Saturday, March 1, 2008


North Carolina alums Cat Whitehill and Heather O'Reilly spent a few hours tonight on the 10th floor of the hotel in the team's meeting room watching the UNC-Boston College hoops game live on Whitehill's slingbox. The two Heels were pretty excited to see UNC come back from 18 points in the second half to win, and perhaps earn the #1 ranking. They were, to put it lightly, a bit rambunctious. The upcoming Duke-UNC game is on at 2 a.m. Portugal time, so Whitehill is going to record it on her TIVO and watch it the next morning. We can only hope they don't wake up any hotel guests.


The U.S. players jogged to morning training today instead of taking the small bus as usual. It takes just a few minutes to drive to the practice field and about eight minutes to run. The players were supposed to run at a "conversational pace," meaning it's easy to chat and run at the same time. But of course, being the competitive women they are, the run started getting faster and faster until it was some serious Chariots of Fire going on there...The players hit the last big hill before the training field and suffice it to say, there were no conversations going on. At least they got a good warm-up before training. The 60-minute afternoon full-field scrimmage ended 1-0 on a penalty kick smartly converted by Cat Whitehill. The team has all day off tomorrow. The players are looking forward to some serious R&R and are hoping the gorgeous weather holds.

Day Off Tomorrow

The practice fields are so close to the hotel that the team jogged to training this morning. It will be a very light one after a few hard days and there is a full-field scrimmage this afternoon. The pic above is actually from yesterday's speed and agility training. Tomorrow is the first day off since the team arrived in the Algarve and about half the team is planning on taking the two and half hour drive east to Seville, Spain, which is about an hour past the border. If you haven't been to Seville, we recommend going. It's a beautiful city, with a great vibe and a massive cathedral that's a "must-see." The cathedral supposedly contains the tomb Christopher Columbus, although apparently that it the topic of much debate as his remains were moved several times after his death in 1506 and no one is really sure that it is actually CC in Seville.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Osborne's Eye

If you were reading the WNT Blog during the USA's last training camp in Los Angeles, you know that Leslie Osborne and Rachel Buehler had a frightening head-to-head collision that left Osborne with a monster bump on her head and Buehler with, well, a little minor soreness. Neither player missed a training session, but 15 days later Osborne's right eye is still sporting a shiner. Her swelling went down quickly, but it's settled under her eye and she reports that she can't walk anywhere without people asking her what happened. That's including the tourists here in the Algarve, hotel staff, etc. Truth be told, she can't wait to be less raccoon-like. Osborne told us a nice story about the incident though. Buehler, who as reported during that camp has the tenacity of bulldog on the field and the personality of golden retriever off it, went to Osborne's room that night, apologized for like the 15th time and gave her a huge box of chocolate. Those who know Osborne knows there's only one food that even comes close to her love of cheese, and that's chocolate...Other afternoon notes: The team had two fairly hard trainings today, so after the afternoon session, almost the entire team decided soak their legs in the hotel pool which is known to be perfect for polar bears and penguins. Apparently this year while it is still icy, it's not too bad and certainly refreshing for the legs...Christie Rampone's daughter Rylie was seen taking a 20-yard run up and hurling herself onto a couch in the lobby of the USA's team floor, then calling herself "SuperMan!"...Since there is no Internet access in the hotel rooms, most of the time the players have to go to the lobby to access wireless, where they get on Skype to talk to family and loves ones back home, which is no doubt an odd site for any tourist walking into the hotel and seeing a group of young women working on laptops and seemingly talking to themselves.

U.S. Kickoff Times Unchanged

While all of the U.S. venues were changed from what was originally announced, the kickoff times stayed the same, meaning fans can log on to's MatchTracker to follow the games on:

March 5 vs. China at 8:45 a.m. ET.
March 7 vs. Italy at 8:45 a.m. ET.
March 10 vs. Norway at 10 a.m. ET.

Seems that the games were moved due to television. Four of the eight TV matches will be at the Stadium Algarve, which is cabled for TV after having hosted matches at the 2004 European Championships, with the last four TV games in Vila Real de San Antonio, a nice little stadium that will host the third-place and championship. For a complete updated schedule, check

