Tuesday, June 30, 2015

USWNT puts it all together, beats Germany to make their fourth Women's World Cup Final

USA 2-0 Germany
The USA needed to play their best game of the tournament in order to have any chance at beating Germany, and that's exactly what they did. In their 2-0 defeat of the best team in the world, the USA dominated possession, frustrated Germany's attack, and got a little luck on their way to Sunday's World Cup final in Vancouver.

Germany was on the front foot the beginning of the match. They pressed the back line high and got a few got opportunities in the opening minutes. After the opening salvo, things started shifting the USA's way. They were in control of the ball and were getting some great chances. The first real one came seven minutes in on their first corner of the match. Julie Johnston got her head to the service and Nadine Angerer only barely got her toe to it. In the 14th minute, Tobin Heath played a perfect through pass to Alex Morgan, but Angerer was there to stone her Portland Thorns teammate to keep it 0-0.

Those two were the best chances of the half for either team, but the USA kept the pressure flowing for the entire time. They had six corners in total for the first half, but couldn't turn any into goals.

The second half started much like the first, Germany was on the charge and threatened a few times. The pinnacle of their success came just before the hour mark. Alexandra Popp was battling Julie Johnston for a long ball in and the American defender misplayed the bounce off the carpet. To cover her mistake, she pulled Popp down y the shoulder in the box and was called for the penalty and shown the yellow card. In truth, it should have been red for denying a clear scoring chance.

Regardless, Celia Sasic was primed to step to the spot for Germany, who had never missed a penalty in Women's World Cup history. They were 12 for 12 before Sasic shanked her attempt wide of the goal, Remember that little bit of luck I told you the USA had?

More luck came just eight minutes after the Sasic miss. Alex Morgan made a driving run on goal and was upended by Annike Krahn on the edge of the box. The referee wrongly judged the contact to have been inside the penalty area and awarded the USA a penalty. Carli Lloyd took the spot and buried her kick in the upper corner after sending Angerer in the wrong direction.

Germany was tasked with unlocking an American defense that had not allowed a goal in nearly 500 minutes of play. They were never able to find the right combination of passes to find that one goal. They took 15 shots throughout the match with only one on target. Hope Solo could have not been in the USA goal, and they still would have won this match. Despite Julie Johnston having her worst game of the tournament, the USA made the talented German attack look very, very ordinary.

A clever passing play punch the USA's tickets to Vancouver in the 84th minute. Lauren holiday stepped up and created a turnover near the halfway line. She played a long ball into acres of space that was chased down my Abby Wambach. After dancing with a defender in the corner, she played a pass to Meghan klingenberg, who found a creative pass to Carli Lloyd in the box. Lloyd beat her marker to the outside and played a picture perfect pass across the face of goal where Kelly O'Hara was streaking in to boot it to the back of the net. It was the best USA goal of the tournament, and their best team move I have ever seen.

While the USA played their best game, Germany struggled. Much will be made of the missed Sasic penalty, the bad call that gave the SUS their penalty, and manager Silvia Neid's decision to only use one substitute, the somewhat injured Dzsenifer Marozsan, when they desperately needed fresh attacking legs.

The USA got their deserved 2-0 win to send them to the World Cup Final for the fourth time in their history. They will either face Japan in a rematch of the 2011 Final or England, who is in the semifinals of any gender's World Cup competition for the first time since 1966. The USA will be favorites against either one, but more so if England pulls off the upset. I am predicting a 2-0 win for Japan tomorrow night. Kickoff is at 7pm from Edmonton. I suppose I should root for extra time so the eventual winner is more worn down, but I doubt it will happen.

Monday, June 29, 2015

I want to see a Michigan Amateur Cup

Soccer is booming at a small level here in Michigan. We have Detroit City FC leading the way. Lansing United is developing a passionate following in the state's capital. Michigan Bucks, and awful as their owner is, have been a mainstay in the state for 20 years. Grand Rapids FC got 3,800+ fans in only their second ever match and over 4,100 to watch a friendly against Lansing United. How much fun would it be fore every amateur team in the state to compete in a cup competition? From City and Bucks at the top, down through the fourth tier with Lansing United and Michigan Stars, through the fifth tier with Grand Rapids FC, Ann Arbor, and even the independant (for now) Muskegon Risers, it can be a great way to grow soccer in this state.

The lower level leagues are always looking for more games to play. Michigan clubs' supporters are always spotted chirping at each other on Twitter. The Detroit City-Michigan Bucks match in the US Open Cup was a great showcase for soccer in the state. I think it would be loads of fun for these small, passionate fans to duke it out in a cup style competition.

There are currently eight clubs in the state of Michigan:

Detroit City FC (NPSL)
Michigan Bucks (PDL)
Lansing United (NPSL)
Michigan Stars (NPSL)
AFC Ann Arbor (Great Lakes Premier League)
Grand Rapids FC (Great Lakes Premier League)
Oakland United FC (Great Lakes Premier League)
Muskegon Risers (Independent)

Eight makes for a perfect cup size competition. The eight teams are randomly drawn for the first round. The sides play a two-legged match to determine who moves on to the semi-finals. Opponents are randomly drawn again for the semis for another two-legged match. The winners move on to the Michigan Cup Final to be played at a neutral site. The winner, if not already qualifying through league play, can earn a spot in the US Open Cup the following season. I see it being a ton of fun and great for the game in Michigan.

The competition could continue when Detroit City, and possibly Michigan Bucks, inevitably turn pro in the coming years. It might lead to  some one sided results in the future, but how awesome would it be to see one of the wonderful amateur clubs take down a pro side within our own state? Who are the powers that be who can make this happen? Am I a power that be who can make this happen?

The Rouge Report: Detroit City gets revenge on Lansing

Detroit City FC 1-0 Lansing United
Detroit City got a huge win Sunday evening in front of a record crowd of 3,701 at Cass Tech. They got a goal from William Mellors-Blair in the 38th minute to stifle Lansing's efforts to sweet the rouge and gold in 2015. The win also moves Le Rouge to the top of the NPSL Midwest standings with 20 points.

The Mellors-Blair goal was a real thing of beauty. He blew past four Lansing defenders near midfield and beat them all in a footrace towards the keeper. He slotted his shot perfectly past the keeper and inside the far post. It was his 11th career goal for Le Rouge, tying him with Zach Myers for the most all time for the club.

City was forced to defend their lead right away as Lansing put the pressure on. Their best chance of the game came shortly before halftime with a series of shots that ended in a fantastic save from Alex Bouillenec to preserve the lead.

After the half, Detroit City was content to retain possession and not allow their opposition anywhere near the goal, They got several shots off, a few were threatening, but, more importantly, they kept Lansing off the scoreboard. It was the second straight shutout for DCFC, who took care of Fort Pitt on Friday with a 1-0 win. It was the first time Lansing had been held without a goal since their NPSL opener on May 22.

Detroit City gets a bit of a break over the next couple weeks. Their next match is a home tilt with local foes Michigan Stars on July 11. Lansing looks to get back level on points with Le Rouge in their next match on July 3, when they welcome the Stars to East Lansing.

Sunday MLS: New York is red, Portland hammers Sounders

New York City 1-3 New York Red Bulls
A crowd of 48,047 turned out to Yankee Stadium to see the second edition of the New York Derby, and many of them went home disappointed. Things looked great for the NYCFC faithful to open proceedings as they got a goal from Thomas McNamara in the sixth minute. That was all the cheering the blue half of New York would do, however.

Their lead would hold through the first half, but in the second minute of the second half, Bradley Wright-Phillips volleyed home a cross from Sacha Kljestan to level the score. The visitors' onslaught continued when Chris Duvall put the Red Bulls in front five minutes later with a nice shot from a tough angle. Matt Miazga headed home a Kljestan free kick in the 72nd to finish the damage. Red Bulls only won the match 3-1, but they dang well could have had five or six goals in the second half alone. City is lucky this thing wasn't much, much worse for them.

Portland Timbers 4-1 Seattle Sounders
Portland probably had their best attacking match of the season. They were getting fluid passing plays from Gaston Fernandez, Diego Valeri, and Fanando Adi all game long. Darlington Nagbe, who usually just puts his head down and screams towards the goal with extreme tunnel vision, actually made his driving runs count for something. He also scored the first goal of the match for Portland. Valeri laid the ball for him perfectly and Nagbe stepped up to blast home a bender in the 12th minute.

Against the run of play, which is how Seattle played the entire match, the Sounders equalized with Lamar Neagle booting home a free kick in the 38th minute.

Portland controlled possession for pretty much the whole second half, and were rewarded bigtime for their efforts in the last 20 minutes. Adi scored his team leading seventh of the season by chipping home a perfect pass from Nagbe after one of his ballsy runs in the 74th. Only 75 seconds later, before the green and gold smoke had cleared from the Timbers Army, Adi struck again with a driving run and perfect shot of his own to make it 3-1. Rodney Wallace scored his first of the year in stoppage time.

Portland had just the game they needed after the 5-0 humbling defeat in LA on Wednesday. They took advantage of a weakened Seattle team and got the result they deserved. But let's talk about how lifeless the Sounders look without Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins. Without their two best players in the lineup, the attack is just not there. A team that can usually out pace and create chances against the best of the best is reduced to having to counter and score on set pieces. Dempsey only has one more game left on his suspension, but he will not play again before he ships off to the US National Team to play in the Gold Cup, where he will be for the entire month of July. Martins is still out for a few more weeks with the chest injury suffered in the US Open Cup fiasco against the Timbers two weeks ago. They could be without their best players for the next four games, a period of time that can turn into a very defining stretch for the defending Supporters' Shield winners.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Women's World Cup Day 16: Hosts bow out honorably, Japan wins late

Australia 0-1 Japan
Japan has this thing where they will subtly dominate games and only score enough goals as they need to get by. It was how they cruised through their group without losing a single match and it was how they dispatched the Netherlands in the round of 16. This was really the first time they were not able to do that as Australia is a more than formidable opponent for them.

