Saturday, May 3, 2008

MatchACCESS is Back

This just in: Fans will be able to watch next weekend's USA vs. Canada game on May 10 via web streaming on ussoccer.com's MatchACCESS. The game will be streamed live at 7 p.m. ET from RFK Stadium, the USA's first visit to the historic venue since the 2003 FIFA Women's World Cup. The USA will travel from Birmingham, Alabama, to Washington, D.C. tomorrow to set up camp in the nation's capitol. The squad will have Monday off before hitting the training field on Tuesday in preparation for the Canada match. U.S. head coach Pia Sundhage's boxer -- which she named Cruyff Pele Beckenbauer -- will surely be watching from Sweden, where he stays with her sister while Pia is in the USA.

Cardiac Kids

Has the U.S. Women's National Team ever won two consecutive games with winning goals in stoppage time of the second half? We don't keep records on that sort of thing, but we're pretty sure that's never happened before. Has the WNT ever scored two own goals in a match? Once again, hard to look that up, but were almost 100% sure that hasn't ever happened. We do know that the U.S. team has never allowed four goals before AND won the game. We also know that the team has allowed three consecutive goals in a half, but it's happened maybe three or four times in 23 years. Suffice it to say, a wild and wacky game, but also extremely exciting and entertaining for the fans in Birmingham and on Fox Soccer Channel. Long story short, it says a lot about the current U.S. team to come back from the body blows of allowing late goals to score winners on what was almost literally the last kick of both games. While surely the team and coach Pia Sundhage would like to win in more traditional ways, the confidence and experience the team has gotten with two amazing and dramatic game-winners cannot be understated. Next up, it's Canada in Washington D.C. on May 10 and we'd like to remind you that the last meeting between these two teams was in the championship game of the Olympic Qualifying Tournament a few weeks ago where there was also drama, as the USA scored in overtime before Canada tied the match with just a few minutes left in the game. Penalty kicks ensued and the USA won 6-5 as Nicole Barnhart saved Canada's seventh kick. With this recent history and after the last two matches, if you are a soccer fan in the Washington, D.C. area, you might want to think about spending the evening of May 10 at RFK Stadium.

Tickets: http://www.ussoccer.com/articles/viewArticle.jsp_6094850.html

Turf Time

While it rained during the evening and early morning here in Birmingham, it seems that at game time it will be cloudy, but dry...and the sun is even starting to peak through the clouds. So, all-in-all, it should be a fine day for soccer in Birmingham, Ala. (The forecast calls for a bit more rain but the sky is saying that's wrong). Still, a little moisture on the Field Turf surface at Legion Field is not a bad thing. The team will leave for the stadium in a bit, but here's a look at the pre-game training yesterday at Legion Field.

video

Friday, May 2, 2008

Grab a jersey...

...Briana Scurry, Hope Solo, Heather Mitts, Christie Rampone, Cat Whitehill, Stephanie Cox, Kate Markgraf, Rachel Buehler, Lindsay Tarpley, Shannon Boxx, Heather O’Reilly, Carli Lloyd, Leslie Osborne, Angela Hucles, Kacey White, Natasha Kai, Lauren Cheney and Abby Wambach...as you are the 18 players who have been chosen to suit up for the USA tomorrow against Australia. Getting a rest are three players who have been getting quite a bit of PT in Lori Chalupny, Amy Rodriguez and Tobin Heath, as U.S. head coach Pia Sundhage continues to give playing time to a number of players as she continues the process of choosing the 18-player Olympic Team.

Cat Media Tour


If the sports fans of Birmingham didn't already know Cat Whitehill, they do now. (Of course, they did already...Not too many female Olympians from Birmingham). Cat has hit the media hard this week, doing several radio interviews, numerous TV and newspaper interviews, and this morning she went live on the Fox 6 morning show from the soccer field by her church, which is also where she went to middle school and the place where she played soccer as a little girl. Lauren Cheney and India Trotter joined for two live segments, the second of which featured the ladies taking shots at sportscaster Jeh Jeh Pruit. Unfortunately for Jeh Jeh and fortunately for the viewers, Cat nailed him in the chest with her shot...and those who know Cat's game know that she can pound a soccer ball. Sorry Jeh Jeh! But good TV none the less.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Whoa Nellie, It's Legion Field

The U.S. team will train at Legion Field on Friday, getting its first feel for the artificial surface that will host the May 3 match live on Fox Soccer Channel at 4 p.m. CT (as well as ussoccer.com's MatchTracker for those who don't have FSC...and shame on you if you don't). This will be the USA's first match on the fake stuff this year and first since facing Mexico at PG&E Park in Portland on Oct. 16 after the WWC. This will be the 11th game on an artificial surface for the U.S. women and they have yet to lose on the non-grass.

