Los Angeles Soccer: Pia Sundhage
Alex Morgan made the U.S. Olympic roster, which was never in doubt, so she celebrated with the usual aplomb.
The striker from Diamond Bar scored two more goals Sunday evening to lead the U.S. women's national team past China, 4-1, before a sellout crowd of 18,573 at the Philadelphia Union's stadium in Chester, Pa.
It was the first game in the Americans' final run-up to the London Games, which kick off July 25. Head coach Pia Sundhage unveiled her 18-woman roster for the tournament earlier Sunday, and there were no surprises.
Morgan (Diamond Bar HS), who is quickly evolving into the Americans' most visible star, at least on par with Hope Solo, has 24 goals in 39 international appearances, after netting her ninth and 10th in a dozen games this year. She had a breakout performance at last year's Women's World Cup in Germany.
Other local players on the roster are midfielder Shannon Boxx (Redondo Beach/South Torrance HS), forward Amy Rodriguez (Lake Forest/Santa Margarita Catholic HS and USC), UCLA products Sydney Leroux and Lauren Cheney, and star forward Abby Wambach, who has a home in Hermosa Beach. Leroux is the only player on the roster who was not at the World Cup last year.
The U.S. women's national team was paired with familiar opposition in Tuesday's Olympic soccer draw. All three first-round foes were on the Americans' path to last year's Women's World Cup title game.
They were draw with WWC group foes Colombia and North Korea, plus France, which they beat in the semifinals.
“It’s always exciting to know who we will be playing,” U.S. head coach Pia Sundhage said in a U.S. Soccer statement following the draw at Wembley Stadium in suburban London. “We will start with an excellent opponent that we faced in the World Cup and that is a good thing. Once again, we will be facing teams with different playing styles and that is a challenge our team enjoys. When the draw happens, it energizes our players and brings even more of a focus to our team. We also have the chance to start scouting and preparing for what will be an entertaining and extremely competitive first round.”
The U.S., which heads Group G, opens July 25 against France and meets Colombia on July 28, both matches at Hampden Park in Glasgow, Scotland. The Americans wrap up the group stage July 31 against North Korea at Old Trafford, Manchester United's stadium.
The top two teams in each group and two best third-place teams advance to the Aug. 3 quarterfinals. The semifinals are Aug. 6, and the medal matches are Aug. 9, with gold determined at Wembley.
Mexico has one of four seeded men's teams and heads Group B, with South Korea, Gabon and Switzerland. Honduras, CONCACAF's other representative, is in Group D with Spain, Japan and Morocco. The men's tournament begins July 26, the top two in each group advance to the quarterfinals, and the gold-medal match, at Wembley, is Aug. 11.
Here is the result of the draw:
Group E: Great Britain, New Zealand, Cameroon, Brazil.
Group F: Japan, Canada, Sweden, South Africa.
Group G: United States, France, Colombia, North Korea,
Group A: Great Britain, Senegal, United Arab Emirates, Uruguay.
Group B: Mexico, South Korea, Gabon, Switzerland.
Group C: Brazil, Egypt, Belarus, New Zealand.
Group D: Spain, Japan, Honduras, Morocco.
No Algarve Cup title for the U.S. women's national team this year.
The Americans' Women's World Cup title-game rematch with Japan didn't go their way, a 1-0 loss in Monday's Group B final ending their run of 10 successive finals at the annual event in Portugal.
Megumi Takase headed home a corner kick from former L.A. Sol star Aya Miyama in the 84th minute to send the Japanese, who prevailed on penalties in last year's WWC final in Germany, to the Algarve championship match Wednesday against the Germans. A draw would have sent the U.S. to the final.
The U.S., shut out for the first time in 58 matches -- since November 2008 -- will meet Sweden in the third-place game. The Swedes lost the Group A finale to Germany, 4-0.
“I think in the first half, we looked very nervous and the decision-making was off,” U.S. head coach Pia Sundhage told U.S. Soccer's website. “Too many times we gave away the ball in situations when we were not even under pressure or in tight spaces. We couldn’t keep the ball enough to be dangerous.
“When you give away the ball against Japan, they keep it. It’s so much defending. Mentally and physically, that’s tough. … Overall you could tell there is a lot of things to work on and, especially looking at Japan, their technique and how they keep the ball. They should be role models for the world, the way they play.”