Both teams were playing well enough in the first half to make it seem like the chances weren't coming for either side. They were there, but there was nothing that had you sitting on the edge of your seat waiting for the net to bulge. Halftime was surely spent concocting schemes to break each well organized defense, but none of them actually worked until very late.

Japan's breakthrough came in the 87th minute after a series of chances were blocked or saved. On a corner, Australia stopped the original ball and sent it outside the box. Japan had a shot blocked, but it continued through to another shooter, who had her shot saved. Mana Iwabuchi pounced on the rebound of that one to tap the ball into an open net to send Japan to the semifinals for the second straight World Cup.

England 2-1 Canada

This game opened up as the most free flowing of the quarterfinals. Canada had a chance early on to take the lead, but Melissa Tancredi's shot sailed high. it was just the sort of finishing we have come to expect from Canada. England then stormed ahead. First, it was Jodi Taylor taking advantage of a Canadian turnover in the 11th minute. Then Lucy Bronze got her head to a free kick in the 14th. The header originally hit the crossbar before trickling over the goal line to give England a 2-0 lead before a quarter hour had been played.

BC Place was dead silent and Canada had an uphill climb if they wanted to become only the second host nation to advance past the quarterfinals in the Women's World Cup. They got one back in the 41st when captain Christine Sinclair took advantage of a shot spilled by Karen Bardsley. Sinclair was in the right place at the right time to bang home the rebound and inject some life back into the home crowd. They took that 2-1 line into halftime.

Early in the second half, England took a bit of a blow in the goalkeeping department. Karen Bardsley took a shot to the eye, causing it to bruise and swell up like mad. They played the last 39 minutes plus stoppages with their backup keeper Siobhan Chamberlain, who was making her World Cup debut. She didn't have to make her first save until the 88th minute, but that doesn't mean Canada wasn't pressuring. They had several chances throughout the entire second half. Canada could only ride the momentum of 54,000 fans for so long. Their attacks petered out in the end and England made way to the semifinals to face Japan while the heartbroken hosts were sent packing.

The semis are set. It will be the USA against Germany, number one in the world versus number two in the world, on Tuesday at 7pm from Montreal. England heads to Edmonton to face Japan on Wednesday, also at 7pm.

It Happened in America: Rain soaks the east coast matches, San Jose takes California Clasico

Toronto FC 0-0 DC United
Sloppy weather made for a sloppy game as neither side was able to find the goal. The fist half was a little more even, but as the game wore on it was Toronto who looked more like scoring. In the end, though, nobody could produce anything and both sides had to settle for empty wallets and a point each.

Philadelphia Union 2-2 Montreal Impact
The weather was just as, if not more, disgusting in Philadelphia than it was up in Toronto, but there were a couple more goals scored. Union's came first in the form of a screaming shot from Erik Ayuk Mbu in the eighth minute. As mud puddles formed on the pitch, Montreal managed to level by way of Ignacio Piatti in the 28th.

As the weather started to look slightly better, the Impact took a hit when Patrice Bernier was given a second yellow card in the 62nd minute. They laughed at their manpower disadvantage and scored eight minutes later. New England turned the ball over it their own half and Jack McInerney took the ball, ran, and drilled a shot in the upper corner. Philadelphia equalized in the 76th minute on a mad scramble in the six yard box that ended in Maurice Edu scoring an easy goal.  Five minutes after the tying goal, both sides were down to ten men as Ayuk Mbu was shown his second yellow card. Despite a few close calls on both ends, the score finished tied.

New England Revolution 1-2 Vancouver Whitecaps
The weather was a little better in Boston, but it was still pretty gloomy for the home team. Cristian Techera was the man giving the Caps the lead in the 18th minute. He took advantage of suspect defending by London Woodbury in his own penalty area. Octavio Rivero then scored from the spot in in controversial fashion. The man guilty of conceding the penalty was Andrew Farrell, who maybe got a tug on Techera as he streaked towards goal. Farrell was shown red for his trouble and New England, perhaps unjustly, played a man down for the rest of the match. They managed to get one goal, though. It was from Teal Bunbury in the 84th minute. The real story of the game was all the cards. There were eight yellows shown to both teams combined, including the second yellow to Farrell.

Sporting Kansas City 2-0 Colorado Rapids
Krisztian Nemeth scored low and from distance in the 32nd to pout SKC in the lead into halftime. To open the second half, I guess a grounds crew worker butt dialed the sprinkler system and the teams were ambushed by the water irrigation system at Sporting Park. After the brief artificial shower, in the 64th minute, Benny Feilhaber played a cross that was booted into the Colorado net by their own Sam Cronin to finish the 2-0 scoreline. Kansas City shuffles up to fourth in the Western Conference madhouse.

Real Salt Lake 2-2 Columbus Crew
In the 36th minute, Real Salt Lake executed the best set piece you will ever see in MLS. It was a free kick from around about 23 yards out. Luke Mulholland took it short to Kyle Beckerman, who flicked it to Joao Plata, who headed it to Olmes Garcia for the goal. It was the sort of execution you expect to see out of a Barcelona or Spanish National Team, not a middle of the road MLS side. Anyway, the lead only lasted six minutes before Tony Tchani levelled for the Crew. Sebastian Jaime put RSL back on top in the first minute of the second half. Ehtan Findley put Columbus back on terms in the 62nd.  Between first half stoppage time and the final whistle, there were seven cards issued, including a straight red to RSL's Jordan Allen. Columbus failed to capitalize on the numbers advantage and it finished all square.

San Jose Earthquakes 3-1 LA Galaxy
The first California Clasico of the season heads to the north as San Jose comes back from down a goal in the 17th minute. Juninho was the man for the Galaxy as they looked to continue their heavy goal scoring form. That was all they would get, however. Chris Wondolowski banged home a cross in the 28th minute to level. In the second have, Clarence Goodson headed home a corner to give the Quakes the lead and Cordell Cato put it away with nice footwork in the 72nd. LA Galaxy's high scoring form comes to an end as they rest in third place out West. Meanwhile, San Jose is above the red line, for now. They can fall back down if the Timbers manage a point at home against Seattle this evening.

Friday Night MLS: Dallas takes another Texas Derby

FC Dallas 2-0 Houston Dynamo
After a storm delay of about an hour, Dallas got a couple of goals in the first half to take this edition of the Texas Derby to kick of MLS's rivalry weekend.

The first goal came 33 minutes in when Fabian Castillo got a fortuitous  bounce off of Houston's Jermaine Taylor for an own goal. Castillo would score one of his own in the 42nd minute as Dallas carved up the Dynamo defense like it was nothing. The Panamanian attacker came in from the wing and worked a give and go with Mauro Diaz that made the Houston center backs look silly before slotting a shot past Tyler Deric.

Dallas is now only three points behind the tandem of Seattle and Vancouver for first place in the West. Because the conference is so clustered at the top, they sit all the way down in fourth place despite the gap. Houston continues to slide down the table as they struggle to find any results. They sit in ninth place, four points back of a playoff spot.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Women'a World Cup Day 15: Germany wins a thriller to meet up with USA in semis

Germany 1-1 France (5-4 in penalties)
This was billed as the match of the tournament, so far, and boy did it live up to the hype.
France was most impressive in the first half as they outshot b their German opponents 14-6. In a match that I expect to be a German rout with France just hanging on and trying their best just to stay alive, they not only kept in the game, they were the better team for the first 45 minutes. Luisa Necib gave France their just reward in the 64th minute. She collected clearance near the top of the box and her shot made it beyond Nadine Angerer after a deflection off a German defender.

France was quite content sitting back and defending the German attacking machine for the remainder of the match and it ultimately failed them. At the stroke of 81 minutes, Amel Majri handled the ball in the box to give Germany a penalty. Celia Sacic buried the attempt to level the score at one.

It stayed tied through the 90 minutes and extra time was needed to separate the sides. After a fairly balanced 27 minutes of extra soccer, France and a golden opportunity to win the match. Majri had a perfect chance to atone for her handball as she received a pass in the six yard box with a wide open goal, but failed to get the shot on target and it bumbled wide.

Things went on to penalties. Both sides scored on their first four attempts and Germany buried their fifth. The final shooter for France, Claire Lavogez, had her low shot saved by Angerer to send Germany onward.

United States 0-0 China
The USA should have gone ahead after only a minute when Amy Rodriguez got free between China's center backs an was alone against the goalkeeper. She tried to chip a shot with the inside of her preferred left foot, but it sailed extremely wide. They were starting quickly against the inexperienced Chinese, which created some other nice chances in the opening minutes as well.

Coming into the match, the main question was who would step up for the suspended Megan Rapinoe and Lauren Holliday, both of whom have been important for the USA attack. Morgan Bryan and Kelly O'Hara started in their place, and with them in the lineup instead the USA attack didn't seem to miss a beat. It was more of the same that we saw in the first four matches. There was lots of possession, a few great chances, and very few goals. The other change made by the USA was the addition of the speedy Rodriguez over the aging Abby Wambach. Her speed was instrumental in this match, but her finishing, as she showed in the second minute, left a lot to be desired.

The telling quote of the first half was when color commentator Cat Whitehill said, "Even when they are playing well, the USA can't score." That one sentence has summed up the USA's entire World Cup. They dominated first half possession almost 60-40 over China. They were shooting like crazy, but none of the shots were going in. After Rodriguez's missed chance, the next real opportunity came towards of the half. The USA took a quick free quick in the 26th minute that caught the Chinese defense off guard.It led to a shot that had to be cleared off the line by China's defenders.  Despite all the time spend in China's defensive end, there was no end product and the score was 0-0 at halftime.

