Spare thoughts on the USWNT’s May training camp roster

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Pia Sundhage has named the 28 players set to take part in a training camp ahead of the USWNT’s penultimate domestic match prior to the 2012 Summer Olympics. The camp will be based in New Jersey. The list features an assortment of shoo-in’s and, indeed, a few surprises.

The names:

GOALKEEPERS (5): Nicole Barnhart, Adrianna Franch, Ashlyn Harris, Jill Loyden, Hope Solo
DEFENDERS (10): Rachel Buehler, Stephanie Cox, Whitney Engen, Meghan Klingenberg, Amy LePeilbet, Gina Lewandowski, Heather Mitts, Kelley O’Hara, Christie Rampone, Becky Sauerbrunn
MIDFIELDERS (9): Shannon Boxx, Tobin Heath, Lori Lindsey, Carli Lloyd, Kristie Mewis, Heather O’Reilly, Megan Rapinoe, Amy Rodriguez, Keelin Winters
FORWARDS (4): Lauren Cheney, Sydney Leroux, Alex Morgan, Abby Wambach

One of Sundhage’s trademarks is her dedication to certain players and certain formations. Lauren Cheney’s move from forward to left wing during the 2011 World Cup was a shock given Sundhage’s relative reticence to major change.

That might not be the case any longer, though. If there was ever a time to air a few trial balloons, it’s now. The team has since experimented with a diamond formation in midfield. Central forward Amy Rodriguez has been shunted out to the left wing. Outside midfielder/forward Kelley O’Hara has been shifted to outside back in lieu of defender Ali Krieger’s injury.

Speaking of Krieger, USWNT followers will be eagerly monitoring the right back’s progress through the summer. Krieger was undoubtedly one of most dominant defenders in Germany last summer. A horrific tackle in CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying in January resulted in a torn ACL and MCL and makes her participation in the Olympics uncertain.

Save for unforeseen injuries (à la Krieger’s and Abby Wambach’s in 2008), it’s hard to imagine Sundhage making any wholesale changes when it comes to the final roster. The team’s core has been solidified since the World Cup, and it isn’t likely to change for the sake of change. This looks to be the natural conclusion of a cycle that could set the stage for several noteworthy swan songs.

Just 18 names will be named to the Olympic roster, which might leave little room for suspense. Sundhage will have the luxury of culling a squad from a pool stocked with depth, talent, and international experience. Even if players aren’t in the frame for the upcoming friendlies or the Olympics, they will surely use this opportunity to make a lasting impression.


Names worth remembering:

Gina Lewandowski – So I may not have been the only one who misread ‘Gina Lewandowski’ as ‘Gina DiMartino’. The 27-year-old was one of many women’s soccer players who headed to Europe in search of a soccer career after college. But unlike others, Lewandowski didn’t return to the U.S. once Women’s Professional Soccer launched in 2009. She remained with FFC Frankfurt in the German Frauen-Bundesliga and established herself as a reliable center back. The Pennsylvania native spent the summer with the WNY Flash in WPS in 2011 but returned to Germany for the start of the 2011-12 season.  The decision paid off, as WPS is no more and Frankfurt has a chance to do a Cup double this season. She could now be in contention for her first ever USWNT cap. Long time coming, maybe.

Whitney Engen – The 24-year-old center back made the most of her two years in WPS and has a 2011 WPS Defender of the Year title to show for it. Engen should be on deck to inherit a vacancy in central defense, should one arise. The position has been a concern for the USWNT as of late. The team will benefit from a consistent, steady partner for evergreen center back Christie Rampone. Engen is worthy of a shot.

Keelin Winters – Shannon Boxx is among the players who might bow out of international soccer following the Olympics. Winters could be in line to take her place at the holding midfield position. The 23-year-old found success at the youth level and was nominated for WPS Rookie of the Year in 2011. Winters recently signed with German club giants Turbine Potsdam; a move that could do wonders for her development.

Absentees worth nothing:

Current collegian Adrianna Franch made the cut over Bianca Henninger. Henninger has been a rising star in the college game and was the first goalkeeper selected in the 2012 WPS Draft. The Santa Clara Bronco won plaudits for her tremendous performances in the 2010 U-20 Women’s World Cup, but doesn’t look to be in the USWNT picture this year.

Goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher is also on the outs, despite having a highly impressive season with Turbine Potsdam in Germany.

There have been suggestions that 2010 MAAC Hermann Trophy winner Christen Press would get a long-awaited call-up to the national team. Not this time, at least.

Brittany Bock was one of the more underrated players in WPS’s brief history. The USWNT has a dearth of quality holding midfielders, but Bock can seem to get a proper look.

Pique finds solidarity with criticized NBA players

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There have been a number f outstanding pieces in The Players’ Tribune since its launch, but few as colorful and entertaining as Thursday’s entry from Gerard Pique.

The Barcelona star center back spilled the beans on any number of funny stories in his post, from Roy Keane’s cell phone anger and Sir Alex Ferguson‘s guiding hand to Lionel Messi’s greatness and more.

[ MORE: Zlatan in MLS an auto success ]

But perhaps most interesting was his take on the grief he’s received for supporting the vote for Catalan independence. Pique points out that he’s been proud to represent the Spanish national team, but won’t veer from his democratic beliefs.

And guess what? Even in Spain, athletes rightly bristle at the “Stick to Sports” crowd.

It’s funny, I noticed some people in America have started telling the NBA players to “just shut up and dribble” when they express their opinions on real problems in society.

It’s ridiculous, no?

It’s the same here in Spain. They say, “Just shut up and play football. It’s all you know.”

