Saturday, September 15, 2007

Deep Breath

Today was a great day of rest for the U.S. team after the big win over Sweden The departure from Chengdu wasn’t too early, there was no training, it was an easy travel day, and the team got into Shanghai in the afternoon, giving the players plenty of time to relax. With lots friends and family in town, many players chose to go out to dinner in Shanghai, before hitting the sack early as the team returns to training on Sunday. There are also some Studio 90 interviews planned for tomorrow, so keep a lookout for the new shows on

Oh Marta

Brazil pulled off a truly impressive win over China tonight, not in that they won, as the Brazilians were certainly favored, but that they scored four goals in front of 50,000 Chinese fans in Wuhan. Not an easy task. Marta continued her dazzling ways with two goals and set up another, but the Chinese goalkeeper made a huge gaff when she threw a ball right to…you guessed it…Marta! All of people! Marta took a few dribbles and passed to Cristiane for a tap-in. China is now in a bit of a predicament. Brazil is basically through with six points from two games. The Danes beat New Zealand 2-0, and like China, have three points. If Denmark (plus-one goal difference) somehow manages to upset Brazil, China (minus-three goal difference) is going to need a big win over Zealand in its last game or they are out, which would be a huge disappointment for the Chinese fans and the tournament.

Clash of the Commonwealth

Australia pulled off a great tie with Norway tonight, and both now have four points, but Norway faces the already eliminated Ghana next, meaning Canada and Australia (a 4-0 winner of the Ghana) will square off during the last Group C games for what will likely be second place in the group. Bodies are going to be flying in that one as two big, strong physical teams clash with advancement on the line.

Going Home

Argentina (Group A) and Ghana (Group C) have both been eliminated from advancement to the quarterfinals with one game left. New Zealand is basically done in Group D as well. They would have to pull a Brazil-like victory over China and hope for a Denmark upset of Brazil to advance. The real drama is in the USA’s Group B, where all four teams are still alive, although North Korea and the USA have the leg up due to goal difference.

Back to Shanghai

The U.S. team left the hotel in Chengdu at around 9:15 a.m. and was bid farewell by the great hotel staff, venue staff and security that worked with the USA during its stay. As is often the case during FIFA tournaments when changing venues, the U.S. team flew with an opponent, in this case, its next opponent in Nigeria. The interaction between the two teams was minimal, but cordial, although one player did ask Tina Ellertson (whose mother is from Nigeria) where her family hailed from. Sweden was also at the airport, but on a different flight as they are going to Tianjin to play North Korea. It’s always a bit awkward when you see the team you just beat at the airport, but the Swedes are a classy bunch (although they looked pretty tired). The travel day was a cinch compared to when the USA traveled last time from Shanghai to Chengdu (and had flight delays galore), although (shocker) the team bus did hit traffic from the Shanghai airport to its hotel. Upon arrival at the hotel, where the USA spent eight days at the beginning of the trip, the team cheered. (It is a really nice hotel).

Officer Kai

Before leaving the hotel in Chengdu, Natasha Kai got a special tour of the SWAT-team looking police vehicle that has trailed the U.S. bus everywhere it went. She got to stick her head out of the turret on top and posed for pictures with the police. We’re going to miss those SWAT guys. You definitely go the feeling that in the highly unlikely prospect anything bad went down, these dudes would have had it covered.

Battle Panda

As both the USA and Nigeria played its first two games in Chengdu, A.K.A. the Panda Capital of China, it seemed like almost every player on both teams had a stuffed animal panda of some sort when boarding the plane to Shanghai. The overhead compartments were full of pandas and there were panda heads sticking out of backpacks. One Nigerian player definitely won the panda contest when she boarded with a HUGE stuffed panda that looked to be the size of an eight-month old panda (based on knowledge gathered at the Chengdu Panda Breeding and Research Center). That panda could have had a seat of his own on the plane. We’re not sure where she put it, but that will be a fun item to bring back to Nigeria (where they have a lot of wild animals, but no pandas).

