Chat with Jeff Carlisle
Welcome to SportsNation! On Friday, ESPN.com soccer writer Jeff Carlisle stops by to chat about Sunday's 2011 Women's World Cup final matchup between USA and Japan (2:45 p.m. ET, ESPN).
Carlisle shares his thoughts on the U.S. gameplan for the final.
Carlisle covers MLS and the U.S. national team for ESPN.com. He is also the author of "Soccer's Most Wanted II: The Top 10 Book of More Glorious Goals, Superb Saves and Fantastic Free-Kicks."
Send your questions now and join Carlisle Friday at 2 p.m. ET!
Jeff Carlisle (1:58 PM)
Hi folks! Thanks for joining me today. I'll do my best to get to all of your questions, but try to be patient as well.
Let's get your opinion on a debate happening in many soccer circles around the country...Donovan's goal against Algeria vs. Wambach's header against Brazil. In your opinion (I don't think there's a wrong answer), which one is your favorite and why?
Jeff Carlisle (2:02 PM)
I actually liked Wambach's just a bit better. The odds were stacked against the women more than the men, with them being a player down and all. That said, it's a close call. Both teams were very close to exiting the tournament.
Sushant Rao (Palo Alto, ca)
Given that USWNT midfield was being overrun by France, should Pia sit A.Rod and start Lori Lindsey? Any other changes you would make? Lepelibet still makes me nervous
Jeff Carlisle (2:04 PM)
I'm among those who think Rodriguez should sit, but Pia's habit has been to stick with pretty much the same lineup. If Pia hasn't benched A-Rod by now, she's not going to do it for the final.
Solo looks confident in net right now, how is she regarded in the international circles?
Jeff Carlisle (2:05 PM)
Solo is regarded as the best keeper in the world. Angerer from Germany is in the conversation as well, but Solo has had a better tournament. Her comeback from shoulder surgery has been near miraculous.
After watching Solo this World Cup, why would she have ever been benched the last tournament?
Jeff Carlisle (2:06 PM)
I think it was a classic case of overcoaching by Greg Ryan. It was a crusher too as I believe that was the only game he lost as national team head coach.
Japan likes to possess the ball, so how can the U.S. counteract that.
Jeff Carlisle (2:08 PM)
The US needs to be more patient, and avoid either always looking for the long pass, or trying to dribble out of trouble. The latter is what got Carli Lloyd into trouble against France. When Cheney came in, she started playing simpler, and quicker. That's what Lloyd and Shannon Boxx need to do.
After all of the blunders last time, is it safe to say that Pia has been making all of the right moves this time?
Jeff Carlisle (2:09 PM)
I'd say so, although she hasn't been perfect. I'm among those who wonder why Cheney doesn't start up top in place of Rodriguez. That said, I was saying LePeilbet should be replaced as well and she has turned things around.
In terms of talent, how do you see this year's team compared to the 1999 team?
Jeff Carlisle (2:12 PM)
That's a tough question because the rest of the world is so much better now as opposed to '99. I'd say the '99 team probably had more talent. You had some real legends on that side like Mia Hamm, Tiffeny Milbrett, Michelle Akers, etc. Still, this team has some exceptional players like Solo, Rampone, Cheney, and Wambach.
Do you see the '11 US WWC team or the '15 team being better?
Jeff Carlisle (2:14 PM)
Too early to tell, although the fact that the US hasn't been having as much success at youth level as in the past doesn't bode well. Players like Wambach and Rampone probably won't be around, but there are always new players to add to the mix. We'll see.
Haven't seen a pick for Sunday's match from you yet...So, you got the Stars And Stripes? Or do you think Japan will shock the world yet again?
Jeff Carlisle (2:15 PM)
I think the U.S. will win, 2-1, probably on another late goal from Wambach.
3 part question - Up to this point in the tournament, who would you say has been the best overall player for the US? On the flip side, who has struggled the most overall? And lastly, who will be the biggest key to a win against Japan?
Jeff Carlisle (2:17 PM)
Best overall player for the U.S. in my opinion, has been Rampone, just edging out Cheney. I really admire Rampone's consistency. Rodriguez has struggled the most for the U.S., bar none.I think a huge key will be how Carli Lloyd plays. She hasn't looked sharp in the last two matches. She needs to get on the ball more and simplify her game a bit.
Do you think a World Cup title will cause US Soccer to ignore all the problems in our youth systems?
