Interview: Kelsey Davis

I don’t think it’s a big secret that Ruth and I really like Kelsey Davis.  We’ve mentioned it before on the blog and possibly in every episode of our podcast.  When the opportunity to talk to Kelsey came up, we jumped on it, and I worked through the night to make the episode available for you today

Kelsey Davis (Photo by ohhh_yeah80)

Kelsey had a lot to say about the 2006 US team that competed in the U-20 Women’s World Cup in Russia, which is a particular topic of interest to Ruth and I, and what she said about that team and the coach surprised me.

In a Bleacher Report interview, Kelsey discusses some of her charitable work with the Ronald McDonald House, and we talked with her about that as well. Since the end of the season, she’s worked with teammate Natalie Spilger’s GreenLaces.

Kelsey was a Theology major at Portland, and she explained her interest in the topic quite passionately and eloquently.  Speaking personally, I think I could have asked her to keep talking about religious writers for a good hour.

It’s rare to have an engaging conversation about so many interesting topics with someone you admire. Talking with Kelsey was a real honor and a pleasure and I hope we get to do it again.

Kelsey on Twitter.

Writers mentioned in the interview:
Thomas Merton
Wendell Berry
Brennan Manning
Anne Lamott
Henri Nouwen
Jay Bakker
C.S. Lewis
St. Augustine
Julian of Norwich
(my small plug for David Dark)

Chile, look the other way

Last night, the conversation got rolling on Twitter about why I dislike Alex Morgan’s inclusion on the USWNT roster right now. As I’ve said, I understand that when a player gets that call, she goes, because a spot on the World Cup roster is what every women’s soccer player aims for, right? And as we have seen with Leslie Osborne, chances at these spots can be taken away so easily, so a player doesn’t pass up an opportunity when it presents itself. I’m sure Morgan has weighed the pros and cons and clearly she made her decision, but for various reasons, this call-up doesn’t sit right with me.

Disclaimer: I don’t cheer for Cal, and I don’t root against them. I don’t dislike Alex Morgan, but my criticisms of the way she plays are nothing new.

Let’s start with the “big” picture, the senior national team, which doesn’t seem to have cultivated or developed new forwards in the past three years. With the World Cup less than a year away and CONCACAF qualifiers happening now, I should probably be grateful that the new blood comes “late” rather than “never.” I shouldn’t question that Alex Morgan is the new blood, in particular, because she scored the game-tying goal against China’s U-23s… which should tell you something about this World Cup run.

This USWNT isn’t going to win the World Cup. Even if the tournament wasn’t being held in Germany (a hostile environment, to be sure) the US wouldn’t have good chances. Set aside, for a moment, that the athletes have to be in a winning mentality and have to think that they can do it–yes, miracles happen. Realistically, what are the US’s chances of getting that miracle? Realistically, what are the chances that Alex Morgan is going to perform that miracle or contribute to it in any way?

So Morgan has belatedly committed to a national team that hasn’t decided it needs her. The US will need her down the road if she reaches her potential, yes, and considering how long Amy Rodriguez has been around, Morgan could stick on the roster forever regardless of her performance. But if you pay any attention to CONCACAF, you know Morgan isn’t needed right now. This trip, for her, is about finding her small place on the team and filling a spot on the roster. Definitely, chemistry is needed for a strong team. Definitely, the coaches should have been working on that sooner. This call-up reeks of half-hearted experimentation. The 2010 senior WNT depressingly resembles the U-20 WNT, in that there are problems no one is truly fixing. This is a team that could get out of CONCACAF, but they will only progress through the knock-out stages of a World Cup if they feel like showing up on game days. They might not.

Flash back to when Christina DiMartino was called up to the USWNT. I never expected that to happen, even though I love the way she plays. That is a player that can provide a real spark and doesn’t care what size the opponent is. Nothing stops her. She is small (short and slight), though, and I would think that could have been a concern. Maybe chemistry was a factor, too. Maybe she wasn’t filling any of the currently open roles. But she plays a speedy, graceful, dangerous game and she doesn’t crumple when an opponent sneezes on her. Maybe Morgan has the chemistry. Maybe she is filling Tasha Kai’s role. She is speedy and graceful, and she has scored a couple goals, but per DiCicco’s report in 2008, we know that she has more issues than injury and equilibrium. Even if she has solved the nutrition problems, she is still the wilting violet on the field. These aren’t U-20s or college kids that she would be up against in Germany.