The U.S., preparing for this summer's London Olympics, had won eight Algarve titles since 2000, including seven of the last nine. Germany in 2006 and Sweden in 2009 overcame the Americans on penalties in the final.
“I think, more than anything, it opens our eyes to areas we can improve in,” U.S. midfielder Heather O’Reilly told media afterward. “Better now that we have this experience than later during the Olympics. I think we have a lot to learn from and a lot grow from, but we’re trying to pull the positives out of it.”
Sundhage's starting lineup included Redondo Beach's Shannon Boxx, Diamond Bar's Alex Morgan, Lake Forest's Amy Rodriguez and Hermosa Beach's Abby Wambach, plus former UCLA All-American Lauren Cheney. Sydney Leroux, who wrapped her UCLA career last fall, came on for Wambach in the 72nd minute.
Diamond Bar's Alex Morgan wrapped up another Olympic trek for the U.S. women's national team, scoring a fine late goal Friday evening to complete a 3-0 triumph over Costa Rica that clinched a berth this summer in London.
Morgan (Diamond Bar HS), 22, netted her second goal of the CONCACAF qualifying tournament (to go with four assists) and 12th of her international career as the Yanks advanced to Sunday's meaningless final against host Canada.
The Canadians nabbed the region's second spot in the London Games, romping o a 3-1 victory over Mexico in the second semifinal at BC Place in Vancouver.
Tobin Heath gave the U.S. a 17th-minute lead, a point-blank header after Ticos goalkeeper Erika Miranda's reaction save on an Abby Wambach header from former UCLA All-American Lauren Cheney's corner kick.
Carli Lloyd scored her sixth goal of the tournament in the 72nd minute, hammering home a ball cleared off the line as the Yanks, issued their first real challenge of the eight-nation tournament, pulled away in the closing minutes.
MANHATTAN BEACH -- Sydney Leroux was a little girl with a big dream that, following many years of hard work and sacrifice, is starting to come true.
Don't mistake her story for a fairytale.
The three-time UCLA All-American is taking her place among the stars on the U.S. women's national team -- her five-goal extravaganza the other night at the regional Olympic qualifiers is, by all accounts, just the beginning -- but the journey hasn't been simple.
Whether it has been worth it might be open to debate, but the only opinion that matters is Leroux's, and she's in a good place. Some six years after leaving her native Canada in pursuit of soccer stardom -- enduring catcalls of “Judas!” and “Traitor!” from her countrymen, battling depression during a brutal high school existence in Arizona, following astonishing international success with defeat more devastating -- the 21-year-old striker has, just like that, crossed a chasm from promising could-be to genuine contributor.
It's rather fittingly the product of more turbulence, she reports -- the end of a relationship with Toronto Blue Jays third baseman Brett Lawrie -- and it's had an immediate payoff: A victory in Friday's CONCACAF semifinal against Costa Rica (in, of all places, Vancouver, British Columbia, her hometown) sent the U.S., and likely Leroux, to next summer's London Games. (The U.S. faces Canada in Sunday's regional final.)
It's what she has been dreaming about since she was 6, not long after she'd kicked her first ball. She had the genes -- her father was a former major-league pitcher, her mom a standout on Canada's national softball team -- and she had the drive, and as she developed into a strong, fast, athletic attacker, she got noticed.
Leroux was the youngest player, just 14, at FIFA's 2004 Under-19 Women's World Cup, getting into two games as Canada made it to the quarterfinals. A year later, she was off to America, and nothing would ever be the same.
“It's crazy to me. It was not easy,” Leroux said earlier this month as the U.S. was finalizing preparations for the Olympic qualifiers. “It was probably one of the most difficult things I ever had to do, move away from everything that I knew and was comfortable with to something that I had no idea about. Not having any family around. Doing it on my own. As a 15-year-old, that's kind of hard.
“I had to grow up really fast. I look back at it now, and I'm like, wow, I cannot believe I did that. It was hard. It was very hard. And I don't think I realized how hard it was. But I guess it's all worth it. Now I have a chance to prove myself, and that's what I enjoy, and that's why I did what I did.”