Friday, September 14, 2007

Legendary Strike

Last words on Abby Wambach’s second goal against Sweden: That was one of the best goals in U.S. Women’s World Cup history. Wow. A truly magnificent control of the flighted ball, dropped perfectly off her chest to her lethal left foot and BOOOOOOOOOM!!! One for the ages. That’s got to make SportsCenter’s Top-10 Plays of the Day, and we’re thinking #1.

Off to Shanghai

The USA heads back to Shanghai tomorrow morning, so the players were putting the finishing touches on their packing while unwinding after the great victory over Sweden. The USA will not train tomorrow – it’s just a travel day – and then will have two more days to rest and recover before facing the always tough Nigerians on Tuesday, Sept. 18 to finish Group B play. With the clutch win over Sweden, the USA is in great position to advance, but all the players know there is still much work to be done against Nigeria, which tied Sweden and lost just 2-0 to the powerful North Koreans. We are sure the players are looking forward to going back to the fantastic hotel in Shanghai for a few days, but everyone – coaches, players, staff – has thoroughly enjoyed their stay in Chengdu. The people of Chengdu, at the hotel and around the city, have been wonderful to the U.S. delegation and the team heads on in the tournament with what surely will be fond memories of the Panda Capital of China.

Cardiac Kids

How about those Japanese? First they tie England 2-2 on a 95th minute bomb of a free-kick in their first game, then they somehow manage to go 0-0 with Argentina (an 11-0 loser to Germany) for 90 minutes before scoring in stoppage time (again!) to win 1-0. The bad news for Japan: Even through they have four points, they have to play Germany now. England has just two points from two ties, but gets Argentina in the final group game. The plucky Japanese would have to pull off an epic result against the Germans, and would have to hope for a unlikely draw or win for Argentina against England, to make it through. Hey, if Argentina is still steamed enough about the 1982 Falklands Islands War, anything could happen.

Super Falcons Hang

Truth be told, the Super Falcons of Nigeria hung in there with North Korea, despite losing 2-0. Both goals came off corner kicks in the first half, the first directly off a corner kick that struck the far post and bounced in, and crafty Koreans out-shot the Nigerians by just five shots. The result means several things. First, in order to win Group B, the USA will have to beat Nigeria by more goals than North Korea beats Sweden, or just win if North Korea and Sweden tie, or tie or win if Sweden defeats North Korea. The USA would be through to the quarterfinals with a tie against Nigeria, but of course, winning the group is the goal. Second, the USA’s game against Nigeria is going to be a battle on par with the first two matches. U.S. head coach Greg Ryan has said that playing North Korea and Sweden in the first two matches was like playing a semifinal and final in the first two games of the tournament. Facing Nigeria might be like a quarterfinal. Group of Death? This could be the toughest group in the history of the Women’s World Cup.

Loose Turf

Did you watch the Germany-England game? Great result for the England women, but how about that field? There were chunks of turf flying everywhere. We hope the grounds crew at the Shanghai Hongkou Football Stadium can get the field in better shape over the next three days or the USA-Nigeria match could be a mud-fest.

F&F Reception

Last night, the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Chengdu hosted U.S. Soccer's Friends and Family Program, Members of the Sichuan American Chamber of Commerce and the U.S Consulate in Chengdu for a spectacular evening complete with dinner, drinks and traditional Chinese entertainment. The evening kicked off with a reception and concluded with a specially prepared dinner for 50 or so guests in the Grand Ballroom of the Crowne Plaza. The Grand Ballroom was festively decorated with Chinese decor that included stuffed pandas, Chinese lamps, and a magnificent ice sculpture of the Women's World Cup trophy. Guests were served a traditional Sichuan five course meal which included such dishes as Sichuan BBQ Pork, Steamed Cod Fish fillet with Soya Sauce, Dan Dan Noodles, Iced Green Bean Paste and a selection of seasonal fresh fruits. Throughout the exceptional meal, guests were entertained by a traditional Sichuan dance show, relaxing instrumental performances and a mask changing show called bianlian. Presents of gratitude were exchanged as former U.S. Soccer President Dr. Bob Contiguglia presented Mr. Ted Durham, General Manager of The Crowne Plaza Hotel, with a special edition U.S. Women's National Team crystal, while Mr. Durham distributed stuffed pandas to all those in attendance. Food, entertainment, drinks and pandas? It doesn’t get much better than that.

