Saturday, August 25, 2007

Day Off! (To pack)

The U.S. team will have its final day off tomorrow before leaving for China on Sunday. It’s a last chance for the players to buy their favorite shampoos, collect their favorite snacks, use up as many cell phone minutes as possible, stock up on books and magazines and make some final, gut-wrenching decisions on which clothes to bring. Stylish or sporty? Practical or pretty? How many pairs of jeans does a player need during a World Cup? The over-under is maybe just one, but no more than two. How many different pairs of shoes? Four or five at least? But those are easy to pack. This much we know: pack light and don’t bother with too many warm clothes. It was in the high 80s in Shanghai yesterday. Or is that today? Well, either way it’s was hot. Darn hot.

There’s No Place Like Home

The U.S. team was certainly in familiar surroundings for its final match in the 2007 Send-Off Series. The USA got to play Finland at The Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif., the USA’s virtual home-away-from home for the past two years, both of which have featured Residency Training Camps, meaning the U.S. players have spent countless hours at the facility getting ready for the 2007 Women’s World Cup. Same streets to the stadium, same locker room, same training room, same tunnel to the field, same security guards, and as it is Southern California, same weather. (However, although it looked the same, it was a different field, put in just a week ago after all the X-Games dirt was removed. Kudos to the HDC grounds crew, by the way, as the field looked and played very well). All that sameness certainly paid off as the U.S. team rolled over Finland, out-shooting them 28-2 in winning the eighth consecutive match the U.S. women have played at The HDC. All that sameness will now be contrasted with a whole lot of differences, as the USA team heads to China on Monday.

Lights Out Performance

We knew Kristine Lilly was good, but we didn’t know one of her shots could knock out the stadium lights. Just minutes after Lilly put the USA up 2-0, all the stadium lights at the Home Depot Center went dark. Poof! The outage didn’t seem to faze the U.S. team, or referee Kari Seitz, as the match went on without a hitch with the final five minutes being played in twilight. (Said U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo: “My eyes adjusted quickly.”) Remember your youth club practices when your coach made you train right up until you couldn’t make out who was on your team in the small-sided game? Well, we were about 10 minutes from that, but the HDC staff did well to quickly get the lights back on and the second half started without delay, no doubt making the folks at ESPN happy. Apparently, a “rolling power outage” hit the HDC, but a stop on the Warped Tour 2007 was taking place all day in the parking lot outside the stadium and anyone who knows their Sum 41 from their Flogging Molly knows that those bands play it hard and play it loud, and that had to suck some serious watts or volts or whatever units of measurement we measure electricity in. Meanwhile, inside the stadium, the U.S. team was rockin’ and rollin’, getting goals second half goals from Lindsay Tarpley and Heather O’Reilly.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Don’t Leave Home Without It

With the U.S. team just about 60 hours from leaving for China and the 2007 Women’s World Cup, the WNT blog decided to poll the players, asking the question…”What do you definitely not want to forget on your trip to China?” Heather O’Reilly said she bought some Chex Mix for snacks, but had already eaten it, prompting her to admit that she might have “bought it a bit too early,” but that she couldn’t help herself. Here are a few more the team’s responses, in no particular order:

Hope Solo: “Fruit roll-ups and pistachio nuts.”
Christie Rampone: “Yogurts to Go.” (They don’t need refrigeration! Expiration Date: 12/07)
Carli Lloyd: “Cereal and a lot of candy.” (Note from earlier blog: Carli is actually getting tired of toast and would like some bagels, real bagels…but she also likes candy a lot.)
Angela Hucles: “My new Mac computer”
Kate Markgraf: “My sense of humor and photos of loved ones.”
Shannon Boxx: “DVDs. Lots of DVDs.”
Cat Whitehill: “Music, to escape and get some alone time when needed.”
Lori Chalupny: “Paint-By-Numbers.”
Linsday Tarpley: “Calling cards.”
Natasha Kai: “My soccer shoes.”
Leslie Osborne: “Chapstick, parmesan cheese and books.”
Aly Wagner: “Sliced almonds and soy milk.”
Nicole Barnhart: “A soft pillow and a stuffed animal.”
Marian Dalmy: “The first two seasons of ‘Beverly Hills 90210.’”
Kristine Lilly: “Oatmeal.”
Stephanie Lopez: “My blanket.”

