Wednesday, Sept. 19, at 11:00 a.m. ET

Women's World Cup

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Steven Goff
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, September 19, 2007; 11:00 AM

Washington Post soccer writer Steven Goff logged in live from China Wednesday, Sept. 19 at 11:00 a.m. ET to chat about the Women's World Cup and other soccer topics.

The transcript follows.

Goff covers the D.C. United beat for The Washington Post and writes the Soccer Insider blog for washingtonpost.com.

Discussion Archive

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Steven Goff: Ni hao

Greetings from China

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Washington, D.C.: We've seen Heather O'Reilly come up with some key goals over the past few years. Is she the next scoring super-star for the U.S. team?

Steven Goff: O'Reilly is a nice player -- takes on defenders, has a finishing touch, courageous, still very young -- but Wambach will be the main goal scorer for quite a long time.

O'Reilly provides a second attacking option alongside Wambach, which is important because teams have been keying on the big striker.

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Boston: I watched a bit of the game against Nigeria and the U.S. women seemed a little sluggish throughout the second half. Was it because of the wet conditions, a physical Nigeria team, three games in a short period or a combination? How concerning is their fitness/stamina moving forward relative to teams that came out of other groups?

Steven Goff: The field conditions played a big part in it, but so far, this has not been a very dynamic U.S. tournament performance. Coach Greg Ryan said today, only half-kidding, that the team has been training primarily in L.A. for months and is not accustomed to playing on a wet field.

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Virginia Beach, Va.: Goffer,

How has attendance at the matches been? Overall is it what organizers expected?

Steven Goff: Turnouts have been pretty good. Obviously, attendance was poor for the USA match against Nigeria because of the typhoon threat, but overall, the crowds have been enthusiastic and supportive. Keep in mind, women's soccer is decades behind the men's game and does not stir the emotions of fans around the world like the traditional World Cup.

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Rocko: If the unspeakable were to happen and the US did not advance out of the group stage, would this be a death knell for the WUSA?

Keep up the great (rickshaw-related) stories!!

Steven Goff: It certainly would not help the cause. However, regardless of what happens this month, the U.S. team needs to win gold next summer in the Olympics to generate the buzz to launch a new league in 2009.

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Buenos Aires, Argentina: Two questions, both related to the land of beef, tango, and conquerors of the French rugby team.

1. I know you are in China, but have you heard anything about Veron going to United (as Ives is reporting, the two are closer than ever, but the Argentine press hasn't mumbled a word in months). Down here, the press just keeps talking about his nagging injury - is United concerned about it?

2. The WWC is getting close to 0 coverage in Argentina - how bad was their team this year? 1 goal in 3 games (not including the own goals) doesn't seem too bright....

Steven Goff: Nothing new on the Veron front. DCU said from the very beginning of this process that, if they were unable to acquire "that player" this summer, they felt they had a good chance at him next season. So we'll see what happens in November-December-January.

The Argentine problems at the Women's World Cup were not a surprise, although 11-0 was rather humbling. Latin American women's soccer is years behind North America and Europe; it's just not a priority for many national federations in that part of the world.

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Anonymous: The U.S. is not dominating their opponents like they used to. Who said this is a better/stronger team than that of the Mia Hamm era? No way. I am afraid elimination is around the corner. What do you think?

Steven Goff: This team is not as good as the 1996-2000 teams, but still a world-class side capable of winning a championship. They should beat England on Saturday, but then they are faced with probably Brazil in the semifinals. The Americans beat Brazil this summer in a friendly, but as I recall, world player of the year Marta did not play.

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Mont Village, Md.: Goff-arama,

Can you talk about logistics in China? Are you able to communicate with people in general? outside of hotel reps and stadium liaison/translators? I visited China in 2001 and outside of Shanghai, I noticed not a lot of people speak English. Maybe one/two people at the big hotels... but no more. Also, are you able to easily access "Western" restroom facilities?