Thursday, September 13, 2007


On the eve of a massive game against Sweden, the U.S. players are relaxed and loose, but you can certainly tell that the focus is there, perhaps a good combination to produce a positive result tomorrow. The team had its usual pre-game meeting after dinner and then the players settled down for a quiet evening, which for some players included popcorn and movies. The dominate emotion may be excitement as the team is eager to get back on the field after the draw with North Korea. Both teams know each other extremely well, having played four times since meeting in the 2003 FIFA Women’s World Cup, so tomorrow’s match probably won’t be one of surprises, bur rather hard work and effort.


Goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart has a stuffed animal dog named Woof that she brings with her on road trips. Apparently, her teammates are rejoicing in doing mean things to Woof. Tonight, they strapped him into Barnhart’s “extensionator” (a tortuous looking device that she used to help straighten her leg after knee surgery a while back) and left him in the hallway. The other day they hung him from a sprinkler head and gagged him with tape. We’re lucky Woof has a good sense of humor, as does Barnhart.

U.S. Soccer Supports Pandas

The U.S. team got a special thank you today from the Women’s World Cup local organizing committee for its visit to the Chengdu Panda Breeding and Research Center and for U.S. Soccer’s $3,000 donation to the center. The team received a letter from Gu Jianming, the Chengdu Venue General Manager, that read in part…

“As entrusted by the Chengdu Municipal Government, the Chengdu Organizing Committee would like to express our gratitude and heartfelt wishes, and we appreciate your kind support to the giant panda protection cause. Meanwhile, we also see the great friendship between our two peoples, and will convey your donation regarding the caring and protecting of giant pandas to the Giant Panda Breeding and Research Center….we hope you can send our gratefulness to all the American people who are supporting and concerned with the giant pandas. We believe that with the care and support of all the peoples in the world including our fiends in the USA, giant pandas will surely be well protected…Wish you a joyful experience in Chengdu, and the best performance in this Women’s World Cup!”

As a thank you, each U.S. player also got a stuffed animal panda (mom and baby) as well as books on giant pandas.

Forecast: Rain, Few Pandas

The U.S. Friends and Family contingent went to the Panda Reserve yesterday and unfortunately they weren’t as panda lucky as the U.S. players and staff. It was a rainy day the pandas weren’t in the mood to frolic. They were put inside by the staff at the reserve, and there was just one single solitary panda hanging out at the top of a tree. Apparently, he refused to come down out of his tree, or he would have been put inside as well. They did get to see the adorable tiny baby pandas through the glass in the panda nursery. And you know what they say…one panda is better than no pandas.

Last Training in Chengdu

The U.S. team held its final training in Chengdu, and amazingly, it didn’t rain. As usual for a practice the day before a game, it was light, with the players getting time to do whatever they needed to do to get the legs ready for Sweden. After training, the U.S. team took a picture with the SWAT team guys assigned to the team who have been following them everywhere, to and from training, on shopping trips and to the panda reserve. The first few days, the police, none of whom speak English, were stoic. At the end, they were all smiles, and each wanted a picture with Kristine Lilly. Needless to say, along with these guys being just plain intimidating to look at, they knew how to do their job and the team felt very safe everywhere they went.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

WWC Heats Up

We know all the great volunteers, organizers, hotel staff and security will have an extra pep in their step tomorrow after a remarkable 3-2 victory for host China over Denmark in the opening game for both teams. China ran up a 2-0 lead, but gave up an equalizer just three minutes from time before a wonder-strike just seconds later by Song Xiaoli sent the Chinese fans into absolute delirium. Great for China, great for the tournament, but bad for Denmark, a talented team that battled gamely to tie the match only to give up a winning goal within moments.