TWELVE HUNDRED MILES: Leroux grew up more baseball player than soccer star. It was in the blood -- her dad, never really in the picture, was former Angels right-hander Ray Chadwick -- and she was a center fielder with great speed who matched or surpassed the boys, at least until adolescence.
“I thought I was actually going to be the first girl in the MLB,” Leroux said. “And then everyone, like, grew up, and I didn't. I stayed at my height and size, and I said, 'Maybe this isn't going to work.' ”
She had soccer to fall back on, fortunately, and it was clear very early that she was a special player, one who might spur Canada to unprecedented success. Leroux had other ideas. She was going to play for the U.S. Because her father was American, so was she.
Sydney Leroux took the spotlight as the U.S. women's national team continued its massacre of CONCACAF minnows, scoring five goals in her second international appearance, a 13-0 rout of Guatemala in Olympic qualifying in Vancouver, British Columbia.
Leroux, a three-time UCLA All-American who was born in Vancouver and lived there until moving at 15 to Phoenix for soccer considerations, came on at halftime and matched Amy Rodriguez's five-goal performance in Friday's 14-0 victory over the Dominican Republic, the Yanks' Group A opener.
Hermosa Beach's Abby Wambach tallied twice in the first 15 minutes -- her 128th and 129th international goals, one shy of Kristine Lilly's No. 2 all-time total -- and Rodriguez (Lake Forest/Santa Margarita Catholic HS and USC) added to her total as the U.S. clinched a berth in Friday's all-important semifinals.
The U.S. and Mexico, which also has won big in its matches, will meet in a group finale Tuesday. The victor will win the group -- a draw favors the U.S. -- and likely avoid Canada, a dangerous foe. Costa Rica also has qualified for the semifinals and needs a win Monday over the Canadians to win Group A.
Only the semifinal winners advance to next summer's London Games.
Sydney Leroux has put together two superb camps in the past month and a half with the U.S. women's national team, and her work was rewarded Monday when she was included on the roster for the 2012 Olympic qualifiers that begin Thursday.
This is the first competition roster for the three-time UCLA All-American, who is heading home to Vancouver, British Columbia, for the CONCACAF tournament.
Leroux, 21, has made just one full international appearance for the U.S. following a storied under-20 career with her native Canada and with the U.S., for which she was eligible through her father. The athletic forward, selected by the Atlanta Beat with the first pick in Friday's Women's Professional Soccer draft, joins former UCLA teammate Lauren Cheney among the Americans' quartet of strikers.
Leroux is the only player on the roster who was not part of the U.S. team at last summer's Women's World Cup.
“The players made it hard for us to choose the 20 for Canada,” head coach Pia Sundhage said in a statement. “We had a great camp in December and this past week in Los Angeles. I'm excited that we have a new player in the mix who wasn't in the World Cup, and that will change the environment a bit in a positive way.”
The U.S. is slated to fly Monday to Vancouver, and it opens Group B play Friday against the Dominican Republic, followed by games Sunday against Guatemala and Jan. 24 against Mexico. The winners of the Jan. 27 semifinals advance to the London Games; the final is Jan. 29.
The other U.S. forwards are Diamond Bar's Alex Morgan (Diamond Bar HS), who capped an ascendant year with a strong showing at the WWC, and veteran Abby Wambach, who has a home in Hermosa Beach.
Other local players are midfielders Shannon Boxx (Redondo Beach/South Torrance HS) and Amy Rodriguez (Lake Forest/Santa Margarita Catholic HS and USC). A-Rod, normally a forward, plays in one of the midfield slots when the U.S. is in Sundhage's new 4-2-3-1 alignment.
U.S. women's national team star Abby Wambach and head coach Pia Sundhage will have to be content with being finalists for FIFA's major women's honors.
Japan, as expected, swept the women's awards at FIFA's Ballon d'Or gala Monday night in Zurich, with Homare Sawa claiming the player-of-the-year honor and Norio Sasaki winning as best coach after their surprise triumph at last summer's Women's World Cup in Germany.
Sawa, 33, has extensive experience in the U.S., playing all three seasons in the Women's United Soccer Association for the Atlanta Beat and the first two years in Women's Professional Soccer for the defunct Washington Freedom. She also played in the W-League in the late 1990s.
