Guest Post by Sophie Alegi
11-year-old soccer player and writer in Michigan. This is her first match report.
December 8, 2012
Detroit –17,371 people came to Ford Field to watch USA vs. China: an attendance record for a women’s soccer game in Michigan.
The US was not used to the artificial surface. Players struggled to control the ball. The surface was clearly not appropriate for soccer because when they passed the ball, it bounced up and down slightly, as if the carpet was ruffled.
China’s defense was shaky in the first five minutes, letting at least six shots be hammered at their goalkeeper, Zhang Yue. The best chance was for Amy Rodriguez who was playing in her 100th international match. China let the US pin them down in their own half. But the Chinese pulled together, playing tight defense.
All of the players were extremely close together; making it very difficult for the US to connect their usual passes. The US started to look a little wobbly in the back, with Shannon Boxx giving up ball after ball in the defensive third. Hope Solo managed to keep out a powerful shot by the Chinese number ten with a spectacular aerial save.
In the midfield, the US gave up at least ten balls, giving China easy opportunities to go forward. But the US defense held up, and only a few shots were directed at Solo.
Unfortunately, the two times the ball went down the wing Megan Rapinoe failed to get the ball to Abby Wambach’s head. China started to get physical about eighteen minutes into the half. Every time an American player turned, she would get brutally fouled. It hurts to fall on that carpet surface!
Twenty minutes in, a Chinese player got a yellow card. On the resulting play, Wambach received a cross. The ball glanced off her head and out. She probably wanted that one back. The young Chinese team did well to close up the gaps, but the US team was playing at the speed of molasses.
Thirty minutes in the US began to play in the Chinese penalty box. They would pass around on the outskirts, trying to find an opening. The referee was not very good. She botched a corner kick call and awarded a goal kick instead. A corner was awarded to the US thirty-one minutes in. Wambach got clattered on the back post by a giant Chinese defender.
“Last Week Tonight” host John Oliver explains soccer and society in England to David Letterman.
The rich win. The poor lose. And most Americans don’t care.
Except, of course, those of us who screeched about John getting the number of EPL teams wrong. Enjoy!
So nobody here in Italy gives a hoot about the Women’s World Cup.
None of the three sport dailies have given the tournament any decent coverage, little more than scores and a sidebar while the rest of the paper is devoted to summer serie A pre-season gossip, Formula 1 profiles, and lame lifestyle pieces. The WWC games are shown on satellite only, with no substantial highlights on TV despite the fact that this football-mad nation has nothing other than dull (so far) Copa America in the middle of the night to keep millions entertained.
Due to Apple’s lack of cooperation with Adobe (makers of flash player used by fifa’s web site), I resorted to following the USA-Brazil on Espn gamecast . . . here we were, the whole family at the dinner table crowded around an iPad waiting breathlessly for the next line of text to narrate what was happening on the pitch.
Decoding the intensity of the events, the odd calls, cautions and ejections, it was all very strange, but captivating. In a 1930s kind of way, when crowds used to gather in the streets and piazzas to hear a guy read out updates sent by telegraph.
Wambach’s goal had us leaping out of our seats, chicken, tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella, and peppers flying around like it was Carnival! The PKs were a bit challenging to follow since no text appeared until the last couple of penalties.
As dessert beckoned, the final score read USA – Brazil 5-3 — actually 2-2 (5-3). Youtube generously and quickly provided the highlights a few minutes ago. Thank goodness for the internet. And praise be to football.
Having witnessed the USA’s last victory in November against South Africa in Cape Town, our 9-year-old daughters proved themselves lucky talismans for the Americans again on Tuesday (a school night!) against Canada in a Gold Cup match at Ford Field in Detroit.
It was my first football match indoors. Ford Field’s warehouse ambience infused the Detroit River derby with a blue-collar chic feel. We welcomed the oddly pleasant sensation of walking into an air-conditioned stadium on a scorchingly hot and humid afternoon.
We arrived early enough to watch Panama – Guadeloupe with a few thousand hard core aficionados. The heavily favored Panamanians scored twice (’29 and ’32) before Guadeloupe’s Tacalfred got a straight red for a rather innocuous foul on Luis Henríquez. Reduced to ten men, the Gwada Boys came to life as the game got chippy.
Panama’s third goal — an authoritative penalty by Gomez — seemed to bury the game a few minutes into the second half. (The PK was actually taken twice. Gomez “spooned” the first one into the net.) Content and over-confident, Panama switched off. Guadeloupe fought back. Substitute striker Jovial poached two well-taken goals to make the closing moments tense and exciting. Final score: 3-2 Panama.
The ritual procession of the USA and Canada out of the tunnel three rows below us midwifed a roar from the crowd of 28,000. “O Canada, we stand on guard for thee,” sang a few hundred Canadian ultras in the North End. Sam’s Army in the South End led the home fans in a spirited response: “And the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air, gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.” Are we ready to rumble?
Canada sat back on defense, hoping to spring counterattacks. FIfteen minutes in, Lars Hirschfeld’s comical goalkeeping error on Altidore’s simple shot from a tight angle gifted the US the lead. Despite a lot of huffing and puffing on Ford Field’s soft and slightly unstable grass surface, Canada hardly threatened. 1-0 at the break. Our daughters devoted themselves to their new pastimes: Anna, wearing her Messi Barca jersey, went autograph hunting among the Panamanian squad members seated right behind us; Sophie, clad in a Mia Hamm number 9 shirt, snapped photos.
One of the highlights of the second half was an on-duty police officer leading the “U-S-A! U-S-A!” chants in our section. He enjoyed it so much that he continued cheerleading in other sections of the lower bowl. Highlights on the pitch came courtesy of Clint Dempsey. First, he nearly scored a goal for the ages: a flying backward heel shot at the back post cleared miraculously by a Canadian defender’s jaw. Then he buried the Canadians in the 62nd minute. Altidore sent in a low cross from the right flank and Deuce slid in at the far post — like the quasi-goal earlier — and made it 2-0. Great goal. Classic Dempsey.
There was still time for the Tim Howard Show: a one-handed diving save off a thunderous Ali Gerba shot, and then back-to-back stops in the dying minutes inside the six-yard-box. Clean sheet preserved. Final score: 2-0. The US players thanked us and we filed happily out of the football warehouse and out into the steamy Detroit night.