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To replay or not to.

(Monday, July 12, 1999) -- The first-ever penalty kick finish for the Women's World Cup final seems to have left an unsatisfying feeling among many observers. A few dissenting opinions for one solution, Alternative to shootout? Replay, and other observations about the U.S. women's efforts follow:

Play until there is a goal

Jerry: I'm sorry but I have to disagree with you on the ending of matches. All tournament games (semifinals and finals) should be played to completion, golden goals only. Think about how China or Italy '94 for that matter, must have felt after working for over four years to have their dream come down to a crap shoot. (Although I will agree the moan-a-meter would have been off scale had the women's results been reversed.) These are some of the best-conditioned athletes in the world. Let them play. I have won and lost games via the PK system, and it is the least fulfilling endings that a player can experience. I would prefer to lose a game on the field, and I think most players would as well.

Bob Baker


Problems with replay

Mr. Langdon: In the column you published today, you suggested replay as an option for games tied after 120 minutes of soccer. I would like to point out two very strong negatives.

One is that in this day and age, scheduling constraints could make a reply impossible. In the olden days, the networks didn't exist and thus there were no questions of when a replay would be broadcast. Now, however, playing the game again the next day or later on would mean pre-empting something or not showing the game.

The other problem is how to decide who gets to go to the game and for how much, which must have been a problem even in days of yore. The tickets for a game such as the final are quite expensive, but definitely worth it to watch good soccer and see the conclusion of the world cup. I think the majority of the fans there would have been horrified at having paid so much if they were told the game they just watched meant nothing.

If they were all invited back for free, on the other hand, not everyone could make it.

I definitely understand how a purist would say a shootout defeats the purpose of playing for so long by either putting it up to luck, or, if you believe in the adage that a skilled warrior makes her own luck, testing a single skill. On the other hand, from the point of view of the majority of both players and fans, a loss or a win in a shootout mean just as much as a loss or a win in the run of play. For the most part, the emotions are just condensed from 90 minutes to 5.

I still think extending overtime can work if more substitutions are allowed, though, if we agree that shootouts are not the ideal solution. Hockey and basketball games can last an extemely long time; the final game of the NHL playoffs this year lasted nearly 120 minutes itself. Other recent games in NHL playoffs have lasted even longer. Perhaps a solution where in overtime teams could rotate players like most recreational leagues allow would let players to recover at least a little on the sidelines.

In general, I am a very big fan of your column and it is one of the biggest reasons I like the soccertimes.com site.

You manage to collect many interesting statistics and facts that the casual fan might never discover, such as how US players are doing overseas. Also, your analysis of both these facts and results or predictions of important games are insightful and interesting. Hopefully you view a response like this to an editorial as debate, not hostility or insult.

John Bauer.


Allow more subs for overtimes (1)

Jerry: I agree that ending a tie with PKs is unsatisfying. However, I don't believe that having a replay is the best alternative -- it would be a logistical nightmare. Why not just do what most other sports (e.g. NBA, NHL, MLB) do and keep playing overtime periods until someone scores? The one thing I would change is to allow additional substitutions for overtime periods -- say, three additional subs for each overtime period (and maybe even allowing players that were subbed out in priior periods come back in as subs in later periods).

It would have been great to have seen Venturini, Fotopoulos, and Fair come into the game to help decide it in a third overtime. Sure some of the players would get extremely tired, but the game would be fairly decided. It probably wouldn't take too long either because player fatigue would cause errors that the fresher players would exploit.

Of course, my proposal (as well as replays) only makes sense for the final.

For earlier rounds, some other solution must be used.

By the way, was I the only one who thought that Scurry got away with leaving her line early every time the Chinese took a PK, including the one she blocked?

Chase Ashley.


Allow more subs for overtimes (2)

Jerry: Got to disagree with you. Everyone agrees that PKs are a poor way to decide a game. Replays are not the solution, either, as they just encourage a repeat performance.

To distinguish the top team, the teams should continue playing until a golden goal determines a winner. Yes, it will be physically grueling, but that is the nature of sporting events where endurance and toughness are valued. Extra periods are the determining factors in basketball, football (the college OT rules are horrible), baseball (where continuing the next day should be disallowed), and hockey - where extra period playoff games create legends. Some rule changes will obviously be necessary. Soccer is a team game where roster depth should be considered a factor; why dress 20 players when only 3 substitutions are allowed? Regardless of whether regulation time limits on substitutions are changed, these restrictions should be relaxed to either allow more substitions per overtime period or even unlimited substitutions. Just like in baseball, this places more importance on the role of the coach/manager in substitution patterns.

I think we were fortunate that this was as well a PK shootout that could have occurred. there were no embarrassing miskicks where a superstar player misses the net entirely. The one and only miss (how often is the conversion rate during penalty kicks 90 percent?) was due to a solid save by the goalkeeper on a well struck shot -- perhaps not a great or unstoppable shot, but it was a fairly good shot. The ending would not have been nearly so acceptable if the players had not stepped up on this occasion and demonstrated their skill level by burying their shots. Can you imagine the sentiment if either team had won 3-2 and players such as Sun Wen, Lilly, or Hamm had missed? Not nearly so satisfying, I guarantee.

Let them play until a goal on the field of play determines a winner.

Norm Sun.


Akers rightful MVP

Jerry: I concur with your choice of Michelle Akers as MVP, only with Briana Scurry a close second (without her, USA doesn't get to the finals) and Sun Wen also very deserving.

My question is when is the MVP named? I've been searching since the conclusion of the final match, but haven't found anything.

I also believe that Michelle Akers is the athlete of the decade (male or female) - she should be competing against Michael Jordan in the Gatorade commercials -- she would put a whipping on him! She's a true warrior with the heart of a champion.

Thanks for your commentaries, I enjoy reading articles from someone who actually understands the game.

Joe Biedenbach.


Says goalkeeper moved forward before kicks

Hello: It has come to my attention that not too many have noticed, or did not want to notice the fact, that the outcome of the Women's World Cup Final ruined the quality of the entire event. The bottom line was that the Briana Scurry, and the U.S. won unfairly and really ugly.

Did anyone notice that Scurry was well over two yards off her line before the ball was kicked, in every single penalty kick? What were the referees doing!? What was the line judge smoking?!

It is a terrible finish to what had been a great event. As a women's soccer coach, and a fan (I did attend several matches at Jack Kent Cooke, which were great in quality, but poorly judged by the referees), I think the whole thing stunk.

According to FIFA rules, the keeper can not move forward until the ball has been kicked!

Time and time again, Scurry took her forward steps well before the ball was kicked. As a matter of fact, she began moving forward as soon as the Chinese players approached the ball. If you take a look at the Chinese keeper, she did not employ these tricks. I hope the media here is happy because they got what they wanted.

Rudy.

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