By Tim Grainey
This Week, the Roundup previews the Central Division of the USL’s W-League, after reviews of the other four divisions over the previous two weeks. U.S. National Team Head Coach Pia Sundhage announced her 18 player team for this summer’s Olympics, along with four alternates. The U.S. looked very strong in a 4-1 win over China on May 28, 2012. Another top WPS player has landed overseas with Rebecca Moros’ move to Japan.
W-League’s Central Division
The Hamilton Rage attempts to make the playoffs for the first time in this, its seventh season. They got off to a great start by picking up seven points in their first three games, gaining a scoreless tie at home versus London Gryphons on May 18 in their season opener, then a home win over Rochester 1-0 on May 23 and finally a surprising 2-0 home win over division power Ottawa Fury on May 27, their first ever win over the Fury after 14 career matches. In the win over Rochester, midfielder Diamond Simpson scored the winner. Simpson has been capped by Canada at the U-17 level and will play this fall at the University of Wisconsin.
The Laval Comets key player is forward Catherine Charron-Delage, who led the Comets with 14 points last season. They started the season on May 26 with a surprising scoreless deadlock against London 0-0 on the road.
London Gryphons are in their eighth full season (plus one as a provisional league member in 2004) and still are waiting to clinch their first playoff spot. Two scoreless ties in their first two games, against Laval and Hamilton, give the Gryphons some hope while pulling points off of key rivals, but they need to start scoring. Melissa Smith completed college at the University of Memphis and if she can avoid the injury bug, which hindered her NCAA career, she could fire the Gryphons to some important wins.
Ottawa Fury has won their division title eight straight seasons (2004-2011) and is always a powerhouse, with great recruiting on the U.S. college scene and internationally. The Fury this year has Australian international Katrina Gorry, who has played in Australia’s W-League for Adelaide Reds and Melbourne Victory. Melisa Erturk is from Ottawa but plays collegiately for Middle Tennessee State University and for Turkey’s National Team. Last year the Fury made the league final but lost 6-1 to Atlanta Silverbacks. League MVP and leading scorer (17 goals and 37 points) Mallory Outerbridge returns. Ottawa will host the W-League finals this season and thus will automatically be seeded into the semifinals.
Quebec City Amiral reached last season’s Conference Final but lost to Ottawa. This is Quebec City’s fourth season in the W-League. Melissa Lesage, a former University of Toledo and Santos of Brazil forward, joins from Laval.
The Rochester Ravens enter their fourth season never having won more than two games and face an uphill battle competing against the Western New York Flash—now in WPSL Elite—for fans, media attention and talent. They have started this season similar to past years with three losses in three games (against Hamilton, Ottawa and Toronto) with no goals scored and four against.
The Toronto Lady Lynx has Alyscha Mottershead returning in midfield, who is also in the pool for an Olympics Games spot with Canada. Last season, Toronto lost to Ottawa 4-0 in the conference semifinals. Toronto started their 2012 season well with a 2-0 win over visiting Rochester on May 19 followed by a 1-1 tie with Laval on May 27, again at their suburban Etobicoke Stadium in Centennial Park.
Moros Goes To Japan
Rebecca Moros, who won a WPS title last season with the Western New York Flash, has signed to play in Japan with INAC Kobe in the Nadeshiko League, the top women’s league in the country. She also played with Washington Freedom and magicJack after a four year career at Duke University. Moros had trained with Duisburg of Germany’s Frauen-Bundesliga before going to East Asia to further her career. She played against the Kobe team with Sky Blue on their tour of Japan in March, in which Sky Blue lost 2-1 and 3-0. Japan had a high level women’s soccer league in the 1990’s based on company teams, even attracting Brandi Chastian at one point. With their World Cup victory in Germany, it will be fascinating to watch if other Japanese teams import talent from around the globe.
Sundhage names 18 players for the Olympic Games
U.S. National Team head coach Pia Sundhage named a squad of 18 players for this summer’s Olympic Games, along with four alternatives. All of the eighteen named, with the exception of forward Sydney Leroux, were on last summer’s Women’s World Cup Team. Eleven of the squad were with the 2008 Olympic Games Gold Medal winning team. Midfielders Shannon Boxx and Heather O’Reilly along with defender Heather Mitts were selected for their third Olympics, trying to defend the Gold Medal which they won in both 2004 and 2008, while Captain Christie Rampone will be at her fourth Olympics.
