Connect with us

Soccer

Five things to know about the 2024 Concacaf W Gold Cup – Equalizer Soccer

Published

on


Colombia midfielder Daniela Montoya (6) and United States midfielder Emily Sonnett (14)


Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

The 2024 Concacaf W Gold Cup kicks off on Saturday with three play-in games (sort of) and regional bragging rights on the line (One-third of the final-round participants are from South America, so there’s an asterisk to Concacaf bragging rights.)

Default thinking leads to the idea that the United States women’s national team is the favorite in this tournament. The United States women’s national team has owned Concacaf tournaments, winning 14 of the 15 Concacaf competitions in which it has participated (the U.S. did not participate in World Cup qualifying in 1998 as hosts of the 1999 World Cup).

This U.S. team, however, is in the early stages of a complete makeover, a process currently being overseen by an interim coach who is working remotely with the impending coach to get the team ready for the Olympics. Winning the Gold Cup is plenty realistic, as is the idea of still calling the U.S. the favorite on home soil, but this tournament shouldn’t be a walkabout for the Americans. A unique knockout-round setup could bring a difficult quarterfinal matchup, depending on how things play out in each group.

Here are five things to know about the Concacaf W Gold Cup, which the confederation is calling the “first” women’s Gold Cup but there were Gold Cups played in 2000 and 2002.

The United States of Rebuilding

What kind of U.S. team will we see at this tournament? Every performance must be weighed through a lens of significant context, chief among it the lack of Emma Hayes on the sideline full-time, and interim coach Twila Kilgore’s longer-term implementation of plans she and Hayes have developed. There is still a relative inexperience to this roster, and depending on the lineups that Kilgore rolls out, a lot of player combinations working together for the first time.

Exactly what those player combinations will be the most intriguing thing to watch. Will the midfield combination be the generally expected trio of Rose Lavelle, Lindsey Horan and Emily Sonnett? If so, will that see Sonnett play as the lone defensive midfielder, or will there be a more flexible or creative approach? How much time will Sam Coffey, Korbin Albert, or Olivia Moultrie get, and how might their potential inclusions reshape the midfield’s approach?

Up top, the U.S. will further explore life without Alex Morgan. Does Sophia Smith or Mia Fishel lead the line as the No. 9? And how does Jaedyn Shaw — who said recently she prefers the No. 10 role (speaking about San Diego Wave FC) but is dynamic enough to impact the game in any of the front four positions — factor into all this?

All of that assumes that the U.S. will generally stick with a 4-3-3 system, which is not a given. Hayes hasn’t fully taken over, but she is known for tactical experimentation. Her Chelsea sides have dabbled with three-back systems in the recent past. We saw glimpses of more aggressive shapes in possession in the United States’ two games against China in December. The Ameri cans would frequently build out with three in the back and as many as five players across the front line. The Gold Cup is a great place to build upon those ideas.

Play-in round with some surprises

Just like at World Cup qualifying, Haiti is a dark horse to watch in this tournament. The catch? Haiti has not yet even qualified for the final round of the tournament. Haiti, which made its Women’s World Cup debut in 2023, will play Puerto Rico in one of three play-in games on Saturday. Haiti will be favored on Saturday, but Puerto Rico has made respectable strides in recent years. The winner of that game will advance into Group B with Brazil, Colombia and Panama in what could be the most balanced group in the competition.

Guyana and the Dominican Republic will face off in another play-in game, with the winner advancing to Group A and facing the U.S. on Tuesday. El Salvador and Guatemala play in Saturday’s other play-in game, with the winner advancing to Group C, highlighted by Canada.

Astute observers will note a glaring absence in the entire field: Jamaica. The Reggae Girlz were the last Concacaf team standing at the 2023 World Cup, advancing to the Round of 16 and getting out of a group with Brazil, France and Panama unbeaten and with zero goals conceded. Jamaica, however, then failed to even qualify for the preliminary round of the Gold Cup — but there is necessary context. Ongoing pay disputes with the federation led Jamaica’s World Cup players to boycott important qualifying games, leading a depleted Jamaica side to fall short of qualification.


Want even more women’s sports coverage?

Subscribers to The Equalizer save 50% on their subscription to our partner publication, The IX. This newsletter has experts covering the latest news in women’s soccer, tennis, basketball, golf, hockey and gymnastics. Each sport has its own day, which means you’ll receive The IX in your inbox six days a week.


