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The draw, the ref, the call for Women's World Cup final.

(Friday, July 9, 1999) -- With the eagerly anticipated championship match drawing near, SoccerTimes readers sound off about recent articles by Jerry Langdon.

"Most knowledgeable"

Dear Jerry Langdon: As a longtime player, coach, ref and proselytizer for the sport of soccer, i find myself visiting the SoccerTimes web site, and reading your commentary, more and more often. Just this morning, in fact, I read your position-by-position analysis of the matchups for US vs. China. And of all the things I've seen published about the WWC in recent weeks, this was, I think, the most knowlegeable. Nice job.

Don Belt

Why Swiss referee in final?

Mr. Langdon: You recently wrote (in part) on the best/worst of WWC99 [World Cup Highs and Lows]: "Comeback: Switzerland referee Nicole Mouidi-Petignat, criticized by United States for not issuing more cards to wild-tackling Nigeria defenders, gets title game assignment."

Sir, I'd ask you if any knowledgeable soccer person (particularly any experienced referee) really believes her appointment to the final was a "comeback"? Please don't be so naive. Ms. Mouidi-Petignat demonstrated quite clearly her "abilities" on the field in three matches prior to the final.

Even allowing for the fact that FIFA tries to make critical game assignments "confederation-neutral," do you seriously think her appointment to the final was based solely on exemplary performance on the field? Or is it by coincidence that she's from Switzerland and a certain, powerful figure in FIFA is also from Switzerland?

Of course stranger things have probably happened. Can't think of any at the moment.....

Gil Weber.

'Confused in tight quarters...'

Jerry: I can only hope your numbers come true as far as the final. I see an American team which has worked hard and long to circumvent the bunker with the long ball switch, after watching the short game in tatters the last few games.

I watched a Mia Hamm who didn't make her runs because she was not expecting the return. The Chinese do not need to use the long game as they have been taught that there is always someone close who is open, can find them, get them the ball and move. The Chinese have been honing their game plan all during the World Cup while the Americans have had to adapt to holes in their game.

While Parlow is a force on corner kicks, it appears that most other times she is not working. Balls delivered to her feet are usually pushed to the opposition. She must be replaced by MacMillan quickly, especially if the US gets an early lead. Akers is a wonderful player in the autumn of her career and will contribute for less than a half, then Venturini must be brought in off the bench.

Carla Overbeck, who in my opinion is the key cog of this team for the last 10 years, must put in a stellar performance in organizing and shitting down Sun Wen. Keep her outside the 18 on shots, and Scurry should be fine, allow Sun Wen to infiltrate the box and even Scurry will look mortal.

IF the U.S. uses their height advantage, IF the U.S. can pull out the magic on set pieces, IF Overbeck can suppress Sun Wen, IF the U.S. midfield can be creative and IF the U.S. forwards can work the Chinese defense and hold possesion in the offensive third, then your prediction will come true.

I have been watching this team for nine years, this is the most confused I've ever seen them in tight quarters. They have gotten away from the take-on attitude of Dorrance and moved toward the stifling USSF-coached tactics. Conformity is not a good thing. I will not bet a dime on this game; it is too close to call, and one 10-second segment can change everything.

Have fun watching.
Chuck Holt.

U.S. balanced

Mr. Langdon: I was thoroughly shocked by your recent article on Briana Scurry and Michelle Akers, "Scurry, Akers have been dominant forces, but they need help."

Your statement that they need more help is unfounded and naive. The USA women's soccer team is by far the most balanced scoring team. It is true that we do NOT have just one "star" player scoring 7-8 goals during the 99 WWC. However, what your article lacks is the fact that we have a multitude of good, strong players who have scored.

Let's not forget the game where we had two players coming off the bench scoring. What other teams involved in the WWC have had such success coming from the bench? Furthermore, our defenders have also contributed to the scoring.

I would much rather have a team where any given player can score and does score, than a team that depends on just one player. The U.S. team members do not stand alone.

Briana Scurry's name has not been mentioned much, because the U.S. team has been in control for most of the games. But let's not forget that when it came time for Briana Scurry to step up, she performed her duties exceptionally.

Your speculations about Akers could be true, however, let's not forget the help she does receive from her teammates, like Shannon MacMillan, for example. Here is a young player who enlivens the game with her fervor for the sport. Every time she enters the game, the level of play excels for the USA. She drives the ball, scores, and makes things happen, as she equally did in the games against Germany and Brazil.

Kristi Krumnow

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