27 November, 2010

Game On: Italy v USA Women's WCQ

Yeah, I'm not a guy who will go out just to see some women's soccer most times. Coached it, will watch it sometimes when I know a player on the team, but in this case, it's about some national pride!

This afternoon, at 2pm EST (only on ESPN3 because no sponsors would pay for a bigger showing), in Chicago, the USWNT, current #1 in the world, has a must win (or at worst draw in a low scoring game) just to qualify for the World Cup next year in Germany.

Wha?! I know some out there who dislike soccer will try to point out how this is why no one follows the sport. "How can the #1 team not be among the 16 teams playing for the Cup?" they'll say.

Well, it's pretty simple. CONCACAF gets two automatic qualifiers (for making the WCQ finals for CONCACAF. Unfortunately, the US suffered a 1-0 semi-final loss to Mexico in the one and out playoff format. It was probably the biggest upset Mexico has ever accomplished. If you need an equivalent, imagine the USMNT knocking out Spain 2-0 out of the Confeds Cup last year. Oh wait, that did happen. Well, it's pretty much the same thing here.

The problem for the USWNT is that they can still get into the Cup, but they have a playoff (home and away) against the 5th place Euro qualifier. In this case Italy. They've already played one match in Italy, in which we won 1-0 on last minute heroics from Alex Morgan, the super sub.

The Italians have a tough time ahead of them. Their keeper, Pepperdine grad Anna Picarelli, is actually a US citizen. Her dad is Italian, and thus the 5ft4 keeper qualifies for NT play. At such a height and build, and with such quality like Hope Solo, it's obvious she might not have been the top of the picking order here, no matter how good she is, so understandably, she made the move overseas. The match is far from a cake walk, though.

There is extreme pressure on the US for this match. They are expected to win. They are already up 1 away goal on Italy, but they are going to a melting pot of immigrants in Chicago, where they surprisingly have a Joe DiMaggio (yeah Yankees player in a town with 2 MLB teams, Cubs and White Sox, still don't understand that and I used to walk by the thing all the time) statue in an area known as Little Italy. Home of the USSF HQ. AKA, this is our backyard.

A loss and women's soccer may actually have failed here. With two WPS teams already having folded in the past 6mo and one women's league having come and gone (seeing a pattern here?), women's soccer in the US is an anomaly. Women's sports in the US rarely draws 50% attendance and frequently has trouble not losing millions each season, almost like it is a token penance for male sports to support them financially. Catch the WPS All Star game this year? Didn't think so. I flipped through the channel, but stopped for several seconds. The stands had a handful of people, literally. I think the only worse attendance was at a Norwegian 1st div game this year, and it was sponsored by Citibank. Not sure which was more painful to watch, the ads, or the lack of any fans.

In the US, our women have won 2 World Cups, they've placed 3rd in every WC since 1991 in which they haven't won the actual Cup, they have several players in the "Best Women Soccer Players of All Time" list, and the list goes on.

Sure, I could say you are unpatriotic for not going to the game today (if you live in the area), I could even say you are not a soccer fan if you don't at least try to watch at home. What, me? What will I be doing? Oh, um, I'm going to the UW-Madison v Northwestern football game, 2 1/2hrs from Toyota Park where the US Women will be playing. Um. I can't make it this time. If it had been any other day...

I'm still a fan of the US Soccer. I'll still be checking the score on ESPN via my cell this afternoon. And when the US wins, I will still cheer, along with all 500 other fans keeping track of the score from a place other than Toyota Park.

Photo: Thefly


  1. 1-0 at halftime for the US. Up 2-0 agg. right now, so we are in the pole position behind a 40' goal by Amy Rodriguez.

  2. It's final: 1-0 USA wins.
    Amy Rodriguez, marry my eldest son!


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