Saturday, September 1, 2007

Day Off on Sunday

Sunday is a day off rest, so the USA will. Tomorrow, the U.S. team gets its first day off since coming to China. A well deserved day off at that, as the team has been working extremely hard. But will the WNT Blog take the day off too? No chance. The Blog never rests. The Blog doesn’t have to train every day, run sprints and play World Cup games, though.

USA Hooray

Goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart and midfielder Marci Jobson have combined to produce a U.S. team newsletter during the stay in China called, “USA Hooray.” Great title! Barnhart, who has an art studio degree from Stanford, is handling the layout while Jobson spearheads the editorial content. The full color newsletter includes features, jokes, puzzles, horoscopes and more. The creative pressures of being editor-in-chief are starting to wear on Jobson, but expect her to rally after the jet lag wears off.

Can I have the origin please?

If you’ve been following the blog closely, you know that Heather O’Reilly brought a book of vocabulary words with her to China in an effort to further her intellectual growth. She’s now taken it one step further, bringing that knowledge to the team. Heather is picking one word a day, and along with the definition, and its use in a sentence, it gets printed on the USA’s Daily Schedule that gets slipped under the doors each night by General Manager Cheryl Bailey. Words that O’Reily has chosen so far include “banal” and “acquiesce.”

Jim Mike

Who is Jim Mike? It seems he wants a job with the WNT and he's got a bucket full of reasons why he should be the new PR manager for the U.S. team. Check out to meet Jim Mike and hear some of his “revolutionary ideas” to promote the team. Then you be the judge. This is cutting edge stuff for sure. If you haven't met Jim Mike yet, you soon will.

I think I’ll Have the Piccata

The U.S. team is going out to dinner tomorrow on its day off. General Manager Cheryl Bailey was trying to find a good Italian restaurant, not as easy as one might think in Shanghai. She was asking around, but then, amazingly, Amy Hopfinger, U.S. Soccer’s Event Coordinator who has helped set up the USA’s entire trip to China, ran into two guys in the lobby of the Friends & Family hotel who, get this, had just gotten through sampling 50 Italian restaurants in Shanghai for a book or website or travelogue or something. They recommend their top two choices, and boom, the U.S. team had its reservation. Sometimes fate just bumps into you, especially when raviolis and gnocchi are concerned.

Peace Corps Props got a cool email from an American guy working in the Pearce Corps in China. He said that there were a bunch of Americans working in Chengdu and that they’d do their best to come out and support the team. The U.S. cheering section grows! With China so close to North Korea, we’re gonna need every voice and painted face we can get.

Fitness Day

It was still pretty darn hot training today, but A LOT cooler than yesterday, which was a good thing as the U.S. team went through a fitness day, playing 3 v. 3, plus two on pretty big fields at big goals, which was tiring enough, but then the team ran cones. We must say it was pretty inspirational watching the players bust out the sprints on an oppressive day when cold towels on the necks, sprayed water on the face and collapsing in a heap upon finishing were the order of the day. Moral of the day: This team is mentally tough and surely fit.

The Ginger Princess

Speaking of nicknames, we’ve been trying to tag Lori Chalupny with “The Ginger Princess” for a while now and it’s just not sticking. Chalupny, who bears resemblance to Manchester United midfielder Paul Scholes (a.k.a. the Ginger Prince) in hair color, stature and playing style, is known by Chalupa, Chalups or Chups on the WNT, which we guess is easier to say on the field. But if the media out there could help us out and print “Ginger Princess” a few times, we really would appreciate it.

Marci The Mako

Speaking of Jobson, we’ve just learned that her nickname is Mako, as in shark. That’s right, Marci “The Mako” Miller (sounds better to use her maiden name here). It could just be the best nickname in U.S. Women’s National Team history. We’re not 100% sure if she earned the nickname because of the way she looks running around the field, eyes darting, and winning her many head balls, or if her “killer” tackles have something to do with it, but it’s probably a combination of both. The Mako shark is considered one of the fastest sharks in the water and can achieve speeds of more than 22 mph. It’s an open ocean shark, so it’s generally not a threat to divers, but it is the 10th most dangerous shark if you base it on documented attacks. Needless to say, if you meet the Marci the Mako on the soccer field, it would be wise to run the other way.


