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Monday, October 3, 2011

Lauren Cheney's new role in American Soccer


Lauren Cheney brings new leadership to U.S. Women’s Soccer

By Kevin McSpadden

Abby Wombach and Hope Solo are two of the most decorated players currently playing on the U.S. Women’s soccer team. They are the faces of the U.S.A. women’s soccer team, and Wombach is on the short-list of the best players in the world.  That said, Lauren Cheney is also distinguishing herself as one of the best players in the world.

Former UCLA Bruin Lauren Cheney is a playmaker. When Cheney has the ball, good things happen. Because of her abilities, Cheney’s teammates make a conscious effort to include her in the play whenever she is on the field.
             
In terms of pure athleticism, it’s hard for any player in U.S. Soccer to match Cheney’s physical tools.  Whether it is scoring, assisting or initiating the offense, Cheney uses her athletic talents to consistently make incredible plays.

An example of Cheney’s playmaking happened on September 22, when the U.S. women beat the Canadian team 3-0 in Portland, Ore. Cheney made an excellent through pass to Alex Morgan, which lead to a Wombach header, giving the U.S. team a commanding 2-0 lead late in the match.
           
After the game, both Wombach and Morgan gave Cheney credit for helping create the goal because of her excellent play on the pass. This is the type of athleticism that makes Cheney so valuable to the team. It does not show up in the stat-book, but only an elite player could have made the pass that Cheney pulled off in Oregon.           

Cheney has been a highly regarded, multi-talented player her entire career. Similar to a top baseball prospect, Cheney got her call-up and exceeded expectations. The World Cup was Cheney’s call-up to Women’s soccer stardom, and she performed beautifully.

Cheney’s performance was extraordinary because she was moved from forward to outside-midfielder right before the tournament started. This was a move designed to get Cheney on the field.
           
U.S. Women’s soccer coach Pia Sondhage was making the calculated risk that it was more important for Cheney to play an unfamiliar position than to have her sit on the bench behind the incredibly deep American forwards.

The move to get Cheney starter’s minutes was not a surprise. Cheney had become an impact-maker and had no shortage of success before her breakout performance in the World Cup. Her ability to switch positions and play so admirably is a testament to Cheney’s playmaking abilities.
           
In college, there were signs that she would be in the spotlight. Cheney is the all-time UCLA goal scorer, tallying 71 during her time as a Bruin. Not to mention, she holds the career record for game-winning goals with 28.
           
Stats like these imply that Cheney plays her best during the most crucial moments. Even in her Pac-10 college days at UCLA, Cheney was a player who could be counted on to make a play when the team needed her.

Cheney also understands that UCLA gave her the tools that led to her becoming such an important part of the U.S. program. Cheney is aware of the opportunity that playing in the Pac-10 provided her. She gave advice to current Pac-12 women’s soccer players stating, “They have the best environment, they have everything offered, they have the coaches, great players around them and they should take full advantage of that.”
           
Professionally, Cheney’s talent was noticed early on in her career. In 2007, she was named the United States Soccer Federation’s young female athlete, which goes to the top player in the U-20 age division. And for the early part of career, Cheney looked like a player waiting to break out. 

Considering that before the World Cup Lauren Cheney was a rotational player, it is impressive that she is sixth on the U.S. women’s active career goals list, scoring 16.
This year, Cheney is the third leading scorer on the team with five goals. Only behind Abby Wombach’s seven netters and Carli Loyd’s six strikes. She has been a consistent goal scorer all season.

Coach Pia Sondhage saw Cheney’s consistency and was hoping that her knack for playmaking would benefit team USA in the 2011 World Cup. Coach Sondhage was correct in giving Cheney the opportunity because Cheney played outstanding for the entire tournament. Cheney’s goal against France in the World Cup stood out because it gave Team USA a 2-0 lead and was critical in the American’s victory.

The international soccer community took notice of Cheney’s breakout performance. She joined Hope Solo, Shannon Boxx and Abby Wombach as the Americans who earned a spot on the World Cup all-star team. Based on the high level of play that made Lauren Cheney a World Cup all-star, the decision by Sondhage to play her really paid off.           

Cheney tells a great story that shows the significance of her position change and the uncertainty a big move like that creates. She remembers asking Abby Wombach the night before the first World Cup game, “Am I good enough to play outside-mid?” Wombach responded, “I honestly don’t know, but you better make the best of it.”
           
