Category Archives: USWNT

Algarve Cup Preview: USA vs. Norway

USA will square off against Norway tomorrow at 2pm eastern.

These longtime rivals will essentially re-play some grudge matches from the 1990s in the first match of the group stage of the Algarve Cup. Norway knocked the US out of the semi-finals of the second World Cup, then lost to the US in the semis of the following Olympics. It looks like history is coming full circle: Norway even has its coach from those days – Even Pellerud – back in the saddle, and lord knows how the US would love to emulate those glory days. All told, Norway has played the US more than any other team (48 times).

Norway’s seat at the table

Norway had been on the decline since the early 2000s, but they pulled out of their hole recently. They came in a tight second to Germany in the 2012 Women’s Euro Championship, falling 1-0 only after German keeper Nadine Angerer saved 2 penalty kicks. With some exciting new players like Ada and Andrine Hegerberg and Emilie Haavi joining several veteran defenders, the team is coalescing and promises to be one to watch.

US chance for redemption

As for the US, this Algarve Cup is for exorcizing demons. An earth-shatteringly poor performance from the team in last year’s Algarve Cup led to the quick dismissal of new head coach Tom Sermanni and seems to have ushered in a period of decline for the US squad. Anything less than a series of convincing victories in the group stage and an extended run for the Cup will bring the worry-warts of the US out in droves.

Algarve Cup Group Stage: what to watch for

All eyes will be on the return of Hope Solo, who is back from her 30-day suspension. Has her on-field mental toughness been affected by her off-field troubles? Fans of the game will also be curious to see how US head coach Jill Ellis handles what is proving to be a bit too much talent in the midfield – which unthinkable benching will happen? Will Carli Lloyd be banished to the wing? Will Megan Rapinoe sit for too long and get yet another injury? What about those Norwegian youngsters – how will the US defense hold up against them?

Stay tuned!

Hope Solo is back with the USWNT

Hope Solo has successfully complied with certain unannounced conditions and is back with the USWNT. Watching her implode over the last few years has been painful, and I really hope she has exorcized whatever demons she has. Even though her personal life has been erratic and violent, her playing is still world-class. She is an absolute joy to watch play.

It’s not fair, I know, to speculate about her problems. That’s not going to stop me, since I’m a soccer fan, and we speculate about inappropriate things. Hope needs to get help with her drinking. I would be shocked if a 30-day sobriety period weren’t part of the plan to get her back on the team. Her memoir is so frank when she discusses her mother’s addiction. She clearly understands the unique pain that comes along with loving someone who is stuck inside addiction, how you can respect their struggle and love their spirit while needing to distance yourself from the person to become whole yourself.

Actually, I wish US Soccer were more upfront about whatever conditions they put on Solo, especially if treatment for alcoholism or some other substance abuse condition was part of the plan. They would never, of course, especially with a woman soccer player: the pressure on these women to be perfect role models is out of control. US Soccer will never recognize that you’re not a ‘bad role model’ if you struggle with addiction or get help for addiction, but it is irresponsible to pretend like alcoholism and addiction don’t exist among professional athletes. Hell, even Hope dismisses criticism about her drinking by claiming that it’s part of athlete culture to work hard and play harder. Denial surrounding alcoholism and addiction does not limit itself to families. But when serious athletes are more likely than non-athletes to drink to excess, open conversations about drinking culture and alcohol abuse need to be a part of soccer culture. Even women’s soccer culture. Even when there are girls out there who look up to these players. Especially when there are girls out there who look up to these players.