Saturday, June 21, 2008

Peace, Out

To put it simply, the Peace Queen Cup rocks. We'd be hard pressed to find anything at this tournament that wasn't done in a first class manner. The hotel was phenomenal (we could write a whole post on just the food alone - delicious!), the transportation excellent, the security perfect, the stadiums excellent, the game logistics World Cup-like, the opening and closing ceremonies were glamorous and well produced. The games were extremely competitive and played at a high level, the refereeing was excellent and the fans had a lot of fun. Everyone the U.S. team came in contact with was extremely friendly, helpful and gracious and the theme of tournament, Peace, well, that says it all. You can understand why the 2002 FIFA World Cup was such a success. (We could go on...great shopping, fun excursions, great weather, major prize money, etc., but we'll stop as we have to catch a plane back to the USA). So, A+'s all around for the 2008 Peace Queen Cup, all the organizers, staff and volunteers. Thanks for two great, fun-filled weeks in South Korea and hopefully we shall all meet again. From Seoul...Peace, Out.

Hucles Doubles Up

It was a fine tournament for U.S. midfielder Angela Hucles. Not only did she earn the MVP and score the winning goal in the championship game, but she also represented the USA in the Andre Kim Fashion Show at the Peace Queen Cup Opening Ceremony...thus completing the first Model/MVP performance in U.S. history. She was probably pretty comfortable stepping up on the red-carpeted podium to get her trophy as she had plenty of practice walking the runway a week or so ago. That's what we call versatility. Well done Ang!

Thanks Boys

Almost always when the U.S. team plays overseas, the local organizing committee provides a team liaison to help with the organization of logistics, translation and many other small tasks that need to be taken care of in order to smoothly run a team at a major tournament. The U.S. team scored on this trip to Korea. So we would be remiss if we didn't give a WNT Blog shout-out to our two fantastic team liaisons for the 2008 Peace Queen Cup, Weon (left) and Steve. The boys were tremendously organized, always helpful with everything the team needed, and did it all with a touch of humor, which is not easy when English is your second language. Weon recently finished college in the United States (Bridgeport in Conn. to be exact) and will be returning to the U.S. soon to attend law school. Steve, who studied English in Canada, is going to be an intern with Korea Football Association, but soon after will report for his mandatory 20-month stint in the Korean Army. So, thanks guys for all your hard work and for doing it with a smile. Job very well done.

We Love Happy Suwon

"Happy Suwon" is the slogan for the Seoul suburb of 1.1 million people and it certainly applies. Everyone the U.S. team met, including the mayor, was very, very nice, gracious and yes, happy. U.S. Soccer is now 4-0-0 in the Suwon World Cup Stadium, which includes two wins for the U.S. women at the 2006 Peace Queen Cup, the win in the final today, and the U.S. men's glorious victory over Portugal at the 2002 World Cup. That game is commemorated in the tunnel of the stadium that leads to the locker rooms and the field.

Now That's Fair Play

After Abby Wambach and Christine Sinclair cracked heads early in the match, the Canadian captain had to go off to receive medical attention for a gash on her head. (Usually, it's Abby that is bleeding, so although we are big Sinclair fans, it was nice that the U.S. forward came out unscathed this time). The Canadian training staff stemmed the bleeding, bandaged up her head and sent her back out on the field, but the wound did require stitches at halftime. With no doctor present with the Canadian team, the U.S. training staff took care of Sinclair as U.S. team doc Dr. Daniel Lamar gave her a shot of pain killer and inserted six stitches. Sinclair missed just the first five minutes of the second half as they cleaned her up (Doc, did you have to sew so quickly? We're kidding) and would get two good chances to score before the final whistle blew. So Kudos to the U.S. medical staff for adhering to the Hippocratic Oath (quite honestly, the WNT Blog doesn't exactly know what that is, but it sounded good) and for doing a good deed that surely took FIFA's dictum of Fair Play to another level.

Peace Cup Champs

A classic USA-Canada battle today for sure. Both teams were excellent in defending air balls, and there were a lot of air balls served into both boxes on set pieces. Natasha Kai hit the inside of the right post in the early going and that could have changed the game, but hats off to Canada (perhaps one of those cool hats that the Canadian Mounties wear?) for playing a gritty game although the 1-0 scoreline was a just result, even if the goal was a bit wacky. But speaking of wacky, that would be the post-game celebration on the field. After all of the trophy, prize money and individual award presentations were over, and with the metallic streamers all over the field that shot over the team as they lifted the Peace Queen Cup Trophy, the U.S. players had a grand time running around and spraying each other with bottles of a certain beverage that magically appeared on the field. The players then started dancing with a Korean pop group that was performing post-game (Natasha Kai may have earned a place in the band) and even the Canadian players got into the act (many of the players from both teams know each other well, having played with and against each other many times in the past), joining in on the dancing and dousing Angela Hucles (and a few other U.S. players) with said beverage. The U.S. players also saluted the fans (great crowd of 25,000) and especially a group of U.S. military folks who had kept up a steady stream of cheering behind one of the goals. Many of the players ran over to the cheering section and tossed their victory flower bouquets into the stands for the U.S. fans.

