Los Angeles Soccer: Sydney Leroux
Morgan (Diamond Bar HS) went down with a twisted right knee after she was tripped by a Canadian defender near midfield. She was in anguish and needed on-field medical attention, then walked off under her own power and was replaced by Amy Rodriguez.
Morgan, who turns 23 Monday, is a rocketing presence and increasingly the primary face for the U.S. women, who will be seeking their fourth gold medal in five Olympics when the London Games begin July 25. She has 27 goals in 42 international appearances, with a team-best 17 this year.
U.S. Soccer reported that Morgan was pulled out for precautionary reasons, and she is expected to be fine. The U.S. departs on July 10 for Scotland, where it will play two of its first-round matches.
Rodriguez (Lake Forest/Santa Margarita Catholic HS and USC) scored the winning goal, finishing from Abby Wambach's backheel off an opponent following Megan Rapinoe's cross in the 85th minute.
The U.S. went ahead on a Carmelina Moscato own goal in the 15th minute, but Melissa Tancredi equalized for Canada, which also is Olympic-bound, 12 minutes into the second half.
The U.S. played its first-choice lineup, likely the team that will take on France in the Olympic opener: Hope Solo in goal; Amy LePeilbet, captain Christie Rampone, Del Mar's Rachel Buehler and Kelley O'Hara along the backline; Rapinoe, Redondo Beach's Shannon Boxx (South Torrance HS), Lauren Cheney (UCLA) and Tobin Heath in midfield; and Morgan and Hermosa Beach's Wambach up top. Canadian-born UCLA alum Sydney Leroux came off the bench for the Americans.
The Fullerton Rangers took a huge stride toward the National Premier Soccer League playoffs with Sunday's victory over FC Santa Clarita, a showdown for second place in the Western Division's Southern Conference.
Former Chivas USA/New York Red Bulls forward David Arvizu (Santa Ana/Foothill HS) scored two goals as the Rangers avenged a loss two months earlier in Santa Clarita with a 3-0 triumph at Santa Ana Stadium.
The Rangers (7-3-2) have a two-point advantage over the Storm (6-3-3) with two games to play. Both have matches remaining with the San Diego Flash (9-0-2), which has clinched the Southern Conference title.
The Rangers' NPSL team finished second to the Flash and went to the playoffs last year, when they were affiliated with the Santa Ana Winds.
Arvizu scored in the 17th and 60th minutes and Cuban forward Eder Roldan tallied in the 24th for Fullerton, which has won three in a row and scored at least three times in its past four games. Santa Clarita has won just twice in its past five games, over the division's two worst clubs (Phoenix and North Coast, with a combined 2-18-1 record), and could rue a 1-1 draw at home June 9 with San Diego Boca (4-5-3).
Santa Clarita is likely to vault back to second next weekend, when it faces fading Conejo Valley side FC Hasental (3-7-2), but getting a resullt against the Flash on July 7 is critical to the Storm' playoff hopes. Fullerton plays the Flash in San Diego this weekend, then closes July 8 at home against Boca.
Elsewhere in minor-league soccer:
There's no stopping Alex Morgan these days. Ditto Abby Wambach.
Both scored two more goals Monday to lead the U.S. women's national team to a 4-1 rout of Japan in an Olympic tuneup in Halmstad, Sweden.
Morgan, from Diamond Bar, netted her 16th and 17th goals off the year and Wambach, who has a home in Hermosa Beach, climbed within 20 goals of Mia Hamm's international career record with her 137th and 138th in a rematch of last year's Women's World Cup final.
It was the third meeting since last July's title game in Frankfurt, Germany, which Japan won on penalties following a 2-2 draw. Japan won, 1-0, in March at the Algarve Cup in Portugal, and the teams drew, 1-1, in Japan on April 1.
Morgan, who is increasingly becoming the face of women's soccer in America, has 27 goals in 41 international appearances.
Morgan scored in the third and 61st minutes and Wambach in the 10th and in second-half stoppage. Yuki Nagasato tallied, from an assist by former L.A. Sol star Aya Miyama, in the 28th for Japan, which faces Sweden on Thursday to conclude a three-national tournament.
The U.S. beat the Swedes, 3-1, with Morgan and Wambach scoring goals, on Saturday.
Redondo Beach's Shannon Boxx and UCLA alum Lauren Cheney also started for the Yanks, and Lake Forest's Amy Rodriguez and UCLA product Sydney Leroux came off the bench. Palos Verdes Estates' Christen Press was on the game-day roster but did not play.
In the four Olympics to include women's soccer, the Americans have won three gold medals (Atlanta 1996, Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008) and one silver (Sydney 2000). The U.S. opens its London Games schedule July 25 against France in Glasgow, Scotland.
The W-League's Western Conference title appears to be headed the Pali Blues' way or to the Seattle Sounders. They're the chief contenders just four weeks into the campaign.
