For 92 minutes Sunday afternoon, you had a coming out party of sorts for the new United States women’s national team. Tom Sermanni used his first real “test” against quality opposition to tweak some things and look at some people. It was a fairly decisive 3-0 victory over a solid opponent, and he was able to do it with plenty still in reserve.
Then Sydney Leroux happened.
Ironically, on a scale of 1 to Emmanuel Adebayor running 110 yards to slide in front of his former club’s supporters, Leroux checks in at approximately a 2. She pointed to the United States crest and to the crowd, and that was about it, really. Maybe a little jumping up and down.
Because of who I am and how I hope I would handle such a situation, I probably would have taken the high road and not celebrated at all, particularly with the goal meaningless in the final result of the game.
But Leroux likely doesn’t give two loonies what I think. And she shouldn’t. She also shouldn’t bother with what people say on Twitter or social media or really, the regular Canadian media either, for that matter. I have zero problem with Leroux playing for whatever country she wants, and the lengths to which some Canadians have gone to villify her has been excessive, even being generous.
I just hope she knows what she’s doing. Monday morning, Leroux basically upped the stakes when she Tweeted about being the victim of racial abuse (later clarified to be last year in Vancouver), in what called to mind the Hope Solo situation in Boston a few years back.
Obviously, racism shouldn’t be tolerated anywhere by anyone. But, as we’ve been taught again and again by society, there’s always going to be rogue idiots out there, particularly if they can hide anonymously behind a keyboard or in a crowd.
Leroux has the potential to be a future superstar in the U.S. Her personality and game seem to make her a perfect complement for Alex Morgan both on and off the field, and you can picture a future where the two of them carry the United States women’s soccer team to yet another dominant decade.
However, if Leroux wants to make her mark on the field for the United States, the next couple of years may be key. Her energy and athleticism are great for the women’s game, but amidst rumors of a poor week of practice, she was recently benched for a game with her NWSL team in Boston, and with names like Christen Press and Lindsey Horan starting to knock on the Sermanni striker door, she will face stiff competition for a starting place even after Abby Wambach hangs up her cleats.
With two years until the next World Cup, this feud may have time to simmer down a bit, but it’s likely to be front page news again because, of course, Canada is hosting said tournament. The finals in Vancouver, where Leroux was born. Oh, the storylines.
More often than not the voice of reason, I think it’s fair for the most celebrated Canadian women’s soccer player of all time, Christine Sinclair, to have the final word for now:
“Maybe not the classiest of moves,” Sinclair said. “She scored on us, and an individual can do what they like. I probably wouldn’t have done the same, but we move on.”
Yes, let’s move on, shall we, with random notes from the US-Canada friendly, on the field variety:
Even Pellerud made no apologies for playing a direct, high-pressure style when he was in charge of Canada a decade ago. Times change, and Pellerud (although now back with Norway) eventually wore out his welcome in Canada, but he had some remarkable successes, including a semifinal appearance in the 2003 World Cup, the crowning achievement in Canadian soccer history until last year’s Olympics.
Despite that initial success, John Herdman appears to be in a bit of a bind. Despite advances in Canadian soccer, he doesn’t have the technical ability and nowhere near the depth of the top teams in the world like the United States. I thought his 3-5-2 set-up fit the team he had to work with very well Sunday, and with a break here or there could have been ahead before his squad got overrun due to a combination of fatigue, lack of depth, and Alex Morgan’s underrated finishing ability. But surely, Herdman learned some things about some people (including 17-year-old center back Kadeisha Buchanan, who ran down Morgan a couple of times in the second half), and will begin tweaking to be ready for 2015. It will be interesting to see what he comes with.
There were a lot of reports of a “comfortable” United States victory, and in the end it was, but it was fairly even for the first hour, even if Canada wasn’t exactly generating many scoring opportunities. Led by Desiree Scott, the Canadians had the middle completely bottled up for the first half until the U.S. was able to spring Morgan into space (which they were actually able to do a couple of times before the goal as well). The problem for Canada going forward is that for most of the game it was a 5-3-2 and there wasn’t any width that threatened the U.S.
Which was why Sermanni was disappointed that his outside backs, Crystal Dunn and Ali Krieger, weren’t more of a factor offensively. But with so many players defending for Canada, it was hard to find space in their final third.
Kelley O’Hara and Becky Sauerbrunn were both held out due to minor injuries, but it was a perfect time to give Dunn and Whitney Engen a start against a solid opponent, and I thought both did very well. I still think Sauerbrunn will be a starter for a while, but with Christie Rampone set to retire at some point, Engen could be playing her way into being the next in line. Dunn and O’Hara may shape up to be an interesting battle heading into the World Cup at left back, but that’s still years in the future.
I’m not a big fan of a 4-4-2 diamond, but Carli Lloyd was very good in her return to the lineup, and Lauren Cheney also played a solid game. Tobin Heath will always like to pinch in to help them, and Sermanni will probably spent a great deal of time at training trying to get his outside backs to fill the space Heath left to exploit opposing defenses, although Herdman’s set-up limited the space Sunday.
Last thing, Canada using Diana Matheson and Desiree Scott as its two-person wall when free kicks were on the flanks? Shortest wall in international soccer history?