Wielding Sharpies

With the Women’s World Cup Team set and friends, family, former coaches, agents, and many others putting in requests for signed memorabilia, and with the players also wanting some mementos for themselves, the U.S. team conducted a hastily arranged but conscientiously accomplished team signing session before dinner. The players brought whatever they wanted signed to the meal room and spread it out on the floor along the walls. The entire team then went to town signing jersey after poster after autograph card after WWC Handbook after t-shirt and much more. While the ebay total of the memorabilia on in that ballroom would certainly be impressive, don’t expect to be buying that gold Abby Wambach #20 jersey signed by the entire WWC team anytime soon. Although you can get an unsigned one at’ll just have to ask Abby to sign it after a game…if you can make your way through the screaming kids.

Polka Dots

The voice of the U.S. Women’s National Team, JP Dellacamera, will take his usual place in the broadcast booth for the match against Finland live on ESPN2 on Saturday at 6:30 p.m. PT, but JP will not be joined by his usual sidekick Julie Foudy, who is in Oneonta, New York getting ready to be induced into the National Soccer Hall of Fame. Instead, Lori Walker and Heather Mitts will join JP. Walker, the head women’s soccer coach at Ohio State, is no stranger to the broadcast booth, having done several WNT games as well as the 2004 Olympics, but Mitts, who has more than a little experience as a sideline reporter, will make her debut in the booth. Not to turn this blog in a fashion report, but the rumor is (the rumor coming from Mitts herself) that she will wear an ensemble featuring polka dots. Walker may be sporting a lime green blouse. We are not sure how all this color will bookend Dellacamara, who will likely go with the standard button-down, tie and sport jacket, but we know the long-time broadcast veteran can handle anything that’s thrown at him. Speaking of Mitts, the injury update is that she’s doing extremely well on her rehab from ACL surgery and in fact ran for the first time this week. There is little doubt that the feisty defender, who was a virtual lock to make the Women’s World Cup team before her injury, will be back healthy for a run at the 2008 Olympic Team. Well done Mittsy! (On the rehab and polka dots.)

Leader of the Pack

With the U.S. team having spent four months in Los Angeles at The Home Depot Center during Residency Training Camp in 2007 (and five months in 2006), the players have made many new friends in Southern California. That means plenty of requests for tickets for the Finland match and certainly some great individual cheering sections for the U.S. players. Defender Cat Whitehill, who lived just over the hill on the edge of the San Fernando Valley, will definitely have about 15 folks “woofing” it up for her at the match, all friends and friends of friends she met at a local dog park where she would take her Rottweiler-Shepherd mix, Izzy. Now Izzy won’t be at the game (she’s back in North Carolina where Whitehill’s husband is beginning medical school at UNC), but many of Izzy’s friends will be there, well, at least the owners of Izzy’s friends. If it weren’t for the “No Dogs Allowed” policy at The HDC, we might have seen an Australian Shepherd, a German Shepherd, a Black Labrador-Great Dane mix, a Chihuahua mix and a Malamute trotting through the gates, but instead only their owners will be coming. A special shout-out goes out to Kelly’s Pet Care for helping look after Izzy when Whitehill was out of town, which was a lot. Anyway, if you’re at the game, look for a group of people with I LOVE DOGS key chains who will be barking, we mean cheering, for Cat. Hmmm…ironic, isn’t it?

