Its been a week since I got home and I am almost recovered from the World Cup (and the jet lag and subsequent cold). It was a long (15 days) and demanding trip with a very happy and definitely well deserved World Cup championship for Team USA.
In the final on November 6, Team USA beat a tough England squad 3-0 to retain their World Cup title from 2007 and become the first USA national soccer team to win consecutive World Championships.
The journey for Team USA to the World Cup title featured 2 years of preparations with 7 team training camps and a rigorous individual weekly training schedule. In addition to their training or staff duties each person on Team USA was responsible for raising the money to support their participation.
Team USA arrived in France on October 24 for a 6 day training camp (with some occasional tourism). The training sessions were intense and so were several “friendlies” against Team Canada, Team Australia and a top French club team. The team came through these sessions with a powerful sense of unity that stood them in good stead once the World Cup competition started.
It seems that there is always a “pool of death” at every World Cup and this was true for this World Cup as well. Pool A, the “death pool” had the USA, Japan, England, Portugal and Switzerland. With only 2 teams from each pool making the semifinals Team USA knew they had to come out strong and have no let-downs to assure a semifinal slot.
Team USA’s first match was against Team Japan. An end-to-end duel was won by Team USA 2-0 after a brilliant cross by Cup MVP Michael Archer was tucked into the goal by BORP’s Kendra Scalia-Carrow and another laser strike goal from Archer on a kick-in.
Team USA scored an easy 13-0 victory over Portugal in their second and last game of Day One with contributions from the entire line-up. In the meantime Japan played England to a 1-1 tie which meant that the results of the USA-England game to at 9:00 AM on Day Two would determine which of the top 3 in Pool A (USA, England, Japan) would move into the semis. (While Portugal and Switzerland played valiantly, their sides were not competing at a level which threatened the top teams.)
The USA- England match was a 40 minute grind as an inspired English team thwarted multiple scoring chances of Team USA and kept a raucous crowd on the edge of their seats.
England managed a 1-0 lead on a brilliant individual effort from their top player but with lots of time left and the USA’s ability to generate offense the outcome was in doubt until the clock ran out. The 1-0 England victory not only knocked Japan out of semifinal contention but meant that Team USA would finish second in pool play (after beating the the Swiss 21-0)
and have to face France (#1 in Pool B) in the semis at 8:00 that evening.
In the first semifinal neither England or Belgium (3rd in 2007) could score throughout regulation. Seemingly headed for a shoot-out, The English scored late in the second overtime period and secured their spot in the championship final.
The French team came in to the semifinals with a 4-0 pool play record and the almost total support of a full house home crowd. But a smaller, very vocal and colorfully dressed USA cheering section matched the French fans cheer for cheer. The USA fans had a lot to cheer about as Team USA, behind another brilliant defensive effort, stymied every French offensive foray and scored on a penalty (Archer) and a combination play (assist Scalia-Carrow).
The day ended with these match-ups set for the finals:
9th Place: Ireland v Switzerland
7th Place: Australia v Portugal
5th Place: Canada v Japan
3rd Place: Belgium v France
1st Place: England v USA
A one day break between pool play and finals due to the necessary meetings of the international congress allowed the tension to build around the final. When the Championship match finally started at 3:00 PM the atmosphere was electric and once again the crowd support favored the USA opponent. However Team USA took the air out of the fans about 10 minutes in as Archer scored on a penalty to go up 1-0. England kept the pressure on but couldn’t crack the USA wall and the USA kept their attacking mindset to score 2 more goals for a 3-0 victory and the Cup!
9th Place: Ireland
7th Place: Australia
5th Place: Japan
3rd Place: France
Personal notes: This was my second time around on the Team USA staff. For both campaigns I served as the team referee and rules advisor for training camps. Immediately prior to each Cup I refereed some “friendly” matches and am very thankful to the competing teams and my fellow referees for the opportunity to share a court with them. As both Cups commenced, I shed my USA cap and served on the World Cup Competition Panel which meant maintaining an impartial attitude and little association away from the gym with Team USA (or any of the teams). This was a tiny bit of a strain. However it has been a tremendous honor to be a part of both teams and the Panel, and I cherish the friendships and experiences that we shared along the way (even if some of it had to be quietly and on the inside). I know that every time I have a See’s (butterscotch) lollipop I’ll think of all of you.
Support from family, friends and the community was of paramount importance to making these opportunities possible for all of us. My thanks to all of you and especially Dawn and Aya (and Cho-Cho). Special thanks to everyone on both Team USA’s, to BORP, the USPSA, FIPFA and a big “Hoooo!” to Chris Finn for his leadership and friendship.
Joe Carrow photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jzoe/sets/72157628019156430/
Scot Goodman photos (in progress):