Newsflash: Marta Scores Two

To no one’s surprise, two minnows of the WWC felt the wrath of stronger sides as Australia downed Ghana, 4-1, and Brazil rolled past New Zealand, 5-0, but had to tally in the 86th and 93rd minute for the final score line. To no one’s surprise, Brazilian star Marta, the 2006 FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year, scored twice. The Kiwis did well to hold the score at 1-0 at halftime, but the Brazilians were just too strong, out-shooting the islanders by 25 shots. Canada almost got an excellent result against Norway, going up 1-0 in 33rd minute, but gave up an equalizer in the 62nd and the game-winner in the 81st.

New York Noggin’

We knew Abby Wambach was tough, damn tough, but the legend grows. After getting her scalp cracked open in a collision with a North Korea defender about 10 minutes into the second half of the USA’s first Women’s World Cup match, Wambach’s head wound was gushing blood, covering her hair and her jersey. The team’s medical staff rushed her to the locker room and the team doctor put in two stitches to stop the bleeding…without any numbing medication. Wambach, who said she could hear the needle going through her skin, just wanted to get back on the field and didn’t have time for a shot. The medical staff did an excellent job of stemming the blood flow and she did a 150-yard sprint to get back to midfield before being waved back on by the referee. Wambach was forced to put back on the sweaty, wet jersey she had worn in the first half. On a rainy night, the blood in Wambach’s hair soaked down into her jersey, creating a crimson hue when the game was over. The National Soccer Hall of Fame in Oneonta, N.Y., sent an email requesting the bloody garment, but alas, it had already been put in the wash. The U.S. equipment manager reports that all the blood came out as well.

Here Comes the Sun (Not)

We’ve been hoping and hoping for the sun to come out in Chengdu, but it doesn’t look like it’s going to happen. The skies have been at times rainy, often gray and always hazy since the team touched down on Sept. 6. But hey, the players are not here on a vacation, and actually the weather for training has been quite good. Not too hot, never cold, and sometimes just a bit humid, but not nearly as oppressive as a few days in Shanghai after the team arrived. Plus, aside from a few shopping trips, some ventures out to Starbucks and visits with friends and family, the U.S. players have been quite content to relax in their rooms, conserve energy and watch a lot of DVDs. It is quite possible that Lori Chalupny will have watched every single episode of “24” ever produced before she departs China.

Listen Up

U.S. head coach Greg Ryan, forwards Abby Wambach and Heather O’Reilly, and defender Christie Rampone met with a fairly large media contingent at the U.S. hotel today during the USA’s regular daily press briefing. There were quite a few Swedish reporters there, one of whom asked Abby about what she though the Swedish players saying that she “goes to the ground a bit too easily.” Perhaps the Swedes have never heard the saying, “the bigger they are, the harder they fall,” and with the beating Wambach takes during games, you’d spend some time on the turf as well. Note: Wambach answered the question with class and tact. To listen to the quotes from the press conference, check the podcast on and on Thursday morning check out the next episode of Studio 90: China ’07.

That’s Cold

After training, about a dozen players, mostly the starters from last night’s match decided to soak their legs in a cold swimming pool at the hotel. They didn’t know it was suitable for polar bears and penguins. Still, the icy water was great for the recovery after such a tough game against the Koreans, and once the players got used to it, a game of inner tube dodge ball broke out. If inner tube dodge ball makes it to the Olympics, the U.S. WNT could win two medals.

Rain at Training

After playing last night in rain, the U.S. started training in a light rain this morning, before it dissipated. Still, the training field was wet and soggy as the starters from the North Korea game just jogged and stretched while the reserves played a spirited small-sided game on big goals. There were some good scores in the short scrimmage, but one that didn’t go in was perhaps most exciting, as Marci Jobson whipped off a flying side-volley scissors sort of deal that flew over the crossbar.

