Women's World Cup Final: U.S. vs. Japan recap

Jul 18, 2011

Steven Goff, who covers soccer for The Washington Post and authors the Soccer Insider blog, will take your questions on Sunday's Women's World Cup final between U.S. and Japan.

Thanks for joining me. We've got an hour to chat. No extra time or PKs. (As bad as the USA women feel about converting just 1 of 4, the Brazil men went 0 for 4 in Copa America quarterfinals moments after USA-Japan match ended.)

Let's get started.....

Why did Rodriguez not play? She had been a big scorer against Japan in previous match ups.

I'm not a fan of Rodriguez. No one misses more opportunities. I'm surprised she played as much as she did in this tournament. At that point, previous performances against Japan meant little. Her form dictated her benching.

Recently I read that MLS has over taken the NHL in popularity based on home attendance by a few hundred people. How do I win the argument against my hockey friends that MLS is more popular?

Numbers-wise, perhaps, but the NHL has greater saturation in the general public because of its history, number of franchises, etc. MLS is gaining, but in my opinion, has not reached NHL level yet. Consider, though, the NHL is the best pro hockey league in the world; MLS is -- what? -- the 12th best-soccer league in the world. For where it stands internationally and the fact that it's only been around for 15 years, MLS has made huge strides and, with an influx of quality, will surpass the NHL.

Stadium update, please? Buzzard's Point? Florida Ave? Or should we even bring up Poplar Point?

We're in a new era of D.C. United stadium responses, transitioning from zzzzzzzz (wake me when they make an announcement) to xxxxxxxx (fill in the blank). So I'll have to hit you with: xxxxxxx. No word. No news. Buzzard Point remains my odds-on favorite.

Did the U.S. choke,  or was Japan the team of destiny? Thanks for doing the chat.

Well, neither and both. Yes, the USA relinquished two late leads (in regulation and extra time). I suppose that is a form of "choking." Japan was a quality side, probably the best all-around team throughout the three-week tournament. A deserving champion. I don't believe in destiny/fate, but Japan was certainly motivated by the sorrow back home.

If women athletes want equal coverage, they should not whine when people call them chokers. Because they were clearly superior to Japan, but choked not only by letting up the late goal, but also in penalty kicks. One penalty kick was so high over the goal I'm not sure it has landed yet.

Ok, another opinion on choking. I do hate that word. You succeed and fail in pressure situations. In PKs, the USA failed, but let's also credit the Japanese keeper for two fine saves.

I see Solo back in four years, barring injury, because keepers in general have longer careers, but what about Abby Wambach? She took a lot of punishment in this WWC and is 31. Will she play in Canada 2015?

You are correct, goalkeepers typically last a lot longer on the international scene than field players (although don't tell Homare Sawa that). I would fully expect to see Solo in the next World Cup. Wambach? Hard to say. She is physically conditioned to endure, but four years is a long time from now.

What impact do you think this World Cup has on Women's Professional Soccer in the U.S.? Short-term spike in interest? Financial boon?

Remains to be seen. Sadly, Wambach and Solo play for the worst-run team in the league (worst run in all of pro sports?). Too bad the Freedom didn't survive: Wambach, Sawa, Bompastor, De Vanna, Sauerbrunn, Lindsey, maybe Krieger.....

Your blog recently revealed that the Baltimore-Washington Metropolitan Area is the top TV market for women's soccer. Why, then, was the WPS team moved to Florida? Is there better turnout for the team in its new location?

The Freedom moved because the Hendricks family, who had lost major cash on women's soccer over the last 10 years, finally gave up. The new owner lives in South Florida and decided to base the team in his backyard, so to speak. Had nothing to do with attendance in Washington. That said, the Maryland SoccerPlex is inaccessible to most fans in this area -- no public transportation nearby, tough traffic, remote venue. It's a gorgeous facility but too far for many fans.

When does the team return home? Are fans going to the airport to greet them?

The team flies into New York this afternoon. Players will begin making TV appearances tonight.

Was it a mistake not to go with Sauerbrunn in the final, based on her performance in the semifinal compared to Beuhler's performances earlier in the cup?

Fair argument. Buehler did not have a good tournament. Then again, who's to say Sauerbrunn's international experience wouldn't have been exposed in the final? Tricky decision for Pia.