Chalupny Wins Wally Ball

There was a lot happening at today's morning training. Part of the group did weight lifting and speed and agility training in the middle of the field, while some worked on finishing in small groups at the goals, then they switched. It was another beautiful sunny day in the Algarve and practice was high-paced. Kudos to goalkeeper coach Phil Wheddon, who had to step between the posts for many of the drills and made many a spectacular save during point-blank shooting drills that could have killed a mere mortal, or someone not quite as fit as big Phil. The training ended with asst. coach Erica Walsh setting up a "Wally Ball" tournament. The game involved several groups of five or six players hitting balls against a wall (there's a nice big one at the training field), in order and consecutively, but only getting one touch. The ball against the wall had to be hit inside a set of cones, both traveling to the wall and coming back off it. If you couldn't get it inside the cones on one touch, you got a letter. The first round was P.I.G., and the championship, consisting of all the winners from each of the groups, played for U.S. Lori Chalupny came out on top in the championship, defeating Cat Whitehill, who you may recall finished second in the USA's coin tossing the game on the day the team arrived. Cat did say, "never a bride, always a bridesmaid," but that doesn't really hold water as she was married in front of more than 1,000 people in Birmingham, Ala. on Dec. 31, 2005. She also won an Olympic gold medal and several NCAA titles. But as we know Cat doesn't like losing. Just the other day, she said, "the only time I ever cry is when I lose...or when a dog dies on TV." Anyway, congrats to Chalupa on her Wally Ball title!

Thursday, February 28, 2008


We found out tonight that all of the venues for the USA's first-round games have been changed. We're not sure why, or how this impacts the kickoff times, or the rest of the tournament matches, but we know that the U.S. team won't be playing in the fabulous Stadium Algarve, which is a bummer. As soon as we get a copy of the new schedule, we'll post it on This will be the second straight tournament that the USA has found out about venue changes after arriving in a country. You may recall that the team landed in Guangzhou, China, in January for the Four Nations Tournament and found out that the games were actually in Guangzhou, and they didn't have to take a bus to Foshan, which was fine with everyone. The USA is hoping for some good playing surfaces in whatever venues they will be playing, as sometimes the field conditions can be hit-and-miss at the Algarve Cup.

Pizza, Celine and Football

The long days have begun at the Algarve Cup, but the players don't have much problem filling them. After a rousing morning training session, lunch was "on your own" today, and half the team went to their favorite Italian eatery on the "strip" by the hotel, you know, the one that serves the killer crepes. The very kind waitress, who we have seen for the past few years, informed the team that because they are "regulars," everyone on the U.S. team would get a 15% discount for the rest of the trip! The team scarfed down pizza and crepes and returned to the hotel very satisfied. Later that afternoon, a bunch of players got together in a room to play the American Idol video game. (Who knew they even had one?). Natasha Kai brought down the house with her rendition of Celine Dion's "My Heart Will Go On" from the Titanic Soundtrack. Virtual Randy said "dawg, you really brought it tonight." Virtual Paula told Kai that, "I loved your voice. You are so special." And virtual Simon said, "Loved the performance, absolutely hated the song choice. It was all wrong." Later that evening, about a dozen players headed to the team's preferred soccer pub to watch the English Women's FA Premier League Cup Final live from London. Everton pulled off a stunning upset, downing juggernaut Arsenal, 1-0. It wasn't a great game, but exciting none the less as it was the Gunners first loss in two years. Tomorrow, the team has a light morning training and a tougher afternoon session. Still a week until the first match against China.

Perilous Palm Fronds

The U.S. team usually brings 30 soccer balls on any trip. They are down to 26. There seems to be an epidemic of punctures hitting the team’s soccer balls as four have been permanently retired due to involuntary deflation issues. We know that at least one ball’s life came to a tragic end. It seems it fell victim to one of the palm trees behind one goal at the USA’s training field. Against all odds, a shot landed directly, at just the right (or wrong) angle on a very sharp frond, instantly puncturing the leather skin and bladder, resulting in the occurrence of rapid deflation. The team will have no problems finishing the Algarve Cup with 26 balls, but it would be wise to keep all future shots away from the palms.

It's A Wozzy

Any women's soccer fan knows that Angie Woznuk is an artist with the ball at her feet, but what people don't know is that she's not bad with a paint brush in her hand either. Woznuk has been sketching since she was in fourth grade, but had never taken an art class until last fall at the University of Portland. It was then she decided to expand from pencil to acrylic and did her first painting last December with help from her good friend Becca, who taught her how to paint snow. She has been nice enough to share it with the WNT Blog readers (see above). She said it doesn't have a name, but we'll call it "Wozzy Mountain at Sunset." Great first effort for the midfielder.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008


The Algarve region of Portugal, despite its massive development for tourism over the past decade, is still…how shall we say…a bit rural. Today at training there were two policemen riding massive white horses and then at the end of practice a huge herd of sheep galloped by (do sheep gallop?), guided by a sheep herder and four dogs, one a classic white sheep dog, an Australian sheep dog, and black mutt and her puppy (who was obviously learning the herding trade). Hopefully these grazers don’t escape onto the soccer fields or the USA’s training pitch won’t be so nice.