Steven Goff: No major problems. Less English spoken in Chengdu, which is in a remote location in southern China, but still enough to get by. Young people are taught English in school and I was surprised how many smooth conversations I had with college-age volunteers at the stadiums. In Shanghai, English is everywhere -- spoken, written, displayed, etc.

You would be surprised how rapidly this country has developed, adapted and modernized.

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Capitol Hill, DC: Goff, thanks for the China reports on the Insider. You must be having the best working adventure! The Chinese cultural stuff is great.

My question relates to the US Women's World Cup team. Against North Korea they seemed to struggle in midfield possesion and North Korea had success by crowding the defensive third and blocking playmakers like Abby Wambach. Has Coach Ryan hinted at any strategy changes, change in formation, or change in focus for dealing with Sweden?

Steven Goff: The U.S. team encountered three very different styles in the first round: North Korea's speed and numbers, Sweden's directness and experience, Nigeria's athletic ability. They've planned accordingly for each situation, but just have not put together a complete performance.

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Brooklyn, N.Y.: First, SARS, then typhoons, horrific pollution and bad pitches. Did FIFA make a wise choice for location? And could>ESPN have done more half-hearted job for coverage? They schedule jacks, bridge and frog races rather than be forced to show regular replays (at better times), or have decent half-time features. When will we get a Eurosport type channel here!?

Steven Goff: So China shouldn't have been allowed to host the WWC because something might happen? Some would make the argument the men's World Cup should never be held in the U.S. again because of what is considered by much of the world as excessive summer heat.

I haven't seen the ESPN broadcasts, so I really can't comment. I do know that, for the first round, their commentators called the games from a studio in Connecticut with one reporter on site to gather interviews and provide reports. The broadcast teams will arrive for the quarterfinals.

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Fredericksburg, Va.: Lots of people seem to calling out the U.S. for their performance, but shouldn't we give a fair amount of credit to the North Koreans? They were better than most thought, and I think will advance w/the U.S. out of the group stage.

Steven Goff: Yes, the Koreans are very good and, indeed, they did advance out of the group stage to earn a quarterfinal meeting with Germany on Saturday.

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Burke, Va.: Hi Steven,

How's the typhoon going? You guys getting hammered?

Hey, concerning the USWNT, how much did the weather affect their first and last matches? Seems that rain and wet fields can be a great equalizer, esp. yesterday against the Nigerians.

Who's playing the best soccer right now?

Steven Goff: Check out the Soccer Insider blog for weather updates! (it hasn't been as bad as feared in Shanghai)

U.S. was clearly affected by the wet field, but so were the Nigerians, especially in the first half when they did not put the proper weight on their passes. Still, if the Americans put away one or two of those chances late in the first half, the match is over. They let Nigeria hang around and nearly paid a price.

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Washington, D.C.: Is Aly Wagner match fit? Does it seem to you that she can help cure what ails the U.S. midfield?

Steven Goff: What you see is what you get. After two years together, Ryan has identified his most talented players. I would be surprised if, at this point, we saw Wagner in a starting role.

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WWC Trend: Goff, thanks for checking in on what must be a late night for ya.

You covered the '99 and '03 Womens World Cups as well, correct?

How would you say this tournament compares to previous editions in terms of team/player quality?

Also, what is the "atmosphere" (not the weather conditions), but the local/national excitement/interest from the general public at this WWC?

Steven Goff: Yup, I covered portions of the 99 and 03 Cups.

There is a little more balance in the tournament field this year, as we've seen with some of the results (well, other than Argentina). Still too early to compare to past tournaments, though.

As for atmosphere, these are women's soccer games taking place in ENORMOUS cities (Chengdu, which is barely known to Americans, has 11 MILLION people). Life goes on in these places. I've made the comparison to the Big East basketball tournament. Yeah, that's a big deal inside Madison Square Garden, but New York does not grind to a halt because of it.