Olympics next year - do players still have to be under 23? Or has that rule been changed? I'm sure Japan will be back with a force (since they were counting on peaking for the Olympics) but does the US stand a chance?

The women's Olympic tournament has no age limitations: It's the full national teams. The men's tournament is an under-23 event, with each team permitted to add three overage players.

Two main points: I loved the heart shown by both teams. They played their butts off and showed what sports are supposed to be about. I'm the typical US sports fan (ie traditional college and pro sports only) and if I saw that kind of passion I would consider going to a womans game, which I couldn't imagine before this world cup. They won me over. Side note: Not nearly as much diving as the mens game. Its a main reason I generally hate to watch soccer.

Thanks for your thoughts. Great point about the diving. There's also less dissent and post-goal theatrics. Refreshing.

Alex Morgan looked great in this World Cup and appears to be a pure scorer. She made things happen when she came in as a sub. Is she the next Mia Hamm?

There's only one Mia Hamm. Morgan doesn't have Hamm's technical skill, but her speed and finishing touch have been a revelation the past year.

Seemed like the US was in the Brazil role in the final, with Japan playing the never say die US role. Great game. Help me understand how Japan had an advantage in PK's? What scouting is really possible?

USA had the advantage entering PKs based on their performance in PKs against Brazil and the fact that they have a terrific goalkeeper (Solo). But the Japanese keeper was impressive, stopping two shots, and Lloyd missed badly. I would've bet the house that the Americans would win the tiebreaker.

Hi Steve, We know the women's team had a hard road to even qualify for the WC, but given that made it all the way to the finals, would it be safe to call this team overachieving? Should they just be proud of reaching the finals despite the loss? BTW, I am very happy for the Japanese. They deserved their win and it is great for their country given the hardships they endured the past year.

I wouldn't call them overachieving, for they were ranked No. 1 in the world and had won the past two Olympic gold medals. From where they stood after the group stage, the Americans perhaps overachieved to reach the final. Brazil was in better form entering the quarterfinal and France was the superior side for long stretches of the semi. No shame in losing in the final on PKs and Japan a worthy champion.

We noticed that Hope Solo is 5'8". Of the World Cup goalkeepers, is she the shortest? We noticed that men goalkeepers tend to be taller than the women.

Solo is one of the bigger (biggest?) female goalkeepers, I'm guessing. One of the glaring flaws of women's soccer is seeing goalkeepers allow shots to sail over them. That rarely happens in men's soccer because of the physical differences between men and women. Just the way it is.

I was disappointed with a few things from the US side. I felt at times there were too many long shots taken and not continuing to attack the box like they did in the first 10 mins of the match. Also I felt like after they went up 1-0 they spent too much time on killing the clock versus attacking. Very proud of our women. Really enjoyed the tourney....even watched the third place game.

Thanks for your thoughts.....

Kreiger's pass back across the goal mouth (to a Japanese forward) allowed Japan to get back in the game the first time. Will there/should there be consequences to such a huge mistake as there would have been for a men's blunder of this stature? IE, will she be done with the US team etc

Krieger reacted (poorly) to Buehler's panicky effort. But overall, Krieger had a superb tournament at right back and seems set to retain the starting role for the foreseeable future. She's a quality player who had a bad moment.

Was the U.S. 10-man comeback against Brazil a better than Japan's comeback against the "No. 1" team in the World in the final?

Good question. Each heroic and inspiring in their own way. USA was done against Brazil, but came back. Japan was in dire straits twice and equalized. The USA's "No. 1" ranking shouldn't enter the conversation.

What an awful way to decide a "champion". Why not just flip a coin, because thats basically what happens. Hockey has played more than twice the length of a regular season game in the playoffs. The sport should toughen up (change the rules on substitutions if it has to) and play till there is a winner.

The penalty kick format will be debated until the end of time. It's much more than a coin flip, come on. And soccer is a very different game than hockey. You make a good point about changing the substitution rule in order to prolong extra time. FIFA, are you listening? (Not likely)

Do you think Pia Sundhage needs to stop singing Simon & Garfunkel songs? Perhaps something more jingoistic is needed before a WC finals? Seriously, what about Sundhage, does she stay or go?

