Friday, August 10, 2012

Great Scott

I don't often write about women's soccer in this space, but given the events of the past week it is tough and wrong-headed to ignore it. Despite the general everywhere-ness of Olympic stories, the USA screwjob and Canada's subsequent 1-0 bronze medal win have been by far the Canadian stories of these games.  My sister asked to come over at 7am to watch the bronze medal match. Multiple posts on Facebook. My friends, not particularly knowledgeable of Canadian soccer, making excellent Norwegian ref jokes. You've probably experienced the same.

If so, I don't need to bore you with the details. Canada won 1-0 yesterday. Diana Matheson scored the goal. One doesn't need to make comparisons with Sydney Crosby's winner to explain how big it is, even if Brian Williams seems to think he does. Enough of Canada's sports writers and media have taken their crack at explaining this team that surely several will have done it better than I can.

Instead, I want to talk about Desiree Scott.

Don't expect Winnipeg Sun screen grabs to be a regular feature here. For that, check out
Let's be honest: Canada were fortunate winners in yesterday's match. Not fortunate like the Americans were, beneficiaries of either grossly incompetent or highly suspicious refereeing in consecutive matches, but in the sense that France had more of the play and more occasions to score (25 attempts to 4!). Watching the match I kept saying that "we just need one" but it was also becoming clear that the team would have to score that winner as late as possible or else a French equalizer was inevitable.

Given the scenario it is not too going too far to say that Desiree Scott's goal-line clearance (with the same knee that I feared had been shattered in an extra-time collision during the USA match) was as a big a factor in deciding the outcome as Matheson's moment.

It was also somehow appropriate. Desiree Scott was excellent throughout the tournament: frequently singled out by Jason de Vos for praise for her tenacity and defensive awareness. Yet her one significant misstep was leaving the post on a corner kick against the USA that resulted in their first goal of the match.

It's hard not to be biased towards Scott. Like me she hails from Winnipeg (Says her twitter profile: "Born & Raised In Winnipeg, MB and Proudly Rep my city!"), one of few national teamers of either gender to do so during my 12 years or so of paying attention to these teams. And although I was frequently miscast as a fullback in my years of youth and young adult soccer, I was most successful when played as a deep lying destroyer/holding midfielder, the same role that Scott plays. I notice what these players do.

And Scott plays that role like nobody else I've seen in the women's game. Although her goal-saving clearance was vital, one play stood out for me. Later in the second half, after one of Canada's few forays into France's end, a turnover resulted in a French counter, with numbers. Scott made a breathtaking 40-yard sprint to cover the left-back spot and ease the Frenchwoman off the ball.  She ended the moment of danger before it even became apparent to most, like she had done so many times in this tournament.

Quite simply, she is aware. When I watched this team during the Olympic Qualifiers I made the comparison between Desiree Scott and Terry Dunfield, based on the work-rate and role of both players. With apologies to Terry (here's lookin' at you!) that is grossly unfair to Scott. He is perhaps Canada's 9th or 10th best midfielder. She is possibly the best defensive midfielder in the women's game. He gets "stuck in", as the Brits like to say. So does Scott. But she does it without earning a yellow card every 25 minutes.

Like every Canadian I salute Matheson for her great career and her fantastic winner. Hats off to Christine Sinclair, the best female player in the world. And tip of the hat to John Herdman, the man who doesn't get a medal but who turned it all around. And to the whole team.

But here's a Winnipeg shout-out to the baddest little destroyer around.

Update: Does it get more Winnipeg than this? Olympian's mom misses magic goal (Winnipeg Free Press)


Anonymous said...

No question, Scott's work was superb. She had an incredibly high success rate on challenges/50-50 balls and was a key in shielding the CBs as well as tracking back for the fullbacks. And when she kept the distribution quick, simple, and safe, then Canada were able to get things going.If they have an all-Olympic XI I would certainly expect her to be in that group along with Sinclair.

This medal and overall success was earned more on graft as opposed to craft. De Vos touted Schimdt quite a bit as one for the future but her biggest attribute is her athleticism in covering vast tracts real estate. Little Matheson got stronger and stronger as the tourney went on and was equally adept in both ends but brought more skill and vision to things. The defensive work of Sinclair and Tancredi dropping back and making it a 5 player midfield really made a big difference. I'm glad we didn't lose any of these 5 to injury because depth was an issue.

This hard work and collective spirit shown by this team is what our men need in order to qualify for WC.

Poor ol' Dunfield. Strangely enough, for a guy who looks of middle aged beer league physique fitness wise he seems to be able to keep his "work rate" going for 90 minutes. The last game de Guzman started for FC Dallas he had to be subbed at 75 minutes because, according to some fans in attendance, he was totally gassed. Hopefully that changes for the Guz.

Always a good read, jono!


J said...

I've actually paid almost enough to this women's tournament that I feel like I'd be able to have something approaching an informed opinion on an Olympic XI. In addition to Scott and Sinclair, I'd have France's Thomis for sure.

I'll see if any newspapers have published one.

J said...

Found one

Not sure how much I should trust a publication called the "Sports Mole" but they've published a Best XI that includes Thomis and Sinclair as the lone Canadian.

Anonymous said...

Why don't you come up with an all Olympic XI? You're more than capable. Link it on the Vs forum so people can chip in with comments.

I didn't see enough of the play from the other teams but from the US I'd put in Morgan, Rapinoe, and (begrudgingly) Adriana from the Sopranos as the keeper. Definitely two to three Japanese players as well.


J said...

The amount of expertise required to have an opinion isn't quite same as is required to make the list. I watched only a few minutes of matches where Canada wasn't involved.

J said...

A better list from a better source, the BBC.

Sinclair chosen, obviously. Scott as well:

Nicknamed "The Destroyer" for her ability to break up the opposition's attacking play, Scott had an outstanding tournament with her box-to-box energy. She's a brave lass too - we all winced as her leg bent the wrong way under a heavy USA challenge, but the 5ft 3in powerhouse wiped away a tear or two and carried on.

J said...

Then again, that XI doesn't include any French players, which suggests a major deficiency. I'd say they were the most talented team in the tournament.

Anonymous said...

No French players and only one Japanese player, and a CB at that. For such a quality technical side in build up play through the midfield there was no room for a Japanese midfielder? The goal they scored in the final was absolute class.

My bias shows but sorry, Wambach's spot gets trumped by Sinclair. Morgan was the bigger threat up top and earned her place. Happy to see someone noticed Scott's contributions.