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Music is Sacred

I honestly don’t know or remember what I wanted to write about this week. All I’ve been able to think about since waking up Monday morning is what happened in Las Vegas Sunday night.

There are tragedies that happen every day. Some are uncontrollable like natural disasters. Some could be prevented if the proper procedures and legislation are in place.

Since last November, I’ve been deeply upset about the state of our nation. I never cared as much, but leading up to the 2016 Presidential Election, my support for a certain democratic candidate was stronger than ever. I actually began to follow some politics. So naturally, when favored candidate (and of course my favorite candidate), Hilary Clinton, lost the election to become the first female President of the U.S., I was crushed. The only good that came out of it was that I became more in tune with political issues.

Flash forward to January. Upon the day of the Women’s March on Washington and the previous day of the Presidential inauguration, I was still ready to fight for my beliefs going forward. Then somewhere along the way I lost my thunder. I got busy. I went to Southern California for two weeks to work at the festival I fell in love with 2 1/2 years ago. Work started to pick up and more opportunities arose. I made new friends. Got closer to others. I worked at concerts, festivals, and a comic con in different cities all over the country all while enjoying one of my lifelong passions, music. I had the time of my life. Then Labor Day came as it does every year. Work began to slow down. I wasn’t traveling as much. Plans for work changed due to uncontrollable circumstances as well. Nevertheless I began to reflect on what an incredible year it’s been, but at the same time I still felt bummed that festival season was coming to a close. I tried to combat those sad feelings though. In the past few weeks I booked new work opportunities, enjoyed some amazing live music experiences as a fan, and planned to attend a few others in the coming months. Then, I woke up Monday morning to news that shattered me.

22,000+ people affected. Several hundred people injured. Over 50 people killed. But it was where it happened that made the biggest difference to me. It happened at a music festival, a type of event where happiness and being carefree is the norm, a type of event that people come together to have a good time and experience the magic of live music, a type of event that I frequent regularly, a type of event that I one day aspire to be in charge of planning.

Music is everything to me. I love it. I’ve loved it since way back. I even wrote a blog about it this past year. It’s important to many others too. It has an ultimate power to cause a range of emotions and feelings. There’s even something more special about hearing the music you listen to being played right in front of your eyes by the musicians and artists who created it. I’ve always felt that. I always found shows, concerts, and festivals to be special places because of that. To have someone destroy those incredible moments that happen at a concert or festival is devastating and infuriating to me. I know it’s happened elsewhere in the past. Paris. Manchester. I definitely was upset about both of those situations too, but this one is different.

It’s different because it happened in the country that I live in and in a city that I’ve visited where I now know someone who lives there. It’s also different because I watched snapchats from the festival throughout the weekend because a friend of mine was working there for the week. That friend of mine was working at the festival Sunday night and had to experience what happened. That friend of mine will have to live with that memory for the rest of their life along with so many other friends of my friends. Not only is it my friends and my friends’ friends, it’s 22,000+ people, who attended, played at, or worked at a music festival, that have to live with it. That’s why it’s different and that’s what hurts the most.

It could have been me working. It could have been more of my friends. And the fact of the matter is that it still could be any of us because in this country our laws indicate that it’s okay for this to happen again and again. But the thing is….it’s really NOT okay. It’s not okay for it to be legal for someone to own weapons that could cause mass casualty or to buy enhancements that would make other weapons capable of the same. It’s not okay for someone to be able to walk into a gun show or go on the internet and purchase a gun without any difficulty. It’s not okay for someone who has a disregard for human life to hurt or kill as many people as possible with a gun because there are poor excuses for human beings in charge of creating legislation, who refuse to do it, that allow this to happen.

I know it’s been a few months since I had a fire in my heart ready to fight the establishment, but it’s back with a vengeance. This was a wake up call for me to get as fired up as I was in January since I was too focused on my work all summer. It’s just unfortunate that it took hurting my office, my work family (because that’s what we are in the music industry), and the music lovers I try to bring joy to on a daily basis for the fire to burn brighter again.

I’m sorry for being a little off topic on my blog this week, but I needed to get it off my chest. It’s been on my mind constantly. If you read this blog and are a music fan, I urge you to find a way to get involved in trying to create change in legislation that lowers the chance for these disasters to happen at concerts and festivals. Whether it be as simple as calling your representatives and demanding change, donating to causes that support gun control, attending a peaceful protest or gathering, or simply joining an organization like Everytown.org that are trying to fight the lack of gun legislation in America. It’s easy to become complacent but we need to keep going and keep fighting to make the places we love as safe and enjoyable as possible because live music events are special and music is scared.