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Sterling, Va.: When the gnats leave RFK, will the North stands be put back in, or where they destroyed during the process of taking them out. If not for the playoffs this season, how about by March 08?

Steven Goff: From what I have heard, those temporary seats no longer exist. They were either sold, or destroyed, or used for other purposes by the city. Not sure what the future holds for the north end of RFK.

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New York, N.Y.: Have you seen Brazil play?

What are their chances of winning this World Cup?

Steven Goff: Brazil looks fabulous, but I am curious to see how they handle an experienced, disciplined team like Germany or the United States.

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Washington, D.C.: Why do sponsors think the new women's league will be successful? What will they do differently this time? Personally, I think it is wishful thinking and a poor investment (again). Thanks.

Steven Goff: Depends what the expectations are. If the investors think they are going to average 10,000 fans per game, they're wasting their money. If they feel they have a product to attract 5,000 a night through grass-roots efforts, maybe it will work.

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Copenhagen, DK: Is the Chinese government monitoring this chat and sending the tapes to Chinese newspapers?

Steven Goff: I ... am ... not ... at ... liberty ... to ... say.

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Burke, Va.: Steven -- Thanks for providing us great soccer coverage in The Post. With the problems the US Women's team have had scoring, I am surprised we haven't seen more of Natasia Kai. What's your take on the rationale for leaving her on the bench?

Steven Goff: The coaches base their decisions on what they have seen from these players in practices, friendlies and official competitions over a very long period of time. I don't know if she is better than what they have on the field. We'll see what Ryan decides Saturday, but I can't imagine many changes.

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High and Dry, D.C.: Have you had any D.C. United sightings? Any 2004

Championship Video bootlegs? Knockoff DCU jerseys in

shop windows? Aramark hotdogs being manufactured?

Steven Goff: Nothin', nothing at all. I think the DCU marketing dept. has done a very poor job. ;-)

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Spotsylvania, Va.: Granted, it's all speculation, but why would DC United be willing to bring in Veron at the expense of Gomez? The team has chemistry and unity. Why bring in a high-priced guy who might not necessarily mesh w/the team?

Steven Goff: Gomez has been offered a two-year contract extension for $325,000 per season. The sides will talk again after the season. If he receives a better offer from the Middle East or Asia or even Latin America, he may very well take it. Veron is an international superstar on another level from most MLS players. Does that guarantee success for him and DCU? No, of course not. But sounds like DC wants to find out.

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Alexandria, Va.: You've talked about the bad air quality in Chengdu. How has the team responded? How is it likely to affect athletes in Beijing next year?

Steven Goff: The air here in September is not as bad as it is in August. Good luck to the Olympic athletes next summer.

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Eastern Montana: When I watch the US WNT I see two distinct styles of play - the first uses well-connected passes, possession and attackers who face-up and take-on.

The other "style" is the antithesis of that -- tired players who can't connect passes and don't seem on the same page.

And it seems that in Cup competition I'm seeing a bit more of the second style than the first. We're just not on our game and I worry about meeting up with better rested and coordinated teams later in the tournament.

Am I all wet here or not ? Many thanks!

Steven Goff: Good observation.

The key is the midfield with this particular team. The back line has been solid, Solo overcame her one bad mistake against Korea, and Wambach has been a force on the front line. They just need to possess the ball with more authority and make better decisions.

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North Arlington, Va.: I assume that the TV audiences for the telecasts on ESPN and ESPN2 so far have been smallish, but I doubt that anyone was expecting large ratings, especially at such an early hour. Do you have any idea as to how the audiences compare to the number of viewers who normally tune into these networks in the pre-dawn hours? Are Disney, FIFA, advertisers, etc. satisfied with the results so far?

Steven Goff: No idea how they compare. ESPN was not expecting big numbers and they are not getting big numbers. The only potential boost would be from a championship game involving the U.S. team.