One of the team’s massage therapists, Scott Street, is providing a valuable service for the U.S. staff. He’s brewing coffee, brought from the States, in his hotel room every day. He’s calling it Scottbucks. Well, he is after team videographer Noelle Jouglet, a creative sort, made him a cool sign. He offers anywhere from 4-5 different blends each day and is open from 8-10 a.m. and again from 1:30-3:30, should anyone want to drop by for a cup, gratis.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Loquacious Lilly

You have to give it up for Kristine Lilly. Not only is she one of the greatest players in women’s soccer history. Not only has she played an astronomical 331 games. Not only is she a fantastic teammate and superb team captain…but she is awesome at interviews. Lilly keeps getting asked the same questions over and over again, but always answers with the same enthusiasm and wit. Some prime examples of the repetitive questions:

  • “When will you retire?”
  • “What keeps you motivated?”
  • “How do you maintain your fitness?”
  • “How will this young team respond to the pressures of a World Cup?”
  • “Will you win the World Cup?”
  • “How many goals will you score in the World Cup?”
  • “Is it difficult playing after having a baby?”

Baby! Wait a minute. Maybe one day soon, but the Chinese media got their babies crossed a bit. Lilly still fielded the question with ease, saying that she doesn’t yet have a baby, but three of her teammates do and that they are her heroes for having kids and coming back to play at the top of their games.


Some of the U.S. players have been playing interactive video games in the players’ lounge. Apparently, Shannon Boxx is (no pun intended) the boxing champ of the squad. She knocked out both Abby Wambach and Christie Rampone and is currently the belt holder with an undefeated 2-0 record. She’s not sure when she’ll fight again, but suffice it to say, the purse to get her back in the ring (or in front of the TV) is growing. Perhaps some beef jerky or granola bars from the team snack trunk?

Buckets of Sweat

Boy, was it hot at training today. It was the kind of heat that makes you sweat just standing still. It’s kind of heat that just wraps you in a big oppressive hug and won’t let go. It was so hot that the Chinese chickens were laying hard-boiled eggs. It was so hot that…ok enough of that. But seriously, it was easily over 100-degress on the heat index (were not sure what the heat index is, but it makes it seem even hotter). The U.S. team had an excellent training, working hard for 90 minutes, which will no doubt help get them acclimated to the weather and time zone. The squad played an 11 v. 11 scrimmage for 20 minutes at the end of training. Forward Heather O’Reilly scored the lone goal of the game on a breakaway. We haven’t mentioned yet that the USA’s training facility at Shenhua FC is excellent. There are 10 fields, dorms, administrative buildings and a small stadium. The playing surfaces on the USA’s two designated fields are first rate. It’s fairly secluded and the most wide open space one is likely to experience in Shanghai. After encountering frogs and dragon flies during the first two trainings, the only fauna spotted today was a lone, stray dog. He was sort of skinny so some players thought he might be coyote, but there aren’t any coyotes in China are there? He suspiciously eyed the U.S. players from a distance and then went on his way.


Abby Wambach had the hiccups yesterday. Pretty bad case too…at least four hiccups per minute. She was asking U.S. players to scare her so she could get rid of them. Problem is, and the U.S. opponents know this well, Abby doesn’t scare easily. They eventually went away on their own. We’re betting the hiccups were scared of Abby.

Yogurt Crisis

Just when Aly Wagner has finally overcome the injuries she’s struggled with this year and is almost back to full fitness, another crisis struck. She’s almost out of yogurt. Yes, the USA’s team gourmet brought with her to China a good supply of imported Italian yogurt. She even packed it creatively, using frozen cold packs in a tightly sealed lunchbox that kept them nice and chilled during the 13-hour flight. She’s going to ask her husband to bring more over when he comes for the matches.

Leslie Osborne, Aly Wagner, Marian Dalmy

All-American Girl

Congrats to Stephanie Lopez for being named a pre-season Soccer America All-American! Of course, it was a bit of a no-brainer. The outside back and University of Portland star is the only player on the U.S. Women’s World Cup Team with college eligibility remaining. Hopefully, the USA’s run at the Women’s World Cup won’t see Lopez back until the Pilots Oct. 5 in-state derby against Oregon in Eugene, where she could make her 2007 college debut.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

And From the Player Lounge…

We saw Heather O’Reilly doing some scrap-booking in the player lounge. She was putting together a book from her senior year in college, which was a year ago, that ended in a glorious NCAA title for the Offensive MVP of the Final Four. Said the 22-year-old forward: “I wanted to do a scrapbook for the 2004 Olympics and I haven’t done it yet, and it’s almost time for the next Olympics! Better late than never, I guess.” Also, some staff members were working up a sweat playing interactive tennis and boxing. Hey, staff needs to get a workout in too.

