Around the World of WoSo: NWSL Champions Crowned, Stanford Falls; New Blood for USWNT

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Flash Stun Spirit in NWSL Final:

Let’s be real. This game was messy, foul driven, and ended in penalty kicks. Not exactly the dream final between Western New York and Washington that I was hoping for. But the last 45 minutes of action, between the 30 minutes of extra time and then PKs, was highly entertaining.

In the first half we saw two great goals. Washington struck first in the ninth minute when Crystal Dunn found WNY keeper Sabrina D’Angelo in no man’s land and slotted it home for the early lead. WNY were not fazed at all. Less than five minutes later Samantha Mewis fired a shot from distance to grab the equalizer. After those first minutes of excitement, the game turned into a choppy bit of play, with plenty of fouls for each team and no more goals in regulation.

In extra time, Dunn was at it again. Somehow finding herself wide open inside the eighteen, she fired a rocket courtesy of her left foot into the near post. The flash struggled to string passes together for the next 20 minutes, but then a miracle happened. In the 124th minute, Jessica McDonald sent in a hopeful cross than found the head of Lynn Williams, beating two Spirit players and keeper Kelsey Wys to the ball, and it dropped in the back of the net. An incredible moment that gave me instant flashbacks to the 2011 Women’s World Cup semifinal between USA and Brazil, when Megan Rapinoe found Abby Wambach’s head in the box to level the score in the 122nd minute, pulling of the seemingly impossible.

This moment wasn’t quite as momentous, but it had the same feeling of improbability and was fun to watch unfold. One minute later (literally), the whistle blows. I’d have to imagine it’s a cringing reminder that the Spirit had the championship in their hands. In penalty kicks, WNY keeper D’Angelo made three saves on Ali Krieger, Diana Matheson, and Tori Huster to secure the title for the Flash. An incredible outcome that I don’t think anyone could’ve predicted. In front of 8,255 fans—many of whom were supporting Washington—WNY managed to shock everyone. Quite a determined performance to take the NWSL world by surprise.

Anson Dorrance Reaches Milestone at UNC:

North Carolina has been a powerhouse from the second the program began in 1979. That was the first year of Dorrance’s tenure as well, and he’s never slowed down in his 37 years in charge.  A few days ago, he secured his 800th victory. What’s more amazing is that he did it in his 900th game. In his career, he has accumulated 800 wins, 65 losses, and 35 draws. All staggering numbers anyway you look at it.

Dorrance has coached so many players who went on to have fantastic careers at the U.S. senior national team level. To name a few: Mia Hamm, Cindy Parlow, April Heinrichs, Kristine Lilly, Carla Overbeck, Heather O’Reilly.  This past weekend, his 15th ranked Tar Heels defeated Wake 2-1 to make this historic night an unforgettable one. They improve to 8-2-3 on the season while winning their fourth consecutive game. They face Notre Dame on Friday and look to continue their winning ways.

U.S. U-17 Eliminated from WWC:

In the final group game, the United States faced Japan and lost 3-2. They struggled defensively against the technical and quick Japanese players. At one point in the second half, the USA gave up 2 goals in a span of three minutes. They absolutely collapsed and couldn’t recover from it. One bright spot was 17-year-old captain Ashley Sanchez, who scored both goals for the Americans. She now has 18 goals in 18 appearances for the Youth National Team.

Considering they lost to the defending champions, some could look the other way, but I think this was a glaring failure that leaves me with questions about how the youth systems are operating. I had high expectations for this group. Another exit by a U.S. women’s team in a major tournament. In my opinion, the world has definitely caught up to us, if there was any real doubt about that.

2016 NCAA College Cup Finds New Home:

Over a month ago, the decision to remove all NCAA championships from North Carolina due to the state’s anti-LGBTQA laws was officially announced. This week, we have a new home of many NCAA DI tournaments, more specifically the DI Women’s Soccer final will now be played in San Jose, California at Avaya Stadium, which is the home of MLS side San Jose Earthquakes (holds 18,000). While tradition will be missed for those in NC, this was a much needed change. I fully support this relocation and look forward to seeing what kind of atmosphere fans will bring to San Jose in December.

USC Upsets #1 Stanford:

Coming into this game, Stanford had showcased an impressive amount of quality wins, including Minnesota, Santa Clara, and UCLA. But USC outhustled them in this one, were more aggressive, and simply shut out the number one team in the nation. Maybe Stanford needed to lose this one? You know, to bring them back to earth and figure out what weaknesses they can improve on. They fall to 11-1-1 on the year.

The Trojans came in as the number seven team and riding a ten-game win streak. They put three goals past Stanford. (It should be noted that starting goalkeeper Jane Campbell was out due to suspension for the Cardinals.) Nonetheless, I still had Stanford at least drawing this one. This was another strong win for USC, who have also defeated North Carolina, Arizona, and Georgia. The Trojans are now 10-3-1 on the season. They travel to Tempe to square off against Arizona State on Saturday.

Ellis Names USWNT Roster for October Camp:

Jill Ellis has named 24 players to a roster for October camps ahead of two upcoming friendlies against Switzerland. The first will be October 19th at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah, while the second is October 23rd at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  

Notable players not included are Ali Krieger, Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe, Julie Johnston, and Meghan Klingenberg. I don’t want fans to worry. This is just a reminder that we are moving towards new blood for the new cycle, and that means there will be some rotation in the rosters. And that’s a good thing.

It seems the NWSL play is making a real impact. Ellis has called 11 new players in. A variety of familiar names—but only at the club level. Kealia Ohai, Lynn Williams, Danielle Colaprico, Shea Groom, Casey Short, Arin Gilliland, Abby Dahlkemper, and Merritt Mathias are all representatives of the league. Three YNT and/or Collegiate players were chosen as well: BYU standout Ashley Hatch and the Stanford duo of Jane Campbell and Andi Sullivan.

This is the perfect time to bring in new players—a test of the waters really. See what the program has to work with in preparation for the 2019 Women’s World Cup in France. I know I’m looking forward to these matches and learning who will not only standout but bring something new to the table. Let’s get our fans and federation excited again for the possibilities this team has.