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I-270, Exit 1: If the USA does not win the Cup, I want it on the record that the "Jim Gabarra for USWNT head coach" rumor started here.

Steven Goff: Consider it done.

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20010: Folks can critique ESPN's coverage, but it's a lot better than what it has been in the past. I don't think the feed is all that bad, and I think JP Dellacamara should be calling MNT games as well. I actually like listening to him and Julie Foudy.

Haven't seen any England games, but am well aware of the accomplishments of their captain and some of the team, as they play for Arsenal, the best women's team in Europe (as it should be). What style do they play? How will they match up against the U.S.?

Steven Goff: Thanks for the ESPN insight.

England typically plays a 4-3-3, with former Seton Hall star Kelly Smith the primary threat up front. They will be without one of the starting midfielders (Williams) because of yellow cards.

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Shanghai, China: What do you think of China's organization in this World Cup event?

Steven Goff: It's been quite good. No complaints from me. Very nice medium-sized stadiums. Too bad they couldn't control the weather.

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PB Gardens, Fla.: Is this the slowest USWNT team you have ever seen? Because they looked outpaced in every group game to me.

Steven Goff: Yeah, that has been a bit surprising. Transition has been methodical for the most part and U.S. players have been beaten on the flanks. I think Shannon Boxx has struggled some in deep midfield.

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Rockville, Md.: Does Greg Ryan's minimal use of his bench warrant any concern in your mind, given the age of certain players in the starting XI? I find it hard to believe that someone as good as Lindsay Tarpley has rarely seen action thus far.

Steven Goff: Is Tarpley really that good? Better than O'Reilly?

Lloyd has not shown me much.

Chalupny has been very good.

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Washington DC: Do you think Ryan will use a 4-4-2 as the team advances?

Steven Goff: Depends on the opponent and game situations.

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DC: Any word out of the Adu camp on whats been going on with Benfica? Doesnt look like he has been playing in the most recent league matches. Heck, he isnt even on the bench.

Steven Goff: It seems the kid has got a ways to go.

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long comment, I know: I'm glad I'm not the only one to voice the opinion that this is not a better team than the Mia/Julie/Brianna era. They may be bigger and stronger, but they are not as skilled. So, is that really an issue of coaching? I personally feel that April did more damage than good to the team, and I don't know yet whether the new coach can bring them back to the level of before. I don't suppose Tony would be willing to come back.

Also - I'll draw the ire of everyone by saying the problem with Abby is speed. Yes, if she gets the ball in shooting range, she'll score, but with a fast team on the field - Nigeria for instance, she's outrun and outpaced over and over again. She's no Mia. While she's effective in MOST games, the coach should consider putting speed up top when the opponents effectively shut her down.

Steven Goff: Thanks for your observations.

Keep in mind that this is a young U.S. team: Solo, Lopez, Lloyd, Chalupny, Tarpley, O'Reilly, etc are all in their first World Cup. Let's see if they mature as the tournament progresses before we declare them a success or failure.

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Sterling, Va.: Hope you're enjoying China.

What's up with the lack of subs by coach Ryan? Few, if any teams men or women can win a competition like this without resting players. I can understand if he sticks with his best 11 since the points were so necessary after the Korea draw, but we've got the best team in the world, and would think we could bring in some subs around the 60th minute. If we don't win this thing, I honestly believe it will be because our starters are gassed. Did it really matter if we play Germany on Saturday or in the finals?? Why not rest Lilly yesterday and sub Abby sooner.

Steven Goff: Rest Lilly? In a crucial game? She's the captain and the most experienced player.

I do wonder about Ryan's use of depth. I just thought he would utilize more options by now. Perhaps those options aren't as good as he -- or we -- thought they were.

let's see how this plays out first...

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Steven Goff: Time's up. I've gotta get some rest and try to find a way to Tianjin tomorrow (airline issues).

Keep an eye on the Soccer Insider for U.S. news as the tournament unfolds.

Xie Xie

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