Saturday, April 26, 2008

Hot off the Presses

It's time for the USA's first home game of 2008 and that also means that the new 2008 WNT Yearbooks are out! They will be on sale during the USA's three domestic games coming up, but if you can't make it to the stadium, they will be available at the at some point as well. Above is a sneak peak at the cover and if you like plenty of color, you'll love the new books, which as always feature bio info, statistics, fun facts and some insight into the personalities of your favorite WNT players.

Waltzing Matilda

We have to admit that the Australian Women's National Team has a pretty cool nickname. The Matildas get their moniker from the song "Waltzing Matilda" which is Australia's most widely known folk song as is even sometimes refereed to as the 'the unofficial national anthem of Australia.' (It has nothing to do with a kangaroo, but we couldn't pass up the opportunity to post a pic of one. Who doesn't love kangaroos?). As far as nicknames for Women's National Teams go, the Matildas rank right up there with the Steel Roses of China, the Super Falcons of Nigeria and the Nadeshiko of Japan (which loosely translated means an ideal Japanese woman). We really wish the U.S. WNT had a cool nickname, but you just can't force these things.

Chups and Swoops

The entire U.S. WNT went to the Carolina RailHawks USL First Division game tonight where they were recognized at halftime in advance of their game tomorrow. Lori Chalupny and Abby Wambach also helped kick-off opening night with a ceremonial first kick before the match, which was won by the home team, 1-0. Before the game, Chalupny, who is affectionately know as Chups (pronounced Chewps) to her teammates got to meet the RailHawks mascot, Swoops, a giant soccer playing Hawk, thus bringing together for the first time...Chups and Swoops. Chalupny did admit it was the first time she has even been photographed with a seven-foot Hawk.

Pia's 18

U.S. head coach Pia Sundhage has chosen the 18 players that will suit up tomorrow vs. Australia for the 7 p.m. kickoff at WakeMed Park. Fans can follow the match as it happens on's MatchTracker. Sundhage chose the game roster from the 25 players currently training with the USA in North Carolina. A few of the non-rostered players are carrying some minor knocks or recovering from injuries, and there could be some adjustments for the next two matches as Sundhage will name 18 players for each. Tomorrow, dressing in the white, white, white of the USA will be:

GOALKEEPERS: Briana Scurry, Hope Solo;

DEFENDERS: Rachel Buehler, Lori Chalupny, Kate Markgraf, Heather Mitts, Christie Rampone, Cat Whitehill;

MIDFIELDERS: Shannon Boxx, Tobin Heath, Angela Hucles, Carli Lloyd, Heather O’Reilly, Lindsay Tarpley, Kacey White;

FORWARDS: Natasha Kai, Amy Rodriguez, Abby Wambach.

The selection means that defender Heather Mitts may see her first action for the USA in 2008 and first since tearing an ACL in May of 2007. Welcome back Heather! Also on the roster are the two young'ins pictured above: Tobin Heath, who plays her college soccer here in the Triangle for UNC, and forward Amy Rodriguez.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Almost Aussie Time

Due to a USL match for the hometown Carolina RailHawks on Saturday night, the USA had its stadium training today (usually its the day before the game), going for 90 minutes on the closely manicured grass of the WakeMed Soccer Park stadium. Australia trained before the USA, so as the Americans were coming and the Matildas were leaving, the players who knew each other from the WUSA days as well as the international soccer community were able to say some hellos and exchange some hugs. Australia head coach Tom Sermanni coached a few of the U.S. players, including Shannon Boxx and Christie Rampone, when he was head coach of the New York Power in 2003. This will actually be the first of three three matches for the USA against Australia this year, as the two teams will play this Saturday in Cary, N.C., on May 3 in Birmingham, Ala., and then against at the Peace Queen Cup in South Korea in June. Tomorrow, the team will have a short training in the morning and then all focus goes to the first domestic game of 2008.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Pia is Back

U.S. head coach Pia Sundhage ran her first training of this camp today after returning from China late Wednesday night. Pia was in Beijing (where she lived for a few months when she was the asst. coach for China) for the Olympic Draw and then toured Olympic hotels, training sites and stadiums. Today, she was back in her favorite place -- the soccer field -- where she and her assistant coaches put the U.S. team there a 90-minute-plus training in some humid heat at WakeMed Soccer Park. The kids of U.S. players Kate Markgraf and Christie Rampone made a rare appearance at training today (they are usually back at the hotel playing with the team nanny and waiting for their moms to get back), and after practice Kate shared a post-practice snack with her son Keegan. It's a pretty cute pic so we had to share it. The team will train twice tomorrow, including an afternoon session on the stadium field and then will have a light training on Saturday before facing the Aussies on Sunday at 7 p.m. There are 25 players in camp and Sundhage will choose 18 to suit up for the match.

