HAO Says Goodbye to the USWNT:
It was a bittersweet week for fans of the U.S. Women’s National team as midfielder Heather O’Reilly officially retired. While it is sad that she will be gone as a member of USWNT, the good news is that we get to remember all the amazing things she accomplished over her 15-year career at the National level. The other good news is that she is only retiring from International soccer but will continue to play for her NWSL club team, FC Kansas City. Simply known as HAO to her many fans, O’Reilly had a historic career–231 caps, 47 goals, 55 assists. These came along the way as she won the U-19 World Cup in 2002, three Olympic Gold medals (’04, ’08, and ’12), and most recently became a World Cup Champion in 2015. HAO also holds the record for most games played consecutively at 74. She was a crucial part of creating a new team image during the transition from the 99ers, even getting to wear the number nine that was passed down from Mia Hamm herself all those years ago. I’d be lying if I said seeing Mia on the field to honor HAO didn’t make me emotional, because it did.
In her last game in a U.S. jersey against Thailand last week, HAO scored one last goal and grabbed an assist to lead the gals to a 9-0 victory. It was certainly an emotional night for all; teammates, coaches, fans and any soccer fan who knew how special she was to the sport over the years. I think it’s safe to say she will be remembered for her iconic game face and record setting beep test numbers. She was the very definition of determination; every practice, every game, no matter if she was starting or on the bench, Heather O’Reilly gave it her all. Like many fans, I am forever grateful for her work and her dedication to make this team great for so long.
International Break for EURO 2017 Qualifying:
This past week, several NWSL players were off for their respective countries for European Qualifying. Countries that have made it and the NWSL players involved:
England- Rachel Daly (Houston Dash),
France- Amandine Henry (Portland Thorns FC)
Iceland- Dagny Brynjarsdottir (Portland Thorns FC),
Scotland- Kim Little & Rachel Corsie (Seattle Reign FC).
Other countries who have qualified are Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.
Hoyas Continue to Impress:
Last week, Georgetown upset the number three team in the nation (Virginia); this week they managed one better. The Hoyas needed a double overtime goal (102nd minute) from Grace Damaska to best West Virginia, who are ranked number one. Another impressive outing, considering the Hoyas are ranked 16th, and will surely crack the top 10 when the latest rankings are released. With the win, they snapped a two-year streak of 30 games won at home by WVU. With huge wins like this on their resume, Georgetown is surely grabbing everyone’s attention. Up next, the Hoyas will host Providence on Sunday while WVU travel to Richmond on Friday.
FSU has a pair of Aces:
Florida State has two players who are playing very well and have grabbed my attention: Megan Connolly (M) and Deyna Castellanos (F). The two have combined for seven goals and two assist in eight games so far. Connolly had a breakout season last year and now as a sophomore, she is aiming to do even more damage. The 19 year-old Irish international is leading the Seminoles in shots with 24, one of which was a game winner against Middle Tennessee earlier this season. The other notable standout is 17 year-old Castellanos, who hails from Venezuela and is only a freshman. She already has three game winners in her catalog; against Texas A & M, UConn, and added another versus Miami on Sunday. Castellanos is second on the team in shots, with 23. The Seminoles have started the season strong with seven wins and one loss. Their next two opponents are Wake Forest and number three ranked Virginia after that. This team is worth keeping an eye on to see what they can do against other top ten teams. With Connolly and Castellanos engineering the offense for FSU, I think they could go very far into the College Cup.
USWNT Friendly with the Netherlands:
Sunday night proved to be a very competitive match between the United States and the Netherlands. Not that I wasn’t expecting one, but the Dutch really impressed me with how they executed their game plan. They started out fast and the Americans were exposed in the first two minutes when forward Shanice Van De Sanden pounced on a loose ball to give the Netherlands the lead. For most of the Dutch found ways to stretch our defense, which was interesting in itself considering we had three centerbacks on the backline. Fielding Whitney Engen, Julie Johnston and Becky Sauerbrunn, the U.S. struggled to find a rhythm in the first half hour. Meghan Klingenberg was the only true outside back starting the game and she had a sub-par game to say the least. She got beat more than enough to count and for me was the worst player on the field in the first half. With ten minutes until halftime, the United States finally got on the board. Tobin Heath broke free on the right side and found Carli Lloyd alone, who tucked inside the eighteen to blast it top shelf for the equalizer.
The second half was a little bit more organized than the first for the United States, but still the Dutch continued to win battles in the air and work through Van De Sanden and Danielle Van De Donk. In goal for the U.S. was Alyssa Naeher and in her 14th appearance, she was tested plenty. As the game went on, Naeher seemed to get settled in and that showed as the Dutch couldn’t get anything else past her. After an own goal in the 50th minute by the Netherlands, the United States tightened up on defense and brought on subs to push the match up a notch. Two of those included Crystal Dunn and Megan Rapinoe. On several occasions, Dunn blew past multiple defenders but couldn’t control in the final third to get any dangerous shot off. The third and final goal came by way of a Rapinoe cross that was headed back towards the Netherlands goal by Lloyd and Allie Long made sure it found the back of the net.
Overall, I really enjoyed this game by both teams. While the U.S. certainly have areas to improve, for a friendly it was solid effort. As for the Netherlands, I am excited to see what they can do next. They really impressed me with not only the style they perform with, but the physical nature they imposed. I was familiar with a few players before the match and now I am exposed to a handful of quality players. Nothing but respect and newfound love for the Netherlands, they have a solid foundation to build on.
Arkansas Shocks Florida:
The Razorbacks had yet another tremendous outing at home against a top five opponent; the first you may recall was beating number two Duke almost a month ago. This time they beat SEC rival Florida for the first time in program history. The Gators were ranked fourth and went into the game with a three game win streak in which they scored 13 goals over that span. Arkansas was more than up to the challenge, scoring twice in a three minute span in the first half. Junior Jessi Hartzler dominated Florida’s defense to give Arkansas the lead and never looked back. It was a brilliant individual effort and as the game went on, the rest of the Razorbacks started to believe they could once again pull off an upset. Florida managed to get a goal back early in the second half but that wasn’t enough to fully recover. Even with a two hour lightening delay, the crowd of 1,155 stayed until the end. Florida drop to six wins and two losses. They look to recover against Auburn on Thursday in Gainesville. Arkansas climbs to nine wins and one loss; the best start in program history. They face off against Alabama in Fayetteville on Thursday.