Walk This Way, No That Way…

The players took a team walk during the late afternoon before dinner that served multiple purposes: Stretch the legs, keep the players alert as they battle jet leg, see some of the city. The team strolled down the Bund, an historic area of the Huangpu District of Shanghai which runs along the western bank of the Huangpu River and offers a stunning view of massive skyscrapers and a unique skyline. The team then walked down Zhongshan Road, a major shopping street, before heading back to the hotel. Angela Hucles pulled a Penn Jillete-esque slight of hand on Leslie Osborne, first stealing her money and then pretending to help her look for it on the ground. She eventually came clean, much to Osborne’s relief and both players amusement. Truth be told, no walk in Shanghai is entirely relaxing, with the endless amount of motor bikes, constant motion, as well as the amazing amount of construction and demolition. Needless to say, you must always be dodging cars, people, bikes or buses. However, the walk was enjoyable for the U.S. players as it was the first team outing in China and definitely helped in the process of slowly adjusting to the time zone.

What’s Next, Hail?

After encountering a field full of frogs on its first day of training, the USA arrived at the Shenhua FC training facility to find hundreds of large dragon flies buzzing around. We’re talking three-inch insects, easily. While we wouldn’t quite call it a swarm…ok, it was sort of a swarm…the dragon flies seemed to be adept at avoiding the U.S. players, although they seemed to enjoy flying among them, and there were no player-to-dragon fly collisions reported. It’s difficult to describe just how many dragon flies there were, but suffice it to say that the U.S. players had never seen anything like it. Funny thing…the frogs were gone. You’d think with all those yummy dragon flies around, the frogs would have been having a smorgasbord. The players were told by their team liaison that when the dragon flies were flying that low to the ground, it meant rain was coming within the hour. Rain definitely threatened, but never materialized.

You are My Sunshine

No rain today for the USA’s second training in Shanghai. Practice was a little tougher, but much dryer, than the first day. The sun tried to peak through the haze. It didn’t quite make it, though, leading to an eminently bearable 90 minutes. Still, the humidity was such that the U.S. players were definitely soaked by the end. We even saw Lori Chalupny wringing a few ounces of water out of her practice jersey. The players’ legs were a bit weary as the second day of jet leg is perhaps even worse than the first, but that’s why the squad arrived almost two weeks before the first game.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Postcard from China: Marian Dalmy

Every so often during the Women’s World Cup, a U.S. Women’s National Team player will write an e-postcard, filling in the fans back home on the happenings of the team, off the field activities, and anything else on their mind. Today, we start with the only player on the U.S. Women’s World Cup roster who is making her first trip to China. Former Santa Clara University star Marian Dalmy, a 22-year old defender, checks in from Shanghai on the USA’s first few days, the DVDs she’ll be watching and her glorious victory over Marci Jobson.

Check out today's postcard!


While the U.S. players have been troopers trying to adjust to the time change, the second day in China is truly difficult. If you ever been to Asia, you know that switching the body clock to exactly the opposite of the East Coast is not easy. At dinner, the glassy-eyed U.S. players did well to entertain each other, but staying up until 10 p.m. will no doubt be a chore. Most players know it will be a team effort. If your roommate goes down of the count, you are soon to follow.

Not Much Elbow Room in Shanghai

While it doesn’t quite have the population of New York City, Shanghai seems to have as many skyscrapers (just more spread out, as in as far as the eye can see, which is not far with all the rain and haze). With over 16 million people, Shanghai has a population density on par or perhaps greater than New York, depending on what stats you look at. Needless to say, people are everywhere, and construction seems to be non-stop as the “new China” continues to overtake the old. Speaking of tall buildings, the U.S. team got a look at one of the world’s tallest on the way back from training today. Under construction, the Shanghai World Financial Center will be 101 stories and rise 1,614 feet into the sky. (The Sears Tower in Chicago is just a mere 1,450 feet tall). While there is a taller building currently in Tapei, and even taller ones are planned for Dubai, Russia, Seoul and Busan, the building was truly a site to behold and definitely not a destination for anyone with acrophobia.

