Are we ready for Olympics?

Discussion in 'USA Women: News and Analysis' started by casocrfan, Jun 24, 2008.

  1. casocrfan

    casocrfan Member

    Nov 25, 2004
    San Francisco
    With the roster set, are we ready for the Olympics? Here's my take:

    GK: Absolutely. Solo and Barnhart are the best choices (not that they weren't on the WC roster). Both can be counted on in tough matches and Solo is clearly the top US net-minder. We need her ability to play with her feet in games against Brazil and Germany.

    Defense: Feel good about starting four, but depth is an issue.
    Rampone's move to the middle solidified our central defense and added needed leadership to organize the defense. Mitt's return to health is a great addition as we need her speed and toughness. Margraf is a solid central defender but has lost a step and is susceptible to speedy forwards. Chalupny provides a nice attacking option out of the back. I do worry about the lack of height on the back line and lack of depth. Cox and Buehler are probably only on this roster because of injuries... something we can't afford to the starting four.

    Midfield: Love the outside mids, worried about the middle. Pia has played with this line the most (or so it seems) and I'm convinced that anybody she plays wide will do well but I worry about the middle against Brazil and Germany. We just don't have the speed and finesse playing here to control the game against top teams. I'm a huge Wagner fan, but she needs speed behind her to be really useful and Boxx doesn't have it. Maybe Lloyd and Hucles' improved form will make a difference, but this is my biggest concern on this team -- the center of the midfield (not a place I like to be worried about!).

    Forwards: No concerns at all. The trio of Wambach, Kai and Rodriguez gives us size, speed, finesse, strength, experience and guts. Plus, O'Rielly and Tarpley could play up here if needed (even Wagner in a pinch). Our deepest and strongest group on the team.

    Leadership: I love the move to name Rampone captain because she seems to be leading on the field. This was absent at the WC and seems to have stabilized the group dynamic.

    Coaching: I don't care about results here. Winning the Peace Cup and Algarve mean nothing when the Olympics roll around. What encourages me is that Pia has shown a willingness to change tactics at half and rest players in tournaments. Can she do this when it's the Olympics? Her playing experience at this level tells me yes, because she understands what it takes to play in this kind of tournament (something only former players can truly understand).

    It worries me that we barely beat a Brazil team missing 2-3 of it's best players and we haven't played Germany in 9 months. This Summer will be interesting.

    Your thoughts?
  2. SccrDon

    SccrDon Member+

    Dec 4, 2001
    Colorado Springs
    Colorado Rapids
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    We're good enough to win but are exposed in some areas. I agree with your concern about the lack of depth in the back. We may not be strong enough defensively (backs + mids) to beat Brazil or Germany - I see them being able to slice us up some, especially if the 2 center mids push forward. Boxx, Lloyd, and Wagner are all good players individually but I'm not sure where there is a good pairing that will meet both attacking and defensive responsibilities against the top opponents.

    Agree that we're strong in goal, outside mids, and up top. The goals will come against most opponents.

    It should be a good tournament. I don't expect us to win but we're fully capable of doing so.
  3. luvdagame

    luvdagame Member+

    Jul 6, 2000
    i might have said this too many times.

    see my response to brooklynsoccer's midfield concerns on post #116 here:

    nevertheless, i'll repeat it.

    i am not as in love with the passing/possession game as are others on this board. [arsenal is one of my favorite teams to watch play. but they haven't won anything for a while, and both holland and portugal 2 of the best passing/psssession teams in the tournament, are out of euro 08]. i am in love with winning and i fear our concentration on the passing/possession game seems to have reduced our efficiency on head balls and set pieces both offensively and defensively.

    we will not win the big games with just passing/possession. the good teams will disrupt our passing especially out of the back and midfield and can score quickly on us. i do not like the fact that canada was able so easily to disrupt our passing/possession game. the full brazil team, germany, and north korea are likely to be much more efficient in punishing us when they win the ball from us. canada missed several chances to do so.

    we need to bring back the right amount of direct play and learn to be as ruthlessly efficient as the germans are in it.