While we have DiCicco’s report and 2008 on the table, let’s not forget that Alex Morgan did make a commitment when it came to the U-20s. She made the commitment well in advance of the college season (her sophomore year, by the way). This year, in her senior season, she is a team captain. She has played in 11 of 17 games, totaling 915 minutes. 11 Bears have scored this season, and of 37 goals, 14 are Alex Morgan’s. In the Pac-10, Cal holds a 2-3-1 record. This summer, I asked, “Will Alex Morgan try to make something of her senior season at Cal?” The games she missed were at the core of Cal’s schedule: Portland, UCLA, both Arizonas, Stanford. Cal meets Oregon today Friday, but the Bears haven’t had any luck so far against the teams below them in the Pac-10. They close against Oregon State, currently unbeaten in conference play.

Although the statistics are hugely in Morgan’s favor, she doesn’t carry her college team alone. Often overlooked, Megan Jesolva is a key part of this team, even when she isn’t at 100%. DiCicco nearly took her to Chile and spoke highly of her in his report despite only having her in one or two camps. She has since played for the U-23s (although thanks to ussoccer.com, you wouldn’t know that). Morgan and Jesolva combined would have made Cal a solid team this year, despite the loss of players such as Lisa Kevorkian (all the rage at Boston University now), last year’s captains, and a starting keeper. Jesolva recently voiced her intent to continue her soccer career past NCAA, which is a pleasant surprise–but is it likely? She keeps narrowly missing opportunities. Her fellow players voted not to take her to Chile; by the time the U-23s scooped her up, the Nordic Cup was no more; she is graduating to the pro leagues in a year where WPS is massively scaling things down (possibly for its final run) and the women’s soccer world will focus on the senior World Cup. Jesolva’s chances with Cal have steadily decreased the longer Morgan has been away as part of the USWNT’s attempt to integrate some youth.

Overall, I really doubt Jesolva (or anyone else) begrudges Morgan this one shot at the USWNT. But I think it’s a gamble, and it’s selling Morgan, Jesolva, and Cal short. The Bears aren’t a Final Four-bound team, but they are much better than their record. They just weren’t prepared for Morgan’s Once In A Lifetime shot at the ailing USWNT. All the best to her, of course, but I have to wonder at the cost. In the sea of voices showering her with nothing but praise, I’m sure at least one blog entry of doubt is merited.

Edit to link: There is not enough anger in my post. Now a word from someone much more invested.

Special Episode 02 – Keelin Winters interview

On Monday, we at Cross-Conference Collector had the opportunity to talk to one of our favorite young players, Keelin Winters. She was nice enough to take time away from her studies and training to chat with us and you can listen that interview here.

Keelin is currently in her senior year at Portland. I’ve been a big fan of Keelin’s since her first year at Portland, when she won WCC freshman of the year. It was great to see her and the rest of the team step up in a year when the Pilots suffered some major injuries. Since then, Keelin’s gotten better each year. Named captain of the 2008 U-20 Women’s National Team, Keelin missed the Pilots post season that year, but won the World Cup in Chile.

Keelin was very open about the things the Pilots are working on, her experience of the UP-SCU rivalry, her time with the youth national team and where we might see her in the future.

After the interview, I took the opportunity to dig up my favorite Keelin-related quote:

Last night we watched “Planet Earth – Sharks.” The shark jumped about 37 feet in the air to eat the sea lion. We pretended that the sea lion was Argentina and the shark was Keelin.

Boston College beats UNC (aka Thursday was a good night to be a DiMartino)

September 1, 2007, South Carolina opened the season against North Carolina in Chapel Hill. 16 minutes into the match, the Gamecocks score. That single goal was enough to end No. 1 UNC’s 27 game winning steak and hand the Tar Heels an historical first-ever loss in the home opener. And sure, I was happy for South Carolina, but I was more pumped that they at beaten UNC at UNC. The Tar Heels had plenty of time to come back and put the usual hurting on their opponents, but they didn’t.

In women’s college soccer, the giant slayers are few and far between. So the slaying is sweeter when it’s a team that I’ve been through the ups and downs with. In 2007, UNC lost three games in the regular season (South Carolina, William & Mary, and Miami), but none of those mattered as much as Notre Dame’s arrival in Chapel Hill in the third round of the postseason. 2007 was “rough” on UNC and none too gentle on Notre Dame. I was at Penn State-West Virginia when news came that the Irish had knocked the Tar Heels out of the tournament. While my glee was tempered by the Penn State loss, this is still one of the highlights of 2007 for me–despite Notre Dame’s painful semifinal loss to Florida State.