The finish finally came in the 51st minute. Julie Johnston, who has been the unsung hero of the USA back line, lobbed in a long ball that found the head of Carli Lloyd then the back of the net.  Their style of play did not noticeably change after the goal. They kept possession and continued trying to turn that into goals. China did mount a minor threat in the 64th minute with a series of passes that almost created a threatening shot, but the USA defense held firm as it has all tournament.

They didn't score again and took a 1-0 victory into the semifinals against Germany.
I have been, and continue to be, worried about the USA's chances against the best team in the world. Germany didn't have their best game against France today. It took penalties for them to make it through and their lone goal came off a flukey hand ball. But their defense was solid. The only goal they gave up was the result of an unlucky deflection. While they may have been lucky not to concede in overtime, nothing the USA has done has allowed me to think that they can replicate France's near upset performance. In fact, I see them getting just as unlucky as the French were in that second period of extra time.

The one thing going the right way for the USA is their defending. They have gone four straight games without conceding. The only goal they gave up came in the 22nd minute of their opening match. Germany can score goals, but against a defense as tough as the USA's they will have to work their tails off to get them.

If Germany-France was the match of the tournament so far, this one will hopefully exceed it. It is number one against number two in the world, so how can it be anything but a thrill? The winner of this one should be considered the favorite in the final, that's for sure.

Tomorrow's Matches
The quarterfinals finish up tomorrow evening with two exciting matches. First up, at 4pm, the defending champions Japan square off against surprise quarterfinalists Australia. You can never count the Aussies out after their win against Brazil, but they will have a hard time repeating that feat. I say Japan wins it 2-1.

At 7:30, the Canadian hosts take on England as they try to make their second ever World Cup semifinal. Both sides have proven to be stout defenders as they have both made their way through this tournament by scoring little, but allowing less. I think this will be a 0-0 draw before penalties will have to decide things. I'll give the nod to the home side. Canada makes their way through by chance.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Midweek MLS Madness: Galaxy dominate, DC United extend first place lead

Philadelphia Union 1-0 Seattle Sounders
Seattle really, really misses Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins. They are so shallow at forward right now, they started Lamar Neagle, a central midfielder, up top tonight. They are also kind of luck that this defeat wasn't a lot worse. Philly had a goal disallowed in the  27th minute because of a foul by Andrew Wegner. They had a penalty saved five minutes later. The Union didn't score until CJ Sapong headed home a Sheanon Williams cross in the 69th minute. Seattle stays in first over Vancouver, but they have lost that game in hand that they really needed.

New York Red Bulls 1-0 Real Salt Lake
The clock had only barely struck three minutes when Mike Grella tapped home the only goal Red Bulls needed. Even with the lead, New York made it look like RSL wasn't even there. Shots were 24-4 in favor of New York, possession was over 60-40, and Salt Lake never controlled any portion of the game at all. I guess they were just tired after their thrilling Sunday victory.

Columbus Crew 2-1 New England Revolution
The opening five minutes of this one were insane. The pitch wasn't even dry from pregame watering when Lee Nguyen opened the scoring 31 seconds in with a low bumbling shot that got by Steve Clark. MLS leading goal scorer Kei Kamara would not let that stand. He equalized with a violent header when Columbus had only been behind for less than three minutes. His second of the match, and the Crew's winner, came five minutes after halftime to keep them above the red line. New England falls further behind first place DC United in the East.

Orlando City 2-0 Colorado Rapids
Orlando has a thing for quick doubles in the second half to win them games. This time it was Cyle Larin in the 62nd and Kaka in the 65th to give them the 2-0 win over the lowly rapids. It was a deserved win for the home side. They controlled the match, took 23 shots, landed eight of them, and overall were the better team. After a sort of shaky start, Orlando City are now only a point out of second place in the East. They won't catch DC United (nobody will), but they are on track for a playoff appearance in their first season.

Toronto FC 3-1 Montreal Impact
Montreal got the first goal of the match from Ambroise Oyongo in the 19th minute, but that would be all they got. Toronto stormed ahead and took the battle of Eastern Canada with goals from Michael Bradley, Jozy Altidore, and Sebastian Giovinco from the spot. Both these teams are sort of behind the rest of the league in terms of games played. This was only Toronto's 14th match. They are 12 points behind DC in first, but they have five games in hand. They might be in the best spot to catch United. Montreal, on a similar note, has only played 13 games. They are three points out of the playoffs with two games in hand on the sixth place Red Bulls.

Chicago Fire 0-1 DC United
It took a while, but Connor Doyle gave DC United the lead with less than 20 minutes to play. This was one of those kind of sloppy midweek games that make them so unattractive. Chicago only landed one shot on target for the whole match. Both teams each took eight overall. The goal was the result of a sort of flukey deflection. Yeah, I could have done without watching this one. United extend their lead in first to a full ten points. They look to be running away with things there, for now.

Portland Timbers 0-5 LA Galaxy
Sebastian Lleget started the party for LA in the 14th minute by completing a nice passing play that left Adam Kawarsey helpless in the Portland goal. Robbie Keane started the goal well, but Portland's defense really could have done better to prevent it. Lletget then won a penalty a few minutes later. And by "won a penalty" I really mean he got tapped in the back, felt a couple legs behind him and fell down. Keane buried the ensuing PK to make it 2-0 to the Galaxy. It became 3-0 when Portland's back line broke down once again and a pass went right to Robbie Rogers for the easy goal. In the second half, LA was content to pack up shop and take their 3-0 win to the bank, but when Jack Jewsbury turns the ball over, of course Juninho is going to take advantage and score a fourth. After Liam Ridgewell was sent off for kicking Alan Gordon, Jose Villarreal caped off the scoring with a well placed free kick in the 88th minute. It looks like that the LA Galaxy we remember from last year is starting to hit their stride for 2015. They have done nothing but score goals over the past couple matches, and with Steven Gerrard on the way in, there is no reason to think that trend will stop. 

Portland, however, played their worst game of the season, by far. They didn't even get off the bus for this one. Right after I praise their stellar defensive record, they go and give up five in a huge game. Here's hoping they can turn it around before the rivalry clash against the shot handed Sounders on Sunday.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Women's World Cup Day 14: Japan completes the quarterfinals

Japan 2-1
Japan has had a thing this tournament where they completely dominate a team in every aspect except the final score. This was another one of those games. Possession may have been even. but for the entire first half, Japan dominated the Dutch in ways that made their nearly split time time the ball seem useless. Saori Yarioshi put Japan in front in the tenth minute, and after that Japan was content holding on to the ball and frustrating the Dutch while they chased the ball around the yard. The second goal didn't come until the 78th minute, and it was a real beauty. It was a combination of wonderful team passing, intelligence both with and without the ball, and and perfectly placed shot that combined to score the goal of the tournament so far. The Netherlands pulled one back in stoppage time, but it was too little too late.

Japan are subtly dominating teams in a way that makes one think there is no way they lose to anyone except Germany. The only team sort of standing in the way of them and the final is England, and I doubt they will be much of a threat to the defending champions.

The quarterfinals are now set. Almost everything played out as we expected in the  round of 16. Brazil falling to Australia wa the big upset, England over Norway was a slight surprise. Other than that, it was business as usual.

Friday
Germany vs. France 4pm in Montreal
China vs. United States- 7:30pm in Ottawa

Saturday
Australia vs. Japan- 4pm in Edmonton
England vs. Canada- 7:30pm in Vancouver

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Women's World Cup Day 13: USWNT takes losses as it defeats Colombia

Norway 1-2 England
England gets their first group stage win in the history of their women's team with the help of a real banger in the 76th minute from Lucy Bronze. Norway had taken the lead in the 54th when Solveig Gulbrandsen headed home a corner from an awkward angle. The lead would only last until the 61st minute. England got their equalizer from Steph Houghton, who also scored by getting her head to a corner. England is really taking advantage of their failure to win their group. They were blessed with a favorable draw into the quarterfinals and, since Brazil fell, even into the semis. They take on Canada next, and, if they win, either Japan, Netherlands, or Australia in the semifinals. Although Japan has the inside track, I am officially calling England a possibility to play in the final.

USA 2-0 Colombia
The USA still looked like they were having trouble on the attack for the first half. The link up between the midfield and forwards was just not there, again. The Colombian defense was frustrating any attempt to get forward and create a chance. The USA took a blow in the opening 45 minutes when both Megan Rapinoe and Lauren Holiday were both shown questionable yellow cards. It was the second of the tournament for both of them and they will each miss Friday's quarterfinal against China.

After halftime, they were able to use their speed to get to wide positions and create opportunities. Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan linked up on a long ball in the opening minute of the half that drew a penalty and straight red against Colombia's keeper Catalina Perez. Abby Wambach missed the PK, but Colombia was forced to play a woman down, which led to the USA getting a couple of goals.

Alex Morgan scored the first with a powerful shot through the backup keeper Stefany Castano. It was her first goal of this World Cup. In the 65th minute, Rapinoe earned another penalty that Carli Lloyd scored on to finish the 2-0 score.

We are yet to see what we all know the USWNT is capable of, and I am starting to wonder if it will ever show up. They won't need their best game to beat China, even without Holiday and Rapinoe, who have been the two best midfield players for the USA. However, it will take more than their best to beat Germany or France. We keep hearing how they are "yet to reach their peak" and that they are "improving with every match," but I just don't see it. The same things we complained about in the opener against Australia are still being talked about after the round of 16. I feel like I will write the same things after the quarterfinal, and again after a defeat against Germany or France in the semifinal. The USA are a great team, but I don't see them as great enough to win the World Cup this year.