One Fan in Germany

There’s probably not many people in Germany rooting for the U.S. Women’s National Team, but we know of at least one. Leslie Osborne was asking the other day for a Women’s World Cup TV schedule for Eurosport, sort of the ESPN of Europe. A bit of a strange request? Not if you know that her boyfriend, Kyle Bailey, is playing professional basketball in the Bundesliga for Ulm in Southern Germany. You’d think Bailey would certainly be out-numbered in any Germany sports bar if the USA is playing a European nation, but with several Americans on his hoops team, and with his likely conversion of his German teammates into U.S. fans (as long as the USA is not playing Germany), we think the support for the U.S. women in Ulm will be the best of anywhere in Germany. (Note: Osborne got the TV schedule).


Quick observation: You’d think it would be socially unacceptable to smoke in elevators? Not so in China, where a 10 floor ride can leave you gasping for air when the doors finally open.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Ad for the Women’s Game

After the embarrassing German thrashing of Argentina in the opening game, the three matches on Sept. 11 proved why this may indeed the best Women’s World Cup ever. The USA-North Korea clash was one of the most exciting Women’s World Cup matches in recent memory, with both teams attacking relentlessly and piling up almost 40 shots between them! The WNT Blog is going to give North Korea the edge in possession for sure, but give the Americans the slight nod in legitimately dangerous chances. North Korea has to be one of the best teams the USA has seen in years, certainly since the Sun Wen-led China teams of the late 1990s. For those who got up early to watch in the USA, the 2-2 draw had to be as good as a shot of espresso.

Svensson Is Good

How about the Sweden-Nigeria game? The favored Swedes got all they could handle from the Super Falcons, who dominated the last 20 minutes. But you know what they say about Swedish forward Victoria Svensson? You can’t stop her, you can only hope to contain her. She got her country’s goal, and she tattooed the crossbar on another of her efforts. But give it up for Cynthia Uwak, whose well-taken equalizer gave Nigeria a deserved draw. Both teams had 14 shots. Sweden has yet to win an opening game in five Women’s World Cups, but this is the first time they didn’t lose, after dropping four straight openers.

Bend it Like Miyama?

Japanese forward Aya Miyama put on a free kick clinic against England, scoring first on a free kick off a deflection from the wall and then, amazingly, hitting an absolute last gasp thunder-strike five minutes into second-half stoppage time. Five minutes! In between, England star Kelly Smith scored on two solo efforts, showing why she is widely hailed as one of the top players in the world. After scoring her first goal with her left foot, she took off her left boot and held it aloft, kissing it a few times. After scoring her second with her right, she took off both shoes and teammate Karen Carney held her right cleat in the air. FIFA may not like her celebrations, but the WNT Blog certainly did.

Abby’s Hard Head

Yeah, there was a lot of blood, but that’s what happens with head wounds. Just so you know, Abby is fine, although her jersey probably won’t come clean after that plasma soaking. She got a few stitches during the game and may need more tonight, but as fans of the WNT know, a knock on the head and gushing blood isn’t going to stop this U.S. forward.

Group of Death

As the two games in Group B were both draws, the “Group of Death” just got very interesting as each team now has one point heading in the second day of matches on Sept. 14. The USA and North Korea each have two goals scored, giving them the slight edge, but the ties sure do make the next group of matches extremely exciting.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Twas the Night

Twas the night before the Cup, and throughout the team floor,
Not a creature was stirring, not even number 4 (Cat Whitehill).
The cleats and the shin guards were laid out with care,
In hopes that soon the first WWC game would be there.

The players were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of goals danced in their heads,
Tomorrow, North Korea, and the start of the quest,
The U.S. team, and its goal, of being the best.

White, White, White

The USA will wear white jerseys, white shorts and white socks in its opening match of the Women’s World Cup against North Korea. The U.S. goalkeepers will wear green jerseys. North Korea will come decked out in all red, making for a nice contrast for the fans in the stands and the TV viewers at home. A crowd of about 30,000 is expected at the Chengdu Sports Center Stadium.

Game Nails

A Women’s World Cup (and Olympic) tradition resumed tonight as most of the players got together to paint their own (and each other’s) finger and toe nails in various combinations of red, white and blue. While you won’t see the toe nails as they will be tucked inside a pair of favorite boots, if ESPN shows some super slo-mo close ups, look for the colors of the flag on the players nails.