That is exactly what Cheney did, she made the best of it and it turned out to be her coming-out party on the international soccer scene. “I wouldn’t say I was the next best thing at left-wing, but I played my role and did what I could.” Humbly said for a World Cup All-Star.
           
Cheney has always been a big-game playmaker, but now she wants to be a leader on Team U.S.A. This summer she performed under the brightest lights, on the biggest stage, and succeeded tremendously. Her first experience as a full-time starter, on a stage as large at the World Cup, has been a valuable experience – and key to Cheney’s ascension into a leadership role on the team.
           
One way Cheney is hoping to become a leader is to leave an imprint on every game. “I want to be an impact, I got a taste of scoring and playmaking in the World Cup, and I want to continue that,” said Cheney about her personal goals on Team USA. If she continues to play the way she has recently, there will be many games ahead in which Cheney makes an impact.
           
The newest goal for the American team is to take home the gold medal at the 2012 Olympics in London, England. There was a palpable excitement in Cheney’s voice when she was asked about the experience of playing in London in 2012. “London in general is exciting,” she said. “It is a great, great city.”
                       
As the U.S. women work towards the Olympic Gold, Cheney believes she can use her World Cup experience to become a leader in London. She stated, “Having [the World Cup experience] under my belt, and playing 90-minute games, I’ll be able to bring some sort of leadership into the Olympics.”

Cheney is stepping into a new role on the U.S. women’s soccer team. She has always been an exceptional athlete and a talented playmaker, and she now hopes to become a player that her younger teammates seek out for advice. Cheney is carving out a leadership role on Team USA because of her recent top-level play, and her teammates are willing to follow.
           