Espanol in the Middle Kingdom

Inspired by Heather O’Reilly’s Spanish language DVDs that she brought to China, the U.S. players have been sharing their Spanish vocabulary and knowledge. While that may come in handy should next year’s Olympic qualifying be held in Mexico or Central America, it’s not going to help very much in China. Most of the players’ Chinese is limited to thank you, hello and goodbye and, “which way to Starbucks?” which is actually translated by the USA players to “Starbucks?” along with a lot of pointing.

Ryan PC

U.S. head coach Greg Ryan held his first press conference today for a handful of Chinese media. It went well. Ryan has mastered the art of speaking slowing and in short sentences for the purpose of translation, while still giving insightful answers. Not an easy task. Ryan did get the inevitable questions about what he thought of the China team, China’s new coach and China’s players. (He gets those every time the U.S. team comes to China, sometimes daily). For the record…very good and even better with the home crowd behind them, she has done a great job, and be aware especially of Han Duan.

A Practice of Biblical Proportions

The U.S. team met its first fans in China before its first training. Unfortunately, they were reptilian. When the USA arrived at the expansive Shenhua FC facility for practice, they found that the field was already occupied…by frogs. Tons of them. They weren’t tiny frogs either, they were a few inches long and quite unwilling to vacate the field, forcing the U.S. team to play a real-life game of Frogger for their warm-up run. With a steady rain falling, the U.S. team had a fairly short, crisp training following the warm-up run and stretch with some 5 v 2 and then some crossing and finishing. Before training, the U.S. players had some fun with the frogs (one player, who shall remain nameless, offered to kiss one to see if it would turn into a prince), before being told that they may be toxic, which quickly ended the frog-play. Scott Street, one of the USA’s massage therapists, channeled the late, great Steve Irwin and personally removed six frogs from the goal area, using a field marker cone as a scoop. Luckily, the frogs were smart enough to hop away from the playing area and there were no reports of any frog mashing incidents, because the last thing a goalkeeper wants to do when diving for a ball is land on a frog.

Woosh, Woosh

When the U.S. team got back on the bus after training for the ride back to the hotel, soaking wet from the rain, humidity and exertion, the bus was as hot as the Amazon jungle. With the USA’s team liaison and translator not yet on the bus, Abby Wambach decided to take matters into her own hands, going up to the bus driver and using her best charade-like moves while making the sound of an air conditioner cranking up. When the bus driver started wiping down the steamed windows, Wambach thought for a moment she’d been miss-interpreted, but then the AC did click on, giving the U.S. team a welcome respite from the heat.

A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall

It’s raining, hard. Not a great way to start the first full day in China, but the rain has certainly lowered the temperature, which was steaming hot when the USA got off the plane last night, so that’s a good thing. The thunder and lightning? Not so much. But is a little precipitation going to stop the USA from holding its first training? We think not. Shanghai could get as much as six inches of rain in September, so the USA will probably see some more of the wet stuff before this World Cup is over. Luckily, the U.S. team has players who are good “mudders” as they may have to not only battle the heat (it’s going to average in the low 80s during the WWC), but the rain as well.

U.S. team leaves for training on a rainy morning in Shanghai.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Final Words of the Day From the U.S. Players


Look Both Ways

The traffic in Shanghai was described to the U.S. team as “bumper cars at the birthday party of a seven-year-old” and that is about as good a description as you will get. Apparently, there are about 800 traffic accidents a day in Shanghai and the U.S. players and staff were told to proceed with caution when on the streets. You know that “pedestrian has the right of way” thing in California? That doesn’t fly in Shangahi. Words to the wise, when crossing streets, look both ways and move fast!

Welcome to China!

It was about as easy as a 13-hour flight can be. The U.S. team touched down in China a few minutes after 5 p.m. local time and walked straight from the plane, through customs and onto the bus. No carrying bags at a World Cup! Unfortunately, the drive to the hotel was an arduous one, and despite the police escort, the bumper-to-bumper traffic crawled along, making the 405 Freeway in Los Angeles look tame in comparison. Some players slept a lot, some not at all, but they definitely will be crashing tonight after a quick meal. The hotel staff could not have been nicer, with legions of super attentive staff members at what can be best described as a “luxurious, modern hotel” helping the jet-lagged players find food and their rooms. On the bus ride to the hotel, the always friendly Abby Wambach (she’s a people person, you know) was chatting with the USA’s Chinese team liaison for the tournament, Adora, and asked how she got the gig working with the U.S. team. “Just lucky!,” she said. “Well,” said Wambach with a mischievous grin, “We’ll see how lucky you feel in a few weeks.” The USA will have its first training in China tomorrow.