Jeff Carlisle (2:19 PM)
I hope not. The US - and this goes for both the men's side as well as the women's - needs to try to produce more techincal players. Like I said earlier, I think starting a Development Academy program for girls would definitely help things. I think the work Claudio Reyna is doing in terms of getting coaches to emphasize technique over winning will be critical as well.
Do you agree that Rapinoe should be used off the bench as a spark player or better served starting?
Jeff Carlisle (2:20 PM)
I think she should start on the left with Cheney moving up top, but that's me. You still have Morgan coming off the bench in that setup. I like the way Rapinoe tucks inside and provides support to Boxx and Lloyd. It helps the team possess the ball a bit better.
Sushant Rao (palo alto)
How much has the existence of WPS for the past few years helped the USNWT get to this stage? in 2007, no professional women's soccer league existed, right? What does WPS need to do to 1) stay in existence 2) grow?
Jeff Carlisle (2:23 PM)
It helps a great deal, especially in terms of providing depth. That said, I think the season needs to be longer. You look at Germany, and their season lasts nine months. I think that's why a player like Ali Krieger has really improved; tons of games against top level competition.WPS needs to find better investors willing to sustain losses. That is easier said than done of course, but one big difference between MLS and WPS is that MLS had owners who were really in it for the long term. WPS hasn't had enough of those.Of course, WPS needs to do what it can to leverage the success of this World Cup but that will only result in incremental changes. There really are no shortcuts here.
Justin (Denver, CO)
Now that you have talked about what the US can do to win, which strengths of the US team does Japan need to counter?
Jeff Carlisle (2:26 PM)
Japan needs to turn this into a midfield/possession battle. If they cough up a ton of set pieces they will be in trouble. Wambach is just too much of a force in the air. They can accomplish this by pressing Boxx and Lloyd in their own half and preventing them from finding a rhythm. They had some success doing this in the warmup games they played against the US back in May, so it will be interesting to see if they can do the same on Sunday.
The pairing of Lloyd and Boxx in the center mid seems slow, they're not connecting well with the forwards, and they are often caught out in transition. I thought the team looks a lot better with Cheney in the middle and Rapinoe outside. Do you think we need a change at center mid?
Jeff Carlisle (2:27 PM)
That is not Pia's style at all. She's very loyal. The one time she replaced Boxx with Lindsey it was to save her legs for the games ahead. I think we'll see the same lineup as was used in the Brazil game.
Regardless of the outcome of the World Cup final, do you believe this will be Wambach's last World Cup appearance?
Jeff Carlisle (2:28 PM)
I think so. Her body is beginning to break down, but she is the ultimate competitor, so there are no absolutes here.
How did Japan make the final? They were not good in their warmup matches against the US and have beaten two great squads.
Jeff Carlisle (2:29 PM)
Japan's possession game has improved and become more varied. They are starting to get some goals from set pieces with Sawa proving to be a force in the box that belies her smaller size. Don't underestimate the psychological surge Japan has gained in light of the earthquake/tsunami either. They are playing for something bigger than themselves, and that can be tough to beat.
Do you think we will see Heather Mitts in the final game?
Is anyone more under rated than Rampone? She's the glue an no one mentions her. 36 to boot.
Jeff Carlisle (2:31 PM)
With regard to Mitts, no I dont' think will see her. Perhaps if it's a blowout, but I dont' see that happening. About Rampone, it's funny, I just tweeted that I thought she was the most underrated player on the team. She should have been on the short list for FIFA's Golden Ball award (player of the tournament).
Any of the girls being dinged up concern you? (Wambauch's achiles, O'Riley's groin, Hope's shoulder and hamstring, whatever caused Krieger to leave the last game)
Jeff Carlisle (2:32 PM)
No. I think the players will be ready to go. It's one game. No reason to hold back.
How is Japan's goalie? She hasn't really been tested the last two games. If she's as bad as the one for France or Sweden then the Cup is ours.
Jeff Carlisle (2:34 PM)
Kaihori is very suspect. She did give up a soft goal against England, and since then she's made the saves she's supposed to make. But if she has to go up against Wambach it will be no contest.
As a casual observer of the women's game, I've been surprised by the great field talent, but shocked by the terrible goalie play except for Solo. Sweden's goalie was awful. I would think it would be the easiest position for women to play well.
Jeff Carlisle (2:37 PM)
I chalk that up to a lack of top level games. In a lot of these countries there aren't professional leagues for women. That said, Sweden has one of the better leagues. Hope Solo actually played in the Swedish league back in the day. I really don't have an explanation why Sweden's Lindahl had such a stinker against Japan.