Yesterday, while most of my twitter feed was fixated on the WPS semifinal between Philadelphia and Boston, I was watching the scoreline and minutes for the Boston College-North Carolina game. UNC had a 2-2 draw earlier this season with Stanford, one of the strongest and most talented teams in the NCAA this year. That was the Tar Heels’ 2010 blemish until last night’s 3-2 loss at home to Boston College.

BC opened this season with a 1-1 draw at home against Stanford. Since then, they have won every game. Granted, until last week, the Eagles’ most significant opponent was probably Boston University (no slouch this year with Kevorkian on the roster). But BC didn’t struggle against Rutgers and did come from behind twice before taking down the No. 1.

The recaps and articles are worth reading. This game was a significant victory for a team that is in its second season as serious contenders, and this win should cement that.

Boston College won with a complete effort. It won because DiMartino, Mewis and Mastroianni may be among the 15 or 20 best players in the nation. It won because its back line, particularly the unsung combination of Beyar and Alyssa Pember on the left side, has now hung for 180 minutes with the best Stanford and North Carolina had to offer. It won with role players such as Natalie Crutchfield, the speed merchant off the bench who changed the tempo when she came on as a first-half substitute.

It won because, at least on this night, it was a better than No. 1.

How are the U-20s doing in the NCAA season?

Since we are about a month into college play and certain U-20 influenced teams are having surprising results (both good and bad), I feel as though it would be beneficial to check up on the NCAA-based youth nationals. This list might be incomplete, as it’s mostly based on the clubs submitted to FIFA for the rosters. If I know that the players are with NCAA teams that aren’t included on FIFA’s rosters, then I have listed them (a couple of Mexico’s, for instance), but otherwise, I have probably missed a few internationals. Because Canada did not qualify for the World Cup, I have not included those players.

Arizona is 2-3-1 so far with wins over Cal Poly and Tennessee. This is a rough start to the season, and Pac-10 play won’t be any easier.

  • Renae Cuellar (Mexico) has played all six games. She has taken 26 shots (14 on goal), put away six goals (one game-winner), and recorded three assists. Overall, the Wildcats have 11 goals this season. You do the math.

Auburn is ranked in the top 25 for the first time since 2007, at 21/25, having started the season 5-2-0. One of the highlights so far was beating Florida State 3-2 in an overtime game.

  • Ashley Kotero (Mexico) has played two games and already recorded two shots and a goal.
  • Bianca Sierra (Mexico) played all seven games with two starts. She has taken three shots and notched one assist.

Boston College (5) holds a 5-0-1 record, having tied Stanford in the season opener. They have had a decent non-conference schedule, but it’s not as competitive as some other teams’.

  • Victoria DiMartino (USA) is having a standard season: 19 shots (nine on goal), seven goals (two game-winners), and one assist.
  • Kristie Mewis (USA) has 18 shots (nine on goal), three goals (one game-winner), and five assists.

California is 4-0-2 on the season and ranked 18/19 in the nation. We might get a chance to see how they fare without Alex Morgan this season, as she is still getting call-ups for the USWNT.

  • Betsy Hassett (New Zealand) started in four of the six games she has played this season. She has taken seven shots, two of which were on goal.

Creighton is 4-2-2 and (unsurprisingly, as this is a Missouri Valley Conference school) not ranked.

  • Gabriella Guillen (Costa Rica) started two of her six games so far. She has taken six shots, one on goal, and recorded one assist.

Duke is having a good season, starting 5-1-1 and ranked 14/15 depending on whom you ask. The loss came at the hands of Stanford, and the tie was a scoreless draw with FIU.

  • Mollie Pathman (USA), a freshman, has played all seven games. She is credited with 15 shots (10 on goal), two goals (one game-winner), and two assists.

Florida State isn’t necessarily struggling, but 5-2-0 with losses away (Auburn) and at home (Florida!) could be troubling. At the very least, that home loss to Florida must smart. The Seminoles are ranked 8th in the nation.

  • Ines Jaurena (France) has started and played in six games (DNP vs Stetson). She has taken three shots (two on goal), scored one goal and assisted on another. She has also converted a penalty kick. Too bad she couldn’t play for the US.
  • Toni Pressley (USA) has also converted a pair of PKs this season. She has taken six shots (five on goal!) and scored two goals (one a game-winner). She also has an assist.
  • Casey Short (USA) hasn’t taken PKs, but she does have 13 shots (six on goal). She’s tallied one goal in seven games played.

Georgia has advanced to 21 in the national polls and is 4-2-1, with losses to surging Duke and strong Stanford teams and a recent tie with Santa Clara.