Hello, guest teams

The champions of Concacaf could well end up hailing from CONMEBOL. Brazil and Colombia are legitimate contenders. Of the 15 teams set to compete at the Gold Cup (including the preliminary rounds), Colombia is the team that has bragging rights to the best finish at the 2023 World Cup after defeating Jamaica to advance to the quarterfinals (where Las Cafeteras gave England trouble). Colombia, however, will be without some stars, including forward Mayra Ramirezreportedly due to a loophole in FIFA’s release clause. Brazil had a poor World Cup, but — evergreen statement here — the individual talent is there to be a global force. As ever, execution at a team level will dictate wider success.

Argentina and Paraguay also join the field, having qualified via CONMEBOL’s 2022 Copa America Femenina. Argentina, ranked No. 31 in the world, is in Group A alongside the United States, Mexico, and the winner of the Guyana/Dominican Republic play-in game.

Knockout-round mystery adds intrigue

Normally, at this point, we’d all map out our predictions for the winner of this tournament based on assumed paths to the final for the group winners. To Concacaf’s credit, they’ve made a tournament of questionable importance interesting by creating a reseeding mechanism for the knockout stage — particularly important since two of the three best third-place finishers will advance to the quarterfinals.

The final eight teams will be seeded first through eighth based on group-stage performance. The teams will be ranked by the following tiebreakers, in order: greatest number of points obtained in all matches; goal difference; most goals scored; lowest number of disciplinary points (1 point for first yellow card, 3 points for second yellow card/indirect red card, 4 points for direct red card, 5 points for yellow card and direct red card); drawing of lots.

Once there’s a ranked order, the matchups will be No. 1 vs. No. 8; No. 2 vs. No. 7; No. 3 vs. No. 6; and No. 4 vs. No. 5. The winner of the No. 1 vs. 8 matchup will face the winner of the No. 4 vs. No. 5 matchup; the winners of the other two matches will compete in the other semifinal. (Which is to say, there won’t be another reseeding for the semifinals.)

Why does this matter? Concacaf tournaments are infamous for being predictable, with the early stages feeling like simulation to get to a United States-Canada final. The 2022 Concacaf W Championship provided some intrigue as the U.S. showed some signs of uncertainty in the group stage, but it ultimately ended the way the script usually plays out: the U.S. defeated Canada in the final.

Reseeding at the quarterfinal stage means we could get a heavyweight matchup before the semifinals. It would be fascinating to see the U.S. have to face Canada, Brazil or Colombia in a quarterfinal to avoid an embarrassingly early exit on home soil. Haiti, which gave the U.S. defense trouble the last time the teams met, would be an interesting matchup as well. The tiebreaker system and the ranking of the quarterfinalists means the margins are thin, right down to garbage goals conceded or discipline received. A tough quarterfinal might be exactly what the U.S. needs. Winning the tournament, then, would mean a multiple major matchups — a requirement of the Olympics, too.

What to make of Canada post-Sinclair

Much of the talk will be about the U.S., but it’s an Olympic year and Canada is the reigning champion in that competition. This will be Canada’s first competition since the international retirement of forward and longtime captain Christine Sinclair, who first appeared for the team 23 years ago and has mostly been the face of it since. Sinclair had not necessarily been the focal point in her final years, but her presence and leadership were undeniable. How will this new era begin for Canada?

Head coach Bev Priestman, who just signed a contract extension through the 2027 World Cup, is tasked with figuring that out. There are plenty of mainstays on the roster, but there is also a mix of relatively new players alongside players who have been around but haven’t fully latched onto prominent roles. Goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan, center backs Vanessa Gilles and Kadeisha Buchanan, and midfielder Jessie Fleming solidify the spine of the team, but Priestman will need more than she got from the group at large at the World Cup if Canada is to earn a medal at a fourth straight Olympics this summer. The Gold Cup is the team’s best opportunity to simulate this summer and the most time it will have together prior to leaving for France.  





