Thursday, May 29, 2008


The U.S. team played about 30 minutes of 11 v. 11 today during afternoon training and as usual, the match was physical and intense. The level of intensity certainly is not going to wane as the naming of the Olympic roster draws closer. If you've played the game at anything approaching a high level, you know the feeling when someone rakes the back of your ankle with a cleat while running at high speed, perhaps tearing your sock and drawing blood? See above. This achilles belongs to Amy Rodriguez, who got a nice gash from the cleat of Carli Lloyd after the two clashed in midfield. (For the record, it was a foul). It looks bad, but A-Rod is fine. We can't say the same for that sock.

Happy B-Day Tobin

There are no longer any teenagers on the U.S. Women's National Team, which is just as well, as this environment does often separate the women from the girls. But we is the 20th birthday of midfielder Tobin Heath, making the USA's only previous teenager exactly two decades old. But just because she's the Birthday Girl doesn't mean she didn't have to train. She and fellow recent teenager Amy Rodriguez pose for a birthday pic above after a sweaty weight, speed and agility workout in the morning.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Barnie's (Almost) Back

Three weeks out from arthroscopic knee surgery, U.S. goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart is showing excellent progress and is on schedule to be ready for selection for the Peace Queen Cup. Barnhart has come up large in two big games for the USA this year, shutting out Norway in the final group game at the 2008 Algarve Cup to help the USA to the title game, and then in the championship game of the 2008 CONCACAF Women's Olympic Qualifying Tournament, she made several excellent saves, including a stop on Canada's seventh penalty kick in the shootout to end the match. Above, Barnhart works the quads with some resistance training. She won't have to be attached to that big rubber band when she rejoins training.

Rampone's (Almost) Ready

Update on U.S. captain Christie Rampone: She doesn't have a gall bladder, but otherwise all is good. Her stitches are out, her small scars are almost completely healed, and she has full mobility in her core. Still, Rampone is taking it slow, resting the legs that have carried her to 190 career caps. She won't train with the team this week, but will be raring and ready to go for the 2008 Peace Queen Cup in South Korea, which begins for the USA on June 15 with a match against Australia.

Burger Time

We just found out that among two players on the U.S. team, there was a wager riding on the Champions League Final between Chelsea-Manchester United. No, not money. It seems that defender India Trotter bet midfielder Aly Wagner that Man U would win the game, and if so, Wagner would have to eat a hamburger and small fries from McDonald's. Seems like a win-win, no? There is a catch. Wagner doesn't eat fast food. In fact, you won't find anyone more fastidious about their diet than Wagner, who is one of the healthiest eaters the WNT has ever seen. Wagner petitioned Trotter to change the payoff to an In-N-Out Burger, but that request was denied. Wagner has yet to scarf the McLunch, but has promised to pay up.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

She's a 'Keeper

The U.S. team had a very special guest at training today in Ashlyn Harris, the starting goalkeeper for the USA at both the 2002 and 2004 FIFA Under-19 Women's World Cups. (Harris is spending a month in California just chill-axin' -- it's what we do in California -- before she heads into the college season at UNC in the fall). In fact, Ashlyn played every minute of all 12 games during those tournaments, and was the youngest player on the field at age 16 when the USA defeated Canada to win the 2002 tournament in front of almost 50,000 shocked Canadians in Edmonton. Of course, also on the field that glorious day were current U.S. Women's National Team players Lori Chalupny, Heather O'Reilly and Lindsay Tarpley (above) as well as Leslie Osborne. From 2001-2004, Harris was arguably the best young goalkeeper in the world, but the last four or so years have been seen a difficult road as (long story short) she has been beset by injuries, including two torn ACLs. She finally got on the college soccer field for the first time during the NCAA Tournament in 2006 and helped UNC to the title. She is currently on the mend, looking strong and still has two years of eligibility remaining with the Tar Heels. With the new pro league on the horizon as well as the next Women's World Cup not until 2011, we are betting that Harris will once again wear the colors of her country at some point in the future.

A-Rod the Role Model

Over the course of a year from March of 2004 to March of 2005, Amy Rodriguez worked her way from the U.S. U-17s to the U-19s to the U-21s to the full Women's National Team. An ascendancy that speedy is certainly not typical, but A-Rod developed her game on the highly competitive fields of Southern California, playing club soccer, high school and ODP, while earning Gatorade Player of the Year honors as a senior. Not to mention winning an NCAA title last fall at USC. Although just 21, she is certainly a role model to the thousands of girls in Southern California trying to do the best for their teams, in school and in life. After today's scrimmage, A-Rod took a few minutes to speak with some young players and answer some questions about her experiences on the road to the National Team.

Tribute to Osborne

The U.S. team got some terrible news this past weekend as it was confirmed that midfielder Leslie Osborne had torn her ACL in training last Thursday.

Known as a tremendous teammate and an extremely hard worker, the injury was a blow to the U.S. team, not only losing Osborne's world class talents on the field, but also her beloved personality off it. It's extremely difficult to describe the feelings an athlete must go through after suffering an injury of this sort just 76 days before the start of the Olympics, so we won't even try, but suffice it to say that Leslie has handled it as well as anyone could, and was actually back at training on Saturday cheering on her teammates from the sideline. Last year, the USA lost Heather Mitts to the same injury a few months before the Women's World Cup, and she is back strong competing for a spot on the Olympic Team, so we know that 25-year-old Osborne has a few more world championships left in her as well. For now, as they must, the team will move forward towards the Olympics without her on the field, missing her gritty, inspirational and always consistent play in the midfield, but surely she will still be in their hearts and minds over the next four months.

Big Sunday

Today was scrimmage day for the U.S. team as the squad played two matches against boys teams in the afternoon. U.S. head coach Pia Sundhage spilt the squad for two 90-minute matches (well, the second one was cut to 85 minutes) and both games were great workouts for the U.S. players at the end of a hard week of training. The team will have just one training tomorrow, in the morning, before re-grouping on Tuesday for a double-day that includes weights in the morning and training in the afternoon. This will be the last extended training camp for the U.S. team before the Olympics. The remaining pre-Olympic events are the Peace Queen Cup in South Korea in June that will feature three (and maybe four games if the USA makes the Final), a two-game, 10-day trip (including travel days) to Norway and Sweden in early July and the two matches against Brazil on an eight-day trip to Colorado and San Diego in mid-July. Above asst. coach Jillian Ellis chats with defender Heather Mitts about tactics at halftime of one of the games.