Abby Wambach and Christine Sinclair, with almost 200 international goals between them, share a laugh post-game as they wait to be presented with their various trophies.

Friday, June 20, 2008


Lauren Cheney programs the iPod in the locker room in preparation for the pre-game dance party, which is sort of becoming a tradition. Cheney is one of the best dancers on the team for sure, but she won't be starting today. Christie Rampone, Shannon Boxx and Lindsay Tarpley return to the lineup after sitting out last game, as does GK Hope Solo. Defender Kate Markgraf gets her first rest of the tourney after playing all 270 minutes so far, meaning Rachel Buehler gets her second consecutive start. (Buehler? Buehler? How many times has she heard that in her life?) It's Abby and TK up top for the USA. Here is the lineup:

USA: 18-Hope Solo; 2-Heather Mitts, 26-Rachel Buehler, 3-Christie Rampone, – Capt., 17-Lori Chalupny; 7-Shannon Boxx, 11-Carli Lloyd, 10-Aly Wagner; 5-Lindsay Tarpley; 6-Natasha Kai, 20-Abby Wambach.

Arrival at Suwon WC Stadium

The team has arrived at the spectacular Suwon World Cup Stadium and pre-game preparations are underway. If you read the pre-game notes you might have seen that the weather was forecast to be very hot today. Whoops. Even Korean weathermen get it wrong sometimes. It's in the high 70s, but there is a nice breeze, a heavy cloud cover and almost no humidity, in short, perfect conditions for soccer. It's actually the coolest day the USA has experienced here in Korea except for the one day when it rained. Above, Lindsay Tarpley and Heather O'Reilly check out the fantastic pitch and below Tobin Heath makes new new friends among the boys will will accompany the teams onto the field.

Suwon World Cup Stadium

The U.S. team changes venues tomorrow for the Peace Queen Cup Final after playing its first three games at the Suwon Sports Complex. The fabulous Suwon World Cup Stadium will host the Peace Queen Cup Final (Canada played all its group games there) and the venue has some special significance for U.S. soccer fans. When one mentions the Suwon World Cup Stadium, six words come to mind: John O'Brien Landon Donovan Brian McBride. Yes, this was the venue for the USA's glorious 3-2 victory over Portugal at the 2002 World Cup, a match in which the USA was up 3-0 after 36 minutes. Hopefully, the U.S. women can keep the magic going at the stadium, which was completed in 2001 for the 2002 World Cup. The team is excited to play on a world class pitch that is about as flat and smooth as they come, befitting a final for a major tournament. The USA played two games at the stadium at the 2006 Peace Queen Cup, beating Holland 2-0 in group play and then downing Canada in the final.

We All Scream for Ice Cream!

It was a very hot day at training today so somehow the idea of stopping for ice cream on the way back from practice took hold and spread like wild fire amongst the U.S. players. In fact, as the team boarded the bus after training a chant of "Ice Cream! Ice Cream" rose from the troops. Rylie Rampone, U.S. defender Christie Rampone's three year-old daughter even asked U.S. head coach Pia Sundhage, "Aunt Pia, can we stop for ice cream?" How could she refuse? Special thanks to assistant coach Erica Walsh who paid for the assortment of frozen treats. Truth be told, most players went for popsicles, including Amy Rodriguez, above, who chose the Big Shark, and trust us when we say it was delicious (the WNT Blog had the same), but it had to be a interesting site as an entire busload of women's soccer player in U.S. training gear emptied onto a busy street and packed into a 7-11 to pick out their popsicles.

