good-bye my grim reaper prince (coyotesuspect) wrote in ontd_football,
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fabulous ladies doing fabulous things win fabulous medals



Destiny is Ruthless
How do you explain the U.S. Women's National Team and their gold-medal performance?
by Brian Phillips

On Thursday, at around 10 p.m. in London, 5 p.m. Eastern Standard, and permanent high noon on the clock in Abby Wambach's head, the U.S. Women's National Team beat Japan 2-1 to win their third straight Olympic gold medal. Which, when you write it down like that, almost sounds like it makes sense. Like: There was a schedule, and things happened according to that schedule. Like: U.S. coach Pia Sundhage had a plan, and the team executed that plan. Effort was invested; results were obtained. Tournament-mandated sideline vests were sported. Business as usual. Move along.

In fact, though, the win over Japan culminates an Olympics — really a full year of international competition, maybe more — during which the defining characteristic of the U.S. women's soccer team was how completely, boundlessly, ostentatiously crazy everything that happened to them has been. I mean, in the Hope Solo era, every training camp is going be a self-contained maelstrom of minor drama, but what's really astonishing is the team's penchant for on-pitch chaos. Every time they take the field in a big match, Arkham Asylum breaks out.

Consider: There was the Women's World Cup quarterfinal against Brazil last summer, when, the U.S. having clung to life with 10 players for the better part of an hour, Wambach went legendary in the last sliver of an instant of extra time to send the match to penalties (where the Americans won). There was the semifinal a couple of days later when the U.S. scored twice in the last 11 minutes to beat France. There was the Women's World Cup final against Japan, when the Japanese team made up two late-game deficits, Homare Sawa equalized in the 117th minute after Wambach had given the U.S. the lead in the 104th, and the match went to penalties (where the Americans lost). There were the back-to-back Olympic qualifiers in January when the U.S. beat the Dominican Republic and Guatemala 14-0 and 13-0, respectively.1 There was the Olympic group-stage match in which Colombia's Lady Andrade punched Wambach in the face. Most recently, and most crazily, there was the Olympic semifinal against Canada on Monday, which featured a stunning hat trick from Canada's Christine Sinclair, some spectacularly bad defending, some even more spectacularly bad officiating, multiple comebacks, a full-fledged head-stomp starring Melissa Tancredi's Canadian boot and Carli Lloyd's American face, and a 123rd-minute, microsecond-before-the-death goal by Alex Morgan to give the U.S. the 4-3 win.

Thursday's gold-medal game was — marginally — less thrilling than some of the matches that preceded it. Compared to, say, the Canada game, it clocked in at around "really tense and exciting" rather than "your eyeballs have just floated out of your skull and started spinning around like tops." That is, all it had to offer was a dramatic revenge story line, some gasp-worthy saves by Solo, two goals by Lloyd (one of them a screamer from just outside the box following a 30-yard run with the ball), a near-comeback keyed by a Yuki Ogimi goal, a ton of crazy scrambling in the box, wide-open play, and a lot of shots of the Americans dancing around with flags while wearing Nike shirts that read "GREATNESS HAS BEEN FOUND." Am I getting the point across here? If you like your sports wild, a little rude, and punctuated by massive heart attacks, the USWNT is as pure a drug as you are likely to find on this earth.

There are a couple of weird things about this state of affairs, one of which is that it contradicts the team's own sponsor-curated image: Instead of marketing the U.S. women as a cyclone of unpredictable drama, Nike presents them as a kind of steel-gray emblem of hard work and determination. The visual cue here is Solo's beautiful, unyielding face, shown in washed-out colors against a boxing-gym wall or a storm cloud or a vaguely ominous flag; or else it's Wambach grimacing in dawn-workout fog under the caption "PRESSURE MAKES US." The other weird thing is that the team has been extremely successful with the whole apocalypse-on-grass routine — Olympic gold medalists, World Cup runners-up — despite the fact that they've arguably regressed at, you know, playing soccer, at least compared to the rest of the world's top teams. It's not that, say, Alex Morgan and Lauren Cheney are clods where technique is concerned; they're not. It's more that the U.S. is relying on physical strength, long passes, and athleticism to make up for, e.g., the way they sometimes completely forget to defend for 10 straight minutes. (You know, minor shortcomings.) Watching the cool and elegant way Japan moved the ball around the field, it was hard at times not to feel worried about the USWNT's smash-and-sprint 4-4-2. Or at least it was right up until they won the gold medal with it.

This is probably an exaggeration, but you sometimes get the sense that the team's brand identity was designed to reflect what should be happening (the U.S. facing grim odds as their '90s and '00s structural advantages are erased by other countries' improvement), and that what actually is happening (the U.S. winning like mad by winning like mad) is too nuts for even Nike to try to predict or control it. Which is scary.

source and rest of the article here

I enjoyed this article, though I disagreed with its conclusion and some of its major points: 1) I don't think Solo is that dramatic in camp (any more) and 2) the US can play really lovely, technically minded soccer. Last year's World Cup final is proof of that. They still lost.

But this is just a good excuse for a party post. USA USA! (But feel free to post/share/spam your favorite moments and players from the rest of the women's teams as well.)


Pinoe thanks you for your time.
Tags: abby wambach, alex morgan baby horse, hope solo, i think i like girls now, nt: united states
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