I traveled to Manchester, England to watch the USWNT take on North Korea in the third and final group play match. The U.S. topped Group G with a 1-0 victory and will play New Zealand in the quarterfinal. The U.S. had many chances throughout the match, but it was Abby Wambach who put away the lone goal in the 25th minute. Lauren Cheney sent a ball over the top to Alex Morgan, who touched it to Wambach, then Wambach beat the keeper for the game-winning goal.
The atmosphere at Old Trafford was fantastic. I knew it was going to be a great day when I saw multiple fans in US Soccer jerseys on the train from London to Manchester. The game drew 29,522 fans, who were predominantly U.S. supporters. The crowd was filled with U.S. apparel and you could spot plenty of "Where's Waldos" due to the amount if red and white striped kits being sported. There was a small contingent of North Korean supporters, who proudly waved their flag. It seed that most of the British people in attendance were supporting the U.S. and it was cool to hear them cheer for the team in their accent. However, there were two Brits sitting near me that loudly encouraged on the North Korean squad. It was a father and son duo, who added "North Korea" to a multitude of songs. This only added to the fun and gave me a sense of what the football culture is like in Britain. The match was played at Old Trafford, which is a stadium steeped in history and the home turf of Manchester United. Watching a game in the stadium brought a certain energy unlike any other place. Such greatness has been displayed on the field that it made me even more excited to finally watch the USWNT in-person.
Men's football garners cult-like devotion in the U.K., but the women's game does not have much of a following. It is not surprising that women's soccer has been a hard sell at the London Olympics. To begin with, soccer has never been a big draw at the Olympics. This, along with the attitude held towards women's soccer and the location of the matches causes low attendance figures. The Olympic Football Tournament is held in many venues across the U.K. and this makes it more difficult for tourist in London to go to a match. Therefore, 29,522 is a good draw for the USWNT, even though the stadium fits 70,000. Also, these Olympic Games have been marred with news stories of empty seats and frustrated fans unable to get tickets. The empty seats provide an awful visual on television. When I watched the previous soccer games on TV, I noticed the amount of empty seats and the fact that the first couple rows were empty I thought this was odd and didn't understand why fans would sit farther back when closer seats were available. I found my answer in Manchester: the seats farther back are cover and protect spectators from the rain. I had to move back to the 10th row for this reason.
Regardless of the rain, the crowd was energetic: "USA" chants ringed through the stadium and the wave undulated around the stands. The USWNT players lined up to thank the fans after the game and you could tell they were soaking it all in. They looked genuinely appreciative of the support.
It was a memorable experience. I'm hoping they make the final, so I can watch the USWNT play in another historic stadium.
Wednesday, August 1, 2012
Thursday, July 26, 2012
In the previous post, "Sponsorship Roundup: Alex Morgan," I said AT&T is a sponsor, but had not yet used Morgan for an advertisements. Well, here it is. This video was posted to YouTube today. It is one of four videos featuring Olympic athletes and their journey to the Olympics under the slogan "My Journey." This idea is perfect for Morgan, since she is the newest star of the USWNT and the video covers all facets of her rise.
Wednesday, July 25, 2012
Not the way the USWNT wanted to start their first Olympic match, but it was the way they wanted to end it: with a win. The U.S. came-back from an early 2-0 deficit against France to beat them 4-2.
The USWNT looked apprehensive to start the match. The game was being played at a hectic pace and the U.S. was unable to maintain a rhythm. Each team was enacting counter-attack after counter-attack and not gaining possession. Then, France was able to score two goals within two minutes of each other. Gaetane Thiney scored the first goal in the 12th minute. She rocketed a shot from outside the 18 and Solo had no chance to save it. France's next goal came from the U.S.'s inability to clear the ball in front of net. A scramble ensued and Marie-Laurie Delie was in the right place to score in the 13th minute. The ball landed right in front of her and she nailed it into the net.
It was shocking that the USWNT were down by two this early in the game and to make matters worse, Shannon Boxx had to leave the game due to an injury. Carli Lloyd replaced her in the 17th minute, who recently lost her starting position to Lauren Cheney. However, the USWNT can never be counted out; the team has great depth and a dynamic striker due in Abby Wambach and Alex Morgan. These two are capable of scoring multiple goals and scoring them quickly, which they proved before the half was over. Wambach headed the ball home off a corner from Megan Rapinoe in the 18th minute of play. This put the U.S. right back in it and gave them renewed energy. Morgan evened play at 2-2 in the 31st minute. It looked as though Wambach flicked it on for her, but she actually did not touch the ball and it bounced into great position for Morgan. If the ball had been flicked by Wambach, the goal would have been called offside, but she didn't, so it counted. Morgan had a defender on her back and the keeper coming out: she lobed it over the keepers head for the goal. It was two excellent goals from Wambach and Morgan, which both showed their different styles and ability.