Sorry, but I will not just shut up and play. It’s not all I know. There’s a lot more depth to footballers than most people realize, and I think it’s important that we express ourselves and our views.

Given relative health, Zlatan’s success MLS is close to automatic

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The only question is his knee at his age.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic is coming to Major League Soccer. Having confirmed his departure from Manchester United, the announcement that the living Swedish legend is joining the LA Galaxy is expecting next week.

[ MORE: MLS Weekend Preview ]

Some have asked whether he’ll cut muster in the league, to which we point to the lead: Few players have arrived to MLS with as dominant a career as Ibrahimovic, and the Swede would need his knee to fall apart in order to fail in California.

The man’s game isn’t based on speed, but it does require his abnormal power and grace. He scored just once for United in very limited time this season, but don’t forget how dangerous he was against Premier League and Europa League defenses last season.

He scored 28 goals with 10 assists last season, with 17 and 5 coming in league play. He was suspended for three matches and injured for seven, meaning this is a 20-goal Premier League scorer arriving in MLS within a calendar year of doing so.

Try putting his resume in perspective: Didier Drogba was extremely good for Montreal but a half-decade removed from his last double-digit goal PL season (Don’t forget that Drogba bagged 11 in 11 to start life on our shores). Robbie Keane was about the same time removed from his run of 10-plus goal seasons in the Premier League. He was good for LA.

The only risk here is that Ibrahimovic never gets healthy and LA takes a bit of a loss on his salary (one which is at least partially negated by the sheer number of Ibrahimovic Galaxy jerseys sold).

Entering this season, Ibrahimovic had failed to score 15 goals once since 2006. He’a also had a fairly religious assist output (10+ most years). With names like Alessandrini, Kamara, and dos Dos Santos, this should be a stand-up double if not a homer for LA and for MLS.

Plus the vicious looks after teammates miss him badly with a pass, let alone the press conferences and paparazzi hits: This should be a lot of fun.

MLS Weekend Preview: Friedel’s Revs get NYCFC test

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It’s an international break, and Major League Soccer is only sorta observing it.

More than half of the league’s clubs will participate on Saturday match days, with several shorthanded by national team duty.

[ MORE: Southgate on racism in football]

Columbus won’t have Zack Steffen and Wil Trapp for a visit from DC United — who is missing Zoltan Steiber, Bruno Miranda, and Oniel Fisher — while the Red Bulls will be without Tyler Adams, Kemar Lawrence, and Michael Murillo for Minnesota United’s visit.

NYCFC won’t have Alexander Ring, Ronald Matarrita, and Rodney Wallace, Portland’s without David Guzman and Andy Polo, and Sporting KC loses Daniel Salloi.

The Whitecaps won’t have center back Kendall Waston, while opponents LA Galaxt are without Ola Kamara.

New England Revolution vs. New York City FC — 1:30 p.m. ET Saturday

Brad Friedel‘s New England revolution, purposely lower case, is making believers out of its players. It would take a giant step if it could slow the NYCFC juggernaut. The visitors have allowed just one goal in their 3-0 start.

As for the hosts, Friedel has made his mark in a way that mostly makes you wonder what in the world Jay Heaps was doing:.

(Bunbury) pointed to a fine system in the locker room, increased accountability, how Friedel posts the starting XI on game day, and occasional two-a-day training sessions, which never occurred in the forward’s four years under Heaps.

“I think it unifies the team,” Bunbury said. “The broad sense of professionalism, it’s about having respect for each other and making sure you are held accountable in every part of this club.”

Never occurred under Heaps? Woof.

FC Dallas vs. Portland Timbers — 3:30 p.m. ET Saturday

FCD had an uninspiring ending to their CONCACAF Champions League dreams, but that’s little compared to the Timbers’ 0-2 start under Gio Savarese. A trip down South isn’t a surefire way to right the ship.

Vancouver Whitecaps vs. LA Galaxy — 10 p.m. ET Saturday

A long trip up North is only made worse by a laundry list of injuries for Sigi Schmid’s Galaxy. We’re only listing it amongst our Top Three because an LA win would be wildly impressive given the ‘Caps strong start.


Columbus Crew vs. DC United — 6 p.m. ET Saturday
New York Red Bulls vs. Minnesota United — 7 p.m. ET Saturday
Colorado Rapids vs. Sporting KC — 9 p.m. ET Saturday

Mourinho: “People with brains” understand Man Utd in transition

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Jose Mourinho’s been having a little fun on his international break, “managing” a team of superstars including Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt in a charity match.

[ MORE: Southgate talks racism in football ]

Speaking CNN as part of a publicity run, Mourinho was asked about Manchester United’s second place campaign and disappointment after dropping out of the UEFA Champions League.

Mourinho reiterated his position that United is a team in transition, and that the season is going along at an acceptable clip.

“I understand the frustration, I understand the sadness of being knocked out in the Champions League, but I don’t understand anything more than that,” Mourinho said to CNN’s Amanda Davies.

United has scored the third-most goals in the Premier League, and allowed the fourth-fewest. It’s drastically reduced its propensity to draw matches, which hurt its table position last season, and has already surpassed last season’s goal total.

Two more wins, 10 goals better differential, and the list goes on but unfortunately also includes crosstown rivals running away with the league and still alive in the UCL.

“Of course in the future we want to have 19 clubs behind us but this is the reality,” said Mourinho. “And the reality is for people with brain, with sense, with common sense, with knowledge of what sports is, we are in a moment of transition. Being in a moment of transition and still manage to do what he did last season and win trophies and to do what we are trying to do this season, which is still trying to win a trophy, and try to be second, because in this moment it’s the only top position that is possible for us to get. I think we are in a good position.”