US National Team Chip Shots

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This weekly columns provides insight into the US Soccer scene. USMNT and USWNT are the main focus, but do not be surprised if there is a touch of the rest of the Federation.

USMNT

All is quiet on the USMNT front, where the only real news is the match against Mexico on October 10 in the Rose Bowl for a berth in the 2017 Confederations Cup. We will be diving deeper into that match as it approaches, but everyone should fully expect a tough match, with a great atmosphere mixed with both Mexican and American supporters. Could we see another “Dos a Cero”?

Another interesting story line is the team returning to St. Louis for a World Cup Qualifier. This is fantastic on several levels, but the most important is the level of fandom that will be present during that match. St. Louis, for reasons I have yet to figure out, does not have a team represented in Major League Soccer. The city does have St. Louis FC, which plays in the USL, and a very strong fan base that support local and National teams.

That match will be played in Busch Stadium, which is far from perfect since it is a baseball stadium. The unfortunate side of this scenario is it looks like a money grab for US Soccer; a soccer crazy community, a unique experience, but a bad pitch and larger chance of injury for both teams. The benefit for the US is history is behind them. The USMNT is 5-1-2 in St. Louis, with the only loss in World Cup Qualifying happening back on July 6, 1957 at the hands of Canada. Expect an electric stadium and the American Outlaws to be loud.

USWNT

So it seems that the USWNT isn’t slowing down after their World Cup Championship, and with the Olympics right around the corner, no one can blame them. Since Abby Wambach and Christie Rampone jointly lifted the World Cup Trophy on the artificial turf in Vancouver, Jill Ellis agreed to a multi-year contract extension, venues and dates of “Victory Tour” announced, Shannon Boxx and Lauren Holiday announced retirement. Seems like a lot, so let’s take it one at a time.

Jill Ellis signed a multi-year contract extension to remain the Head Coach of the USWNT. This was a no brainer for all parties involved. Ellis was able to get the 15’ers over the hump and out of the shadow of Mia’s crew from 1999 by adjusting formations and tactics, making the difficult decision to use Abby Wambach off the bench in her last World Cup. From Jill’s perspective, the USWNT is the top job for any coach of the women’s game, so why not sign on for another World Cup with a dash of the Olympic Games on the side. Jill Ellis could become the greatest coach the USWNT has ever seen, but only time will tell on that assessment.

The “Victory Tour” is a chance for the USWNT to tour the country to thousands of adoring fans and continue to grow the women’s game in this country. You can view the whole schedule here, but the six games scheduled right now will pit the USWNT team against Costa Rica, Australia, and Brazil. There will be a ton of fanfare and celebration for the women, and it will be the first time we will see the three stars above the crest.

Shannon Boxx and Lauren Holiday are joining Abby Wambach and Christie Rampone by hanging up their international boots. Boxx, 191 caps and 27 goals, will be leaving behind a storied legacy that includes three gold medals and a World Cup victory over a 15 year period. What is more impressive, is the fact that she has battled Sjogren’s syndrome and Lupus for many years, all while suiting up for club and country.

Holiday, who many fans will always remember as Lauren Cheney, has 130 caps and 24 goals for the USWNT, and scored a game winning volley during the WWC. Her role during the World Cup was to stabilize and distribute, which is something she did with pure class and skill. She is only 27, but her desires are to serve others and start a family, with those things on the horizon, she walks away with zero regrets at the end of the season.

Both Boxx and Holiday will leave a tough spot to fill within the USWNT spectrum, but the one thing that the USWNT has been able to do over the years is replace and replenish. This should be no different, but it will add a little more sentimental value to the “Victory Tour”. The final match with Abby Wambach, Christie Rampone, Shannon Boxx, and Lauren Holiday is sure to produce some tears from players and fans alike, but do not fret, the future is bright.