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Friday, March 9, 2012

U20 WNT and CONCACAF Qualifications


CONCACAF qualifying.  Sounds so simple.

My first CONCACAF qualifying experience took place in Haiti in 1991.  When I say "my first" it was also THE first qualifying experience for Women's Soccer for the inaugural 1991 World Cup. 

We played in a small stadium that was jam packed with people excited to watch some soccer.  Our opponents were Mexico, Trinidad and Tobago, Martinique, Haiti and Canada.  Few countries in the CONCACAF region supported women's athletics and it is neat for me to think in some small way, our team was a part of showing other parts of the world that women should have a place in the athletic world. If you read between the lines, that is the best way I can think of letting you know we scored A LOT and our opponents did not find the back of our net once. 

21 years later, I find myself helping out US Soccer as a GK coach for the U20 National Team.  This is my 3rd rotation in a qualifying tournament with either a U-17 or U-20 National Team.  In 2008, the US U17 squad qualified in Trinidad beating Mexico 1-0 in the waning seconds of the game.  If my memory recall is good, I believe it was Crystal Dunn who scored the winning goal heading the ball into the back of the net off of a corner kick.  

2010 the Americans weren't so lucky.  We headed to Costa Rica and managed to play Haiti,  Costa Rica, Cayman Islands & Canada scoring 38 goals for with zero goals against.... and not qualifying.  Huh?  Our match versus Canada ended in a 0-0 tie in the semi final match and we lost in P.K.s  Normally, 3 CONCACAF teams are selected to head to the World Cup.  This year, the WC was in Trinidad and Tobago, so a slot was saved for them.  I remember the trip home seeming like  the longest plane ride in the history of the universe.  

Yep, we've been singing the Van Halen song, too. "We" meaning the older generation.  
So... here we are. Many players from the U17 team 2 years ago are still here.  As a matter of fact, Crystal Dunn is on the squad to help the US get a ticket to Japan for the U20 World Cup this August.  Our Semi Final game is against Mexico who looks good.  They have some skillful players who are somewhat unpredictable in their attack and would like nothing better than to beat the USA.  Husky Alumni Veronica Perez was the player who scored against the full women's national team to send Mexico to the World Cup this last summer.  I am sure their team has watched that highlight over and over to get them pumped up! 
Winners of the 2 semi final games that take place this Friday head to Japan.   3rd place consolation game will be the last golden ticket to the World Cup.  


This trip so far has been fantastic.  The team has played well with many quality interchangeable parts.  As much as everyone would like to put 2010 behind them and realizes this is a new team, a different year and different circumstance, it is tough to completely block from memory when there are equally as many circumstances that are similar. The pressure mounts with each peanut butter and jelly sandwich (team's favorite snack) and touch of the ball.  
You have to admit... they look pretty good in this photo

I am not in an R.V. but a nice hotel room.  I wish the rest of the Griffins and Gallimores were here to join me in the fun just like in Germany.  Instead of brats and beer and painted faces, I find myself tagging video until 4 a.m. and getting to be down on the field, wearing the US Soccer crest and warming up the goalkeepers.  A different kind of experience; and one that is a privilege I do not take for granted. 




Today is our first day off.  Tomorrow we train to prepare for Mexico.  Victory = Trip to Japan.  


Now that the stage has been set, I will update regularly in the hopes you can bite a fingernail or two along with us.

Flash forward: it is now Friday night and we've managed to beat Mexico 4-0 in a very good team performance with some outsanding goals and once again ZERO goals against...good job keepers.

We have qualified for Japna 2012 and are lookin  forward to palying the winner of the Canada-Panama game in the final this Sundayy. As important I'm looking forward to getting back to my family and the Dawgs!  There's no place like home.


The next several months will be busy and funfilled as we continue to prepare for the World Cup in August .