Toyota Park

Kinda-ry renewed: U.S. Women will open 2014 in Texas against Canada

1 Comment

The kinda-ry that exploded in London 2012’s semifinals will be rekindled Jan. 31 in Frisco, Texas when upcoming World Cup hosts Canada visit Toyota Park to open 2014 against the United States Women’s National Team.

Coming off a 10-0-2 year that included a 3-0 win in Toronto over the Canadians (June 2), the U.S. will look to increase their unbeaten run to 36 games – a 20-month run that began March 5, 2012 with a loss to Japan.

Since, the U.S. has won a gold medal, claimed an Algarve Cup, and have defeated Canada three times, including a 4-3, extra time win at Old Trafford in the 2012 Summer Olympics. The controversial semifinal, which featured a hat trick from Christine Sinclair and a 123rd minute winner from Alex Morgan, marks the high point of a regional rivalry that has been decidedly one-sided. Where the U.S. has historically had competitive tensions with China, Norway, Brazil, and Germany, Canada’s all-time record against the U.S. is 3-46-5.

“It’s great to start the year with a game that is going to be a real test for us and a game that is always highly competitive,” said head coach Tom Sermanni said via a U.S. Soccer release announcing the game.  “It’s a friendly game, but one that’s meaningful for both teams, and it’s an excellent first match in a year that will end with World Cup qualifying. In 2014, it will be important to play as many quality opponents as possible.”

Despite their historical record with the U.S., Canada really should provide the quality for which Sermanni hopes. Sinclair, captain for both club and country, is coming off a title-winning season with the NWSL’s Portland Thorns. Attacker Diana Matheson, midfielder Sophie Schmidt, destroyer Desiree Scott, and defender Lauren Sesselman also had standout NWSL seasons. Each player has a key role in a national team that’s ranked seventh in the world.

Making their third appearance at Toyota Park, the U.S. will be expected to extend their dominance over Canada, but if the U.S. replicates last winter’s form, Canada stands a good shot at collecting their fourth-ever victory over their nemeses. Though they defeated Scotland 4-1 and 3-1 in two pre-Algarve Cup friendlies this February, the team was noticeably rusty after a nine-week layoff. Superior to the 20th ranked Scots, Canada should be less forgiving of any U.S. rust

With the States having a two-and-a-half month layoff before kickoff in Frisco, Canada may be able to spring a surprise, provided they can overcome their own hibernation sickness.

Hunter Jumper’s first career goal lifts Chicago past Sporting KC (Video)

Leave a comment

Before Friday night, the most memorable thing about him was his name. After Friday, the most memorable thing about Hunter Jumper is still his name (come on, his name is Hunter Jumper), but with his goal early against Sporting Kansas City, the Chicago Fire’s 2012 first round pick started giving fans, especially Kansas City fans, a reason to remember him. Instead of being the defender from Virginia with the comic book name, he’s the defender from Virginia with the comic book name who beat Sporting.

The moment comes at the beginning of the highlights, above, in the 13th minute at Toyota Park. Look at the two touches prior to Jumper’s header: A cross from Jalil Anibaba that was a little more driven than we’re used to seeing; and a nice touch from Mike Magee (who else) to keep it in play. That effort led to the game’s only goal.

For Kansas City, who had a chance to go clear at the top of the East, it’s their fourth loss in five games, the second-in-a-row to teams on the wrong side of their conference’s playoff pictures (having lost to San Jose on Sunday). That slump’s kept New York, Montréal, and Philadelphia within reach, with Houston lurking.

Chicago, rebounding from their weekend loss to New England, continue to lurk on the edge of the playoffs. They’re now within two of fifth place Dynamo, having temporarily re-passed New England for sixth. Although the Revolution face Philadelphia this weekend, giving them a chance to reclaim fifth, Chicago will have one fewer game played than the Revs.

Not that sixth place means anything. Fifth is the goal here.

 

Larentowicz finds much-needed winner for Chicago

Leave a comment

Had Chicago not taken three points from this one, Section 8 would have been left with no choice but to shrug, dry their eyes on their scarves, and accept 2013 may not be their year. That’s because over 90 minutes at Toyota Park, the Fire had been the slightly better side, but still exhibiting the issues that have kept Frank Klopas’ side from replicating last year’s playoff-qualifying form, Chicago had let Columbus stay even (0-0) through 82 minutes.

Yes, a couple of great saves from Andy Greuenebaum had something to do with that, as did a Columbus performance that didn’t get its usual creativity out of Federico Higuaín and Eddie Gavin. In truth, it was one of the Crew’s worst performances of the season, an inept attack finishing with no shots on goal, even if the match wasn’t exactly one-way traffic.

Failing to take advantage of a floundering opponent, Chicago looked like a team struggling to shake a 1-4-1 start. They just weren’t doing enough.

That’s what made Jeff Larentowicz’s goal so huge. It’s not only that the veteran holder so rarely finds a goal. It was the timing of it. Chicago desperately needed to get something out of this match lest full time come and they be left empty-handed after one of the few games they’ve controlled. Doubts like “if we can’t get a win from a game like this” would have began popping up while the dial controlling Frank Klopas’s hot seat turned up another knotch.

All it took was this one piece of execution: A long throw from the right; a flick by Austin Berry; and a run through Columbus’s box by Larentowicz that finally allowed Chicago to beat Greuenbaum:

The funny thing about Chicago’s winner was where it came from: The right. Almost any half-decent chance the Fire had created come from the other flank, with Patrick Nyarko twice given opportunities from crosses at the right post only to push shots right at Greuenebaum.

In the 75th minute, Nyarko’s second ball in off a corner led to this chance for Berry, one that should have put Chicago in front:

Ultimately, Larentowicz had to play hero for Chicago to claim their second win of the year, one that vaulted them into eighth in the East.

The Crew’s loss keeps them fifth, having dropped a spot after New York routed New England.