Saturday, March 29, 2008

Almost Ready for Mexico

The Blog has taken a few days off as with all the practices, weight lifting sessions and several commercial shoots for the players, the team has been mostly playing soccer, relaxing, eating, eating some more and sleeping. Which is really a very normal training camp for the U.S. WNT. The team has training this afternoon, then two more on Sunday, and U.S. head coach Pia Sundhage will announce the 20-player roster for Olympic qualifying shortly. Olympic Qualifying is intriguing for numerous reasons, but the tournament will feature just the second-ever meeting between the USA and Jamaica on the women's side as well as the first-ever meeting with Mexico in Mexico. With Ciudad Juarez is situated just over the border from El Paso, Texas, the USA could have its share of fans as well, but of course, there should of course be vocal support for the home team as well. While there were some bumps, bruises and tender muscles early in this training camp, especially coming off the tough Algarve Cup schedule of four games in eight days, it seems that the players have healed up nicely and the U.S. team should be at full fitness for the most important tournament of the year.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Games Time

There are two full-field scrimmages tomorrow, a big opportunity for players to earn/seal their spots on the Olympic Qualifying roster. The players are coming off a day off, and with the scrimmages in the afternoon, they'll have almost two full days of rested legs to showcase their talents for head coach Pia Sundhage. The team is just nine days away from its CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying opener against Jamaica. The Reggae Girlz had a bit of a long road to get to Mexico, having won their group in Caribbean pre-qualifying by downing Bermuda, Antigua & Barbuda and Dominica by combined 24 goal to zero. Jamaica then had to defeat Cuba in a two-leg second round series with both matches played in Cuba, winning by an aggregate score of 3-0. That means Jamaica has yet to allow a goal in qualifying, a streak the U.S. team will be trying to end at Estadio OlĂ­mpico Benito Juarez in Ciudad Juarez come April 4.

Lights, camera...

Today was a day off for the U.S. team to rest their legs and minds in preparation for the final run to CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying, so not much to report...but yesterday was a busy day. Morning training was followed by a TV commercial shoot for a dozen players that include some on-field setups as well as numerous different shots inside a locker room at The HDC. We can't give away too much about the commercial, but it will be used to promote the USA's domestic games in 2008. Keep a watch out for it. It should be pretty cool. See above for a brief glimpse of Christie Rampone's segment of the shoot.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Dog Days of...Spring

The days are getting longer, the sun is getting hotter and the U.S. Women's National Team is doing double-days. Today, it was a team training in the morning which included some absolutely stupendous games of 5 v. 5 on big goals, plus 15 minutes of 11 v. 11 full field. In the afternoon, the squad was split into two groups for some technical training. The intensity and crispness of the practices has been consistently high as the team gears up for Olympic Qualifying. Tomorrow will feature just a morning training and then the afternoon is off, except for about a dozen players who will be shooting a comercial for U.S. Soccer airing later in the year to promote the upcoming domestic games. (In case you didn't catch that press release, first up at home is a two-game set vs. 2007 Women's World Cup quarterfinalist Australia on April 27 in Cary, N.C. and then on May 3 in Birmingham, Ala.). The USA hasn't played Australia since October of 2006, a 2-0 win at the Peace Queen Cup in South Korea.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Congrats to the U-23s!

The WNT has been following the Men's U-23 Olympic Qualifying Tournament on Fox Soccer Channel and all were happy to see the boys make it to Beijing. Before training, a bunch of the players watched the end of USA-Honduras in the championship game, cheering on their boys loudly and boisterously (C'mon Jozy!!), but the players had to admit that Honduran Georgie Welcome sure smacked the heck out of that ball on the winning goal. They then switched the TV back to March Madness. (This just in: UNC wins in a rout = Cat Whitehill very happy. Duke is upset = Cat Whitehill very happy).

Happy Easter!

As today was Easter, the U.S. team got the morning off. A bunch of players attended services in the morning and everyone was well-rested by the time afternoon training rolled around, and they needed to be as it was a combo weight-lifting/on field session. Half the team went into the gym to start training and the other half did an hour practice on the field before they flip-flopped. In the weight room today, the players tested their maximum squat. Apparently Briana Scurry and Amy "Pocket Hercules" Rodriguez had the heaviest lifts. The weather has been fantastic in Los Angeles and the temperatures for late afternoon training are absolutely perfect. Tomorrow is another double-day with team training in the morning and then some technical work in the afternoon. U.S. head coach Pia Sundhage still has about a week before she names the roster for Olympic Qualifying and those games still seem far away...but are surely inching closer and closer.