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Advance Team

U.S. athletic trainer Gigi Garcia leaves for China tomorrow, three days ahead of the team, and will arrive in Shanghai early to make sure everything is set up and ready when the players and staff arrive. Garcia, a long-time trainer for the WNT, runs a tight ship in the training room and will no doubt have everything is unpacked, set up and ready to go, so the USA can jump straight into it Women’s World Cup preparations after touching down in China. It will also be good to have at least one staff member not woozy from jet lag. Already in China as the Advance Team for the Advance Team (or Advance Person for the Advance Trainer) is Amy Hopfinger, U.S. Soccer’s Event Coordinator, a.k.a “Go-To Girl” and “Queen of Logistics.” She is working with the attentive staff at the team hotel on the myriad of details that go into hosting a World Cup squad. We hear that Hopfinger has actually picked up some Mandarin Chinese and we expect her to be fluent by the time the team arrives in Shanghai. Or, at least be able to order some very strong coffee, which she will need after going 90-miles an hour 12 time zones away to make things smoother for the USA upon arrival.

Dinner With Beckham

Four U.S. players decided to spend the evening with David Beckham…along with 27,000 other fans at The Home Depot Center. Abby Wambach, Cat Whitehill, Heather O’Reilly and Marian Dalmy took in the Galaxy-Chivas USA match on a warm Southern California night in front of a festive Super Classico crowd. While the Galaxy did not perform well in the loss, the players were highly impressed by Beckham’s effort, and especially his ability to play three 90-minute games (one on an artificial surface) over six days on two U.S. coasts and one other continent. Wow. The Galaxy scoring chances were scarce, but the players were entertained by a Herculean effort in the first half from Dalmy’s fellow Santa Clara alumni and Galaxy GK Joe Cannon, as well as a near brawl at the end of the first half that, after the dust cleared, eventually produced two red cards. The fist-a-cuffs were ignited after Beckham was scythed down in midfield by Chivas midfielder Jesse Marsch.

Abby and The General

At the Galaxy-Chivas game, Abby Wambach went on ESPN at halftime to discuss the upcoming Women’s World Cup with legendary ESPN announcer Bob Ley, and also spoke with former U.S. captain and ESPN broadcast personality Julie Foudy via satellite from New York, where she will be inducted into the National Soccer Hall of Fame this weekend along with Mia Hamm, Alan Rothenberg and Bobby Smith. Abby was sitting on the ESPN set when the brawl broke out so she got to see some good replays of the boys behaving badly. Anyway, you know when Abby sits down with “The General,” one of SportsCenter’s original anchors, that the Women’s World Cup is close at hand.

Autograph Cards

The U.S. players each got a nice fat stack of the new WWC autograph cards today at lunch. The glossy piece on a thick card stock features the official WWC team picture on the front and on the back are action shots of all 21 players. The new gold jerseys are popping and the smiles are wide. Pretty cool promotional piece for sure. The Chinese fans lucky enough to get one are going to love them.

Nike Kids

Nike held an event today for a few hundred players from Nike clubs in Southern California which in part allowed the players to watch the U.S. team’s practice, creating some extra atmosphere with all the girls sitting on the sideline stretching from goal line to goal line. The U.S. team had an intense training capped by a small-sided game on big goals in tight confines, which made for some heavy tackles, great saves and more than few cracker-jack goals. We saw Marci Jobon jack one off the underside of the crossbar and in at the upper right corner, Angela Hucles hit a first-time volley spinner into the left side-netting and Heather O’Reilly karate chop a volley home. Needless to say, the team looked sharp and ready for the Finland match, and the challenges that await in the Far East. After the practice and some media interviews, the players signed some autographs for the youth players. One girl asked Abby Wambach to sign her forehead. Abby begged off. She doesn’t sign skin. Makes sense. Why sign an autograph that is going to get washed off in the next shower? Or perhaps Abby doesn’t want to get in trouble with a mom wondering why her daughter came home with a big AW on her face?

