremely disappointing, I do find it comforting that in the last game for Brazil was in front of 70,000 excited fans. Which is something that rarely is achieved for the women’s side. And to be embraced for these last few weeks—I know it meant the world to the players who have worked so hard to grow the game in their beloved country.
Brazil Federation still not supportive:
Even with arguably the best player in the game since she was 18, no matter what Marta does to lead her team, Brazil’s soccer federation still doesn’t want to put in the time, money, and resources to support their women’s national team. With plenty of clubs and schools dedicated to males all across the country, they refuse to invest in their female counterparts. With such a proud and successful history, as a whole, within the soccer world, why not support the women who wish to play; who could be the next Marta? During these Games, Brazilians went to games, cheered for the women’s team; created such a memorable atmosphere for them to play in. Isn’t that enough evidence to start seriously investing? Moving forward and thinking about the next big tournament (the 2019 Women’s World Cup in France), can the women’s team survive another cycle? I sincerely hope this is not the last time we see Marta and her incredibly talented teammates on the field at the biggest stage. It would be cruel and wrong of Brazil’s federation to continue to treat the women’s team like this, with such little respect and recognition. They have more than earned a place in the sport.
Injury for USC Senior:
Not to be drastic or to undermine the talent of the 11th-ranked Trojans this season, but a knee injury to starting center back Dominique Randle (Red Shirt) in the preseason has certainly caught my attention. No stranger to injury (she was forced to redshirt freshman year and saw no playing time in 2013 due to injury), resilience and patience are things she has plenty of. Randle started all 23 games in 2015 and only allowed 11 goals through 20 games (a conference best). She earned PAC-12 Defensive Player of the Week (August 17-23) and went on to lead her team to the third round (Sweet 16) of the NCAA College Cup before losing to top-seeded Virginia 2-0. With the loss of Randle, I do expect the younger players to step up and fill that role nicely. Even with a tough schedule early on, with returning defensive players Sammy Jo Prudhomme (GK) and Kayla Mills (PAC-12 DPOY), I still predict USC doing well and once again making an appearance in the College Cup.