Tonight's Match
Only one match tonight closes out the round of 16. Defending champions Japan take on the Netherlands. The winner moves on to play Australia. Japan is the best team left on this side of the bracket now that Brazil are gone, and they have to be considered the favorites to make the final. I like them to win 2-0 here against the Dutch.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Sunday MLS: United extends Eastern lead,

DC United 2-1 New England Revolution
Charlie Davies scored his seventh goal of the season to start off the battle of the East's top two teams. Davies tapped in a low cross from Lee Nguyen, who may have been offside before the cross. Nevertheless, it was 1-0 to the visitors after only ten minutes. DC United spent the half booming in shots from long range, but none really threatened to go in. New England got another chance on the counter towards the end of the half, but Davies's header went high and wide,

Chris Rolfe leveled for United by volleying home a Fabian Espindola cross in the 70th minute. United used that boost in momentum to pressure hard for the next several minutes. They won free kciks, earned corners, and really took the game to the Revs as much as they could. They were rewarded for their attacking efforts in the 81st minute Steve Neumann tripped Miguel Aguilar on the very edge of the box and Rolfe stepped up to the spot to nab is second of the match.

United extends their lead at the top of the East to seven points over New England. While the West is a real log jam up top, DC United is starting to run away with the other half of the standings.

Real Salt Lake 2-1 Sporting Kansas City
The teams were even heading into the break. Sebastian Jaime put RSL in front at the quarter hour mark by heading home a free kick from Javier Morales. At the half hour, Dom Dwyer collected a perfect through pass from Benny Feilhaber to level the score at one. It stayed that way until the final minute of second half stoppage time. Olmes Garcia took a shot that took a fortuitous bounce into the goal to give Real Salt Lake all three points in thrilling fashion. RSL uses the win to creep forward towards the final playoff spot in the West. They are only two points behind Dallas for sixth.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Women's World Cup Day 12: Aussies upset Brazil, France rolls, hosts advance

Brazil 0-1 Australia
Australia gets a late goal from substitute Kyah Simon to upset Brazil, who had not allowed a goal in the group stage. Chances were few and far between for the first hour, then both sides traded blows until the Simon finish. After a tussle for the ball in midfield, Australia came away with the ball and Lisa De Vanna got free down the right flank. Her original shot was saved, but Simon was in the right place at the right time to bury the rebound and send Australia to the quarterfinals. They will face the winner of Tuesday's Netherlands-Japan match.

France 3-0 Korea
France left little to doubt in this one as they pounced on Korea nice and early. Marie-Laure Delie and Elodie Thomis both scored for Les Bleues before ten minutes had expired. Things slowed down a bit after the opening salvo, but it was still all France, all the time. Korea's keeper, Jung Mi-Kim took a beating in the first half. First, around the 17 minute mark she took an elbow from her own defender. Then, right before the halftime whistle, she was part of a head to head clash with Fracne's Wendie Renard. Somehow, she was healthy enough to return for the second half.

Her presence didn't help. Delie bagged her second goal of the game after a nice run and pass from Eugenie Le Sommer minutes after the start of the second half. The rout means they move on to take on Germany, who seem invincible, in the quarterfinals. It will be number one in the world against number three in the world, so make sure to tune it. It should be a dandy.

Canada 0-0 Switzerland
There were no goals in the first half, but Switzerland certainly looked more threatening. They were breaking down Canada's defense with wide attacks that the Canadian full backs were not exactly fast enough to handle. Switzerland may have had the better moves up front, but they still only managed to take two shots. Canada didn't do any better when they had they ball, the only took one.

The second half started off much like the first, only there was one major difference. In the 52nd minute, Canada was pressuring and got a few back to back crosses into the Swiss box. Christine Sinclair got on the end of one of them, laid it off for Josee Belanger, who blasted a low shot inside the far post to put Canada up 1-0. Despite plenty of Swiss attacks, Canada withstood each one and took their lone goal to the quarterfinal. They will face either Norway or England  in the next round.

Tomorrow's Matches
The round of 16 continues with a pair of matches, including the USWNT getting back in action. But first, Norway takes on England at 5pm. Norway is the only team to have put up a fight against Germany so far, so I like them over a questionable England team. I say 2-0 to Norway.

The USA kicks off at 8pm against a tricky Colombian team. The USA has not allowed a goal since the first half of their first match against Australia, but still are having trouble scoring goals. The big question heading in will be how the USA forwards lineup. Will it be Abby Wambach and Alex Morgan? Will Chrsiten Press get involved? We will just have to wait and see.

Colombia will need a herculean effort similar to what they did to take down France in teh group stage in order to win this one. I say the USA wins it 2-0.

Women's World Cup Day 11: Germany makes a statement

Germany 4-1 Sweden
Germany showed the world how good they really are today with an emphatic win against a pretty good Sweden team. They lit up the fifth ranked team in the world for four goals, when the USA (ranked #2 behind Germany) couldn't put one across against them. Anja Mittag scored the first in the 24th minute. Then Celia Sasic converted a penalty in 36th. In the second half, it was more of the same German dominance. Sasic scored again in the 78th minute before Sweden got one from Linda Sembrant. Dzsenifer Marozsan made it four for Germany with only two minutes left in the 90.

Germany has proven time and time again that they are a force to be reckoned with in the World Cup. After they took out Sweden so definitively, I don't think much will stop them from winning the whole darn thing. In the quarterfinal, they face the winner of today's France-South Korea showdown.

China 1-0 Cameroon
Shanshan Wang scored with a close range volley in the 12 minute and that was all they needed to carry this one over Cameroon. Cameroon fought hard, but was unable to penetrate China's dedicated defending. The Chinese advance to meet the winner of USA-Colombia on Monday night.

Today's Matches
The round of 16 rolls on with three matches this afternoon. First up at 1pm, Brazil takes on Australia. The Aussies are out of the frying pan of Group D and into the fire of a knockout round matchup against Brazil. Brazil are yet to allow a goal in the tournament, but I expect that to change here. They still win though, but by a 2-1 score.

Second on the list is a 4pm kickoff between France and Korea. France was less than impressive for most of the group stage. They barely beat England and lost to Colombia before hammering Mexico in the final game. I like them to take down defensive minded Korea, but it will be a struggle. I say they only win 1-0.

Finally, the 7:30 kickoff is between the Canadian hosts and Switzerland. Canada has had trouble scoring so far, so I think they will have to fight to win this one. They will get it done, though, with a 1-0 win.

It Happened in America: Galaxy throttle Union, Quakes down Sounders on the road

Seattle Sounders 0-2 San Jose Earthquakes
Seattle took a beating in their US Open Cup match midweek against Portland. They lost Obafemi Martins to a chest injury. They lost Clint Demspey for three games (and afterwards they will be without him because of his USMNT commitments in the Gold Cup) because of a fantastic tirade during extra time. It showed that they were missing their two top goal scorers tongiht as they get blanked at home by the Quakes. Sanna Nyassi and Matias-Perez Garcia did the damage for San Jose. Seattle is still in first out west, but Vancouver is now level on points.

Toronto FC 0-2 New York City
NYC continues to find their stride in the days leading up towards Frank Lampard joining them. Their current superstar, David Villa, scored twice in this one. The first came in the eighth minute on a connection that almost looked like a pass too many. Villa had to fight through some Red defenders in order to receive the pass that led to the easy tap in. The second goal came on a penalty just before the hour mark. City is now part of a four way tie for fifth place in the East.

New York Red Bulls 1-2 Vancouver Whitecaps
The Red Bulls are also involved in that fifth place tie after this loss. They got off to a rather poor start in this one as Sacha Kljestan was sent off in the 11th minute for an uncalled for tripping of Kendall Watson. Kekuta Manneh would score four minutes later for the Whitecaps. It went to 2-0 in the 77th minute with a goal by Kianz Froese. Ten-man New York would score one in the 82nd minute as part of a faux comeback attempt. The Vancouver win lifts them to a tie for first in the West with Seattle. 

Montreal Impact 2-0 Orlando City
Another win against a Playoff contender for Montreal as their strong season continues. Donny Toia scored in the 36th minute for the Impact and they put it away three minutes into stoppage time with a goal by Dominic Oduro. Montreal is above the red line in fifth as the leaders in the four way tie for the last two playoff spots in the east. Orlando is three points ahead of that mess in third.

LA Galaxy 5-1 Philadelphia Union
Galaxy were scoring early and often in this one on their way to a much expected win against the Union. Baggio Husidic scored the first one in the 23rd minute. The second came 12 minutes later when Gyasi Zardes played a perfect low cross for Juninho, who was waiting near the penalty spot to boot it home. After the half, there was a stretch of four minutes with three goals scored. First it was Zardes for LA, then CJ Sapong for Philly, and finally Stefan Ishazaki for LA again. All three were between the 56th and 59th minutes. Sebastian Lletget added LA's fifth goal in the 65th. It was the statement game the Galaxy needed after a recent run of bad results. They even on points with Portland for the third spot in the West. Those two meet up Wednesday night.

Portland Timbers 2-0 Houston Dynamo
Portland was on the front foot for most of the first half, but it was Houston with the first real chance. They had a goal taken away from them in the 15th minute for a foul drawn by Jorge Villafana. Portland would capitalize off their pressure with a Maxi Urruti header off a free kick in the 34th minute. The third goal of the season for the Argentine was delivered by a Villafana free kick. Gaston Fernandez put the second one in from the spot in the 61st minute. Portland is absolutely on fire right now. They have won a franchise record four straight MLS games and five in a row across all competitions. They have jumped all the way to third in the West with 25 points, four back of first place Seattle and Vancouver.

Let's talk about Portland's defensive record here for a minute. They earn another clean sheet here against Houston and they are second in MLS in goals allowed with 14 through 16 matches. That is behind only Colorado's 13. They have seven clean sheets and have allowed more than one goal only four times. When you are giving up less than a goal per game, you are pretty hard to beat, and that bodes pretty well for a Timbers team getting their best player, Diego Valeri, back into form.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Friday Night MLS: Dallas and Colorado boot out a draw

Colorado Rapids 1-1 FC Dallas
Both teams came into Dick's Sporting Goods Park hoping to turn around a recent run of bad form and neither side got all they were looking for. This game took about 70 minutes to wake up. Fabian Castillo took what looked to be a 0-0 draw and made it slightly more interesting. It was a wonderful curling shot from the corner of the penalty area that Clint Irwin did get a palm to, but he failed to tip it off the target and it went in for the first goal of the game.