Momma Lil

The U.S. team has a very special visitor in Cary as WNT legend Kristine Lilly is town to hang out with the team, do an appearance and some other stuff as well. As you may know, the USA's captain of the last few years is pregnant with her first child and due in mid-July. Surely even a super-woman like Lil (340 caps, five World Cups and three Olympics) can't come back from childbirth in two weeks and play in the 2008 Summer Games right? (Wait, are we sure she can't? Ok, she can't), but she's here to lend support to her teammates and everyone was really happy to see her. She looks fantastic and is feeling great. By the way, the 11 games the WNT has played this year without her is the longest such Lil-less streak since...well...1986. (If you weren't already impressed with her historic career, think about that for a second). Kristine is planning on returning to training after the birth, use this fall to get back in shape for the impending start of the new pro league, and if given a call up in January to the WNT, perhaps play a few more games for her country in 2009. After that, we'll have to wait and see...Speaking of seeing, see if you can spot Lil above. She's the one with the belly.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

She's baaaaack...

After recovering from double-hernia surgery in late January (ouch!), midfielder Aly Wagner has joined the WNT for the first time in 2008. The veteran of 117 matches for the USA played sparingly in 2008 as she was hampered by injuries, but hopefully has put those troubles behind her. (In what hopefully has nothing to do with the position, another of the USA's attacking midfielders -- Angie Woznuk -- is not in camp as she continues to rehab a back injury). Wagner has not played a 90-minute game for the USA since November of 2006, but is hoping to use this three-week road trip to work herself back into game shape. The U.S. team lifted weights this afternoon (see Aly above pumping some iron), and will have tomorrow morning off before hitting the field tomorrow afternoon. It will be the first training during this camp for U.S. head coach Pia Sundhage, who has not arrived in N.C. yet. She gets in tonight with team GM Cheryl Bailey as the pair is traveling back from China where they attended the Olympic Final Draw and toured venues, hotels and training sites.

Beep Test, Schmeep Test

The first training on Monday night at WakeMed park was short and wet. The team just needed to stretch its legs and had to vacate the pitch so the hometown USL Carolina RailHawks could have a scrimmage. Speaking of pitches...The ones at WakeMed are about as good as you'll see anywhere in the country. Bravo to the groundskeepers and the City of Cary. It did rain all during training, including some massive pounding stuff with raindrops that had to be twice normal size, but right when training ended, so did the rain. This morning, the team underwent it's traditional opening of training camp fitness test, known as the Beep Test or the YoYo, and truth be told, the entire team kicked its behind. Each position has a standard to reach (outside backs, center midfielers, forwards, etc.) and almost every player reached or surpassed it. This could mean that the team's overall fitness is getting even higher...a extremely positive trend as the WNT roars toward the Olympic Games.

Kickin' in Cary

The U.S. Women's National Soccer Team is back on the road after a week-long break following Olympic Qualifying and the destination de jour is Cary, N.C. The team re-grouped here on Monday night and is preparing for its match against Australia this Sunday at WakeMed Park in Cary, N.C. (Tickets available on for the FIRST domestic match of the year for the WNT). To be here in the Triangle is a nice bonus for the six players who have Carolina ties, having played (or currently play) their college soccer just down the road at UNC-Chapel Hill. For defender Cat Whitehill, it's the shortest road trip she could have. She's lives here. For four others (Lindsay Tarpley, Kacey White, Heather O'Reilly and Lori Chalupny), it's certainly nice to get back to the old stomping grounds, see some old friends and visit some favorite eateries. For 19-year-old Tobin Heath, who will be a junior at UNC next fall, we're just hoping her professors don't see her on campus and wonder where the heck she's been. (Answer: Taking a semester off from school trying to make the Olympic Team). Not as much interesting or exciting stuff goes on during the domestic trips as does on international jaunts, but as always, we'll do our best here at the WNT Blog to keep the fans informed about the things you can't read in a press release. (Not that we don't like the well-crafted and highly informative press releases that are a staple of