 

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Road to Rio: Roster Release

I told you the next time I’d blog about the USWNT it would be after the Olympic roster was released. Well the release happened around noon today. With months since qualifiers and a tournament and friendlies in between, there were no surprises, just a few disappointments.

The 2016 U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team Olympic Roster is as follows:

Goalkeepers: Hope Solo and Alyssa Naeher

Defenders: Meghan Klingenberg, Whitney Engen, Ali Krieger, Becky Sauerbrunn, Kelley O’Hara, Julie Johnston

Midfielders: Tobin Heath, Lindsey Horan, Carli Lloyd, Morgan Brian, Allie Long, Megan Rapinoe

Forwards: Crystal Dunn, Alex Morgan, Christen Press, Mallory Pugh

I think the only question anyone had about this roster as time went forward was whether or not Megan Rapinoe would be healthy for the Olympics. She tore her ACL back in December, had surgery, and rehabbed post-op. She made it back though, just in time. My only concern is that she probably won’t be at 100 percent, despite what sources say. She hasn’t played in a match since October (she was injured prior to the U.S. Victory Tour matches in December). It’s almost like Alex Morgan at the World Cup last year. Morgan was injured twice for extended time periods over the past 2 years prior to the World Cup. At the World Cup, her performance suffered. She wasn’t at her peak. I feel like that might be the case for Rapinoe come August.

Two of the biggest disappointments of this roster are the exclusion of long-time USWNT veteran Heather O’Reilly (HAO) and 2015 Women’s World Cup back-up goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris. O’Reilly’s playing time began to drop when Jill Ellis took over the reigns of the national team in the spring of 2014. She only played in one match last summer at the Women’s World Cup coming in as a sub in the quarterfinals against China PR. Harris on the other hand was named back-up goalkeeper in the months prior to the Women’s World Cup. After the World Cup, somewhere along the way during the Victory Tour, Harris’s status dropped. It became noticeable following the Victory Tour match in Orlando, FL, a city only about an hour away from Harris’s hometown of Satellite Beach. Harris didn’t receive any playing time, which isn’t common when a friendly gets played in or near a player’s hometown. It was disappointing and rather odd, raising a red flag for anyone who paid attention to the team. Coach Ellis also stated prior to the three December matches that each goalkeeper would receive playing time. Unfortunately the Hawaii match was cancelled because the field was deemed unplayable. In the other two matches Naeher and Solo played. Harris again didn’t receive any minutes, which was another red flag. Maybe she was supposed to play in Hawaii, but we may never know. Since the Victory Tour, Harris hasn’t played in any matches and has repeatedly not dressed for games, which was a sure indication of her third keeper status. Harris and O’Reilly will serve as alternates for the team along with Emily Sonnett and Samantha Mewis. Both are world class players who would undoubtedly be starters on any other national team in the world. What caused their status to drop on the USWNT is unknown and therefore a disappointment for this year’s Olympic Tournament.

On a happier note, the final cut from last year’s World Cup roster, Crystal Dunn, has finally made the USWNT for a major tournament. Dunn’s response to being left off the World Cup roster last summer was nothing short of inspirational. She lead the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) with 15 goals and received the 2015 Player of the Year Award. She’s also scored 13 goals and had 7 assists since rejoining the national team during the Victory Tour. She’s been on fire and was a guarantee going into the Olympics. Her comeback was incredible and if you want to read more about that from Crystal, herself, check out this article in the Players’ Tribune.

Another happy note from the roster is the 31 year old, USWNT veteran, first time Olympian, Ali Krieger. In 2012 during Olympic qualifying, Krieger tore her right ACL and MCL and didn’t make it back in time to be on the Olympic roster, despite efforts of surgery and rehab. At the time, she was an integral part of the USWNT as the only player who played every minute in the 2011 Women’s World Cup and scored the winning penalty kick against Brazil in the legendary quarterfinal match that put the USWNT in the headlines.Her exclusion on the 2012 roster was expected but also a disappointment. Since then, she has stated numerous times that being an Olympic athlete was always a dream of hers. Now that dream is finally coming true. As a world class defender/right outside back, there’s no doubt that Krieger will be an impact if this team is to win gold, despite her playing time in the last few months being much less than normal (another questionable decision to say the least).