From this point it looked like Dallas would hang on to earn three points, but Colorado had other ideas. Dillon Serna connected on a cross from Drew Moore to bounce home the equalizer in the 88th minute.

The draw keeps FC Dallas lagging behind the Western leaders in fourth place. The have 23 points, five off of first place Seattle, Colorado's forgettable season continues as they have 15 points from as many matches, which is good for last place in the West.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Women's World Cup Day 10: Spanish heartbreak, French domination

England 2-1 Colombia
England scored twice in the first half, including a penalty on a hand ball in the box. They then held off a furious Colombian rally as the clock wound down. Colombia scored in the final minute to get within a goal, but that was all they got. Both sides advance regardless. England, as the second place finisher, gets Norway in the next round while Colombia, advancing as one of the better third place teams, will face the USA.

Mexico 0-5 France
I figured France would come out with guns blazing after their shock defeat to Colombia. I didn;t think they would rock Mexico this hard, but good on them. Amadine Henry drilled home a goal of the tournament nominee to finish off the rout in the 80th minute. The big win means France means they win Group F over England, which sets them up for a probable date with Germany in the quarterfinals. Winning Group F may have been a curse in disguise.

Costa Rica 0-1 Brazil
Costa Rica needed at least a point to really have a shot at advancing, but that was probably too much to ask against Brazil. They held out for quite a while though. It wasn't until the 83rd minute that Raquel Fernandes scored for Brazil to eliminate Las Ticas. Brazil may not score much, but their defensive record speaks for itself. They are yet to allow a goal in the tournament and should be a tough foe going forward in the knockout rounds.

Korea 2-1 Spain
Spain stood to go on to the knockout rounds at halftime after Veonica Boquette put them ahead in the 29th minue. Korea levelled in the 53rd. Spain was still alive until the 78th minute when an attempted cross from Sooyun Kim was awry in just the right way for Korea. The off target cross floated right into the net to give Korea a 2-1 lead, which would end up the final score. Korea moves on with the win to face France in the round of 16.

Round of 16 Matches
Here is the full list of Round of 16 games, previews coming soon.

June 20
4:00- Germany vs. Sweden
7:30- China vs. Cameroon

June 21
1:00- Brazil vs. Australia
4:00- France vs. Korea
7:30- Canada vs. Switzerland

June 22
5:00- Norway vs. England
8:00- USA vs. Colombia

June 23
10:00- Japan vs. Netherlands

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Portland and Seattle gave us a US Open Cup match to remember

Last night was the start of the fourth round of the US Open Cup. This is the round where MLS gets involved with the action. This time around we got an early round treat as Portland Timbers travelled up to Washington to take on their arch rival Seattle Sounders. And boy were we treated.

Seattle plays their early US Open Cup matches at Starfire Stadium, a glorified high school stadium that serves as the Sounders' training facility and the home of their USL franchise. It is a more narrow pitch that creates a sort of uglier game in front of a smaller crowd reminiscent of the Sounders' and Timbers' lower tier days. It may seem odd that Seattle doesn't just keep the games at their normal higher capacity Century Link Field, but they are unbeaten in the Open Cup at that little venue so why bother changing a winning formula. A crowd of some 4,000 fans was gathered to witness one of the strangest and most exciting cup matches one will ever see.

The first half was pretty standard. Both teams were feeling out the awkward playing surface and nobody created any real chances. The first goal came from Diego Valeri connecting on a cross in the 48th minute. Seattle then began to slaughter the Portland goal with chances. The only thing keeping the Timbers ahead was several wonderful saves by Adam Kwarasey.

Things got fun starting in the 69th minute when Brad Evans was send off for a second yellow card. As a reaction, they used their final sub to bring in Tyrone Mears. Moments later, ten man Seattle equalized with Obafemi Martins booting home a corner.

Ten man Seattle would soon become nine man Seattle as Martins left the game with a nasty injury. Nobody scored in the rest of the second half and extra time loomed.

Portland used their two man advantage to control possession and got their reward at the 100 minute mark when Rodney Wallace banged home a rebound from close range.

Then the fireworks went off.

In the 113th minute, as Portland was mounting another attack, Michael Azira stole the ball from Maxi Urruti and threw an elbow his way in the process. Azira was sent off the the (probably unintentional) violence. That sent the Sounders and their fans into a fury. During the ruckus, Clint Dempsey must have used the magic word as he was shown straight red. Suddenly, nine man Seattle became seven man Seattle, creating some of the weirdest moments you had ever seen,

Full strength Portland was going up against six outfield players and a goalie for seven full minutes. Amidst a shower of boos, middle fingers, and actual garbage coming from the stands, Portland scored a third goal when Urruti embarrassed Troy Perkins in the Seattle goal with a low shot beyond the near post. Four minutes later, the final whistle blew and the officials had to be escorted off by police to keep them safe from the Seattle mob.

We got a taste of everything last night in the Seattle suburbs. By everything I really mean stuff you never see. First, a ten man team first coming back to score a huge tying goal. Then they used their final sub before losing another player to injury. Then they came completely unhinged in a span of a few minutes after falling behind in extra time and end up playing four guys down. All of this against their arch rival. Naturally, Timbers fans were living a dream. It truly was a sight to behold.

Should make for a fun rematch at Providence Park in two weeks.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Women's World Cup Day 9: USWNT wins the group of death

Ecuador 0-1 Japan
Japan find themselves on top after only five minutes with a goal from Yuki Ogimi and it looked like another smackdown against Ecuador in the waiting. But, that one goal was it. Despite launching 35 crosses, taking 20 shots, and winning nine corners, one goal was all Japan mustered. Japan has yet to play a strong opponent, so we really don't know what they are truly made of. We do know that goals have been hard to find against these weaker teams, so we can only imagine what happens when they face someone with true talent. They won all the matches to win the group, but their knockout round run might not be a long one if they don't turn it up.

Switzerland 1-2 Cameroon
I severely misjudged Cameron entering this tournament. I thought that they would sit with the likes of Thailand, Ivory Coast, and Ecuador as newcomers that would just be happy to show up. Instead they get a comeback win in the final match of the group stage to head to the round of 16 through automatic qualification.

After a goal for Switzerland from Ana Maria Crnogorcevic in the 24th minute, Cameroon fought back with second half goals from Gabrielle Onguene in the 47th and Madeleine Ngoni Mani to take all three points.

Cameroon takes second in the group with six points and moves along to face China in the round of 16. Switzerland can still move on with their +7 goal difference as one if the top four third place teams.

Australia 1-1 Sweden
Australia got themselves on top early on in this one. Lisa De Vanna scored off a wonderful long pass just after the clock passed 4:00. About ten minutes later, Sweden got their equalizer from Sofie Jakobsson with a low bouncing shot from outside the penalty area. Australia were the better team going forward. They just  couldn't convert. The draw was okay for them, however. It was enough to see them into second place to qualify for the knockout rounds. Sweden will need some help from tomorrow's games in order to advance.

Nigeria 0-1 United States
This was another match where the USA struggled to score against an inferior opponent. They shook up the starting lineup a bit and didn't exactly get different results. Alex Morgan got her first start of the World Cup and played well. She had two great chances that were only thwarted by Precious Dede in Nigeria's goal. She was subbed out after about an hour for Sydney Leroux who really didn't have a chance to showcase her abilities. Abby Wambach started again and scored the USA's lone goal with a flying kick off a corner just before the halftime whistle. She started to wear down as the match went on. Tobin heath started out wide and looked somewhat intimidated for much of the game.

Overall, it seems that the USA is having difficulty linking up in their attack. It doesn't seem to matter which forward combination they use, none of them seem to be able to finish off an attack. Their final pass is never there. Their shots are off. The entire offense looks out of sync. Abby Wambach will blame the artificial turf, as she always does, but I won't buy that. Other teams have had no trouble scoring on the carpet, so why should the USA use that as an excuse?

The best sign for the USA has been their stout defense. Aside from the opening half hour or so against Australia, they back line has been stellar. There were a couple of times tonight where Nigeria was close to getting behind the defense, but someone, usually Julie Johnson, was always scurrying back to make a play. Johnston has probably been the USA's best player in the World Cup so far. Without her timely interventions on defense, the USA probably loses to Sweden and Nigeria makes this match a lot more interesting.

Regardless of the sub-par play, the USA managed to win the group of death, as they should have. The expectation was that they would win every match they play. They may have fallen short of that, but they got the end result right. Now, they await tomorrow's results to see who they will take on in the round of 16. Nigeria, is eliminated from the World Cup with the loss.

Tomorrow's Matches
The final day of group play gives us some intriguing matches. The action gets started at 4pm. First off it's England against Colombia. Colombia is rising high after their upset of France, so England should be a little worried. A win for Las Cafeteras makes them an unlikely qualifier for the round of 16. I say they fail to win, but squeak out a 1-1 draw.

The other late afternoon match is France against Mexico. France will have some recovering to do after their shocking defeat against Colombia. I expect them to handle Mexico by a 2-0 score.

At 7pm, we get Brazil and Costa Rica. Brazil has already won the group, so they have nothing to play for. Even with their apathy, and Costa Rica's need of a result, I don't expect Las Ticas to put up much of a fight. I say Brazil wins 2-0.

Finally, Spain takes on South Korea with both sides needing a win to stay alive. I like the draw here as well as neither side has done much to convince me they can win a game. I'll say a final of 1-1.