Last Training in Korea

The U.S. team traveled to the Suwon World Cup Stadium for training today, but didn't practice inside the stadium. Instead, the U.S. ran through an hour session on an auxiliary field as the team put in its last practice before leaving South Korea on Sunday. The usual pre-game training featured some fun warm-ups, some finishing and some set plays as the U.S. players try to rest and rejuvenate legs that will be playing their fourth game in seven days.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Airmen from Osan

Special thanks to the U.S. fans who showed up for the match today. There weren't a heck of a lot of them, but they sure made a lot of noise, which is much appreciated. Kudos to the boys from Osan Air Base who busted out the body paint, American flags and full voice. Sam's Army? These guys were Abby's Army! Well, actually, Abby's Air Force. Often when the team travels around the world, the U.S. military are among the few fans cheering for them, so it's certainly much appreciated. Thanks also to the kids of the U.S. military personnel who came to the match. Well done on the outfits. You guys rock. We are glad the players got to spend a bit of time after the game chatting, signing some autographs and taking some pictures. Always nice to see so many friendly faces so far from home. Thanks for spreading the word about the final to all your friends in Seoul and Suwon. Hopefully, we see some American flags in the stands on Saturday.

TK compares biceps with an Airman from Osan Air Base. It's one of few battles she has lost this tournament. (Ok, she was actually just posing for a picture, but them is some impressive pythons).

Forza USA

Good win for the U.S. today against Italy. The Italians have some dangerous attacking players, but the U.S. did a fine job keeping them at bay, and Nicole Barnhart was called upon to make two great saves. Well done by Barnie in her first game back from knee surgery. It was the USA's second 2-0 win over the Italians this year and leaves just five more matches before the Olympics. Do you believe that the U.S. team leaves for China in about 35 days? The team will have a light training in the morning before resting up for the championship game, which will be played a the beautiful Suwon World Cup Stadium. More on that venue tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

First Game Over in Suwon

Australia has defeated Brazil, 1-0, in the first match of Group B, but the USA was two minutes away from qualifying for the Peace Queen Cup Final without ever breaking a sweat. A tie would have qualified the USA for the championship game no matter what the result againt Italy, but Aussie striker Kyah Simon's 90th minute strike gave the Matildas the hard-fought victory and they repelled two Brazilian scoring oportunties in stoppage time. As expected, the USA will now need a win or a tie against Italy to make the final. U.S. head coach Pia Sundhage is giving five players their first starts of the tournament, including goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart, who will play her first match since undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery in early May. The USA's 2008 leading scorer (11 goals) Natasha Kai also returns to the lineup sheet after sitting out the 1-0 win over Brazil on June 17. Team captain Christie Rampone will see her streak of 16 consecutive starts end after getting a knock on the ankle against Brazil, but is fit enough to play and could see time off the bench. Carli Lloyd will start despite breaking her nose last game. She'll wear a protective mask dubbed "The Hawk" by the U.S. athletic training staff, because, well, it sort of makes her look like she's got a beak? Or maybe like the Superhero? We're not quite sure.

The U.S. starters:

24-Nicole Barnhart; 2-Heather Mitts, 26-Rachel Buehler, 15-Kate Markgraf – Capt., 14-Stephanie Cox; 21-Kacey White, 16-Angela Hucles, 11-Carli Lloyd, 9-Heather O’Reilly; 6-Natasha Kai, 20-Abby Wambach.

Good Luck U-20s!

Former U.S. U-20s say...Good luck from South Korea!
(Although this pic was taken in L.A.)

We'd thought we'd do a little Blog cross-promotion and wish the U.S. Under-20 Women's National Team the best of luck as they begin CONCACAF Qualifying for the 2008 U-20 FIFA Women's World Cup today (well, today in Mexico) against T&T. Numerous members of the U.S. Women's National Team here in South Korea are recent "graduates" of the U-20 program, and heck, Tobin Heath is still age-eligible for the U-20s, so the full WNT wants to wish the youngsters all the best as they take a major step on what surely will be a fantastic journey.

MatchTracker A.M.

While we don't usually do MatchTracker from Asia due to the time difference (obviously, it's the wee hours of the morning Stateside), we have some brave souls in the U.S. Soccer Communications Dept. staying up late (or getting up early?) to bring you MT from the USA-Italy match. It kicks off at 1 a.m. PT / 4 a.m. ET, so for all you nocturnal creatures out there (and you know who you are, you armadillos, flying squirrels, bears, bats and raccoons), log on to and keep those eyelids open. By the way, which bears are best?

Day Off at the DMZ

The U.S. team got the day from training today, which was just as well as the team has played two tough matches in three days and it was raining pretty hard all day is Seoul. In the morning, a bunch of the players and staff took a trip to the DMZ. Check out a few pics from the trip.

U.S. players on the Bridge of No Return. The DMZ is actually a rare and vibrant natural preserve as plant and animal life has thrived un-bothered by humans in the 155 mile by 2.5 mile strip of land for the past 50+ years.