Love the Swedish hippie! Sundhage's contract is up this year, if I recall correctly, and with Olympic qualifying approaching in January, I would guess the USSF will extend her deal asap. She's a good coach and the players respond to her. We're assuming, of course, that she wants to stay on. Maybe she'd like to pursue opportunities in Europe. We'll see.

Is it me or does is women's soccer just more exciting than mens soccer? Watching the US womens team and mens team, there is no comparison, I would watch the womens team every time.

The USA women -- as well as many of the other WWC teams -- provided great theater. It was a refreshing display after cynical tactics spoiled many men's matches last summer in South Africa. Refreshing, indeed.

The fact that the World Cup was won on penalty kicks is sort of a joke. Isn't it time we switch back to Golden Goal?

The golden goal was implemented years ago, but later dumped. Most of the world couldn't wrap its head around it. So FIFA returned to the mandatory 30-minute extra time. As for PKs, while it's not the ideal way to decide a champion, it certainly provides unbearable tension and drama.

Why be surprised that Lloyd skied her PK over the bar? She must have taken six shots in the first hour, none of which were on frame.

Good point.

 

Claiming the MLS has more people attending the average game than the NHL is an odd argument to make, since the stadium sizes vary so much between the two sports. A better comparison would be percentage of the stadium that is full.

Percentage of stadium being full is also an odd argument because some MLS teams play in stadiums not designed for soccer crowds. Fact of the matter is, MLS average attendance is on par with NHL attendance. That said, NHL teams play more than twice as many games as MLS teams and have more dates to fill. As I wrote earlier, the NHL remains more popular among the masses, but MLS is making up ground with a product that, within its own sport, is inferior.

I was consistently impressed by Rapinoe. Yet she was not a starter until the end of the tourney, and Sundhage subbed her out at the end of the ET in favor of Tobin Heath (who was a complete disaster - repeatedly losing possession when possession was the only thing needed). Why was she not a starter for longer? What was the explanation for taking her out of the game in ET?

I can't answer that. Rapinoe might've been fatigued.

Is Pia kicking herself in her decision to sub Heath in for Rapinoe in the final minutes of extra time? Maybe Rapinoe would have converted her penalty kick and it would have been completely different... But then again, that's only speculation.

Second-guessing is part of the postgame process. We'll never know.

On the equal coverage question, I think the tenor of the coverage question is spot on. When you give up two leads and go 1-4 on PKs against a team you've never lost to, and one you've beaten twice earlier in the year, you should be excoriated. If not, well then, you are actually doing a disservice to the USWNT. Trust me, they are likely in agony over yesterday's result.

Another thought to share.....

I wasn't able to see most of the game yesterday, but was impressed with what I saw from both teams--the US put it all on the line and came up short. The thing about very high level playing against a good opponent is that it makes mistakes stand out--I'm thinking of that odd (for the US women's team) cross in front of the US net that led to the first Japanese goal. I was impressed with the class shown by both teams, too--helping each other up off the field after a fall, and what looked to be kind or civilized comments between the two teams and with the ref. Plus, no diving.

Well said. I'll repeat my earlier comment: Refreshing.

What's your pick for next week?

Manchester United vs Barcelona at FedEx Field! Nothing at stake. I'll go with 2-2 draw.

While this was an incredible run by the US, I fear the USWNT will suffer a Redskins-esque freeze. Evidence: The US barely qualifies for the World Cup. Before the world cup, shaky play. In the World Cup, US heroics but rarely an easy win. Yesterday, two leads obliterated. More international teams increasing their level of play, making it difficult for one team to dominate the soccer landscape. Rampone retiring. Wambach, Solo, despite elite skills, are aging. Morgan and Rapinoe are rising stars but few others waiting in the wings. A devastating loss, one that can create a crack in invincibility and fill with doubt about ability and skills. The loss was on the biggest stage in the world. An opportunity to promote soccer in the US evaporated. Based on this evidence, I predict this will set back the women's program at least twelve years. Until 2023, no medals in the Olympics or World Cup for the US. Maybe I am still upset after emotionally investing in a team many rallied to be on their side. That's the way with sports. Somebody please provide a counter to my argument from my evidence. I really want to root for this team, but I don't see the countering evidence. :_(

Wow, doom and gloom. Cheer up. I predict the USA returns to the Olympic gold medal match next summer.