Women's World Cup Day 8: Groups A and B conclude

Ivory Coast 1-3 Norway
As expected, Norway scored early. After Ivory Coast had a decent half chance, Norway's Ada Hegerberg put them ahead with a tough angle shot in the sixth minute. Just when it looked like it would be a blowout, Ivory Coast kept coming up with somewhat threatening attacks. It remained 1-0 through halftime. It took Norway until the 62nd to get their second goal from Hegerberg. Solveig Gulbradsen added the third five minutes later. When it was already over, Koko N'Guessan scored a candidate for goal of the tournament to make it 3-1. She launched a bullet from outside the box that left Norway's Silje Vesterbekkmo helpless in goal.

In general, I was sort of impressed with the effort put forth by Ivory Coast here. They were clear underdogs and truly went down fighting. It wasn't enough in the end, but it could be a building block for the future. While they are eliminated, Norway finishes second in Group B and advances to the knockout rounds.

Thailand 0-4 Germany
Germany took longer to get their first goal than Norway did, but they did score more. The first was a corner headed in by Melanie Leupolz in the 24th minute. Much like their underdog counterparts in the other Group B match, Thailand put up quite the fight. They didn't attack as much as Ivory Coast did, but there were a few chances. They never really did stand a chance against the best team in the world, They did hold Germany off until the 56th minute when Linda Petermann scored the first of her two goals in a three minute span. Sara Dabritz added the fourth in the 73rd minute.

Germany wins Group B on goal difference over Norway. Thailand, meanwhile, awaits the results of the rest of the group stage matches. They have a chance to advance as one of the four best third place teams. The three points they earned over Ivory Coast will help, but their -7 goal difference could be their undoing.

China 2-2 New Zealand
Chain earns a draw with two goals from Shanshan Wang between New Zealand goals from Rebekah Stott and Hannah Wilkinson. The Stott goal was off a corner in the 28th minute and it was the first goal in World Cup history for the Football Ferns. Things got really chippy between the managers as time wound down. China's Hao Wei was even ejected, ultimately for interfering with a New Zealand player taking a throw in, but he was being sort of a snot for most of the second half. He left the pitch with a taunt at the New Zealand bench.

Regardless of the tomfoolery, China advances to the round of 16 on a goals scored tiebreaker of the Netherlands. New Zealand is eliminated with only two points.

Netherlands 1-1 Canada
All Canada needed was a point to secure first place in Group A, and they got it. Ashley Lawrence scored Canada's first run of play goal of the tournament nine minutes in. Their lead would last for almost the duration of the match. The Dutch didn't equalize until the 876th minute when they created a midfield turnover and took it all the way for the score. Kristen Van De Ven was the finisher.

The draw is enough for Canada to win the group with five points. The Netherlands fall below China on goals scored, but they sit in a good spot to advance as one of the better third place teams with four points.

Tuesday's Matches
Two more groups conclude Thursday, beginning with Group C. Japan, who is already through to the group stage, gets to beat up on Ecuador. They should win big. I'll throw out a 6-0 score. At the same time, Switzerland and Cameroon battle with second place on the line. Both teams sit with three points, so the winner earns automatic qualification and the loser awaits to the landing point of other third place teams. It should be close, but I think the Swiss will emerge victorious by a 2-1 score. Cameroon should advance due to their favorable goal difference, though. Both matches kick off at 5pm.

Group D comes to a close with a pair of matches kicking off at 8pm. Australia and Sweden are fighting for second place against each other. Both have looked pretty strong at times, but I give the slight nod to the Swedes here. I think they should squeak by with a 2-1 win. Australia will have to wait and see if they move on.

Finally, the USA goes for first place in Group D against Nigeria. Nigeria need a win to have any hope of advancing, so expect them to give the American ladies quite a fight, The USA should have what it takes to see them off though, I call for them to win 2-0. They need to be careful to avoid a draw. Should they stay level with Nigeria and Australia take down Sweden, the USA will fall to second place and have a date with the highly talented Brazil in the round of 16.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Sunday Night Football: Kaka goal is enough to bury DC United

Orlando City 1-0 DC United
It took DC United quite some time to get into this match. For around the guest hour, and seventh times after the hour mark, it looked like they were just mailing it in.

The Orlando City goal came when Pedro Ribeiro earned a penalty just before the Friday half hour was up. Kaka's shot was saved by Bill Hamid, but the rebound returned right back to the Brazilian for an easy header at an open net.

United did have a couple chances, but none that really made you think they were about to score. The moment that really made me question their effort came early in the second half. Orlando City won a corner and they took it short to the top of the box, right between two half hearted United defenders. Eric Avila was the recipient of the ball and he got a good shot away, but it was high and wide of the target. It just looked like DC United was very lazy in defending at that moment, and others throughout the match.

We saw some MLS history tonight too. For the first time in the league's 20 year history, we saw the use of "hydration breaks" at the 30 and 75 minute marks. These breaks can last up to three minutes when it's really hot out to allow the players to get some water during the match.

The time spent drinking is supposed to be added on in the form of stoppage time, but I'm not convinced the refs accounted enough for it this time around. It's not like DC United threatened much at the end of the game, so I don't think it mattered today, but one day it could affect the result. It's one if those things that will take some work to get right, but it's a great idea for player safety.

Anyway, Kaka's penalty rebound was enough to give the Lions their 1-0 win. They stay in third and climb to within five points of United in first. United fails to stretch their lead at the top. They are four points ahead of New England, who they face next Sunday evening.

It Happened in America: NYC now unbeaten in three, Sounders roll over Dallas

New York City 3-1 Montreal Impact
New York City controlled the first half of the match with nearly two thirds of the ball and eight shots to Montreal's four. David Villa completed a wonderful passing play in the box to give NYCFC the lead in the 31st minute. As Montreal was getting into the swing of things in the second half, Mix Diskerud doubled New York's lead in the 76th minute. The chance was created by the freshly introduced substitute Kwadwo Poku creating a turnover as Montreal tried to clear their own penalty area. The Impact did pull one back just two minutes from time. Wandrille Lefevre scored his first career MLS goal with a well placed header to cut the New York lead in half. It was all for naught, however, as just 15 seconds before the 90 minutes expired, Poku scored his first career goal after a nice counter attack led by David Villa. Good work by the referee for allowing play to continue despite Ned Gravaboy getting conked in the head near midfield.

New York City has put together a nice little run ahead of Frank Lampard's arrival. They have now put together three straight unbeaten matches. They still sit in last place in the East, however.

Columbus Crew 1-1 LA Galaxy
This one started off in a thunderstorm delay that had the teams' Twitter accounts looking for ways to kill time before kickoff. Once it got started, a whole two hours late. the Galaxy didn't want too long before opening the scoring. Sebastian Lletget scored from close range in the 14th minute of play. Both sides traded chances for the remainder of the half, although Galaxy were more threatening. In the 41st minute, Robbie Rogers was through on goal down the left flank, but curled his shot far wide after a nice move to evade the lonely Crew defense. The equalizer came from Federico Higuain with a five-hole finish in the 66th minute.

New England Revolution 2-0 Chicago Fire
After sort of a drab first half, the Revs came out firing after the break. Diego Fagundez and Charlie Davies each scored in the first five minutes of the second frame to give the Revs a 2-0 lead. The second half was a back and forth affair, particularly as time wound down. New England had chances on set pieces while Chicago was threatening on the counter. None of the attacks bore any fruit.

New England closes the gap for first in the East to four points back of DC United, who the play next Sunday on ESPN 2.

Seattle Sounders 3-0 FC Dallas
Here's an example of a game where one team did well with possession and the other didn't. Both teams had chances in the first half and both keepers made some nice saves to keep it 0-0 after 45 minutes. Lamar Neagle broke the deadlock in the 55th minute by capitalizing of Dallas turning the ball over in a dangerous spot. Obafemi Martins finished from inside the six yard box in the 73rd and Leonardo Gonzalez added the third in stoppage time. Seattle is now three points clear at the top of the West. They need to rack up all the points they can now before they lose Clint Dempsey to the Gold Cup in a few weeks.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Women's World Cup Day 7: Colombia shocks France in biggest upset in women's soccer history

France 0-2 Colombia
Yes, you read that right. Colombia, ranked 28th in the world, dropped third ranked France by two goals. Saying they stole the game might be an understatement. France controlled 60% of the ball and took 21 shots overall while Las Cafeteras only took three. The eye test was more than enough to determine the French ladies were the better side. Despite being completely outplayed, Colombia went in front in the 19th minute when Lady Andrade was on the end of a perfect pass from Yoreli Rincon for an easy tap in.

France continued to pour on the pressure into the second half, but Colombia stayed strong in their own end. They should have conceded a penalty in the 67th minute when Daniela Monotya swatted at the ball in the box. The referee waved away France's valid protests. Just another black mark on what has been some shady officiating in this World Cup.

In second half stoppage time, Colombia put it away with a goal from Catalina Usme off a silly turnover from French keeper Sarah Bouhaddi.

Brazil 1-0 Spain
Andressa Alves (who was the only player on the Brazilian roster who goes by more than one name) gave a persistent effort in the 44th minute to score the only goal. The win secures first place in Group E and a spot in the knockout rounds for Brazil. It leaves Spain in need of some help if they want to advance.

England 2-1 Mexico
What a frantic match. The teams combined for 43 shots and 17 on target. Even with all the shooting, all the scoring came in the final 20 minutes. In the 71st, Francesca Kirby used some fancy footwork to put England up 1-0. Eleven minutes later, it was a cross from Alex Greenwood finding the head of Karen Carney to make it 2-0. Mexico got one back from Fabiola Ibarra tapping home a rebound in the first minute of stoppage time, but that would be it.