Wambach, 31, who has a home in Hermosa Beach, finished third for the player award after leading the U.S. to the WWC title game. Former L.A. Sol star Marta, 25, a Brazilian playmaker who helped the Western New York Flash to the WPS title last year, was second in the balloting. She won the award the previous five years.
Hope Solo finished fifth, and Alex Morgan (Diamond Bar/Diamond Bar HS) was eighth.
Sundhage finished second in the coach-of-the-year finalist vote. Former Cal State L.A. coach Leo Cuellar, who guides Mexico's women, was ninth.
Barcelona star Lionel Messi won the FIFA World Player honor for men for the third straight year, and his coach, Pep Guardiola, won the coaching award.
CARSON -- There's no space for error when the U.S. national team heads into qualifying next week for the upcoming Olympics: CONCACAF has only two berths, and if fate brings a repeat of the region's Women's World Cup qualifiers, the Yanks aren't going to London.
The American women still win their share of international battles -- they're looking to win gold for the third straight Games -- but nothing's automatic anymore, and that includes qualifying. Mexico pulled off a semifinal upset in the CONCACAF qualifiers for last summer's World Cup in Germany, and the U.S. had to beat Italy in a playoff to make the field.
This time there's no backdoor. The semifinal winners are in. Everyone else is done.
“We're not looking past this tournament. I mean, you can't anymore. You saw what happened in the World Cup qualifying,” midfielder Shannon Boxx said Sunday following training at Home Depot Center, where U.S. coach Pia Sundhage will finalize her roster for the Jan. 19-20 CONCACAF event in Vancouver, British Columbia. “We're not taking anything for granted.
“Teams are closing the gap. You can't take any team for granted. It's one game. You see that in soccer, games can go any way they want. I think the biggest thing for us is just to focus on ourselves. I think we did that during the World Cup, and you could see how well we played.”
Canada and Mexico are the other chief contenders for the berths -- both are playing at Cal State Fullerton this week, Canada on Monday night and Mexico on Thursday and Saturday, both against the Los Alamitos Vikings -- with Costa Rica likely to claim the other semifinal berth. The U.S. opens Group B play Jan. 20 against the Dominican Republic, then faces Guatemala on Jan. 22 and Mexico on Jan. 24. The semifinals are the 27th.
“To be honest, don't know much about the other teams. You don't hear about them until you go to qualifying,” said Boxx (Redondo Beach/South Torrance HS), one of the holding midfielders in Sundhage's new 4-2-3-1 alignment. “We can't take them for granted, because we've never seen them play before. I think the Dominican Republic, OK, well, we better not takle them for granted because we have no idea. They could come out and have a lot of power behind them.”
That's doubtful, and not qualifying would be disastrous for the U.S., just like when it failed to reach the FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup in 2010. The game with Mexico is critical, because you'd like to avoid the Canadians, the probable Group A winners, in that semifinal.
The Americans can draw strength from their World Cup misery, captain Christie Rampone says. Their dramatic run to the title game ended with a penalty-kicks loss to Japan, which twice rallied from deficits, the second time in overtime.
The U.S. women's national team gathers in Carson this weekend to begin serious preparations for the Olympic qualifiers later this month, and coach Pia Sundhage is relying solely on SoCal attackers.
UCLA senior All-American Sydney Leroux, Diamond Bar's Alex Morgan and former USC standout Amy Rodriguez, from Lake Forest, are among five forwards on Sundhage's 29-woman roster for the Jan. 7-15 camp at Home Depot Center, which will be culled to 20 for the Jan. 20-29 CONCACAF qualifying tournament in Vancouver.
Leroux, who is from Vancouver and switched from Canada's youth national team to her father's native U.S. during her teens, scored 16 goals for the Bruins this year. Morgan (Diamond Bar HS) continued her explosive ascent in the U.S. squad, and Rodriguez (Santa Margarita Catholic HS) looks to regain her international form after falling behind former UCLA star Lauren Cheney on the depth chart.
Cheney, who is from Indianapolis, and Abby Wambach, who is from Rochester, N.Y., but maintains a home in Hermosa Beach, are the other two forwards on the roster.
Others with local ties invited into camp, all U.S. veterans, are defenders Whitney Engen (Rolling Hills Estates/Peninsula HS) and Stephanie Lopez (former L.A. Sol) and midfielder Shannon Boxx (Redondo Beach/South Torrance HS).