Pali completed sweeps of its Southern California rivals, both of them one-goal home wins, to improve to 4-0-0. The Sounders, also 4-0-0, won three games last week with U.S. national team stars Alex Morgan, Hope Solo, Sydney Leroux, Megan Rapinoe and Stephanie Cox on hand.
Morgan (Diamond Bar/Diamond Bar HS) scored and assisted Lyndsey Patterson's goal in the 3-0 romp Monday night over Colorado Rapids' women's team. Leroux (UCLA) had an assist in a 2-1 win Thursday over the third-place Colorado Rush (3-1-0), a match that sold out the Starfire Sports Complex's 4,500-seat stadium in Tukwila, Wash.
Pali, which is affiliated with the L.A. Blues' men's team (both are coached by Charlie Naimo), got goals from Nikki Washington and Liz Bogus to beat the L.A. Strikers, 2-1, then pulled out a 1-0 triumph over Santa Clarita Blue Heat on Australian national-teamer Servet Uzunlar's goal three minutes into second-half stoppage.
The Blues and Sounders meet twice this season: June 20 in Tukwila and in the July 15 regular-season finale at Palisades High School.
Elsewhere in minor-league soccer:
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.
A tumultuous winter has left the American women's soccer landcape in flux: The pro league is dead and gone, a lot of the players have scattered overseas, and the maneuvering for position among clubs and rival leagues for whatever's next is well under way.
The impact will surely be felt in the USL W-League's Western Conference, which has picked up its share of big names -- with more possibly to come.
The W-League season kicked off this weekend, and two Western matches are featured -- one pitting SoCal clubs Pali Blues and L.A. Strikers on Sunday evening at Occidental College. Pali, a two-time league champion, is one of the clubs benefiting from the talent dispersal and thus one of the expected contenders to win the national amateur/semipro league's title.
The Blues have brought in one national-teamer -- defender Whitney Engen, from Rolling Hills Estates -- among a handful of WPS veterans, and more could be coming, with speculation centered on local stars Abby Wambach, Shannon Boxx and Amy Rodriguez.
The Seattle Sounders made the biggest splash, luring the U.S. team's biggest name (goalkeeper Hope Solo) and hottest property (Diamond Bar's Alex Morgan, whose boyfriend, Servando Carrasco, plays for the Sounders' MLS side), the No. 1 pick in the WPS draft (UCLA's Sydney Leroux), along with two more national-teamers (midfielder Megan Rapinoe and former L.A. Sol defender Stephanie Cox), among other pros.
“It's interesting. Kind of a feeding frenzy,” said L.A. Strikers head coach Demian Brown, who did not pursue WPS and U.S. national team stars. “I know a lot of W-League teams made real strong pushes for international and national team players, and almost by circumstance we didn't. I would have loved to have a Whitney Engen or a Hope Solo, but some of those women will only play in the league for a bit because of their commitment to the country.”
Most WPS vets will be available all season. The national-teamers, as Brown says, not so much. The London Olympics begin in mid-July, and preparations will be the top priority for the big stars the rest of the spring and into summer.
“I'm not worried about the full national team players [Seattle] signed,” said Charlie Naimo, who guided the Pali Blues to the 2008 and 2009 W-League titles, served as GM of the WPS's L.A. Sol in 2009 and returns to the women's game after taking last season off to concentrate on the L.A. Blues pro men's team, which he continues to run. “They're not going to be around for the playoffs. When I look at the league schedule versus the national team schedule, they're physically available for only a few league games. If they do play against us, we'll be excited. It's a great challenge for our team.”
The Vancouver Whitecaps, who reached the W-League title game two years ago and the semifinals last year, have a handful Canadian national-teamers but lost the core of its team. The Colorado Rapids, formerly the Force and now the third team in the league with an MLS affiliation, brought in WPS standout Brittany Bock, another former Sol player.
Everybody, it appears, will be improved, at least in the eight-team West, which features three Pacific Northwest teams (the third is in Victoria), two from Colorado and three teams from So Cal (the third is Santa Clarita Blue Heat). It might be the best division in the women's game, on par with W-League rival rival Women's Premier Soccer League's Elite Division, which has three WPS survivors.
A look at the three local teams:
Alex Morgan can't be stopped. The explosive forward from Diamond Bar netted her 12th goal of the year for the U.S. women's national team Sunday to give the Americans a 1-1 draw with Japan in the opener of the Kirin Challenge Cup in Sendai, Japan.
Morgan (Diamond Bar HS), who has become the Americans' most-watched star, scored a 73rd-minute equalizer, sending in a loose ball after Carli Lloyd lost possession. It was initially waved off as offside, but Chinese referee Li Juan overruled after consulting with the Japanese linesman.
Yukari Kinga scored in the 32nd for Japan. Both teams are preparing for this summer's London Olympics.
It was the second Women's World Cup title rematch within a month. Japan won, 1-0, in an Algarve Cup group game in Portugal in early March.