    i do like pia's mention of our need for speed and variation (i do not think we have the overall speed of brazil and north korea, nor do we have the overall size of germany) in the current international game. the team is already faster (boxx is playing noticeably faster than when we faced brazil in the wwc), and pia who knows a whole lot more soccer than i do is probably already planning to spend hours and hours on set pieces, headers, and when to pass/possess and when to play direct balls.
  4. casocrfan

    casocrfan Member

    Nov 25, 2004
    San Francisco
    Completely agree... but don't take my fondness for a player like Wagner to say that I only like the controlled possession game. In fact, some of the best "passes" that I have seen Wagner make are long balls to streaking forwards on quick counters. We need a mix of style and play and I still worry about the effectiveness of the center of our midfield to be able to do this. I like what SccrDon said -- it's not that we don't have talent in the midfield it's just that we don't have a great pairing in the central midfield.
  5. luvdagame

    luvdagame Member+

    Jul 6, 2000
    this is indeed the key. neither boxx nor lloyd is a great passer. and pia's game requires great passers out of the midfield. wagner is a great passer. but she's just barely ok in something else we need. speed.

    our current hope is that lloyd's shooting and boxx's heading will make up for our lack of a supreme passer out of the midfield.

    failing that we replace lloyd with wagner who is a much better passer, but who will put a lot of defensive pressure on boxx. i don't like that. especially against brazil, north korea, and germany.

    thirdly, we can see if hucles ascendancy allows her to be the person who replaces lloyd rather than wagner. i've actually seen an improvement when hucles comes in lately. she is faster and seems to be a better passer. but only pia can make that call.

    we'll see.
  6. BrooklynSoccer

    BrooklynSoccer Member+

    Jan 22, 2008
    I agree with pretty much what everyone is saying. I think our forwards are getting better and i'm happy with their work rate and vision. I'm content with half the mids and the other half and defense does need to improve.
    All of our midfielders on defense also scare me. I do not think our coaches have done a good job with our midfeilders defending against the counter attack. Tarp, Lloyd, HAO, and even the back line often look out of place.
    We need to tighten this up and make very very sure if one defender goes forward there are still 4 in the back waiting for the Germans or Brazilians, i don't 3 will cut it against these teams.

    What was really shocking to me the last few games was the teams first touches and passing, especially when under pressure, both were very inaccurate. Tarp has not impressed me with her passing. Lloyd has hot days and freezing cold days. Wagner didn't seem slow to me last week - can she really be that much worse on defense than Lloyd? I think a healthy Wagner adds a new dimension to the mids.
    i'm looking forward to some new lineups in the next four games.
  7. casoccerdad47

    casoccerdad47 Member+

    Mar 31, 2006
    An attacking center mid doesn't necessarily need to be fast. I wouldn't classify Zidane, Riquelme, or Fabregas as particularly fast. What they do, or did, possess is exceptional field vision and speed of play, they make decisions and move the ball quickly. As crazy as it may sound Wagner and Hucles might make an interesting pairing.
  8. casoccerdad47

    casoccerdad47 Member+

    Mar 31, 2006
    I don't think anyone, least of all Pia, is advocating a passing game at the expense of quick counterattacks when available. Arsenal, often cited as a possession team, are very dangerous on quick counterattacks. BTW with respect to not having won anything recently, they were second to Manchester United in goals scored last year and might have led the league if Van Persie and Eduardo hadn't missed significant portions of the season through injury. The bigger loss, however was Kolo Toure to the African Nations cup and injury. Had he been available all season they might have hung on and won the EPL. The elimination of both Holland and Portugal from Euro 2008 can also be attributed to defensive failures, especially Portugal. You can't allow Klose a free header in front of goal on a set piece and expect to win. The defending on Ballack's goal was almost as bad, though he did get away with a push.

    The goal of a possession game is to move the ball quickly enough to put pressure on the defense to maintain their shape and then to recognize and quickly exploit the space that does occur when the defense breaks down, whether its on the second or fifteenth pass. The problem with Ryan's system was there was almost no variation. Opposing defenses knew exactly what to expect and the exploitable space was generally behind the defense, so teams with quick defenders could make it very hard to score.
  9. suncraver03

    suncraver03 New Member

    Oct 3, 2003
    Chicago Red Stars
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    I very much enjoy this technical discussion. Makes a great break from the "She sucks", "NO, she sucks!" devolvement that happened a while ago around here. This is what Big Soccer is supposed to be about...Good Job, Posters!

    As for the references to the WC Brazil game and the overall lack of speed the team showed, I think part of that was just the shock of not knowing what to expect in that game, and I put that all down to the coach. Beating each other up in practice doesn't prepare players for the unknown.

    I think the emergence of Kai is going to help out our defense greatly. While in the past we have always had to worry about the speed of Germany and Brazil's counter, they have to worry about that from us. They won't be so willing to throw seven or eight players forward, to hit our defensive weaknesses, when they see the speed and attack she can bring. Maybe that's why Pia didn't play her against Brazil in Korea.