The U.S. team gets an overview of the DMZ through a topographic map and presentation by a UNC (United Nations Command) soldier from New Zealand.

The New Kids pose with their U.S. Army escorts for the tour.

The U.S. team got a tour of Tunnel 3, one of four tunnels the North Koreans tried to build (none were completed before being discovered) to potentially sneak spies or possibly troops into South Korea. The one mile-long tunnel is just just over six-feet high at its high points and about seven feet wide, so hard hats were mandatory as Lindsay Tarpley shows. This just in: Tunnel 3 is no place for anyone with claustrophobia. The tunnel actually penetrates 475 yards south of the Military Demarcation Line and was dug 240 feet below below ground.

The U.S. team poses with some other visitors to the DMZ. We think they were Air Force personnel. In the background you can see North Korea and the MDL. It's the only place in the DMZ where the North and South connect.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Defense Rules

The USA's 1-0 win over Brazil was deserved as the Americans had more of the game, but neither team gave the other any room to play in midfield. The USA's ball-winning, the tackling on the ground and headers in the air, was first rate. The Americans doubling on the ball was also good and the Brazilian forwards rarely looked as if they could get behind the U.S. backs. Still, give credit to Brazil for intense, scrappy defense as well, making it very tough for the USA to possess the ball in the attacking half. In the end, the win gives puts the USA in the driver's seat for a spot in the championship game. A win or a tie against Italy on June 19 (5 p.m. local / 4 a.m. ET) will be enough to send the USA to its second straight title game at the Peace Queen Cup. Since Brazil and Australia play before the USA (2 p.m. local) on Thursday, the Americans will know the result before kicking off against Italy. If Brazil and the Matildas happen to tie, the USA will be in the final before a ball is even kicked in the Italy game.

A-Rod Salon

Yeah, she was starting one of the biggest matches of her young career, a match in which she scored the winning goal against Brazil, but that doesn't mean that Amy Rodriguez didn't have time before the game to do Lauren Cheney's hair. We're not sure what "game 'do" she gave her fellow "new kid" but we're sure it looked good. Rodriguez went with her standard messy bun.

USA at the DMZ

Most of the team is going to the DMZ tomorrow morning for a tour and lunch with U.S. troops. The team went in 2006 during the Peace Queen Cup and it was certainly an educational, enlightening and somewhat sobering experience, not to mention that the U.S. Military were more than gracious hosts. The Korean Demilitarized Zone is a strip of land running across the Korean Peninsula that serves as a buffer zone between North and South Korea. The DMZ cuts the Korean Peninsula roughly in half, crossing the 38th parallel on an angle, with the west end of the DMZ lying south of the parallel and the east end lying north of it. It is 155 miles long and approximately 2.5 miles wide, and is the most heavily armed border in the world. For more info on the history of the DMZ, click here.

Carli Gets Conked

The USA got a big beat up today against Brazil. Nothing too serious, thankfully, but Aly Wagner has some nasty bruises on her legs and it looks as if someone just jammed their cleat into her quad and stomped on her...well, that is what happened. And yes, Carli Lloyd did break her nose today. Well, a Brazilian broke it with her head or shoulder, we're not quite sure. All we know is that there was a lot of blood (we hesitate to use the word "gushing" but...) and Carli had to leave the game. We're happy to report that she fine, and was in good spirits ater the game, although her schnoz is a bit swollen. She is even listed as probable for the USA's next game against Italy, although she would need to play wearing a protective mask. (Hey, the girl is from Jersey...She's tough enough to play with a broken nose). Speaking of Jersey, Christie Rampone also banged up her ankle, forcing her to leave the game at halftime, but she was walking on it after the game and is listed as day-to-day. News may not be as good for Brazilian captain Aline, who may have suffered a serious knee injury. We thought it was an ankle, so it says that in the match report, but apparently it's a knee. We hope she's ok as this U.S. team certainly knows about knee injuries close to the Olympics.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Ready to Rumble

The U.S. team is on the field and warming up for the clash vs. Brazil, the first meeting since the 2007 FIFA Women's World Cup semifinal. Above, U.S. captain Christie Rampone gets strapped and ready. She'll start her 16th game for the USA this year and tie Brandi Chastain for sixth on the U.S. all-time caps list at 192. The U.S. lineup:

18-Hope Solo; 17-Lori Chalupny, 3-Christie Rampone – Capt., 15-Kate Markgraf, 2-Heather Mitts; 7-Shannon Boxx, 11-Carli Lloyd, 10-Aly Wagner, 5-Lindsay Tarpley; 19-Amy Rodriguez, 20-Abby Wambach.