Fair in Morocco


It's a bit off topic, but we thought it was worth mentioning the U.S. Soccer Sport Envoy Program. Recently, former U.S. WNT player Lorrie Fair, a starter in the 2000 Olympics, the youngest member of the historic 1999 Women's World Cup Team and half of the only pair of twins ever to play for the WNT, traveled to Morocco on behalf of the program. Fair is currently working in London with Chelsea Football Club (you think she'd get a Champions League championship ring if they win it all?) and playing for their women's team. Launched in 2006, the Sports Envoy program pairs U.S. Soccer with the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs on a sports initiative that sends players and coaches from U.S. Soccer’s National Teams as State Department Sports Envoys to conduct clinics and spark a dialogue with local children around the world. Each program includes one male and one female Sports Envoy. For more info on Fair's trip and some video, see below.

Lori Likes Desserts


While the WNT Blog certainly espouses the virtues of proper nutrition, when you burn as many calories as the WNT players do every day, you can afford to splurge on a dessert or two, or four...Long story short, Lori Chalupny had a little bit of everything after the BBQ dinner at the Reddicks tonight. We're pretty sure she ate it all...

BBQ Heaven




The team had a pretty hard training day today, with the squad splitting in half for two, 45-minute sessions in the morning and then a team training in the afternoon. Their reward? A fantastic BBQ meal at the Reddick household. Cat Whitehill (maiden name Reddick) is from Birmingham, Alabama, which even the casual fan knows as Cat LOVES Alabama. It's become sort of a tradition when the team visits Birmingham to go to the home of Phil and Anne Reddick, who are always wonderful hosts and treated the team to a D-licious BBQ meal of ribs, brisket, chicken, pulled pork, slaw, potato salad, baked beans, pickles and numerous beverages, including of course, sweet tea. Don't even get us started about the desserts. In fact, we can barely reach the computer to write this Blog as the belly is so full of good eats. So, thanks to the Reddicks and Cat for being such great hosts, as well as to Full Moon BBQ, who catered the fantastic meal. (Did you know they smoke that brisket for 10 hours?). It certainly was nice to get out of the hotel for a good meal and some relaxation on a warm spring night in Birmingham.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Busy Wednesday

After what was widely hailed by the players as a fabulous day off on Tuesday, the team was back at it in a big way on Wednesday, hitting the weight room in the morning (thanks to the kind folks at the University of Alabama-Birmingham for use of their fine facilities) and the grass in the afternoon (thanks to the kind folks at SportsFirst 1996 Fileds for the use of their fine facilities). The team had an intense 90-minute session in sweaty heat that was watched by a nice group of fans who had come out to see Team USA in its first visit to Birmingham since 2004. As they almost always do, the players signed some autographs after training, which included an impressive 20-kid in four minute spurt by Abby Wambach as she had to hop in the last van back to the hotel. The team also had a lengthy meeting after dinner as they prepare to face Australia for the second game in seven days this Saturday at Legion Field. The match is live on Fox Soccer Channel at 4 p.m. CT with Dave Johnson and Lori Walker calling the action.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Airport Life


As you would expect, the U.S. team spends a lot of time in airports. To kill the time, the team mostly eats (frozen yogurt and coffee drinks are common purchases), talks on their phones and plays with the kids of the soccer moms. Crossword puzzles are extremely popular as well (see above with Heather O'Reilly, Nicole Barnhart and Lori Chalupny) as well as the common airport pastimes of reading papers, magazines and listening to music. Rachel Buehler? Well, she studies.


Hey, the MCATs are a month away.


Scholes and Pedicure

U.S. midfielder Carli Lloyd is a huge Barcelona fan. Defender India Trotter fancies Manchester United. Both have been seen the last few days wearing the jerseys of their respective clubs. With the two storied teams squaring off today in the second leg of the Champions League semifinal, they put a little wager on the outcome...a pedicure for the winner paid for by the loser. Well, India's toes will be looking real nice soon. (Not like they don't look nice already...) Lloyd was seen this afternoon not in her Barcelona jersey (Note: She owns many items of Barcelona gear), but in a black t-shirt. We're not sure if she was in mourning, or it was just a cute outfit. Probably both. The irony here? Paul Scholes dazzling game-winning goal from distance for Man U was similar to several Lloyd has scored for the USA. Speaking of Scholes, they call him the Ginger Prince over in Manchester. Now sure if anyone remembers, but we tried to start a new nickname for Lori Chalupny during the World Cup: The Ginger Princess. It never caught on. But the WNT Blog still think it fits, not only for her similar hair color to Scholes, but for her equally impressive work rate, selflessness and ability to strike a wonderful goal on occasion. We swear, one media member picks this up and it will take off...Ok, maybe not. (Note: Thanks to the fan in St. Louis last year who had the Ginger Princess sign. Way to represent...)