    We haven't seen this level of speed attack since Milbrett was tearing up the field. O'Reilly has the speed, but for whatever reason, doesn't put the ball in the net a lot. Abby is a pure scorer, but can't jet. Pundits always say the best offense is a good defense. I think in this case, our attack will be able to protect the defense.
  10. luvdagame

    luvdagame Member+

    Jul 6, 2000
    i think of fabregas as pretty fast.

    regardless, if the amid is not fast, he usually needs a fast run-all-day dmid carrying the water for him/her. i do not think boxx can do that. so i'm interested in your hucles/wagner combination, even tho i think it might problematic defensively.

    i know. i'm pretty sure she knows what she's doing. my 2 concerns are:

    1.our not being able to play that passing/possession game against a team like canada, when north korea et al will have much more quickness to close us down and punish us,


    2.our apparent inability on both offense and defense to be efficient on set plays and head balls.

    we could not do this well enough against canada. i'm worried that we won't be able to do it against quicker teams.

    i won't rehash this, but i still thought he had enough to win. i saw that team play very good passing/possession soccer. but he made a stupid mistake in another area altogether, and rightly paid for it. that team could also win ugly. our current problem is that our concentration on passing/possession may not be good enough for the top teams. and i don't know if we can win ugly.

    once again tho, i'm sure pia knows more about the game than i do. plus i expect that she isn't showing all her hand to her opponents yet. we have to wait and see.

    haven't seen that one. usually i see "the best defense is a good offense", and kai (and hao) using speed, might be our saving grace like you said.
  11. casocrfan

    casocrfan Member

    Nov 25, 2004
    San Francisco
    I think Wagner, in top form, is part of the solution to both of these concerns. She has the ability to hold the ball under pressure and to get off quick, accurate passes. She is also outstanding on set plays because she can hit a long ball with power and accuracy.

    As a d-mid I think Hucles is an interesting choice to pair with Wagner but what about Chalupny? If her size is a concern I would consider Margraf in there. I guess what I'm getting at is that I'd like to see someone other than Boxx as an alternative for a number of reasons.
    1. she's slow
    2. she's older and will need rest as the tournament moves on
    3. she could get hurt
  12. luvdagame

    luvdagame Member+

    Jul 6, 2000
    fair enough. but your points about boxx below give me some concern about this pairing.

    - which is why i don't want to pair wagner with her. i'd like to keep chalupny at left back/mid if i can, and markgraf is playing pretty well at the back. i'd hate to move her. buehler?

    - and we have no osbourne to back her up! i can see the hucles/wagner start in (or playing most of) game 3 if we are already thru.

    - hey! let's not mention the word. i still like boxx's ability in the air and her willingness to be an enforcer (hopefully smarter than last time).
  13. kcguru

    kcguru Member

    Jun 16, 2007
    As versatile as Chalupny is, the one game where she sat out, I don't think the back line was as strong so I wouldn't want to see any changes made in the back line. Same with the last game that Kate sat out. Keep Mitts, Rampone, Markgraf, Chupa together.

    I honestly don't think we have a viable sub to come in for Boxx that has her size and enforcer ability. I really wish that Pia would've tried Cheney in that spot because I think she could've found her niche there.
  14. htide

    htide Member

    Jul 28, 2007
    Does anyone know what the game schedule is going to be for the Olympics yet? I think who we play when will be very influential on how i see us doing. For example Brazil would be a heck of a lot easier to beat in an early round, rather then later. Do we have groups picked yet? if so who are we up against?

    I actually think having the first game being a more tough competitor like how we faced NK in the WC would be good in a way.
  15. casocrfan

    casocrfan Member

    Nov 25, 2004
    San Francisco
    Looking at it the other way we don't have a viable alternate to Wagner either. That player was never identified and developed in the current player pool and is an issue I find troubling with our current player development system.

    Look at the u20 squad. Teresa Noyola became the first player ever to win back-to-back player of the year awards and is not included on the u20 roster. A player of her caliber should be on this roster and playing even if it means the team wins less. It seems our youth national teams forego development for winning at every step while teams like Germany and Brazil have no problem sending young teams (and players) into tournaments for development even if it means losing.

