“For finishing in third place in the 2003 Women’s World Cup, each U.S. women’s national soccer team member was awarded $25,000. They would have received $58,000 if they had won the Cup. For reaching the quarterfinal of the World Cup in 2002, the U.S. men’s national soccer team members received $200,000 each.”

Let’s make this something that gets talked about more in the media.

Yesterday, U.S. women’s national team central defender Julie Johnston was selected to the Golden Ball Nominees list; her central defending partner, though, Becky Sauerbrunn, was not. If you’ve watched this summer’s games at the Women’s World Cup, you’d find Johnston to be undeniably deserving. She’s been fantastic, making crucial tackles and beautiful passes. And Sauerbrunn, well, you’ve barely noticed she’s there.

Let’s be careful, though, to say Johnston has been better than Sauerbrunn.

People have a propensity to see what they see. They ignore what’s not there … No kidding, right? Good one, Bobby. But it’s easy to forget. Our mind is attracted to things that happen, not to the things that don’t. We can see a sliding tackle, but we can’t see the sliding tackle that doesn’t need to happen. Usually, it’s difficult to see the subtle two-yard shift to avoid the tackle. There are so many other, more exciting events taking place at the same time. When Lionel Messi’s about to make a pass, nobody’s watching Michael Carrick take two steps to close a passing lane.

The Guardian had a story about this a a few years ago. Xabi Alonso, then still with Liverpool, asked the young players at the club what they believed was one of their strengths. Almost all of them listed “tackling.” Alonso, shocked, asked, “How can that be a way of seeing the game? I just don’t understand football in those terms. Tackling is a [last] resort and you will need it, but it isn’t a quality to aspire to.”

There’s a difference between looking better and actually being better. Being better is clearly more beneficial to the team, but the difficulty arises when the rewards come to those who look better. It’s a crappy incentive system. […]

There was an article by Michael Lewis in the New York Times in 2009 that made me feel much better. Lewis describes former professional basketball player Shane Battier as the “no stats All-Star” for the way he played and his importance to his teams. Battier didn’t rack up star-like numbers, but he contributed a star-like amount to his team’s success. He didn’t get high rebound stats because he boxed out properly, leaving his teammates to snatch the board. He didn’t get a lot of open layups because he expended his energy guarding the opponent’s best player. Because they weren’t captured by basketball’s most popular numbers, Battier’s contributions were undervalued, even though he was part of a Miami Heat team that won two NBA titles.

So often, I feel alone in my quest. It felt good to see someone get my back.

In “no stats All-Star” fashion, Sauerbrunn’s boringness is not a problem, but rather a sign of her excellence. To steal a line from The Numbers Game (an otherwise mediocre book) , “the art of good defending is about dogs that do not bark.” If you take up a position so that danger cannot present itself, you don’t need to do something dramatic to defuse a problem. In that way, defenders can’t mess up by appearing to do nothing, but they do get noticed when something is about to go wrong. There’s no such thing as being invisible when you’re giving up goals – the commentators and tweeters won’t allow it. The concept of invisible for defenders is almost always a good thing.

To Sauerbrunn’s credit, she’s done it against the tide. I think much of our frustration with the women’s national team this tournament stems from this principle: Everyone is trying to do something at all times. It’s why we’ve asked for a true defensive midfielder, and why we are falling in love with Morgan Brian’s efforts in the midfield. There’s been no such thing as dropping into shape and waiting for the opponent to give the ball away; nobody ever makes simple passes to move the ball along. It isn’t so much a team plan as it is working hard, showing your grit and getting the ball to the players that can beat their opponent one-on-one.

It’s hectic, energetic, often completely individualistic … and it’s a perfectly acceptable system. It’s pretty much how Barcelona won the Champions League this year. It’s not the system I would go with, clearly, but it can work.

It has also made what Sauerbrunn has done even more impressive. Tactically, she doesn’t have a shield in front of her; she doesn’t have a lot to use to plan ahead; it’s not a finely tuned machine. More so, too, it’s emotionally difficult to ignore the incentive system around you. When a person next to you gets a pat on the back for something, you’re inclined to do the same. Sauerbrunn could have looked to make more bold tackles and long passes. Literally everyone else was doing it, and we’ve talked more about pretty much everyone else. Yet she has stuck to her style. She’s ignored everyone else’s rewards. It gets me fired up.

It’s a strange world we live in. We want what we can see, but we need what we can’t. How are we supposed to reconcile that?

Can You Name All The Women On The U.S. Women's National Team?
It's more than just Wambach, Pinoe, and Syd The Kid.
By Sarah Karlan

Finally, a BuzzFeed quiz that I can get a perfect score on. Also: if you type in “Baby Horse” for Alex Morgan, they’ll accept it, but if you put HAO for Heather O’Reilly, they won’t.

This is a story about a kit man, Chris Maxwell, who worked for the U.S. women’s national team from October 2013 until he was fired in February 2015, just four months before this World Cup. This is a story about sports and trust, about good intentions and unanticipated consequences, about an emerging U.S. star and the ruthless world of big business that now governs the U.S. women’s national team.

World Class.


Raquel Miller, San Francisco, Ca.

Shot at: Donaire Sr. Boxing Gym.

Oakland, Ca. 2015.

A Winter Athlete's Guide To Training In The Summer
Now's the time for winter athletes to train creatively, from rock climbing to canyoneering to white-water rafting. We asked three cold-weather stars to let us in on their summer training plans.

“I’m not sure if you’ve seen a hockey player run. It’s brutal,” Olympian Hilary Knight says. But the U.S. women’s national team forward will also be the first to admit how important cardio training is to her summer workout routine.

Not bound by ice or snow, winter-sports athletes have room to get creative with their training in the summer, but the goal is “all about building the base,” Knight says. “You have to design a program that covers everything and has the fundamentals to build a successful season.”

That’s a lot to pack into a few short months, so for some insight into how cold-weather stars make it work, we asked Knight, freestyle skier Grete Eliassen and aerial skier Winter Vinecki for their favorite summer workouts…




Ali Krieger had a near-death experience while in college and at the time, didn’t know if she would be able to follow her dreams of playing for the U.S. Women’s National Team, or even continue playing soccer at all. With the support of her family and teammates, and armed with a new perspective, she was able to recover and offer support to her brother who was going through his own struggles at the time. Now, the siblings are each other’s role models and confidantes, helping each other achieve success and happiness. 

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This is really pissing me off. The thing that all these men are not grasping is that it is unwelcome and unprofessional attention toward Morgan’s looks. This is a soccer tournament not a beauty pageant. The only thing that FIFA should be saying towards Morgan is comments about her skill and her performance during the game. They’re also completely ignoring the other issues stated in the article referring to the fact that the women’s teams being forced to play on turf whereas a men’s FIFA tournament would never be played on a turf field. The one guy even said the only reason the women’s team has come so far is because they’re attractive, which is bullshit. The reason the USWNT has come this far is because they WIN as opposed to the U.S. MEN’s national team. They’re a source of pride, entertainment, they’re role models, and they show that women can be just as good, and even sometimes better then men at sports. This is not an attack on Alex Morgan’s looks (lol), this is an attack on FIFA for being unprofessional as a result of being indisputably sexist towards all the women participating the the World Cup.