Amy Lepeilbet: A comeback story


Amy Lepeilbet’s Soccer Story: A Great Comeback
By Kevin McSpadden

Injuries are a part of sports. They are a regular part of the lifestyle surrounding athletics. For most athletes who have experienced an injury, they view it as an obstacle to overcome. A torn ACL is often viewed as an unfortunate setback during their quest for success. However, injuries also provide perspective, and in some cases, a little perspective can transform a career.
A starter and defender on the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team, Amy Lepeilbet’s story is one of a player overcoming injury to make a personal comeback. However, to call Lepeilbet an underdog would be misdiagnosing her achievements. Since 2004 Amy has been one of the most consistent and versatile defenders in the world. What makes Lepeilbet’s story so intriguing is that it took a torn ACL to propel her from the solid contributor role into an elite player on the world stage.
During her college career at Arizona State, Amy Lepeilbet was one of the best defenders in the country. She was one of the keystone members of the Arizona State women’s soccer program that brought them to heightened success in the Pac-10.
From 2001-2003, she was a first team Pac-10 defender as well as being a member of the Pac-10 all-academic team. During those years, Lepeilbet was the best defender on the team and was the key reason why the Sun Devils tied a school record with five straight shutouts.
During her first stint with the U.S. national team from 2004-2006, she was considered a quality defender who would give reliable and steady defense when called. She appeared in 13 games and had established her position on the team. However, she was not playing to her potential and was not playing with the ease that made her so successful at Arizona State. Lepeilbet will admit, “I was scared out there. I was scared to make mistakes, and I didn’t always perform at my best.”
Lepeilbet was a young, solid defender who looked to make a positive contribution to the 2008 Olympic squad heading to China. Lepeilbet loved the game but said that before her injury she “felt all of pressures, and it was tough out there.” Then in the summer of 2006,Lepeilbet suffered from an ACL injury that would not only postpone her Olympic dreams, but would also sideline her Team USA hopes for two and a half years.
Returning to professional soccer in late 2008, Lepeilbet began to work her way back onto the international scene. She played so well for the Boston Breakers that she was called up for a USA vs. Canada game during the summer of 2009.. After the game, Lepeilbet was officially given a roster spot, which marked her return to international soccer. She had not successfully completed her comeback, but the summer of 2009 signified that she was on her way back from her injury.
Determined not to make a quiet return to the professional and international soccer community, Lepeilbet burst back on the scene and reminded everyone why she had been considered such a promising talent back in 2004-2006. In 2009 and 2010, Lepeilbet won back-to-back Defender of the Year. She is one of the most versatile defenders on the U.S. team and can play both center defense and outside back.
Lepeilbet has deceptive speed, considering her forceful style. This combination of speed and aggression has turned Lepeilbet into one of the best one-on-one defenders in the world. It also allows her to be successful at any position on the defense.
Lepeilbet’s abilities allowed her to start all six games in the World Cup despite fighting through her minor knee surgery. She improved as the tournament went on and played at her best during the most important situations.
            Unlike some athletes who might claim that an injury was just an obstacle to achieving their surefire success, Lepeilbet views her torn ACL as the reason for her accomplishments. 
 “Honestly, without the injury, I don’t even know if I would be here today,” said Lepeilbet. “My injury changed my perspective on the sport. In coming back from my injury, I had a new love for the game.”
After being sidelined for such a long period of time, Lepeilbet’s reaction when she finally stepped onto the pitch again was, “I’m back — I’m back on the field again. This is so exciting; it’s so fun!”  Lepeilbet was not scared to make mistakes anymore. She was excited to be playing international soccer again and as a result she starting performing better.
An incredible love for the game of soccer and her time at Arizona State were key to helping Lepeilbet discover her devotion to soccer. She credits her coaches for “sharing their passion for the game,” which according to Lepeilbet, has carried into her “own career and own enjoyment for the game.” The impact of the Arizona State coaches was clear. “They really shared the beauty of the game with me,” she said.           
Yet, when talking to Lepeilbet, she does not sound like a player who has just won back-to-back WPS Defender of the Year awards. She sounds like a player who has rediscovered soccer and is working towards becoming an even better player.
 “It’s been absolutely amazing that in the past two and a half years, I have kept continuing to come into camp, and I finally made this World Cup team,” she said. “It’s been one of my goals throughout my soccer career, and I feel like I am so happy to have achieved it and been a part of this team. I never took one moment for granted.”
Never taking one moment for granted. That is the mantra of Lepeilbet’s career and is why she never gave up on her personal and professional goals, even when they seemed so far away in 2007.
This coming summer, the U.S. National team will arrive in London to kick off the 2012 Olympics. As the story goes, the Olympics will be the conclusion of Lepeilbet’s comeback from her ACL injury. She has already established herself as an elite soccer player, but finally being able partake in an experience she missed in 2008 will seem like sweet redemption.
Nevertheless, she has not diverged from the mindset that has made her so successful the past three years. When asked how it will feel to finally partake in the Olympic opening ceremonies, Lepeilbet replied, “Right now, my goal is to make that team. I have not made that team yet. I definitely need to improve myself to make that squad.”
At the same time, even though Lepeilbet is focusing on the present, there is still a level of excitement she feels when discussing the Olympics. Anticipating the Games, she said, “If that day comes, I almost can’t imagine what that day will feel like, but I am sure it will feel amazing.”
            Lepeilbet is now a consistent starter who makes an incredible impact on every game she plays in. After the 2011 World Cup it is safe to say that she has recovered 100 percent from her ACL injury. She is a true professional who has followed an arduous path - and along the way has transformed herself into an elite defensive soccer player.
            From the moment the ball is kicked off, it is just Lepeilbet and the pitch. The only thing that the injury has left is a scar. A motivator. Her scar is a remembrance of her love for the game and a reminder to never take a moment for granted.

Why Obama will not follow down the path of Jimmy Carter


            The political scene in 1979 was very similar to what we are experiencing today. 1979 saw a president who had come into office with the American government broken.

            In 1974 Jimmy Carter inherited a recession, immense party bickering and still had to deal with the issues surrounding the Cold War. In 2008 Barack Obama inherited an even worse recession, more extreme political hostility and a war in Afghanistan.

            Both presidents entered office with high potential and after three years, many Americans were disillusioned with them. The 1980 election saw Ronald Reagan declare a ‘new morning’ in America, which eventually allowed him to win the Presidential election in 1980. Today, the Republican Party is going after Barack Obama, and based on current polls they appear to have a chance to win the Oval Office.
            There is one difference between then and now; globalization. The advent of the Internet and modern communication opened the American public to worldwide cultures. The Cowboy culture that made the Republican Party so attractive in 1980 is a dangerous mindset today and will eventually be there downfall in 2012.
           
            The definition of Cowboy culture is having the ideal that the United States of America is the best country in the nation and that we need to promote our ideals throughout the world.
            As globalization spread throughout the world, we began to understand that other cultures are different, and nobody is better than another. We cannot promote American ideals anymore, because it implies that another culture is inferior to ours. The debacles in Iraq and Afghanistan should be exhibits as to why that is a dangerous way of thinking.
            As 2012 draws nearer, the Republican Party will try to promote the ‘greatness of Americanism.’ Unlike 1980, the American public will understand that the world is far more complicated than the Republicans make it out to be. This understanding, and the acceptance of our new place in the world will push Barack Obama into reelection in 2012.