The France upset and England getting a win makes Group F very, very interesting. Colombia, of all sides, are currently on top with four points. England and France are next with three each, and Mexico is bringing up the rear with one. All four are still able to get one of the top two spots for automatic advancement. It should be a very fun conclusion to the group on Wednesday.

South Korea 2-2 Costa Rica
I thought both sides would defend so well that there would be no scoring, boy was I wrong. Three of goals came in a span of eight minutes in the first half. Costa Rica's Melissa Herrera got it started in the 17th. South Korea would get goals from So-Yun Ji off a penalty in the 21st and Gaeul Jeon in the 25th to make it 2-1 to Korea at halftime. That score would last the almost duration of the second half. It wasn't until the 89th minute that Costa Rica drew equal with a Karla Villalobos goal.

The draw creates an interesting Group E table. Brazil are the group winners with their six points. Costa Rica sits in second with two and Spain and Korea find themselves tied at one. Costa Rica plays a Brazil team with nothing left to win needing all three points to safely earn the second spot. Spain and Korea will be gung ho to beat each other, as a single point for either team probably means their World Cup is over. Two points will not be enough to secure one of the top four third place finishes for a spot in the round of 16.

Monday's Matches
After another day off, the final stage of group play kicks off on Monday at 4pm. Group B concludes first as Germany faces Thailand while Ivory Coast takes on Norway. Group supremacy is at stake here as Germany and Norway are even at four points each. They should both win handily, but Norway has a six goal split in goal difference to make up in order to catch Germany. I don't think they will get there. I say Germany 6-0 Thailand and Norway 4-0 Ivory Coast.

At 7pm, Group A comes to a close as our Canadian hosts look to take the top spot in the group with a win over the Netherlands. Canada leads the group with four points, a point ahead of both the Dutch and China. Canada has had trouble scoring so far, and I think that will continue. They can hold the Netherlands off the board as well though, so I say a 0-0 draw.

A point will not be good enough for Canada to win the group on their own. They need a draw or New Zealand win over China in the other match. It's not an impossible task for the Football Ferns, but it is a tough one. I like China to win a low scoring game 1-0 to take the top spot in Group A.

Women's World Cup Day 6: Swiss hammer Ecuador, USA and Sweden stay scoreless

Australia 2-0 Nigeria
Nigeria was able to hang with the Aussies for a while, but their defense betrayed them a couple times, leading to the two goals y Kyah Simon. Simon's first came after she received a pass from Lisa De Vanna, who just made a nice run through the Nigerian defense. Nigeria's defending looked desperate as De Vanna rampaged through half the team before laying off at the last second to Simon. The second of the match was a result of Nigeria trying to breakout of their own penalty area too quickly. They thought they had possession and were about to take off when Australia stole it back and caught the defense out of possession. The forward ball fell to Simon for the easy goal and Australia had their 2-0 win.

Australia is up to three points and finds themselves in a fantastic spot to earn a spot in the knockout rounds. A point against Sweden should be enough to secure the second spot in Group D.

Switzerland 10-1  Ecuador
Switzerland overcame their lack of ability to finish early to hang ten on the Ecuador rec-league all stars. It's really saying something that the first Swiss goal here didn't come until the 24th minute and it was an awful own goal against Ecuador. Eight normal goals and one more own goal later and Switzerland had their easy win. On the plus side for Ecuador, Angie Ponce scored their first ever goal in the World Cup by converting a PK in the 64th minute.

United States 0-0 Sweden
Entering the tournament, the USA boasted loads of highly skilled attacking depth. They have four or five forwards that are capable of starting for any national team in the world. In last night's match against Sweden, all of them were shut down. Sweden's defense had a rough go against Nigeria, but they really cleaned up their act against the number two ranked team in the world.

Despite plenty of ability to work the ball in wide positions, mostly with Megan Rapinoe, the USA was unable to find the final ball into one of their many talented strikers to break the deadlock.

On the other end, one could say they were luck not to have conceded a goal or two. Just after 20 minutes went by, Sydney Leroux got away with blocking a shot with an outstretched elbow that should have been called a penalty. Sweden's counter attack was dangerous a couple of times in the second half, including a two on one that was foiled only by poor passing. Sweden never even registered a shot on goal.

Sweden was doing it's best to outrun the USA in the counter and were only stopped by strong defensive midfield play by Lauren Holiday and the timely interventions of Julie Johnston. They defensive play of the match came in the 77th minute when Sweden almost scored off a corner. A loping ball led to a looping shot that was saved only by the head of Meghan Klingenberg and the crossbar.

It was a solid performance at the back for the USWNT, but offensively they still leave a lot to be desired. The chances were there for the taking, but they were never able to actually reach out and grab them. Sweden was just too strong in the middle of the pitch for the USA to swing in their wide crosses to the heads of either Leroux, Christian Press, or Alex Morgan once she came on as a sub.

They are on top of the group with four points, and should make it to the round of 16 regardless of that happens against Nigeria, but the final match of the group most certainly will count for something. A win means they take the all important top spot in the group. A draw could mean they fall to second place if Australia beats Sweden. An unlikely loss can see them drop down to third if they lose by enough.

Japan 0-0 Cameroon
Japan's pair of goals came before 20 minutes had expired. First it was Aya Sameshima in the sixth minute. Then it was Yuika Sugasawa in the 17th. From that point on, Japan just dared Cameroon to score for the rest of the match. Cameroon blasted 20 shots on the Japanese goal with none of them going in until Ajara Nchout scored in the final minute. It wasn't enough as Cameroon couldn't find a second goal to even the points. Japan is through to the knockout rounds and only needs a point against lowly Ecuador to win the group for sure. Just try not to beat them too badly. Meanwhile, Cameroon will face Switzerland with second place on the line. The loser will have to wait for the rest of the third place finishers to come in to learn their fate.

Today's Matches
Four matches close out the second round of group play and it all begins in Moncton at 1pm with France against Colombia. France gritted out a 1-0 victory against England while Colombia salvaged a draw with Mexico. I expect France to get the win here, but it will be another close call as they take it 2-1.

Span and Brazil meet at 4pm in Montreal. I think Brazil has the quality to see of the Spanish rookies by a 2-0 score.

Also at 4pm, this time back in Moncton, England looks to get their first win of this World Cup over Mexico. England looked lethargic at times against France and will look to be a little better against more beatable opposition. They should squeak out a result here. I say 1-0 to England.

Finally, back in Montreal at 7pm, Korea takes on Costa Rica. Costa Rica'a draw against Spain was one of the best matches of the first round. The goalkeeping of Las Ticas, in particular, was impressive. Both teams are defend first, score later outfits, so I am calling for a 0-0 draw.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Women's World Cup Day 5: Hosts stumble, Thailand cruises

Germany 1-1 Norway
Germany scored nice and early. Anja Mittag got behind Norway's line in the sixth minute and it looked like Germany was off and running. Indeed, for the rest of the first half it looked like the Germans would score a couple more goals. Things sort of flipped over in the second half. Maren Mjelde put Norway level for good just past the hour mark with one of the best free kicks I have ever seen. The bending effort was so perfect, Nadine Angerer didn't even make a move to save it. She simply had no chance.

Norway proves that Germany, can in fact, be held down. I figured they would put up a fight here, but I wasn't expecting them to snag a point for themselves. The two sit level on points at the top of the group, Germany is in front by virtue of their 10-0 smack down of Ivory Coast in the first game. Expect the goals to come flying for both these squads in their final group stage games as they look to unseat the crazy goal differentials at the top of the group.

China 1-0 Netherlands
Instead of giving up late winners, this time China scores one of their own. Lisi Wang latched onto a long pass and slotted it inside the far post in the first minute of stoppage time to give China all three points. The win allows them to take a big step towards advancing to the knockout stages. China sits ahead of them on the head to head result alone. They are tied on points and every tie-breaker.

Ivory Coast 2-3 Thailand
Thailand not only scored their first goal in World Cup history, but they get three of them. Two of the three, however, were earned under dubious circumstances. Ivory Coast went ahead first. Koko N'Guessan scored for the Elephants in the fourth minute. It was the 4' 11" Orathai Srimanee with the moment for Thailand. She got on the end of a nice cross in the 26th minute to level the score at one. That was the one legitimate goal. Srimanee got her second on another good cross, but she looked to have been a little offside when the pass came in. The third Thai goal was even worse. Thanatta Chawong headed the ball in after it fell through four Ivorian defenders and their keeper. That wasn't the shady part though. The pass before the cross was played to a clearly offside Andotsara Maijarern.

Being down three goals didn't stop Ivory Coast from fighting back. Jose Nahi put them within a goal in the 88th minute with a nice run though the flat footed Thai defense. They had a golden chance to earn a point right before the final whistle. In the sixth minute of stoppage time Christine Lohoues got a shot away that clanged off the cross bar. An onrushing N'Guessan thought she could tap in the rebound, but she couldn't quite connect as she fell to the turf in frustration. 

This match could come up big in determining which of the third place teams advances. Three points could be enough for Thailand, if they can avoid losing to Germany by too much.

Canada 0-0 New Zealand
Canada really needs some help scoring goals. They had their chances in this one, but the final ball was just never there. Their captain and best player Chrsitine Sinclair was even having trouble with her shots. She even failed to convert on a clear breakaway. In the end, the hosts were lucky to escape with a point. In the 31st minute, New Zealand earned a clear penalty as Hannah Wilkinson was clearly knocked down in the box by Allysha Chapman. Amber Hearn's PK went straight into the crossbar to make sure things stayed scoreless. Canada still sits on top, and a point against the Netherlands would be enough to see them through, but they really need to start scoring goals if they want to become the first host nation to advance past the quarterfinals since the USA in 1999.

Today's Matches
Groups C and D continue this afternoon and evening with four games. Things start at 5pm in Winnipeg with Australia and Nigeria. Australia was a little salty after their loss to the USA and are looking to rebound against Nigeria, who earned a shocking point against Sweden. I am calling for Australia to win with a vengeance by a 3-1 score.