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Beach Day

Today was a much deserved day off for the U.S. Women’s National Team, which means many things to many different players. Time with husbands and family members was a popular past-time. Time to chill was used liberally. Time to take care of last minute details before leaving for China got some play as well. But for about a dozen players, today was Beach Day in Malibu. Former 1999 Women’s World Cup President and CEO Marla Messing was nice enough to invite the team to her Malibu beach house for a few hours of fun, sun, surf, food and just overall relaxing. The weather was stunning, the water was perfect and several players even showed some boogie boarding and surfing talent. (Abby Wambach can stand up on her long board…impressive…and Natasha Kai from the North Shore of Oahu, well, she knows her way around waves, at least the small ones). The three children of U.S. players were all there and needless to say, kids love the beach. A highlight of the afternoon was when a school of dolphins swam lazily by, just yards from several players floating just 20 yards offshore. The dolphins didn’t stop to play, but they were probably busy looking for lunch. The U.S. team hits the field again tomorrow at The Home Depot Center in the second-to-last training before leaving for China.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Cones, Cones and More Cones

The U.S. team had an evening scrimmage against a boys’ team, playing two 30-minute halves, but the real workout came after, as the all the players ran fitness, their last really tough day before leaving for China. Those 12, 25-yard shuttles (you’ve done’em, 5 yards up, back, 10 yards up, back, 15 yards up, back, 20 yards up, back, 25 yards up, back…and then do it 11 more times with minimal rest) make us civilians want to hit the treadmill back a the hotel. (But we can’t because that chocolate chip cookie we ate at dinner is just sitting there). Still, the U.S. team gutted them out in impressive fashion with the entire team urging each other on, and the squad is looking fit and primed for the Women’s World Cup.

Next Great Forward?

With three true Soccer Moms on the U.S. World Cup Team, the rest of the U.S. players (also known as the 18 nannies) love playing with the kids. After getting her uniform for a video shoot, Heather O’Reilly decided to dress up Kate Markgraf’s son Keegan in her gold game jersey. He’s just over one year old, but the kid looks like he could be a goal scorer. Heather, be careful that Keegan doesn’t spill, rub, throw, mush or spit food on that jersey. You need to wear it this weekend against Finland.

Totally Blond (well, highlights)

The days until the USA leaves for China are fast disappearing and that means the U.S. players are taking care of some final important personal details, like haircuts. Abby Wambach, Kristine Lilly and Christie Rampone took time out in the morning for relaxing visits to the salon to get cuts and colors and came out looking fabulous. Most players are busy taking care of other final details, like bills, ordering Chinese cell phones, organizing family members traveling to China and picking up numerous sundry items. One question all the players are facing…how do you pack for potentially 35 days on the road? Such is the life of an international soccer player.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Pass the Jam

We learned something today about Carli Lloyd that we didn’t know. She loves toast. Sometimes, she eats it for dinner. Apparently, she’s from a “big bread family.” Lucky for Carli, there is no shortage of toast in China. Carli also loves her bagels. She is from New Jersey after all. If eating toast makes you shoot a soccer ball like Carli, you might see some seven-grain wheat replacing orange slices at halftime of youth soccer games. (Note: the WNT blog does not endorse eating toast at halftime. We suggest Gatorade, preferably Fierce Melon or maybe Berry Rain).

TV Stars

The U.S. Soccer Communications Dept. is putting together another show for Fox Soccer Channel, this one to preview the 2007 Women’s World Cup (please don’t tell us that you haven’t seen “WE ARE…the U.S. Women’s National Team”…if not, you can view it on all_access video on So the players did a shoot for the new show (airing before the WWC begins) with our crack video team, and as always, there was some good comedy. The players came in groups according to their positions. The defenders started it off. You gotta love the defenders. Little glory, lots of guts. The forwards were next. There was sort of a glow about them, but hey, they’re goal scorers…the chosen ones. Next was the goalkeepers. For three such nice people, they sure can look mean when they want to. The midfielders finished it up. What can you say? They do it all. Attack, defend, score and they have great vocabularies. Keep a lookout on FSC for the new, and as yet untitled, show.

