Saturday, August 9, 2008

On to Shenyang...

The U.S. players packed up their luggage for the trip tomorrow (the luggage will go by truck tonight and the players by train tomorrow). Above Tobin Heath rolls her bag to the elevator to get it on the equipment truck. Tomorrow is a day off from training, but the players will do some regen work in Shenyang and might even be able to catch the Brazilian Men's Olympic Team against New Zealand if the day goes as planned. Some stretching, a pool workout and Ronaldinho? That's not a bad day. A special thanks to all the great folks in Qinhuangdao who have hosted the team for two weeks and been extremely helpful and accommodating. The Olympic Spirit has definitely infused this port city and they should be proud of their part of the 2008 Olympic Games.

Inked

We're not sure if it was visible on the broadcast, but several U.S. players got tattoos for the Japan match. No, not real ones. No one is trying to catch up to Natasha Kai, but Heather Mitts and Carli Lloyd did get some pretty sweet traditional Chinese artwork for the game, the press-on kind. Hmmmm....And Carli scored a world-class goal and Heather almost scored not once, but twice, getting denied by the Japanese goalkeeper on a full dive and almost knocking the ball in while colliding with the 'keeper on a semi-breakaway slide. Lloyd got a dragon and Mitts had a dragon and a tiger interlocked. Pretty cool. Hope Solo and Amy Rodriguez had Chinese characters are on their forearms. While we are on the subject, Shannon Boxx has a real tattoo of the Olympic rings on her ankle. She and her sister, a 1996 Olympic gold medalist in softball, both got identical ones.

Run, Run, Run

If you watched the USA-Japan match today you saw a heck of a lot of running from the U.S. team and especially forward Amy Rodriguez and midfielder Heather O'Reilly. In 78-degree heat and 85% humidity, that's some yeoman's work there for sure. Although euphoric, the team was pretty spent and after dinner, they settled down for a good night's sleep before leaving fairly early for the train station and the two-hour trip to Shenyang. Above O'Reilly grabs some quick post-game computer time before hitting the pillows.

Jump Around

The U.S. team has gotten great support from the small contingent of friends and family who have come over for the Olympic Games, but since it's very difficult to get them inside the security permiter of the team hotel, the team got a special send off to today's match from three members of the U.S. delegation who sit in the stands during the matches: Alternate goalkeeper Briana Scurry, Nike rep Missy Callender and team videographer Noey Jouglet, who is seen above showing the hops that made her a star central defender during her playing days at San Diego State. Now's that's some patriotic spirit.

Job Well Done

What a goal from Carli Lloyd! It will certainly go down as one of the best strikes ever by a U.S. player in Olympic history, but even more importantly, in an instant it helped wipe away the bad feeling from the USA's first match against Norway. Yes, the Americans could have scored a few more - the USA doubled Japan's shot total -- but the Japanese were truly one of the best teams the USA has played in a while as far as rhythmical attacking soccer, so give tremendous credit to the overall team defense for holding off the Nadeshiko. The match was full of good chances -- a few close calls for Japan as well -- and a great game to build on heading into the New Zealand match. The Kiwis lost just 1-0 to Norway so the Americans have a challenge ahead on Aug. 12 in Shenyang. The win over Japan was the USA's seventh 1-0 victory in 2008, a pretty impressive stat.

Breaking News:

Throughout the Olympics, the U.S. Olympic Committee sends out e-mails to media with results, press conference schedules and breaking news. Today's 'Breaking News' e-mails surrounding the U.S. game have so far covered track & field, judo, men's archery, 10-meter air pistol -- and of course two about the U.S. game:

4:29 p.m. Beijing / 4:29 a.m. ET:
BREAKING NEWS: Lloyd puts USA up 1-0 in women's soccer
Carli Lloyd (Delran, N.J.) has put the U.S. women's soccer team up 1-0 against Japan in the 28th minute of the second game in Group G play for both sides. Lloyd gathered a long crossing pass from deep in the left corner on the edge of the penalty in front of the right post and delivered a forceful, rising shot that caught Japanese Miho Fukumoto helpless.