HAO Has Clothes

Note: Heather O’Reilly’s bag arrived around dinner, as did the other two missing personal bags belonging to Shannon Boxx and Angie Woznuk. Thanks to all the teammates that lent them clothes, and yeah, it was cool to wear soccer clothes all day long when you were 12, but the NTeamers prefere to change into something comfier after training. So, all the team gear is here and all the personal bags are here. Life is good in the Algarve.

First Training

All the team gear arrived from Lisbon around 3:30 p.m., but the team rallied to leave for training at around 4:15 p.m., mostly thanks to the efficient efforts of the athletic training staff and equipment manager Andrew “A.D.” Dessert, who got the gear out and to the players post-haste. You might think that A.D. stands for Andrew Dessert, but it actually stands for “All-Day” as in, "the dude gets it done all day long." Anyway, the players got geared up and had a wonderful training in beautiful weather. The fields, which are five minutes away and owned by the hotel, were in excellent condition and the players' legs didn’t seem too impacted by jet lag. Flight-delayed Stephanie Cox and Natasha Kai arrived this afternoon in plenty of time for training, but as they were just off the plane, they only jogged and did some light ball work. (Although we did see Kai jump into a shoot drill near the end of training…she couldn’t resist. Forwards like to shoot).

Gear Here!

Training was supposed to be at 4 p.m. with a 3:45 p.m. departure, but the missing gear has just arrived at the hotel, meaning training will no doubt be pushed back a bit. The players are currently in the lobby lugging the bags upstairs and everyone seems excited to get on the field sometime this afternoon. Several personal bags are still not here, though, including the one belonging to East Brunswick, N.J. native Heather O’Reilly. She was forced borrow some clothes from some of her teammates, including the generous Basking Ridge, N.J. native Tobin Heath, who produced for her an East Brunswick Soccer Club Labor Tournament T-Shirt from 1999! O’Reilly is proudly sporting the shirt, but will be happy to get her own clothes.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Hope Flips

Before the U.S. players got off the bus when arriving at the team hotel for the first time today, they were told, “lunch is right now, team walk at 4 p.m., everyone bring a quarter.” Bring a quarter? It turned out that even a team walk can be turned into some sort of competition by U.S. head coach Pia Sundhage (who arrived at the hotel about 30 minutes after the team with Sports Science/Fitness Coach Helena Andersson, after the duo took a much shorter flight from Sweden). After the team walked on the sand and in the ocean for a few minutes, they proceeded up to the path overlooking the beach and Sundhage ran a game that was simple in execution, but more difficult to describe. It basically consisted of flipping a quarter, and trying to land it past one mark, but not over another. After several rounds of elimination, that championship came down to Cat Whitehill vs. Hope Solo, two out of three tosses. After two pin-point flips from Solo (she is allowed to use her hands during the games after all), the U.S. ‘keeper took home just over $7 of her teammates hard earned coins! (A few of the staff lost their quarters as well). Didn't Solo also win all those cookies during the team's Super Bowl pool? Solo volunteered to use her spoils to buy some of the infamous crepes and ice cream that the team always partakes in while in the Algarve.

Yes, 66 Pieces

While the flight to Lisbon was smooth, the U.S. team did arrive in Portugal without some important things, namely 66 pieces of luggage, almost all of it team training and game gear, and two players. Stephanie Cox and Natasha Kai experienced flight delays which caused them to miss the connection to Lisbon and they will join the team tomorrow. As far as the luggage, almost all the players got their personal bags, but only a few pieces of the team gear came through. We’re pretty sure someone in Newark took a look at the amount of gear the U.S. travels with, then looked at the relatively small plane the USA took to Lisbon (three seats on either side of the aisle…those seats are tight!), and said, “umm…not gonna happen.” We are hopeful that all the gear will all arrive tomorrow as it will be awfully difficult to hold practice with no soccer balls, no air pump to pump up the missing soccer balls, no training gear, no bibs, no cones, etc. But as they say, when given a lemon, make lemon-basted grilled chicken breast with garlic mashed potatoes (sorry, too much Food Network), or in other words, take a brisk team walk down to the beach. There is a monster hill leading down to the beach and coming back up that slope is definitely a workout.

Touch Down

The U.S. Women’s National Team has arrived in Portugal, which means the WNT Blog is once again ready for action. The same cannot be said the U.S. players, most of whom crashed hard following a quick lunch after arriving at the team hotel in the Algarve. Unless a player was in the New York/New Jersey area, all the players had to take early flights into the Newark airport yesterday, then hop the team flight to Lisbon at 8:15 p.m. (endure a runway back-up…we were 19th in line at one point), then after arrival in Lisbon after the six-hour and 10-minute flight (so short compared to China!), take the usual three-hour bus ride south to Algarve region on the southern coast of the country. It won’t take long to adjust (just five hours ahead of ET), but for now the players are dragging and perhaps not so much looking forward to a 4 p.m. team walk, although they all know its necessary to stay awake and get the legs moving.