The Question

Kristine Lilly got asked for the 546th time if she’s retiring after the Women’s World Cup. Give credit to the U.S. captain for continuing to field the question with humor and diplomacy, but let’s set the record straight. She doesn’t know! Seriously. We’re not trying to hide anything. She’s not even thinking about it. Her focus is the 2007 FIFA Women’s World Cup being held in China from Sept. 10-30. She’ll be happy to let you know her mindset after the World Cup, but for now, it’s all eyes on China.

The O in Goal Stands for O’Reilly

The team scrimmaged 11 v. 11 briefly at training today. The lone goal was scored by forward Heather O’Reilly as she ran onto a deft header flick from Abby Wambach in the right side of the penalty area. What a pass! Wambach barely lifted the ball over the defender and O’Reilly was able to finish from a sharp angle. Hey, Abby doesn’t just score’em, she sets’em up to. Did you know she has 32 assists in her career, which puts her in the top-10 all-time?

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Self Improvement

After relaxing with dinner and a movie, Heather O’Reilly and Lori Chalupny went to a book store by the hotel to gather some “provisions” for China to feed “the downtime” that will undoubtedly need feeding, uh…filling. Eschewing the normal pulp fiction and self-help books, O’Reilly gets major points for planning on some serious self-improvement for China. She bought the Rosetta Stone Spanish language CDs and a book titled “1,000 Test Words You Need to Know.” Now, O’Reilly is long past studying for the SATs, but certainly not past improving her already extensive vocabulary. O’Reilly is almost graduated from UNC, just needing a semester of student teaching to get her degree. Her new purchases will no doubt come in handy should she go into the teaching profession following her soccer career, as well as in china, where she will certainly be the most “erudite” player on the U.S. team. Anyone know how to say erudite in Spanish? Come September O’Reilly will…well, might.

Lazy Sunday

It was a pretty much a lazy Sunday for the U.S. Women’s National Team…except there were no cupcakes consumed and then there was training, which was anything but lazy. Several players came out early to get some extra work in and the practice ended with fitness games, which consist of eight-minute games with two four-minute halves playing 4 v 4 plus one on big goals with goalkeepers on big fields that only seem get bigger from game to game on a hot, muggy day. Did we mention the minimal rest between games? It’s basically eight straight minutes of 50-yard sprints. Needless to say, the players put in some hard, sweaty work before heading back to the hotel for lunch. The rest of the day was truly lazy as almost all the players either went to a movie, did a bit of shopping, napped, or for the more industrious players, perhaps all three.

Wedding Party

You couldn’t help but notice a very large and traditional Jewish wedding going on at the U.S. team’s hotel. The guests seemed to be having a fantastic time, although the band did make the afternoon interviews that the U.S. players and Greg Ryan were doing in the lobby a bit more difficult. Despite the revelry, the reporters got what they needed and sent everyone off to a lazy Sunday. (See above). While the wedding was impressive and boisterous, it would have been hard to measure up to the traditional Indian wedding that took place at the USA’s last hotel in Chicago. We’ll leave it at this: the spectacularly dressed groom was riding down Michigan Avenue on a big white horse surrounded by numerous dancers and music. But that was pre-blog, so we digress. Moving forward…Chinese hotels are known for lavish weddings and the U.S. team sees several on every trip over there. In fact, basketball star Yao Ming was married at a five-star hotel in Shanghai a few weeks ago. With the USA heading to Shanghai next Monday, they just missed China’s social event of the summer. Note to Yao: If he’s not too busy on his honeymoon, he’s invited to any of the U.S. matches.


Forward Natasha Kai definitely gets the award for best "arrival into camp outfit." It's really hard to describe, so we had to take a picture, but let's just say that the free-spirited Hawaiian loves color and her jeans definitely matched her jacket. It's a good time to note that despite her obvious dedication to style, Kai is by far the lightest packer in the history of the U.S. Women's National Team. Often, she doesn't even check a bag, just making due with her carry on. Although with 35 days in China ahead should the USA advance to the final matches, we guess she'll be checking a bag on the flight to Shanghai.