U.S. Olympic Women’s Soccer Team Roster by Position
GOALKEEPERS (2): Nicole Barnhart, Hope Solo
DEFENDERS (6): Rachel Buehler, Amy LePeilbet, Heather Mitts, Kelley O’Hara, Christie Rampone, Becky Sauerbrunn
MIDFIELDERS (6): Shannon Boxx, Lauren Cheney, Tobin Heath, Carli Lloyd, Heather O’Reilly, Megan Rapinoe
FORWARDS (4): Sydney Leroux, Alex Morgan, Amy Rodriguez, Abby Wambach
Sundhage also named four replacement players: midfielder Lori Lindsey and Meghan Klingenberg, forward Christen Press and goalkeeper Jill Loyden. Lindsey and Loyden were on the 2011 Women’s World Cup team. Klingenberg is a strong future prospect with two full caps while Press, the WPS Rookie of the Year in 2011 with magicJack, has never played a full international. Press has done quite well in Sweden’s Damallsvenskan with Kopparbergs/Goteborg FC, including scoring a hat-trick in a 6-0 victory over Linkopings FC—who won the league title in 2009--on May 22.
The U.S. will open Group G play at the Olympics with two matches at Hampden Park in Glasgow, Scotland. The first game will be versus France (5 p.m. local / 12 p.m. ET) on July 25 – two days before the Olympic Opening Ceremonies in London – and then they play Colombia on July 28 (5 p.m. local / 12 p.m. ET). The USA will finish group play against Korea DPR on July 31 (5:15 p.m. local / 12:15 p.m. ET) at the legendary Old Trafford in Manchester, home to Manchester United.
U.S. Defeats China 4-1 in Front of a Sellout Crowd in Pennsylvania
The U.S. Women’s National Team bounced back from an early deficit against China’s Women’s National Team in Chester, Pennsylvania’s PPL Park on Sunday May 27, finishing with a commanding 4-1 victory. Zhang Rui scored for China in the 22nd minute after Han Ping clipped the crossbar in the 4th minute. Alex Morgan tied the game in the 34th minute with her first goal and two minutes later the U.S. were in the lead through an own goal by Zhou Gaoping, who tried to fend off Abby Wambach’s header towards goal. Morgan scored again in the 50th minute before turning provider to Wambach, who held off a defender as she dribbled in from the right side and scored from the narrowest of angles towards the far post. The U.S. outshot China 18-5 (7-1 for shots on goal). Morgan now has 24 career international goals while Wambach has 135, just 23 behind the all-time record held by Mia Hamm (158).The Americans have three more matches before the Olympics Games; two in Sweden this month versus the Swedes and Japan and then against Canada in Sandy, Utah on June 30 at 12 p.m. MT.
China is trying to rebuild for their next major international tournament, the 2015 Women’s World Cup in Canada, after missing out on the 2011 Women’s World Cup and the 2012 Olympics Game.
The game attracted a sellout crowd of 18,573 to PPL Park, which was confirmed a few days before. Since last summer’s World Cup, the U.S. Women has drawn crowds of at least 15,000 in Dallas, Kansas City, Portland and Phoenix. After averaging only 5,784 fans for 8 games in 2010—including a World Cup interregional qualifier versus Italy in Chicago--it is clear that the American’s nail-biting performances last summer in Germany have made them a premier attraction throughout the country. Almost ten months later, people still want to see this exciting collection of veteran standouts like Abby Wambach, Christie Rampone, Carli Lloyd and Shannon Boxx as well as exciting youngsters like Alex Morgan, Sydney Leroux and Megan Rapinoe. It will be interesting to see the crowds that they draw after the Olympics, where the U.S. will be a strong favorite for their third consecutive gold medal. A solid performance could take average gates well over 20,000. While the professional game is reorganizing after WPS’s demise, the U.S. national team is the leading light, on and off the field.
Tim Grainey is a regular contributor to Soccer365. His latest book Beyond Bend it Like Beckham was released earlier this month. Get your copy today. And read what Gonzaga women's coach Amy Edwards said about the book.
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