The final 15 minutes of the first half saw some dangerous opportunities for France and a controversial non-call in the box. In the 37th minute, Delie had the ball in the box once again, but sailed it over the crossbar. A minute later, Thiney was all alone on the right side of the six-yard box, Solo came out, which made Thiney adjust and hit the ball out. For the third time, Delie had a chance in the box, though this one was all her doing and not the defenses fault. She was marked well, but managed to head the ball on goal when her back was facing that same goal. However, it was hit right to Solo and she grabbed the easy save. A few minutes later, Morgan showed her speed and was pushing for a goal in the box when taken down. The referee did not call a foul, though it is questionable whether the play deserved one or not.
It was a crazy first half, but after the tough first 15 minutes, the play was fairly even and the U.S. fought back to make the score indicate that.
The U.S. did not make any substitutions to begin the second half. France took out Ophelie Meilleroux and Louisa Necib for Eugenie Le Sommer and Laura Georges. The USWNT's first chance on goal in the second half was cleared off the line. Rapinoe sent in a corner that Lloyd headed down, and Wambach got a hit on, but the France defender was in the right position. Lloyd came up big in the 55th minute by scoring the go-ahead goal. She blasted a shot from well outside the 18-yard box that went into the upper left of the goal. It was a deja vu moment for Lloyd, who hit the gold medal-winning goal in the 2008 Olympics from similar distance.
The U.S. looked much more in control after going up 3-2, but France had plenty of chances. Morgan again was taken down in the box in the 60th minute and again no call was made. She got the first touch on the ball, but it was a shoulder-to-shoulder tackle. France was lucky that both takedowns were not called. France looked dangerous in the 66th minute, they got in front of goal, but Kelley O'Hara defended the play well and Solo stepped up to end the play. Right after this play, the U.S. gained some breathing room by scoring a fourth goal: it was Morgan's second of the match. Rapinoe had great vision to get the ball wide to Tobin Heath on the right flank. She had plenty of space and went to goal, with Morgan streaking to the back post and Wambach hustling to the near. Heath slipped a pass across the face of the goal and Morgan touched it into a wide-open net.
The 4-2 score line did not squash France's effort. They continued to press and had good looks. The USWNT had trouble clearing the ball during a France corner kick and it almost resulted in another goal. The ball pin-balled around creating chaos, but the final attempt was tame. The U.S. made some changes at the end of the second half, bringing in Amy Rodriguez for Morgan and Sydney Leroux for Rapinoe. Then with only minutes left to play, France had a breakaway after a U.S. free kick. France's counter-attack was saved by Solo, who came out and fell on the ball when Elodie Thomas took too long of a touch.
The first Olympic match for the USWNT was certainly exciting. Most importantly, they came away with a win against their toughest opponent in group play. They scored four high quality goals and did not allow France to maintain the majority of possession. They had some scary moments on defense and did allow two goals, but showed their resiliency and fought for the victory.
Photo Credit: Tumblr
Tuesday, July 24, 2012
NBC is the American broadcaster of the 2012 Olympics and they have been heavily promoting their upcoming coverage of the events. They have been running commercials that showcase the most exciting moments from the 2008 Olympics, and Carli Lloyd's goal against Brazil in the gold medal game is included. NBC created a website (nbcolympics.com) solely dedicated to the Olympic Games. An abundance of content has been released on the website featuring U.S. athletes. The videos were shot at the Olympic Media Summit, which occurred in mid-May. The videos are fun and focus on connecting the public to the athletes' personalities. NBC has a vested interest in building the profiles of the U.S. athletes competing at the Olympics: more people will tune in if they care about the athletes. Many of these videos feature USWNT players, specifically Alex Morgan, Abby Wambach, Christie Rampone, and Megan Rapinoe.
This is great exposure for the USWNT. Women's soccer has to compete against popular Olympic sports like gymnastics, track and field, and swimming, but NBC taking an interest in the team is a positive sign. NBC coverage will provide a boost in public recognition for the team and can translate into a boost in popularity. NBC sees the USWNT as marketable for the networks Olympic efforts, which is great news for U.S. Soccer.
NBC Video: How Do You Celebrate a Goal
Note: Unable to embed NBC video
NBC Video: How Do You Celebrate a Goal
Note: Unable to embed NBC video