Shanghai Bound

San Francisco, Fly, Fly, Fly, Fly, Fly, Fly, Fly, Fly, Fly, Fly, Fly, Fly, Fly, Fly, Fly, Fly,
Fly, Fly, Fly, Fly, Fly, Fly, Fly, Fly, Fly, Fly, Fly, Fly, Fly, Fly, Fly, Fly, Touch down in Shanghai

Monday, August 27, 2007

Quick Stop in SF

Even with a fairly short layover, the players were excited to have a final meal at SFO, known to the experienced WNT travelers as a “good food airport,” but it didn’t quite work out that way. In order to transfer from the domestic to the international terminal without going through security, the team had to take a shuttle to terminal, then up a special elevator…problem was that the elevator broke, stranding the U.S. team in a hot, humid hallway on the tarmac level. Just as midfielder Angela Hucles was about to bust out the harmonica she brought to China (and intends to master), and after about 15 minutes of waiting around, the players (and at least a hundred slightly agisted other passengers) were ushered to a large service elevator and taken up to the terminal. With the flight boarding, the players still had time to rush to a Mexican food place in the terminal and grab a last meal before getting on the plane, adding stock to the adage that “there’s always time for a burrito!”

Smooth Departure

Departure day for China! The team had to take a quick flight up to San Francisco to catch its plane to Shanghai. After a super smooth check-in at LAX (team General Manager Cheryl Bailey had it wired, as usual), the squad munched on banana bread (plain, chocolate chip, walnut…and let’s go crazy here…chocolate chip/walnut, that was scrumptious baked by a staff member) before hoping the hour flight to the Bay Area. We must say that the players looked sharp in their navy Nike capris and white zip-up jackets. Classy, but not flashy. Perfect for travel. It must also be noted that the gate area was much quieter without the three WNT kids that usually travel with the team. During the Women’s World Cup, the moms go solo, although all three kids will be traveling to China soon with their dads.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

The Final Countdown

What does a Women’s World Cup Team player do during her final 24 hours in America before leaving for China? We can’t say for sure because the WNT blog didn’t see any players today. Today was the last day for the players to chill out and relax before spending (hopefully) the next month on the road with their teammates. The team chemistry is fantastic on this Women’s World Cup team and it’s truly one of the strengths of the squad, but everyone needs some alone time once in while, especially before embarking on this great quest to bring home the Women’s World Cup trophy which will surely tax the U.S. team to its limits both mentally and physically. But hey, that’s why they call it a World Cup.

Ready in China

The USA’s advance team of U.S. Soccer Event Coordinator Amy Hopfinger, athletic trainer Gigi Garcia and asst. equipment manager Hector Tovar Jr. are set and ready for the team’s arrival in Shanghai. Hopfinger is putting the final touches on the USA’s accommodations and today she purchased one of those cool video game systems for the players’ lounge that the kids love. (Did we mention Abby Wambach is practically unbeatable at FIFA ’07?). Prediction: The WNT blog will get some good stuff from the player lounge over the next few weeks.

Brunch and More

Apparently, the USA’s hotel in Shanghai features what they claim to be "The Best Sunday Brunch in the World." With that kind of advertising, they have a lot to live up to, but according to the USA’s Advance Team, it just might be true. There are like 20 different food stations, and as the patrons are eating, a wildly entertaining show commences featuring singers, dancers, acrobatics, and a guy who changes masks in something called “Bian Lian.” Please Wikipedia that, it’s just too hard to explain, but apparently it’s very cool. The singers ranged from pop to opera, the food was great and the Chinese acrobats, as usual, were amazing. Take that Las Vegas!

Abby's OK

Did anyone hear that sigh of relief coming from Los Angeles today? That’s because forward Abby Wambach will be ready to go for the opening game of the 2007 FIFA Women’s World Cup. Wambach got one of her little piggies crunched in a tackle with a Finland player yesterday and had to come out of the game, but while her digit is quite sore, she should feel no adverse effects come Sept. 11 when the U.S. team squares off against North Korea to get this party started. Besides, Wambach, who has been known to inflict some pain, can take as well as she dishes. (Did anyone see the Brazil game from Giants Stadium earlier this year?). Wambach played the 2006 CONCACAF Women’s Gold Cup matches that served as qualifying for the Women’s World Cup on a swollen and throbbing ankle, and in a truly heroic effort, scored both goals against Mexico to send the USA to China. You think a bruised toe is going to slow her down? You think wrong. Read more on