Leah Fortune: The Pearls Profit

For the past week or so, women’s soccer is the busiest that is has been since 2008. Last night, NCAA  released the post-season playing field for D-I and D-II. The US scraped out third place in world cup qualifiers. Canada and Mexico played a much-improved game that Canada got the best of–but hey, Mexico still has the honor of having cut the US down! There was further talk about Florida State, about Leslie Osborne being invited back to save the national team, and whether Alex Morgan is actually going to finish her college career.

But a significant part of my evening dealt with Leah Fortune and the news that she had been injured. As soon as “MRI” was mentioned–well, that says it all, doesn’t it? Leah left University of Texas to take full advantage of her opportunity to play for Brazil. From a soccer standpoint, I understand her decision. I am wary of her reasoning, though, as I don’t share her religious views–but to each their own. I have continued to follow her. Somewhat cynical, I mentioned to a friend that I wondered which verse Leah was going to use to explain the misfortune of leaving school to pursue a national team, only to have it all cut short in her first game. Really, what I was wondering was, is Leah someone that would write this off as part of God’s plan, or would she dig into it, interrogate and grapple with it? Because I cannot understand the first, but the second can make a person (of any persuasion) stronger.

The conversation that followed my comment isn’t important, but Leah’s blog is.  It’s easy to doubt a person when you don’t share their deeply held beliefs, but that doesn’t mean that you are rooting against them or can’t connect with them at all. I read the first line and almost laughed with relief. It’s terrible that this athlete has torn her ACL, but I seriously admire her response to the situation. She isn’t passive. She isn’t letting herself be carried. She is going to fight like hell.

And I want to take note of this because, as my co-writer has said, bloggers are quick to criticize or mock athletes who cite faith as their motivation. So, to be clear, I don’t share Leah’s convictions, but that doesn’t stop me from finding inspiration in her journey.

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.

North Carolina is not a good place to keep up with soccer.

I still haven’t watched US-Switzerland (not to mention any of the USWNT games) but I’m not sure I can be bothered while at the beach. I am still enjoying Mexico and New Zealand’s squads, and I will have those write-ups after I finish watching their games. I’ll miss those Junior Ferns in the next round.

For now, here is what’s going on with the U-20s.

One big catch-all post for the missed days of U-20 WWC action

U-20 WWC: Brazil vs Korea DPR

Just before the U-20 Women’s World Cup started, some folks were talking about the sexist advertising and how to get a soccer fix following the Men’s World Cup. Of this morning’s games, Germany-Costa Rica was the one recommended, probably based purely on the fact that Germany is a recognizable power even to fair weather fans. I pointed out that this would be a great game for fans of Germany–because the Germans would easily beat Costa Rica–but probably not a good game for people that are already skeptical of women’s soccer. When I pointed out that Brazil and Korea DPR are more evenly matched and both strongly favored teams, I was greeted with skepticism.

I am not sure how people that have followed the women’s game at the senior or youth levels in the past five years can question that either of those teams are threats. Brazil’s status goes without saying; they are Brazil. They have had Marta. They score and they threaten. Korea DPR beat China for the U-20 title in 2006, beat the US U-17s for the title in 2008, and were runners up to the US U-20s by a close score in 2008. The senior squad is considered a dark horse of sorts, but the youth should be considered solid and consistent–if sometimes dirty–contenders by now.

Today’s particular match-up between these two saw fairly even possession, but as the scoreline (0-1, goal by Ho Un Byol at 69′) shows, DPRK had the better chances on goal. Brazil’s goalkeeper, Aline, had to make saves and did well except for an error in the first half and goal against in the second. Both sides played a cleaner game than I’m used to seeing from them, and certainly a cleaner game than we saw the entire men’s tournament.

There is a reason these two, plus Sweden and New Zealand, combine to create the group of death. Three of these teams have well-founded reputations in the women’s game, and New Zealand brings experience and underdog hunger. So this is a group to keep an eye on, and it is the one I’ll be watching live this week.

First set of games on opening day of the U-20 WWC

It’s halftime during the first games, with Germany up 2-1 over Costa Rica and Brazil-DPRK scoreless with an almost even percentage of possession. Quality of possession is probably in DPRK’s favor, though.

  • I appreciate that New Zealand is giving us features and paying attention to its U-20s. First up, a Q&A with Betsy Hassett and Rosie White. Hassett plays for California Berkeley and White played both youth world cups in 2008.
  • There is also an interview with the Junior Ferns’ head coach, Tony Readings.
  • By the way, Marozsan did not start for Germany. Not that they need her for Costa Rica, but they might want her back later.

First game in the group of death ends 1-0 in Korea DPR’s favor. I am starting to think anyone has a chance to make it out.

Germany-Costa Rica, on the other hand, ended 4-2 with five cautions given to Costa Rica and a straight red given to Germany’s Schmidt. Marozsan did not sub in.

Second game in the group of death is actually more entertaining. Even, equal quality possession. 1-0 in New Zealand’s favor off a soft goal. France is 1-0 over Columbia.

In conclusion, New Zealand 1-2 Sweden, and Columbia drew even, 1-1 with France.