Lastly three other players (in addition to Dunn) on this Olympic roster were not part of the World Cup Champion team last summer. The youngest of those three is Mallory Pugh. She received her first call to the national team during January camp and has been lights out since receiving her first cap. The catch is that she just turned 18. She’s about to start college at UCLA in the fall. She’s also scored 2 goals and added 7 assists since her debut for the senior national team. Her 7 assists actually lead the team this year. She’ll be a quality play-maker for the USWNT going forward.

Lindsey Horan is another of the other three who wasn’t part of the World Cup last summer. Horan is the only player on the national team to pass on college and go straight to the pros. She played 4 seasons for Paris Saint-Germain in France before joining the Portland Thorns of the NWSL this year. Since coming in this year Horan has played as a holding center mid, occupying the spot most previously held by recent retiree Lauren Holiday (Cheney). There were questions of who would take on that role after Holiday retired, but Horan has fit into the spot well, even if she played forward all her life. Allie Long, the last of the other three players not a part of the World Cup, has also been competing for that spot with Horan. Long has been in and out of the national team for years. She could never quite secure a spot until now making her roster spot a “long” awaited accomplishment.

The rest of the roster contains players who won gold in Canada last summer including 2015 FIFA World Player of the Year Carli Lloyd, 2015 Women’s World Cup Golden Glove Winner Hope Solo, and the face of the USWNT since 2011, Alex Morgan. Hopefully these 18 players will be able to bring back gold in the Olympics. If the USWNT wins gold, they will be the first team to ever win World Cup gold and Olympic gold back to back. They’ll face plenty of tough tasks along the way, including France, who beat the U.S. back in February 2015. Host country Brazil will also be a tough task if they meet at some point as well as Germany and the 2012 Olympic bronze medal winning team, Canada.

Only time will tell what happens this summer to the reigning world champion USWNT, but it will surely be entertaining no matter what. I’ll probably update a couple times during the Olympics, but I doubt it will be as much as when I covered the World Cup last summer. Look for updates nonetheless. See you in Rio!

The Countdown Continues: 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup Draw

Today was the draw for the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Canada, which begins June 6th. The results of the draw are as follows:

Group A – Canada, China PR, New Zealand, Netherlands

Group B – Germany, Cote D’Ivoire (Ivory Coast), Norway, Thailand

Group C – Japan, Switzerland, Cameroon, Ecuador

Group D – USA, Australia, Sweden, Nigeria

Group E – Brazil, Korea Republic, Spain, Costa Rica

Group F – France, England, Colombia, Mexico

So what does that mean for my favorite ladies in the red, white, and blue? Supposedly Group D is the toughest group in the competition with 3 of the top 10 teams in the world as part of it. Those three teams being the USA (#1), Sweden (#5), and Australia (#10). Nigeria is also the top African nation out of those that qualified for the Women’s World Cup (#35 in the world).

The media can say whatever they want about making it sound insanely tough for the USA just to build up a good storyline about the “group of death”, but the truth is the USWNT is the best in the world so there’s no reason to worry. Whatever group the USA was placed in would have been a challenge because every team in the world knows they’re one of the best. They’re no underdog. It’s theirs to lose. However, to be the best in the world, you have to play against the best in the world and win against the best in world. So in this way, the script for the USWNT in the 2015 Women’s World Cup group stage cannot be written any better. They have to bring their A game throughout the entire competition. Maybe it will allow them to be better prepared for games in the Round of 16, Quarterfinals, Semifinals, and Finals assuming they make it to those stages.

Sweden will most likely be their toughest test in group play and it’s not like they haven’t faced them in the group stage before. Actually they’ve faced them in the group stage during the last 4 Women’s World Cups and have a 3-1 record against them. The loss came in 2011 where Sweden ended up winning the group. So it’s not out of the norm despite the hype.

The Women’s World Cup is still 6 months away and there’s a lot of soccer and preparation to take place until then. The USWNT plays in a tournament in Brazil beginning this Wednesday December 10, 2014 where they will kick-off against China PR. They’ll also play two more games against #6 ranked Brazil and Argentina. The final of the tournament is December 21st. In February the team will travel overseas for friendlies against England and France. Then, in March the team will compete in the annual Algarve Cup tournament which takes place in the Algarve region of Portugal. There may even be a few more yet to be announced friendlies that happen before the World Cup begins on June 6th. There’s plenty of time to prepare and I have no doubt when June 8th rolls around (the first match vs. Australia) they’ll be ready to begin their quest to rightfully be called the best women’s football team in the world. It’s gold or bust.