Welcome Back Cat


The U.S. team arrived at the Birmingham airport yesterday to a nice reception of four local news cameras and of course they wanted to talk with hometown hero Cat Whitehill. Last time she played in Alabama with the WNT (in 2004) she was Cat Reddick and she had yet to win a Olympic gold medal. She's back now with her married name, a gold from Athens and another Women's World Cup under her belt. Cat is still the only player from Alabama to earn a cap with the full Women's National Team, but there are several talented young players from Alabama in the U.S. Youth National Team pools, so maybe one day soon there will be another...For now, Cat is the pride of Alabama when it comes to women's soccer. She was a high-school All-American at Briarwood Christian School and two-time Alabama Girl’s Soccer Player of the Year. Sure there's a small part of her that wishes she was a football player playing strong safety at an SEC school, but playing at the famed Legion Field this weekend for the third time will go part of the way to fulfill that dream.

Lloyd of Cary


Despite the terrible conditions on Sunday night in Cary, N.C., the U.S. and Australia put on quite a show, which is a credit to both teams. The match was chock full of good scoring chances, mostly by the U.S. team but certainly a few from Australia, and filled with tough tackles, great saves and high-paced play. With five minutes to go, everyone in the stadium surely thought the game would end 2-0 to the USA...except apparently Australia. Even when Kate Gill skillfully looped her header into the U.S. net from almost on the end line, it still seemed that the USA would come away with the 2-1 win. Then came the penalty kick. Now, is it a penalty when a defender runs down a forward in the penalty box, blocks her cross as she is sliding, then it hits the forward in the leg and instantly bounces into the arm of the defender while she is still on the ground sliding with her arm by her side? Apparently it is. Hope Solo came up with fantastic stop on the penalty kick before Cheryl Salisbury headed home her own rebound, but that just set the stage for one of the best endings to a WNT game since July 15, 2006, in Blaine, Minn., when Kristine Lilly scored in the 92nd minute against Sweden after they had tied the match 2-2 in the 91st minute. Oh yeah, that was right after Cat Whitehill scored in a 89th on free-kick from 70 yards away to give the USA the 2-1 lead. Yeah, that was a great game. So was the one in Cary. Hopefully, this weekend's game will be just as entertaining, but maybe we'll pass on the dramatic ending for a more run of the mill "W."

Blogus Interuptus

The Blog took a day or so break as things have been busy here in Birmingham, but the team is settled now and actually got today off. The players took full advantage of break as they usually do, which means sleep, malls and movies. "Baby Mama" seemed to be a popular choice. The weather here in Alabama is very nice and the players will lift weights tomorrow morning followed by training in the afternoon as they continue preparations to face Australia on May 3 at Legion Field. The match will be televised live on Fox Soccer Channel at 4 p.m. CT, which will be the American TV debut of the 2008 WNT. The match will be played on an artificial surface, which should be a bit challenging for both teams as each will train just once on the field before the match.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Rain, Rain Go Away

The players warmed up and have gone back into the locker room, but we just got some more lightning (and thunder!) so kickoff is delayed a bit more. The stands have been cleared...We are are going to stop posting here and let MatchTracker take over...

7:25 Kick

The referees have declared the field playable and the players are warming up now. We are looking at about a 7:25 kickoff. You can follow the action -- once it actually starts -- on ussoccer.com's MatchTracker. The rain is still coming down pretty hard...so whenever it starts, it's gonna be a wet one for sure.

RAIN Delay


It's about 30 minutes before what was to be the kickoff of the USA-Australia match and we are in a pre-game rain delay. The stadium is getting pounded by rain and there's been some lightning, so the players are still in the locker rooms. Apparently, they are going to try to warm-up about quarter to seven, but we'll see if the powers that be allow them out on the field. All the fans in the stadium right now are seeking shelter and the wet stuff is supposed to come down for at least another hour. But we don't care about rain. A little rain never bothered the WNT and the field is in great shape, but it's the lightning the scares the bejibbers out of us...So, we have to wait for the lightning to pass before we can get this one underway. Stay tuned...