The U.S. opens Group B play Jan. 20 against the Dominican Republic, then faces Guatemala on Jan. 22 and Mexico on Jan. 24. The Jan. 27 semifinals will determine the region's entrants to the women's soccer competition at next summer's London Games, with the winners meeting in the Jan. 29 final.
Hermosa Beach's Abby Wambach is a finalist for FIFA's Ballon d'Or women's player-of-the-year honor, joining former L.A. Sol forward Marta and Japan's Homare Sawa, who has starred in both U.S. pro league's, among the top three.
Wambach, 31, was the catalyst for the United States' run to the Women's World Cup final last summer in Germany, scoring four goals, and she led the U.S. with eight goals in 2011. She also won Women's Professional Soccer's scoring title with 11 goals in 11 games, finishing the campaign as player-coach for magicJack, a Boca Raton, Fla.-based club that last month was expelled from the league.
The big forward has in 165 international appearances scored 125 goals, fourth all-time internationally (behind Mia Hamm's 158, Kristine Lilly's 130 and German forward Birgit Prinz's 128).
Wambach, who is from Rochester, N.Y., has finished in the top five four times but never higher than fourth.
Marta, the Brazilian star who helped the Western New York Flash to the WPS title, has won the honor the past five years, deservedly on most occasions, and is again the likely victor. National team coaches and captains and select international media vote for the FIFA awards, and with so little women's soccer readily available on television or online -- unlike the men's game -- reputation carries more weight in the process.
U.S. coach Pia Sundhage is a repeat Coach of the Year finalist, joined by France's Bruno Bini and Japan's Norio Sasaki, the favorite after a surprise Women's World Cup triumph.
The finalist for the men's player-of-the-year honor are Portuguese forward Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid and Argentine forward Lionel Messi and Spanish midfielder Xavi of Barcelona. Messi has won the last two years.
Men's Coach of the Year finalists are Manchester United's Alex Ferguson, Barcelona's Pep Guardiola and Real Madrid's Jose Mourinho. Finalists for the Puskas Award, for “most beautiful goal,” are Messi, Manchester United's Wayne Rooney and Santos' Neymar.
Winners will be announced at a Jan. 9 gala in Zurich.
FIFA on Tuesday unveiled finalists for its women's Ballon d'Or award -- for global player of the year -- and it includes some of the usual suspects, five-time winner Marta and Japanese star Homare Sawa and star U.S. striker Abby Wambach.
Plus Alex Morgan.
The 22-year-old forward from Diamond Bar, who has emerged in the past year and a half as a force for the U.S. women's national team and played a key role in the Americans' run to last summer's Women's World Cup title game, joins teammates Wambach and Hope Solo among 10 finalists for FIFA's top individual honor.
Morgan (Diamond Bar HS) started just two of 16 games she played for the U.S. in 2011, but she's second on the team, with Wambach and former UCLA star Lauren Cheney, with five goals -- despite playing far fewer minutes, just 589, than anyone else with at least three goals. (Carli Lloyd's six goals leads the U.S. this year.)
She tallied twice off the bench during the Americans' stay in Germany -- in the semifinal victory over France and the final against Japan, which was lost on penalties -- and has scored nine times in 24 international appearances since making her debut in March 2010.
Wambach, who has a home in Hermosa Beach, and Solo are likelier to place in the top three, of course, and Marta has a stronghold on the award. Balloting is conducted among national team coaches and captains, and with so little of the women's game available on television or Internet feeds -- in great contrast to the men's game -- the honor has seemingly always been about reputation more than performance.
Pia Sundhage on Monday unveiled her 21-woman roster for this summer's Women's World Cup, and Southern California is well-represented.
Six players with ties to the L.A. area, none of them a surprise pick, will be heading to Germany for the June 26-July 17 tournament.
The Swedish coach's roster includes three local products (Redondo Beach's Shannon Boxx, Diamond Bar's Alex Morgan and Lake Forest's Amy Rodriguez), one former UCLA star (Lauren Cheney), and two U.S. veterans who settled in the South Bay (Abby Wambach and Lindsay Tarpley). Former L.A. Sol defender Stephanie Cox also is on the list.