Morgan, 22, has scored in six of the past eight games for the U.S. and has 22 goals in 37 international appearances.
Other local players for the U.S. were midfielders Shannon Boxx (Redondo Beach/South Torrance HS) and Lauren Cheney (UCLA) and forward Abby Wambach (Hermosa Beach). Amy Rodriguez (Lake Forest/Santa Margarita Catholic HS and USC) and Sydney Leroux (UCLA) came off the bench.
The U.S. on Tuesday meets Brazil in Chiba, a Tokyo suburb.
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.
Rarely, if ever, has there been a day quite so golden for U.S. Soccer -- involving multiple teams -- as was Wednesday.
- The full men's national team beat Italy for the first time -- and in Italy, in Genoa -- as Clint Dempsey finished from Jozy Altidore's finish up top. Also splendid: midfielder Michael Bradley and German-born left back Fabian Johnson.
- The U.S. women's national team won its Algarve Cup opener in Portugal, dominating Denmark, 5-0, as Diamond Bar's Alex Morgan scored two more goals -- her 17th and 18th in 34 international games -- and assisted another by Hermosa Beach's Abby Wambach. UCLA products Sydney Leroux (goal) and Lauren Cheney (assist) also contributed in the scoring.
- The U.S. under-23 national team, preparing for the Olympic qualifiers in March, outclassed Mexico's U-23s, 2-0, in Frisco, Texas, on goals two minutes apart by Juan Agudelo and Freddy Adu.
One more international event to report, from Tuesday night. UCLA looked good in holding Mexico's under-20 national team to a scoreless draw at Birmingham High School in Van Nuys.
The winger from Palos Verdes and Huntington Beach (and Mater Dei High School), who darted to England after five seasons with the Columbus Crew, was taken off the field on a stretcher after knocking heads with Doncaster Rovers defender Tommy Spurr in second-half stoppage of Leeds' 3-2 English Championship victory Saturday.
He was taken to a hospital and diagnosed with a concussion.
Rogers, on his Twitter account, posted Sunday that he was “happy to have made my debut! Didn't know Mike Tyson was out on the field yesterday, out for a good few minutes.” Shortly after, he tweeted: “Concussions are no joke... Laying low for a few days. Thanks for everyone's concern and comments much appreciated!”
On Tuesday, Rogers tweeted that he was “feeling a lot better 2day... .. Lil walk around the city to get some fresh air is much needed.”
Rogers, who joined the second-tier club during the winter transfer window, made his debut in the 79th minute. It was the second time he'd been on the 18-man game roster since signing with the club on Jan. 10.
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.
Wambach, who scored four goals at last summer's Women's World Cup and was a finalist for FIFA's Ballon d'Or women's player-of-the-year award, won the Female Athlete of the Year honor for the fifth time and second time in succession. Only Mia Hamm also has won five times.
Leroux, which was draft first overall by the Atlanta Beat in Women's Professional Soccer's draft last week, won the Young Female Athlete of the Year award.
Fulham star Clint Dempsey capured the Male Athlete honor for the second time -- Landon Donovan had won the previous two years -- and FC Dallas winger Brek Shea was the Young Male Athlete winner.
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.
Leroux, a fast, athletic striker from UCLA with an extensive international background, was on a field at Home Depot Center with the U.S. women's national team when word arrived that the Atlanta Beat had, as expected, used the first selection on her in Friday's draft at the Kansas City Convention Center.
“[I was] told in the middle of practice,” Leroux said. “Abby [Wambach] had a water bottle, and she sprayed me in the face with it, and I kind of choked.”
Stanford's Camille Levin (Newport Coast/Tarbut V'Torah Community Day School) and UC Irvine's CoCo Goodson were the other local players selected -- they were the first two defenders taken. Levin went to New Jersey's Sky Blue FC with the fourth overall pick and Goodson joined Philadelphia in the second round, with the 12th pick.
Leroux's new Beat teammates on the national team -- defenders Rachel Buehler, Stephanie Cox and Amy LePeilbet, and midfielders Carli Lloyd and Kelley O'Hara -- welcomed her with high-fives. She was halfway expecting to be headed to Atlanta.
“I talked to them a little bit [before the draft],” Leroux said. “They said they had their eye on me. Just the usual, kind of. I didn't really know what was going to happen. ...
“Everyone asked me who had the No. 1 pick, and I would say Atlanta, and they would say, 'OK, so you're going to be playing in Atlanta,' and I was like, 'You know, anything can happen,' so I didn't really say anything.”
Leroux was easily the most prominent player on the board. She played in three FIFA U-19 or U-20 Women's World Cups -- the first at 14 for her native Canada -- winning the Golden Ball as MVP and Golden Boot as top scorer with the U.S. captured the 2008 title. She was a three-time All-American at UCLA, scoring 57 goals in four years at UCLA, 16 as a senior and a school record-tying 23 as a sophomore.