  • Ashley Baker (England), a redshirt freshman, has started all seven games for the Bulldogs. She is credited with 41 saves, has seven goals-against, and notched an assist in the Georgia State game. Right on, keeper.

IPFW is 2-5-0 to start. This probably won’t be the Mastadons’ best season.

  • Erin Nayler (New Zealand) has started six of the seven games she has played as a freshman. She and junior GK Kristen McFadden split netminding duties in a 4-3 loss to unbeaten SIUE. Nayler has 14 goals against and 37 saves.

Lynn University is a DII school in Florida. The team has a 3-0 record.

  • Melissa Ortiz (Columbia) has played 200 of 273 possible minutes. She leads the team with 17 shots taken. She has one goal and one assist.

Mississippi State is off to a 6-1-0 start but will probably struggle when meeting with Oklahoma State this weekend. MSU’s schedule doesn’t seem to have been strong so far.

  • Monica Alvarado (Mexico) started and played six games this season. Eight shots (five on goal) and one assist. She missed the recent game against Jackson State.

North Carolina, ranked No. 1, etc, etc. 6-0-1 with a tie against Stanford. Second verse, same as the first… twenty or so, right? Anson Dorrance has 700ish wins and says his team probably shouldn’t be No. 1. Okay then!

  • Amber Brooks (USA) is a regular starter for the Tar Heels. She has taken ten shots (half on goal) and scored with three of those.
  • Crystal Dunn (USA) is also a regular starter and has played at least a hundred more minutes than Brooks. She has taken a shot and notched an assist.
  • Meg Morris (USA) is a starter and only has about 400 minutes on the field, but she has taken four shots (one on goal) and tallied an assist.

Pacific spent September playing a surprisingly tough schedule against ranked teams. They are 2-4-1, highlighting with a recent tie against Oregon.

  • Angelica Figueroa (Mexico) started six of her seven games for Pacific. She has taken six shots, two on goal, and scored once. She also has three assists and a yellow card.  Her game-tying goal (and her yellow) came in the Oregon game.

Penn State is struggling more than expected this season. A strong schedule has left them 1-5-1 after a month of play. They have lost five straight games and mercifully dropped out of the top-25. Things are only going to get worse with Lexi Marton injured.

  • Maya Hayes (USA) has started six of seven games in her freshman year. She has 13 shots (seven on goal), two goals, and one assist. Not bad, compared to…
  • Christine Nairn (USA), one of the U-20 captains. She has started all seven games for the Nittany Lions, taken 27 shots (put only 8 on frame), scored two goals, and assisted one. This is a very frustrating season already. Edit: given my later comment on Leroux, it’s important to note that Nairn had a PK blocked (by 2008 U-20 GK Chantel Jones) in the game against Virginia. She did convert in the game against Portland, but the final result was disappointing.

Portland is, as my co-writer says, flying under the radar at No. 3 in the nation with a decent schedule (comparable to UNC’s, probably) and 8-0-0 record.

  • Kendall Johnson (USA) started all four of the games she has played in and took two shots. [A/N: knee injury, but not season ending?]

Oklahoma State, 5-1-0, has been okay against okay teams. They ended August with a loss to Portland.

  • Adrianna Franch (USA) has been sharing the net with two other keepers but played all six games. She has 19 saves and three goals against.

San Diego has played a good schedule so far and kept a decent 4-2-1 record. Their recent loss to UC Irvine is surprising, but they beat USC in the preseason!

  • Natalie Garcia (Mexico) is a regular starter. She has taken four shots, all on goal, and has one assist.

Santa Clara has played a mixed-strength non-conference schedule to a 4-1-2 record. The Broncos’ ties with Cal and Georgia are probably a good indicator of what can be expected this season. Somehow, SCU still sits at 9th in the polls.

  • Bianca Henninger (USA) has played all 670 minutes in goal for the Broncos. She has made 26 saves and has five goals against.

Stanford is off to a 4-0-2 start and ranked No. 2 in DI under UNC, who they tied soon after tying Boston College (both road games). All of the Cardinal’s U-20 players have been regular starters in all six games.

  • Alina Garciamendez (Mexico), Courtney Verloo (USA), and Rachel Quon (USA) are all playing on a backline that has only allowed six goals so far. Verloo has two shots and one assist. Quon has one shot, one goal, and one assist.
  • Teresa Noyola (USA) is an attacking midfielder with 16 shots (nine on goal), three goals, and three assists.