Braid Master

Christie Rampone also started braiding Angela Hucles’ hair, and it look to be a long process, but Hucles’ ‘do should be sharp and ready by game time.

Gifts from Friends

Leslie Osborne and Marci Miller went shopping during the afternoon at an arts and crafts store (yes, they have arts and craft stores in China) and returned with bracelets for each of their teammates, adorned with beads and their jersey number. Just one of the many ways the U.S. team has shown their chemistry and solidarity in the lead up to the tournament.

Friends and Family Arrive

Several U.S. players got a treat today as a few of the friends and family arrived in Chengdu and came over to the hotel to visit with their players. We saw the Wambachs, who as usual were dispensing big hugs. We also saw the Kai family, with two of Natasha’s younger brothers in tow. Kate Markgraf’s parents, the Sobreros, were also there and Shannon Boxx’ mom came a bit later as her flight to China was delayed. More and more friends and family will be arriving in the coming days with the total number soaring over 100 at some points during the tournament. They may not be the biggest group of fans, but we are sure they will be the loudest.

Let the Games Begin

The U.S. team held its final practice before the opening of the 2007 FIFA Women’s World Cup and it was a high-spirited if light affair, lasting just an hour and 15 minutes, counting warm-down. At the end of training, the U.S. team played a game where they form a big circle and toss a soccer ball in the air. Each player on the team has to touch it once with their feet or head, keeping it up in the air until all 21 players have touched the ball. A good omen? The team got it on the first try, with goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart getting the last touch to rousing applause.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Chengdu Hair and Nail Salon

The WNT Blog heard rumors that several of the U.S. players might be preparing some unique hairstyles for the first Women’s World Cup match. We’re not quite sure what they’ve got planned or when it will happen, but the word “braids” was being bandied about quite a bit. The players do plan on getting together the night before the game for a nail painting party. It sort of a tradition on the U.S. Women’s National Team for the players to paint their nails some combination of red, white and blue before a World Cup or Olympics. You probably won’t be able to see the colorful nails on TV, but it’s pretty patriotic for sure.

Scrabble Babble

Apparently, U.S. midfielder Marci Jobson and goalkeeper Nicole Banhart engaged in a mean game of Scrabble tonight. You’d think Jobson (SMU graduate) would be outgunned by Barnhart (Stanford graduate), but that was not the case. They split games. Still, Jobson was accused of perhaps “bending” the rules a bit. She tried to pass off Jettie as a word (correct spelling Jetty, as in a word applied to a variety of structures employed in river, dock and maritime works) but Barnhart wasn’t buying it. Barnhart nailed some good words, using “quod” (a quadrangle or court, as of a prison) and “dozer” (another word for bulldozer) to defeat Jobson by just three points.

Note: this picture doesn’t go with this posting, but we just can’t get enough pandas.

First Look at CSCS

The U.S. team held its official training today at the Chengdu Sports Center Stadium, where it will take on North Korea on Sept. 11 (live on ESPN2 at 5 a.m. ET), to open the 2007 FIFA Women’s World Cup. (Each country is allowed one stadium training at each venue in which it will play). There is a different sort of feeling when a team first walks into a stadium that will host its World Cup match. The field is green and perfect, and the white lines are vibrant. The benches are set up, all the stadium signage is up, the media tribune and mixed zones are ready and there are hundreds of volunteers, police and FIFA officials buzzing around the stadium. In short, the venue is ready to host matches of the Women’s World Cup and the enormity and excitement of the games comes into full focus. The U.S. team warmed up for 15 minutes on the track, trained for 45 minutes on the pitch, then warmed down for another 15 minutes on the track, hit the mixed zone for some interviews, mostly with the American media contingent in China, boarded the bus and headed back to the hotel for a relaxing evening.