The U.S. opens Group C play June 28 in Dresden against North Korea. The Americans also face Colombia on July 2 in Sinsheim and Sweden on July 6 in Wolfsburg.
Three warm-up matches have been scheduled, against Japan on Saturday in Columbus, Ohio, and May 18 in Cary, N.C., and against Mexico on June 5 in Harrison, N.J.
Eight players who participated in the final pre-roster camp in Boca Raton, Fla., were dropped from the list, including UCLA junior forward Sydney Leroux and defender Whitney Engen, from Rolling Hills Estates (Peninsula HS).
Here is the roster (with club affiliation in parentheses, and local information where warranted afterward):GOALKEEPERS
Nicole Barnhart (Philadelphia Independence)
Jill Loyden (magicJack)
Hope Solo (magicJack)
Rachel Buehler (Boston Breakers)
Stephanie Cox (Boston Breakers), ex-L.A. Sol
Ali Krieger (FFC Frankfurt/Germany)
Amy LePeilbet (Boston Breakers)
Heather Mitts (Atlanta Beat)
Christie Rampone (magicJack)
Becky Sauerbrunn (magicJack)
Shannon Boxx (magicJack), Redondo Beach/South Torrance HS
Tobin Heath (Sky Blue FC)
Lori Lindsey (Philadelphia Independence)
Carli Lloyd (Atlanta Beat)
Heather O'Reilly (Sky Blue FC)
Megan Rapinoe (Philadelphia Independence)
Lindsay Tarpley (magicJack), Hermosa Beach
Lauren Cheney (Boston Breakers), UCLA
Alex Morgan (Western New York Flash), Diamond Bar/Diamond Bar HS
Amy Rodriguez (Philadelphia Independence), Lake Forest/Santa Margarita Catholic HS and USC
Abby Wambach (magicJack), Hermosa Beach
U.S. women's national team coach Pia Sundhage has a novel plan to prepare for this summer's Women's World Cup without depriving her players' teams of their star players.
She's staging an three-week camp in West Palm Beach, Fla. that begins next Monday, with the players on hand during the week, then joining their Women's Professional Soccer clubs for weekend games.
The 29-player roster has 25 WPS players, three collegians who will attend camp for one week and defender Ali Krieger, who just completed her club season with FFC Frankfurt in Germany, the World Cup host.
Four local products (Redondo Beach's Shannon Boxx, Rolling Hills Estates' Whitney Engen, Diamond Bar's Alex Morgan and Lake Forest's Amy Rodriguez), UCLA stars past (Lauren Cheney) and present (Sydney Leroux), and two veterans who settled in the South Bay (Abby Wambach and Lindsay Tarpley) are on the roster. Sundhage can take 21 players to the June 26-July 17 World Cup.
What we learned from FIFA's Ballon d'Or festivities Monday night in Zurich: Mongolians love Abby Wambach.
The Hermosa Beach-based striker picked up eight first-place votes in the Women's Player of the Year contest, and two came from Mongolian women's national team head coach Ganjuur Bayartsogt and captain Sugar Bayar.
It wasn't nearly enough to halt former L.A. Sol star Marta's romp to her fifth successive world's-best honor: The Brazilian forward, who led FC Gold Pride to Women's Professional Soccer's title and is now playing in Brazil for Santos, captured 151 of 266 first-place votes from 119 coaches, 121 captains and 26 media. She failed to make the top three on on only 52 ballots, and on two of those -- both from Brazil -- she was ineligible.
Argentina's Lionel Messi won the men's World Player of the Year award for the second straight year, beating Barcelona teammates Xavi and Andres Iniesta. The coaches of the year were Real Madrid's Jose Mourinho, who last spring guided Inter Milan to the UEFA Champions League title, and Germany women's national team coach Silvia Neid.
More interesting than who won is how everyone voted. FIFA won't make public the executive committee members' choices on a World Cup host, but every Player of the Year vote is online, both men and women.
U.S. men's captain Carlos Bocanegra (Alta Loma/Alta Loma HS and UCLA) voted Xavi first, Iniesta second and Dutch midfielder Wesley Sneijder (Inter Milan) third.
U.S. coach Bob Bradley (Manhattan Beach) went with, in order, Xavi, Sneijder and Messi.