Texas is doing alright (5-1-1) so far, but the Longhorns are not in the top 25.

  • Leah Fortune (Brazil) has taken 21 shots with 12 of those on goal. Of two goals, one was a game winner. She also has three assists. She is a redshirt freshman this year, having lost most of 2009 to an ankle injury.

UC Irvine is Joan’s randomly chosen second favorite team! Their 4-1-2 record is highlighted by wins over Gonzaga and San Diego and draws with Cal and Pepperdine.

  • Mar Rodriguez (Mexico) has four shots (three on goal) and one goal!

UCLA is not off to an impressive start, but at least they aren’t as bad as Penn State. 4-1-1 so far, the Bruins lost to Northwestern, tied UC Santa Barbara, and needed overtime to beat Notre Dame. UCLA is ranked 10th.

  • Zakiya Bywaters (USA) has taken 19 shots (9 on goal), scored twice (one game-winner), and assisted once.
  • Sydney Leroux (USA) has taken 28 shots, half of them on frame. She has five goals, one assist, and (no joke) didn’t manage to convert her PK attempt. Maybe her four-goal game against Cal Poly makes up for that.
  • Jenna Richmond (USA) beats Leroux’s four goals with two against Notre Dame. 16 shots (11 on goal), 4 goals (2 game-winners), and an assist. As a freshman.

Webster University is DIII. They are 1-3-0 so far.

  • Maria Arias (Costa Rica) is one of two players on the roster not from Missouri or Illinois. I don’t think she’s played yet this season.

Closing the book on the 2010 U-20 Women’s World Cup

I have been remiss about wrapping up the U-20 Women’s World Cup, but the results were as foretold. Germany thrashed Korea Republic 5-1 in the semis, and Nigeria advanced to the Championship Game 1-0 over Columbia. Then Germany proceeded to claim the gold in a 2-0 game. They are the first hosts to win the cup (previously, only Canada got close, taking second in the inaugural tournament). Korea Republic concluded by beating Columbia 1-0.

Every year except 2004, the same player to win the adidas Golden Boot has also won the adidas Golden Ball. In 2010, those honors go to Alexandra Popp. FIFA’s Fair Play award goes to Korea Republic, which is the sort of thing that makes me laugh.

adidas Gold, Silver and Bronze Balls
adidas Golden Ball: Alexandra Popp (GER, who won 50.79% of votes from the accreditied media at the event)
adidas Silver Ball: Ji So-Yun (KOR, 14.66%)
adidas Bronze Ball: Kim Kulig (GER, 9.16%)

adidas Gold, Silver and Bronze Shoes
adidas Golden Boot:  Alexandra Popp (GER) – 10 goals
adidas Silver Boot: Ji So-Yun (KOR) – 8 goals
adidas Bronze Boot: Sydney Leroux (USA) – 5 goals

My, how the mighty have fallen.

However, the US did not finish the tournament completely empty handed and disgraced. FIFA showed the love to Santa Clara’s Bianca Henninger–and really, how could they not? She is an incredible goalkeeper, without peer in her age group.

Adidas Golden Glove
American goalkeeper Bianca Henninger showed throughout the tournament that she is very much the number one, and not just for the USA U-20 team. The 19-year-old was in sparkling form as soon as she got to Germany, and conceded only one goal during the group stage. Defeat finally came, but only after penalties against Nigeria in the quarter-finals. A calming presence, she is also rock-solid when it comes to catching crosses, and communicates well with her defenders.

This, despite the USA’s loss in penalty kicks. As I’ve said, this wasn’t lost on saves; this was lost on the inability to convert and score. (Was there a reason Henninger wasn’t lined up to take a PK?) The Bronco captain-slash-keeper was one of the best parts of this entire mess, and I hope she can charge unshaken into the fall season.

Now, a word from Coach Tony DiCicco

I was looking for some old research materials this morning and came across Tony DiCicco’s in-depth recap of the US U-20s 2008 campaign, in which they won gold at the World Cup in Chile. The 100+ page report opens with this really great reminder:

However, we cannot confuse our success in 2008 with “everything is right with USA girls’ and women’s soccer.” […] the fact is we are losing ground in the women’s game worldwide.

Emphasis his, not mine. This recap came right after the US won gold at the Olympics and at the U-20 level, and the U-17 won silver in their inaugural tournament.

I have a love-hate relationship with this document. I am not a fan of DiCicco and I don’t like how he handles players, but I don’t think that makes his overall assessment wrong. I really do appreciate how he broke everything down in this document and gave a frank assessment of the team over the course of the year that he had them.