What astonished me was that I actually loved the women's World Cup more than the men's because there seemed to be much less flopping. What can be done to stop the hysterics of the men? More referees? It seems to me that they can get away with it because there are so many NFL referees but so few soccer referees on a similarly sized field.

Good point. The size of the field and the speed of play have overwhelmed many a referee. Not sure how you could synchronize the tone/styles of two referees, however.

If soccer players (men & women) are too tired to play more overtimes, why don't they just allow more substitutions? BTW, I'm not new to the sport and was completely against penalty kicks when the women won against China in 1999. I certainly don't see Dwyane Wade and Dirk Nowitzki playing a game of "horse" to decide overtime of a NBA championship.

It's a different game. Basketball will almost always be decided in a five-minute overtime. Soccer could go on for hours. (I am still haunted by the UCLA vs. American U NCAA final in 1985 that, without PK rules, lasted until, I believe, the 156th minute -- when it ended, no one seemed to care and most of the few thousand fans at the Kingdome were long gone.)

I thought the U.S. midfield was subpar throughout the tourney. In the final, Lloyd must have taken six or seven shots, none on frame, in the first hour. No buildup or tactical sense, just long ball and aggression, poor decisions in front of goal throughout the match by all. Didn't they need someone in midfield who could calm them down, or isn't there anyone like that on the team?

I agree about the USA midfield. Flank play was decent, but no one in the middle to orchestrate the attack. Not sure Pia had a lot of options to change the tone.

Hi there! After the game, Coach Tony DiCicco mentioned Japan found their goalkeeper in a small town in Japan and that week. Can you clairfy that statement or have any information about Kaihori? She had some amazing saves during the game.. Thanks!

She was terrific. I don't know much about her. Google will help.

Your point about the 4(!) missed PKs by the Brazil team in the Copa America is a very good one. I don't understand why folks get on soccer players for missed PKs. That happens all the time, even by the best players (Roberto Baggio, anyone?). The choke job by the US was the debacle in the defense that allowed the two tying goals, not the missed PKs.

Agreed. But "choke" is a terrible word. Save it for missing an open net from three yards.

I agree that PKs are awful. I've always been in favor of a rule that you start reducing the number of players on the pitch for each OT. That is, give each team a red card at the beginning of each OT and make them take a player off the field. You won't wait forever for a goal to end it.

Reducing the number of players would require the remaining players to work harder to cover the exposed area, thus resulting in exhausted participants and, in my opinion, a stalemate. I prefer leaving it 11 v 11 (or whatever the current numbers are) and increasing the number of subs in extra time.

I wonder how many people who say the team choked have played any soccer at all. And while we're at it, I think many are overdoing the motivation of the Japanese team due to the problems at home. Ability still counts paramount.

Agree on both points.

Despite the sadness and shock for the US team that was oh so close, you cant help be but happy for Japan esp for all that country has gone through. I thought Abby and Hope were so gracious in their remarks toward the Japanese team after the game. That being said, will we get some better defenders for 2015, I mean that first Japanese goal was INEXCUSABLE. Plus I feel our d was our achilles heel all tourney long.

More thoughts.....

Umm. . . .MAYBE one fine save and one "my two year old could have scooped up that weakly kicked PK." The TV announcer picked up on it right away too. I forget which player kicked it but it was weak and essentially a tap right to the keeper. To me it betrayed a sense of entitlement to victory as if "all I have to do is kick and she must let it in because we're the USA!" No?

Keeper guessed correctly: credit to her. Loved her first save. I don't buy the entitlement argument.

PK's are the least worst of all the other options. That is all...

Well said.

The referee's whistle has sounded. Great chat. Thanks for all the questions. Follow me on the Soccer Insider for the Women's World Cup recap and other news as it develops in the coming days, weeks. Cheers

In This Chat
Steven Goff
Steven Goff covers soccer for The Washington Post. He has covered every World Cup since 1994 and D.C. United since the team -- and the MLS -- launched in 1996. You can follow him on the Soccer Insider blog and @soccerinsider on Twitter.
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