Considering Heather O'Reilly is a great threat on the outside for set plays and on goals, why do you think the "game plan" hasn't really including her too much in the last couple games?
Jeff Carlisle (2:38 PM)
I think O'Reilly is always part of the game plan. But both France and Brazil had wide players that forced O'Reilly to do more defending than normal. That's why she was less impactful on the attacking end. It will be interesting to see if Japan tries to do the same and pin O'Reilly back in her own half.
Do you think any of this momentum will carry forward with the pro league or is it a one off event?
Jeff Carlisle (2:39 PM)
Every little bit helps, but there is no magic bullet here. These things take time. I just hope WPS can find the investors needed to ride out the tough times.
I always hear what you yourself said moments ago. "The US needs to develop more technical players." I agree, but the catch is, how do we do that? I coach at a youth level and we focus constantly on technical skills, but we still somehow are not successful in developing the ability as well as we'd like. So, how do we do it better in our team, and in the youth programs around the country?
Jeff Carlisle (2:41 PM)
Do what is being done in the Development Academy on the boys side. 1) fewer games, more practice 2) less emphasis on results and more on playing the right way. That's just a start.
Dennis (Denver, CO)
Does the Women's World cup have a continent rotation similar to the Men's?
Jeff Carlisle (2:42 PM)
Not that I'm aware of. A South American country has never hosted the tournament. Next stop is in Canada in 2015.
Sushant Rao (palo alto)
Rate the US mids on possesion / technical ability: Cheaney, Rapinoe, Boxx, Lloyd, O'reilly, Lindsey, anyone else? Who's the best?
Jeff Carlisle (2:44 PM)
I'd rate Rapinoe, Lindsey, Lloyd and O'Reilly as tops on that list.
Alfredo (San Diego)
Is the success of the US Women's National Team a peek into what the men would look like if more boys in the U.S. chose to play soccer?
Jeff Carlisle (2:46 PM)
I think it's much more complicated than that. The world had about a 40 to 100 year head start on the men whereas the U.S. women had about a 20 year (or more) head start on many other countries. So the level of competition is much different. Also the pro game has driven development of the men's game in so many countries, whereas the pro game here has struggled mightily over the last 100 years. That said, yes the USSF needs to cast a wider net. That way when a Stu Holden or a Charlie Davies gets injured, there are more replacements to choose from.
You'll never get parents in this country to go for a less games, more practice schedule. My sons both play on traveling teams and I schlep them to three practices a week. Seeing them in a game is a reward and it also is their favorite part. I don't want them to be pros and neither do 99% of the parents. This isn't Holland.
Jeff Carlisle (2:47 PM)
Not saying it has to be that way for everyone. But if your goal is to be a pro, then I think the things the Development Academy is doing make a great deal of sense.
Connor (Caseyville, AL)
How many of these women do you expect to be on the field in London 2012?
Jeff Carlisle (2:49 PM)
I'd say most of them, if not all. It's only one more year. After that, I think there will be considerable turnover.
Jeff Carlisle (2:49 PM)
Okay folks just a few more questions and then I have to take off.
When Michelle Akers played she had an unbelievable ability to take over a game either through possession or goal scoring. Abby's scoring ability is similar, but do you see anybody on this team who can take over the midfield possession like that now?
Jeff Carlisle (2:52 PM)
I think Carli Lloyd comes closest, but is not in Akers' class. They were/are slightly different kinds of players though. Akers just had almost a warrior mentality and was an amazing tackler. Not saying Lloyd doesn't have a competitive fire as well, but Akers was amazing.
But when do you start the Development Academies? If it's at 15, it's too late. Yet, in this country we don't ask our kids to think about being a pro before then.
Jeff Carlisle (2:54 PM)
You can still implement the concepts at youth level, even if it doesn't have the DA name behind it. And I admit this is a real cultural shift we are talking about. It's not going to happen overnight.
James (Washington, DC)
Shannon Boxx has really been overrun in the midfield and despite her experience seems to lack the ability to prove a game changer in the midfield. Is there any depth within the U.S midfield that could perhaps provide much needed composure and defensive steel beyond her?
Jeff Carlisle (2:55 PM)
Not really. Lindsey is more of a possession type player and can't provide Boxx's physical presence. That is why a lot of people thought Leslie Osbourne should have been on the team, but that decision has long since been made.
Jeff Carlisle (2:56 PM)
Okay folks, that's it for me. I'm sorry I couldn't get to all of your questions, but thanks for joining me today! Enjoy the game on Sunday.