At 7pm in Vancouver, Switzerland looks to get a win over Ecuador and their rec league players. Ecuador go clowned by Cameroon so I don't expect them to put up much of a fight against a far more skilled Swiss side. I'll say the Swiss win by a lot, 7-0.

Back in Winnipeg at 8pm, the USA gets back at it in what will probably be their toughest group stage match. Sweden did struggle against Nigeria, particularly on defense, so I expect the USA to score a few goals. It will come down to how well they keep the dangerous Swedish attack out of the net. They won't be able to afford the type of defensive breakdowns they experienced early against Australia if they want to win this comfortably. I will call for a USA win, but it will be a little gritty at times and end 3-2.

The nightcap is in Vancouver and it kicks off at 10pm. Japan, who could only muster a single goal against Switzerland, takes on Cameroon who hung six on Ecuador. Japan is a much different animal than the South American also rans, so don't think that Cameroon will explode for more goals. Japan wins a close one hear, 2-1.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Women's World Cup Day 4: Spain wastes chances, Colombia and Mexico even

France 1-0 England
France wins on a wonderful goal from Eugenie Le Sommer in 29th minute. England, despite being a goal down, really struggled to get involved on the attacking end. They only took three total shots for the entire match. In truth, they are lucky it was only 1-0 when all was said and done. France was far and away the better side in every way of measuring. England is a little behind the eight ball here to open the tournament. Thankfully for them, they are quite capable of earning results against Colombia and Mexico.

Spain 1-1  Costa Rica
Spain  went ahead in the 13th minute with a nice turn around shot from Vicky Losada. The lead would last all of 73 seconds before Costa Rica had a nice counter attack that ended in a tap in goal for Raquel Rodriguez. Costa Rica are lucky to escape this with a point though. Spain did nothing but blast shots towards the Costa Rican goal for the entire second half. A combination of poor shots going wide and strong goalkeeping from Dinnia Diaz kept the scores level.

Colombia 1-1 Mexico
Veronica Perez put Mexico ahead in the 36th minute with the aid of the first ever use of goal line technology in the Women's World Cup. She looped in a bending cross from near the corner flag that instead crossed the line despite three Colombian defenders and the goalkeeper trying to keep it out. Colombia would take most of the remainder of the match to level. Daniela Montoya was their hero with a screamer from outside the penalty area. A point for each team here might play a big role in helping both sides advance. The fixtures against England will be the key here, since neither of these teams will beat France.

Brazil 2-0 South Korea
I figured it wouldn't take long for Marta to move all alone atop the all time leading Women's World Cup goalscorers list, and I was right. She put Brazil up 2-0 in the 53rd minute with a confident penalty. Formiga had already put Brazil up 1-0 by pouncing on a poor Korean back pass in the 33rd. Brazil will win this group with ease already, but their goals last night came from silly plays by the Korean defense. The lazy back pass that led to the first goal was bad enough, but the penalty that made it 2-0 was horribly unnecessary. Korea can still grind out results against the Spanish and Costa Rican newbies, but they will have to be a little more responsible in the back if they hope to do so.

Thursday's Matches
Wednesday is an off day for the Women's World Cup and things pick back up Thursday afternoon with Groups A and B in action. At 4pm, a real dandy between Germany and Norway takes place in Ottawa. Both sides are among the best in the world and easily handled their first opponents. I expect Germany, who is the best in the world, to come out ahead, but it could be a dogfight. Let's go with 2-1 in favor of the Germans.

At 6pm in Edmonton, China looks to rebound from their late loss to Canada against the Netherlands. The Dutch were 1-0 winners over New Zealand, but face a bit of a stiffer test with China. I can't separate the two, I'll say 1-1.

At 7pm back in Ottawa, Ivory Coast, who got hammered by Germany, takes on Thailand, who was beat down by Norway. A win from either side here could be a back way into the knockout rounds with three points possibly being enough to see a third place side through. Goal difference will be tough to make up, but you never know. I'll say Ivory Coast rebounds to grind out a 1-0 victory.

Finally, at 9pm in Edmonton, the hosts are back in action against New Zealand. They got a lucky break to beat China and will have to improve a lot if they hope to live up to their potential. I say they grind out another 1-0 win against the Football Ferns.

Women's World Cup Day 3: USWNT prevails, Nigeria gets a big point

Sweden 3-3 Nigeria
A most unfortunate own goal got the storing started for Sweden. In the 21st minute Sweden took a rather non-threatening corner that just bounced wrong for Nigeria. It came up and off the chest of Desire Opranozie and into her own goal. A corner was responsible for giving the Swedes a 2-0 lead as well. Nilla Fischer knocked home a second attempt after the first was cleared off the line.

Nigeria came alive in the second half after they were down a pair. Ngozi Okobi used some talented footwork to coral a cross and blast it in on the half volley in the 50th minute. Three minutes later, Asisat Oshoala put Nigeria on terms by clawing through the Sweden defense to get to a through ball and a break away.

Sweden would not settle for the 2-2 draw, however. Linda Sembrant put them back in front in the 60th minute. Nigeria's final equalizer came late. In the 87th minute, Francisca Ordega caught the Swedish defense flat footed once again and got free for a breakaway goal.

It was a thrilling second half comeback by the Nigerians and a crucial point that could decide their ultimate fate in the group of death. Sweden should look at this as a defeat. It was three points they really should have had. This was supposed to be their easiest match. They have the USA and Australia remaining and both of those should be more of a challenge. The draw make the difference between them crashing out in the group stage or moving on to the round of 16.

Cameroon 6-0 Ecuador
I either severely overestimated Ecuador or severely underestimated Cameroon. I was expecting a fairly high scoring draw, but instead we were given another hammering. This win can likely put Cameroon into the round of 16 as one of the better third place finishers. This could be their only three points of the tournament, but the six goal thrashing gives them a real edge in goal difference, which will likely determine who advances among those third placers.

United States 3-1 Australia
The USA got off to a really shaky start. For pretty much the entire first half, Australia was the better team. They forced Hope Solo into action after only five minutes. Emily Van Egmond got to a lose ball at the top of the box and fired it on goal only to find the diving Solo's hands. Solo was forced to make two more great saves in the first half.

Megan Rapinoe got a lucky first goal for the USA in the 12th minute. Her shot deflected of the knee of Laura Alleway before going in. Lisa de Vanna brought the Matilda's even in the 27th minute after the USA failed to clear a free kick. de Vanna was allowed far too much space and was able to score with ease.

The USA looked much more comfortable in the second half. They were able to hang on to the ball more and make the Aussies work to get it back. This noticeably tired Australia and allowed the USA to send more and more numbers forward. They got their reward just after the hour mark with a transition goal from Christen Press. Sydney Leroux made a nice run along the left flank before finding Press with a perfect pass. Rapinoe confidently bagged her second of the match with a well placed shot in the 78th minute.

For a while in this one, the USWNT looked a lot like the USMNT. Their back line was quite porous and the only thing that saved them was their goalkeeper. In fact, I want to give Hope Solo the woman of the match. Her three critical saves early in the game kept things from becoming an Aussie blowout. Yes, Rapinoe will get all the headlines for her brace, but it was Solo that kept things in check early on when the outfield players weren't exactly getting the job done.

There is plenty of room for improvement if the USA wants to life the trophy when all is said and done. The midfield needs to settle down sooner. They were trying to force too many long balls into the box instead of patiently working it in there. When they were more patient with the ball they were able to hang onto it longer and create more chances.

Jill Ellis might also want to rethink her starting strike combination. Sydney Leroux and Abby Wambach are both great players, but they weren't working well together. Wambach, in particular, seems to have lost a step compared to four years ago. She was just a beat behind many balls coming her way. Leroux did well with her vision to pick out Press for the winning goal, but she struggled to get free, even with Wambach out there to take attention away from her.

Overall, it was a comfortable win with an uncomfortable start. IF the USWNT comes out a little lest nervously on Friday night against Sweden they will have a much better time. The Swedes proved today that their defenders can be a little slow to react to good through balls and quick, driving runs. If they USA can take advantage of that weakness, it could be a pretty high scoring affair.

Japan 1-0 Switzerland
The defending champs open their tournament with Aya Miyama's converted penalty just before the half hour mark. Switzerland had more than their fair share of opportunities to level, but each one failed to score. Japan also had their chances to put another goal or two in. It was a well played match on both sides, but Switzerland really would have liked to have earned a point in this one. The Cameroonian destruction of Ecuador puts them a little behind the eight ball in the race for automatic qualification to the round of 16. They should still get the job done with a big win over Ecuador, but it just won't be as easy with this early setback.

Today's Matches
Four more matches round out the first round of group play today. France and England get things going in Moncton at 1pm. France are one of the best women's soccer nations while England are good, but atill a little behind compared to some of the other traditional men's powers. I like France to win here, but I expect England to at least keep it interesting. Let's go with 3-1 to France.

Next up, in Montreal, is a couple of free flowing Group E teams, Spain and Costa Rica. Both are making their first World Cup appearance and both are known for being attack oriented. Spain should prove the better debutante. I give them a 2-0 victory. Kickoff is at 4pm.

Also at 4pm, this time back in Moncton, Colombia and Mexico get started. Both sides also lack the credibility of their respective men's outfits. It could be a bit sloppy at times, let's go with a 1-1 draw.

Finally, at 7pm in Montreal, Brazil get's their redemption campaign started against South Korea. Brazil's star, Marta, is tied for the most goals in Women's World Cup history with the new retired German Brigit Prinz. Expect her to get her record breaking goal at some point in Canada. South Korea is known for their defense (they held the USWNT to a scoreless draw just a week before the World Cup), so it might not come tonight. Brazil will still win, but they won't score as much as they's like. I say a 2-0 final.