    The result is lack of depth in the central midfield for our current Olympic team.
  16. kcguru

    kcguru Member

    Jun 16, 2007

    We open play Aug. 6 against Norway, then Japan on Aug. 9, and then New Zealand Aug. 12.
  17. BrooklynSoccer

    BrooklynSoccer Member+

    Jan 22, 2008
    I agree with Casocfan - We need to develop our younger players better.
    I believe part of the reason the 91's were soo good is that they were exposed to such tough competition as teenagers.****They had the talent and were forced to flourish.****
    I think athletes learn more and have the potential to reach a higher level if they are pushed at a young age... meaning - give the really talented 17,18 year olds a shot.
    Back to Oly's.
    I'd like to see Wanger, Hucles, Boxx and Hoa on a line.
    I'd even like to see a 4-3-3 of Wagner, Hucles, Boxx with Kai, Arod and Abby up front. I'm fairly certain Pia has never tried this. Could be dynamic. I think our forwards are probably better defenders than most of our Mids anyway.
    I think Cheney should be moved to Dmid - I dont' see her on this team as a forward.
  18. defensewins

    defensewins Member

    Nov 15, 1999
    last time I checked, she is not in top form and cannot hold the ball under pressure... UNLESS Pia has worked a magical transformation on her, as with Hucles. Admittedly, have not seen her perform recently, but can she hold up vs. Brazil or Germany? She is slow, moreso than Boxx. We had better hope that Boxx stays healthy. And agreed on development of younger players, but if Pia sticks, I am confident that will happen. too little time to try and keep her job right now by winning the olys-plenty of time for development after that.
  19. htide

    htide Member

    Jul 28, 2007
    i think one thing that is good about this team is that people can play a different spots. Pia has a lot of options. For example, chalupa has been on D, but if we had a crisis in midfield, she could move up there, just like tarp and hao can play in numerous spots. We have a lot of flexibility which I do not recall having in the more recent past.
  20. CAFAN

    CAFAN Member

    May 30, 2003
    My thoughts:

    1. Canada is inconsistent. Sometimes they're good and sometimes not. Look at the last 3 results; a draw after 2 overtime periods, 6-0 USA and 1-0 USA in injury time. Hard to judge progress against Canada. The outcome is as much or more about what Canada did or did not do as it is about the USWNT.

    2. So far, Pia has done nothing that Ryan didn't do (i.e. lots of wins where it really doesn't count). All the euphoria about Pia and the 'new' possession game will disappear in heartbeat if the USA fares poorly in China.

    3. With the exception of the WUSA draft, I can't remember when there was so much interest in Wagner. I guess absence does maker the heart grow stronger. Personally, I think looking for Wagner to transform the m/f shows a certain element of desparation - but stranger things have happened. :)
  21. Mookie141

    Mookie141 Moderator
    Staff Member

    Feb 10, 2008
    Sky Blue FC
    Nat'l Team:
    I think the team selection was dead on. Sometimes I just worry about the midfield connecting. I think that there are some amazing players there I just feel that sometimes it doesn't click, especially passes. But I've also seen them do amazing passes. So it's like see-saw. I think the defenders are tough and hearty but I just worry if they're fast enough. I believe all of them are capable but I just hope they're working on their speed, because we might not be the only team with a fast high powered offense. As far as the fowards I think they all have the mindset but I'd like to see more daring plays and playmaking. I'm afraid that when put on a world stage the team will revert to leaning upon Abby. There's so much talent and speed up there and it'd suck to see it go to waste. If there's an element of unpredictability it will boggle the minds of most opposing defenders. That's my two cents.
  22. soccermum

    soccermum New Member

    Sep 24, 2006
    No kidding!
  23. casoccerdad47

    casoccerdad47 Member+

    Mar 31, 2006
    There is speed of foot and speed of play and while Wagner isn't very fast a foot, her speed of play is very good. A player that is fast, but doesn't play the ball quickly will have a tougher time holding up against Brazil and Germany than a slow player that can play the ball quickly. I don't think anyone has ever accused Riquelme of being fast a foot, but he can hold the ball against anyone.
  24. htide

    htide Member

    Jul 28, 2007

    ah thank you. i think that is a good mix of games for us. norway will be a challange as always and japan is Ok. I doubt NZ will be an issue but it might offer us a chance to rest some players before the next round.
  25. casocrfan

    casocrfan Member

    Nov 25, 2004
    San Francisco
    Which goes to my greatest concern for the future that we seem to be not developing the types of players we need in the central midfield to compete against the Brazil and Germany's of the world.

    ... and yes, I am desperate!

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