Let us start the day the fútbol way.
Or, you know, with bad rhymes. Whatever works.
Nominees: U.S. Soccer 2014 Female Athlete of the Year.
• Lauren Holiday, midfield
• Sydney Leroux, forward
• Carli Lloyd, midfield
• Christen Press, forward
• Abby Wambach, forward
In a way, it is almost sad because there is an argument that the answer is clear. Of course, Abby Wambach has also taken the prize six times out of nine nominations. With sixteen caps and a record goal-scoring season highlighted by four goals against Costa Rica in the CONCACAF Championship, it seems hard to argue otherwise. Still, though, there is a case to be made for others; Lauren Holiday also earned sixteen caps, amounting to 1,255 minutes, over a third again more than Wambach played. Sydney Leroux managed 1,130 minutes, grabbing eighteen caps with nine goals and five assists. Carli Lloyd logged a staggering 1,683 minutes in earning nineteen caps, scoring ten goals and eight assists. And suddenly the answer isn’t so clear. U.S. Soccer is also accounting for play in other leagues; Wambach only played in ten games for New York Flash, while Lauren Holiday claimed the NWSL championship game MVP after FCKC defeated Seattle Reign FC at the end of August. And Christen Press played 1,115 minutes while being the only player on the USWNT to earn a cap in each of the twenty matches played so far this year; additionally, she played full time in each of twelve games with Chicago Red Stars and notched nine goals with Tyresö in Champions League play.
And suddenly the answer is not at all clear.
The U.S. Women’s National Team is one of the finest assemblies of sporting talent on the planet. And this is a term in which we do not bother parsing out male and female.
That is to say, these are some of the finest athletes in the world period. True, our cultural history includes a time and place for terms like “great female author”, or “great black author”, but Alice Walker, for instance, is simply one of the best authors in human history, period. And so it goes with these athletes. They are not just among the best “female” athletes; they are top-tier athletes, full stop.
And what … a … show … they put on.
We won’t mock MLS for taking an extra week off for international play in the middle of league playoffs; that is, we already have. But it does bear reminding that the USWNT has four matches scheduled this month to take place over the course of eleven days in Brasilia. China, Brazil, Argentina, and whoever we get for the placement round with a high likelihood of playing for top honors; Douglas Smith suggests the Brasilia events are “not the best test” for the team, as none of the other contenders are top-five teams.
These final four games, assuming they are in the top two after round robin play, will be against teams outside of the top five in the world. Brazil are ranked sixth at the moment. China PR are at 14th, which is down from their previous ranking. Argentina are 37th, and did not qualify for the World Cup. China finished third in their qualifying tournament. In the end, Brazil and the U.S. should meet in the final of this short tournament, which will take place on December 21.
The games will be a chance for the coaching staff to integrate some players who have recently recovered from injury and to tinker with the back line. However, it is highly unlikely that the USWNT will be tested by two of the three teams playing in the tournament. Hopefully two matches against Brazil will provide games that require a full effort rather than the Americans having the contests well in hand by halftime.
And in truth, disagreement would be mostly based on principle; no top-tier team can afford that kind of automated confidence going into any match. But it is also true, as he notes, that the team “seemed to hit its stride at the end of the CONCACAF Women’s Championship”. In Brasilia, they will have to hit the ground running; international fútbol is one of those sports in which any team can ruin any other team’s day.
Game one is on 10 December, and China PR is the first opponent.
Meanwhile, there is the
cliché axiom that there is no ‘I’ in ‘team’, but as we have noted before, there is certainly an ‘I’ in ‘Individual Awards’, which the USWNT swept in the CONCACAF tournament, and for now comes down to a 6 December announcement of just who is the U.S. Soccer Female Athlete of the Year.
Watch … in … awe.
Oh, right. It’s the women’s game. Good luck finding a broadcast.
U.S. Soccer. “Nominees Set for 2014 U.S. Soccer Female Athlete of the Year”. 2 December 2014.
—————. “A Look at the Nominees for 2014 U.S. Soccer Female Athlete of the Year”. 2 December 2014.
Smith, Douglas. “International Tournament of Brasilia Not The Best Test For USWNT”. RantSports. 1 December 2014.