Official Press Conference

U.S. head coach Greg Ryan and forward Kristine Lilly attended a press conference in the official FIFA press conference room before the USA’s stadium training this afternoon, meeting with a large gathering of media to answer questions about the upcoming match against North Korea, the USA’s preparations for the Women’s World Cup and the team’s visit to the panda breeding center, among other topics. Ryan and Lilly got some of the usual questions they have heard over and over since touching down in China, but as always, handled the inquiries with insight and some humor. Suffice it to say, they are ready to stop talking about North Korea and actually play them.

SI on the Bus

On the bus ride back to the hotel after training, the U.S. players were handed a few issues of the Sept. 10 Sports Illustrated with Appalachian State on the cover (for those of us who can’t watch college football in China, how the heck did they beat Michigan?). They were brought to China by SI writer Mark Bechtel (which was very nice of him). On page 60 is an excellent three-page article by Bechtel on U.S. captain Kristine Lilly (with one page a big photo). The players thoroughly enjoyed reading the piece, titled In Full Bloom (Full Bloom as in Lilly, also a flower, 36-years-old, mature but at the peak of her powers, still going strong, get it?). In fact Abby Wambach read it out loud during the bus ride back for a group in the middle of the bus. The sub-headline reads “Long Overshadowed, 36-year-old Kristine Lilly is now the high-scoring captain of the U.S. team out to win its – and her – third World Cup title.” Pretty cool. The WNT Blog says: Grab a copy at the newsstand if you get the chance.

Back to Jinli Street

After Kristine Lilly had great things to say about Jinli Street, where she went with the ESPN crew last Friday to shoot her interview that will air during Monday Night Football on Sept. 10, about a dozen players went back to the bustling, but quaint and ancient street today for about an hour of shopping and sight-seeing. The U.S. players caused a bit of a stir when the bus pulled up to the entrance of the street. Maybe it was the police escort with lights flashing? Maybe it was SWAT team vehicle that pulled up behind the bus? Maybe it was the six heavily armed Chinese SWAT team guys in black body armor carrying automatic weapons that followed the team onto the street? Or maybe it was Natasha Kai’s hair? (Which can be loosely described as Richard Simmons meets Krusty the Clown). But what it probably was, was the gaggle of photographers and cameramen who were waiting to snap pictures and get video of the U.S. team strolling through one of Chengdu’s most popular and historic marketplaces. Needless to say, after seeing the pandas yesterday (stayed tuned to for a video on the visit soon), the U.S. team has been an extremely popular photo op for the Chengdu media.

Shopping Success

The U.S. players definitely got the celebrity treatment from the media and Chinese onlookers as they shopped for souvenirs, watched a guy make artistic animals out of melted sugar, got coffee drinks at Starbucks (we’re pretty sure that wasn’t there during the Qin Dynasty when the street first became a center of commerce), fed the koi fish in the big pond and looked at, but did not sample, the large selection of food and snacks. (Turns out even Jinli Street has a Food Court). There was even a shop where women were spinning silk from live silk worms. You don’t get that at the Mall of Americas. Several players took a shot (literally) at a carnival-like game where they fired small wooden arrows with imitation ancient crossbows (mounted on a platform so they couldn’t swivel, thank goodness) at targets made of straw. It looked sort of dangerous to be honest. And you know what they say…it’s all fun and games until someone gets a small wooden arrow shot from an ancient crossbow stuck in their arm. Shannon Boxx proved quite the good shot. The players did purchase some pretty cool stuff. Aly Wagner got a bracelet of wooden beads that signifies security and good luck and numerous players bought jewelry, pendants with Chinese characters and other Chinese-themed knick-knacks.

Hip-Hop 101 Comes to Jingli

As the team was leaving, they decided to give one last show for the big crowd that had gathered in the main open area of Jinli Street, busting out with a hip-hop dance routine they have been working on with “instructor” Natasha Kai. With the crowd forming a circle, a la the street performers at 3rd Street in Santa Monica (apologies to those who haven’t been there), the team rocked its routine, made even more impressive by the fact that there was no music. After performing some moves which no doubt have never been seen before on Jinli Street, the players got a big round of applause, waved and bowed to acknowledge the crowd, and then headed to bus to go have lunch back at the hotel.