Source link

Continue Reading

Soccer

North Carolina Courage’s Brianna Pinto embracing new role in 2024 – Equalizer Soccer

Published

on

By


Gotham FC's Delanie Sheehan battles for a ball with North Carolina Courage's Brianna Pinto


Photo Copyright Rob Kinnan for USA TODAY Sports

CARY, N.C. — When the North Carolina Courage lined up for their opening match of the 2024 National Women’s Soccer League season, an interesting name filled the central striker’s role at kickoff: Brianna Pinto.

The 23-year-old had previously been a midfielder while a member of the Courage, albeit a versatile player who had been used in both defensive and attacking roles. But with North Carolina’s leading scorer from 2023 Kerolin sidelined with a torn ACL for the time being, as well as head coach Sean Nahas having a surplus of midfielders and a track history of playing players in various roles on the field, Pinto got the call as the No. 9, a move that paid immediate dividends.

Pinto drew a penalty to open the scoring in the season opener, a 5-1 romp over the Houston Dash, and notched her second start of the season back at WakeMed Soccer Park on March 30, with her first goal of 2024 in a gritty 1-0 win over Gotham FC.

“I think just being in a new role is obviously a learning moment. But I love playing the No. 9 just because I’m close to goal and there’s nothing more special than getting to score,” Pinto told reporters in the postgame press conference after the win over Gotham.

Access the best women’s soccer coverage all year long

Start your FREE, 7-day trial of The Equalizer Extra for industry-leading reporting and insight on the USWNT, NWSL and beyond.





Source link

Continue Reading

Soccer

Star in the making – Equalizer Soccer

Published

on

By


Emeri Adames stands with her arms folded and a massive smile on her face. She is posing in front of gold drapery in the Reign's dark blue home kit with gold accents.


Photo Copyright Jane Gershovich for Seattle Reign FC

SEATTLE — As calendars turned to December, Emeri Adames was graduating high school and preparing for life playing college soccer at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. The Dallas, Texas, native was not planning on going pro. She had committed to a Tarheels program that is consistently one of the best in the nation as one of the nation’s top recruits.

Seemingly out of nowhere, Seattle Reign came calling. Discussions began in late December and an invite to preseason soon followed. Adames still wasn’t set on going pro but, time training with the Reign changed everything.

“It was definitely a really hard decision. I have so much respect for UNC coaches, and I have such a good connection with them still, I talked to them. But it was just mainly this team,” Adames told The Equalizer.

It has been Adames’ goal ever since she was young to go pro but she didn’t think it would happen so soon.

“It wasn’t like I was just trying to go pro just to go pro,” Adames said. “I found my place and I found a great team that would support me and the staff that really wanted me to grow as a player and I saw their visions for me. And so I talked to my family and we had a lot of conversations and that’s what led me to this decision.”

The Reign were just as excited to sign Adames as she was to join the team. Speaking after Adames’ NWSL debut, in the regular season opener, head coach Laura Harvey admitted that “honestly, within two days [of preseason] I was like ‘we need to sign this kid, she is special.’”

Harvey was almost gleeful talking about Adames, forewarning media “You wait, this kid’s unbelievable.”

Access the best women’s soccer coverage all year long

Start your FREE, 7-day trial of The Equalizer Extra for industry-leading reporting and insight on the USWNT, NWSL and beyond.





Source link

Continue Reading

Soccer

What to keep and what to change from the SheBelieves Cup – Equalizer Soccer

Published

on

By


The USWNT celebrates winning the SheBelieves Cup


Photo Copyright The Columbus Dispatch

On Tuesday night, the United States won its seventh SheBelieves Cup in nine years. This victory was secured in thrilling fashion – a full-time draw led to penalty kicks and featured goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher not only saving shots but also burying one of her own. But, as the post-match excitement died down, fans and followers immediately honed in on the predictable follow-up question to an international tournament: what could this mean for the Olympics? 

In short, a lot! This tournament saw some predictably solid play from Olympic roster shoo-ins like Lindsay Horan, whose abilities to consistently generate plays, draw fouls, and score goals looked as reliable as ever. Mallory Swanson returned from injury to the international stage for the first time in a year and has never looked faster or more eager for a goal. And joining her up front were Jaedyn Shaw and Sophia Smith, who more than earned their keep with goals throughout the tournament. 

Access the best women’s soccer coverage all year long

Start your FREE, 7-day trial of The Equalizer Extra for industry-leading reporting and insight on the USWNT, NWSL and beyond.





Source link

Continue Reading
Advertisement

Trending