U.S. head coach Pia Sundhage has made two changes from the starting lineup that faced Australia on June 15, inserting Aly Wagner into the center midfield and putting Amy Rodriguez up top. It's the first start of the year for Wagner and the fifth start of the year for A-Rod, but first since the championship game of CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying against Canada on April 12.

Euros No; Lakers & Tiger, Yes

In an ironic twist partially attributed to time zones, the European Championships are not on TV at the team hotel in Seoul. It wouldn't make much difference if they were, though, as the matches are being played in the middle of the night in South Korea, so the U.S. players have to wait until the next morning to get the results. Some of the players have turned into Sweden fans, wanting U.S. head coach Pia Sundhage to be in a good mood following the Sweden matches. (Who are we kidding? Pia is always in a good mood anyway). While they players can't watch the Euros, the U.S. Open Golf Tournament and the Lakers-Celtics NBA Championship series are on live here. Most of the players are cheering for the Celtics and Tiger Woods. Perhaps Tiger is a Sweden fan too? His Swedish wife is from Skelleftea (we found that out from the WNT fitness coach, Helena Andersson, who is also from Skelleftea), where the USA will be playing Sweden on July 5. We'll leave a pair of tickets for him should he want to attend the match.

RPI at the PQC

You may have noticed that the USA's Group B at the Peace Queen Cup is a tad bit more difficult than Group A, to say the least. The combined FIFA rankings for Group A equals 83 and the combined rankings of Group B is 30. That would have been different had North Korea not pulled out of the tournament (after doing the same in 2006) to be replaced by New Zealand. Had North Korea competed, that would have lowered Group A's combined FIFA ranking to 65. Give credit to the Kiwis for coming in as a last minute replacement and picking up a win over Argentina today, which apparently was New Zealand's first victory over Argentina in soccer at any level. The USA will head into the Olympics having played matches against eight of the top-15 teams in the world according to the FIFA rankings, including multiple games against Brazil, Norway, Italy, China and Canada.

USA, Brazil, MatchTracker

Fans can follow the USA vs. Brazil match as it happens on's MatchTracker. The game kicks off at 2 p.m. local time in Suwon, but due to the fact that the match is being played on the other side of the planet from the United States, that's 1 a.m. ET and 10 p.m. PT (on Monday night). If you live on the East Coast and want to follow the game, prepare the coffee, snacks or six-pack of Diet Pepsi (the Wild Cherry is good) and we'll try to post events as often as possible to keep you awake, unlike this Felis catus wntsoccerfanus above.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Speaking of Peace...

Australia head coach Tom Sermanni is one of the true good guys in the world of women's international soccer. The current Asia Football Federation women's coach of the year has a done an excellent job with the Matildas and has the reputation as a top-notch coach and tactician. He's also known to have a witty personality (he's Scottish after all) and is very likable guy who has the respect of all his players. After a hard-fought match against the USA, Sermanni took some time to chat with two of his former players, the USA's Shanon Boxx and Christie Rampone, whom he coached when he was the head man of the New York Power in the WUSA.

Play Football, Make Peace

That's the theme of the Peace Queen Cup, which is hosted by the Peace Dream Foundation, a charitable organization which through sport, supports children around the world suffering from disease, war, isolation and poverty. Proceeds from the Peace Queen Cup are donated to the Peace Dream Foundation. So, not only is this tournament one of the best supported and organized women's soccer competitions in the world, but it's all for a good cause...Peace. The WNT Blog just wanted to make sure that message got posted before we get back to soccer, the U.S. players and the next match...which is against Brazil by the way.

Another Aussie Tussle

The USA's de facto three-game series in 2008 with Australia has come to an end and it was exciting to say the least. The USA won all three games with a late goal -- today's not nearly as late as in the two matches in the States -- and both teams will probably be happy to see some other opponents. Today's match was physical - the Aussies had 16 fouls -- and the heat and humidity didn't make it any easier, although it was a excellent game for the USA as the Olympics in China are sure to be played in similar conditions. Tomorrow, the players who didn't play or didn't play much today will hit the training field for an hour while the starters will do a short pool workout. Then its Brazil on Tuesday in another afternoon match. Pretty good game between Brazil and Italy today. The Brazilians definitely had the better of the game in the early going, but the Italians could have easily tied or won the game in the last 15 minutes. Some sloppy finishing did in the Azzurra, but Brazil played some intense, scrambling defense as well. With both the USA and Brazil with a win in Group B, and Italy and Australia with a loss, the winner of the USA-Brazil match should have a leg up in making the championship game.