6:10 p.m. Beijing / 6:10 a.m. ET:
BREAKING NEWS: Lloyd's goal stands up, USA earns three points against Japan
A goal by Carli Lloyd (Delran, N.J.) in the 27th minute was all the U.S. women's soccer team needed to post its first win of the 2008 Olympic Games, claiming a 1-0 victory over Japan at Qinhuangdao Olympic Sports Center Stadium Saturday evening.

With the win, the U.S. earns three points and for the moment joins Norway at the top of the Group G table. Norway plays New Zealand beginning at 7:45 p.m. this evening. The American side will close out group play against New Zealand at 7:45 p.m. on Tuesday, August 12, at Shenyang's Olympic Stadium. The top two teams in each of the three groups and the top two third-place teams advance to the quarterfinals.

Lineups Are In!

Lineups are in for today's match vs. Japan. The U.S. makes two changes, with Stephanie Cox taking the place of the injured Lori Chalupny (see previous post), and Amy Rodriguez getting the nod replacing Natasha Kai.

USA: 18-Hope Solo; 2-Heather Mitts, 15-Kate Markgraf, 3-Christie Rampone - Capt., 14-Stephanie Cox, 15; 9-Heather O'Reilly, 7-Shannon Boxx, 11-Carli Lloyd, 5-Lindsay Tarpley; 16-Angela Hucles, 8-Amy Rodriguez.

JPN: 1-Miho Fukumoto; 2-Yukari Kinga, 3-Hiromi Ikeda, 4-Azusa Iwashimizu, 7-Kozue Ando; 5-Miyuki Yanagita, 8-Aya Miyama, 10-Homare Sawa, 15-Mizuho Sakaguchi; 17-Yuki Nagasato, 11-Shinobu Ohno.

Follow along today live on USA Network, the NBC Olympic Soccer Channel (which we have seen recently added to Direct TV as channel 755), via online video at nbcolympics.com, or with ussoccer.com's MatchTracker.

Chalupny Will Not Play Against Japan

U.S. defender Lori Chalupny will not play today against Japan in the USA’s second Group G match at the 2008 Olympics. Chalupny, who has a history of concussions, took a blow to the head against Norway in a collision with U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo and was replaced in the 15th minute. Due to her concussion history and after neurologic testing and evaluation, it was decided that she will not participate in this match, but will be revaluated for Tuesday’s match against New Zealand in Shenyang.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Game Day

After finishing a nice pre-game meal and watching the usual pre-game video, the U.S. players are getting ready to leave for the stadium. The mood is good and excitement is high, but certainly the game faces are already on. Not faces like the lion dog above (who guards the entrance to one of the gates at the Forbidden City), but the team has no interest in a start like the one they got against Norway a few days ago. Tomorrow, the team will train to Shenyang for its third group match against New Zealand on Aug. 12.

Studio 90 News Update - Weekend Preview

The latest edition of Studio 90 News is up and running with a preview of the weekend's U.S. Olympic Soccer action as both the women and men face crucial contests in the second matches of group play. Watch Carli Lloyd and Angela Hucles talk about the need to bounce back from their opening day loss, while Michael Bradley gives a scouting report on a Netherlands squad that boasts four players from his club team, SC Heerenveen, as well as leading Dutch marskman Roy Makaay. Don't forget to check back on ussoccer.com all weekend long where U.S. Soccer's All_Access video will have post-match reaction and all the news and updates from China.

WOW!


Heather O'Reilly and the U.S. team watch the Opening Ceremonies on TV from Qinhuangdao

If you didn't watch the 2008 Beijing Olympics Opening Ceremonies, and you've got it on the DVR, press play. It's well worth the hour. A stunning display by the Chinese that was as beautiful as it was spectacular and colorful. We really can't do it justice in words so check it out if you haven't seen it already. Would it be hyperbolic if we said that nothing like that has even been seen before in the history of mankind? We think not. The U.S. team gathered in the meal room to watch the Opening Ceremonies projected on a big screen and there was no shortage of "oohs" and "ahhs" as well as a few "how do they do that? and "I've never seen anything like that before." As always, the athlete march in took a long time (as we write this it's still going on), but it's worth watching to see the smiles on the faces of athletes from countries like Djibouti and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Some reaction from the U.S. players on the opening Ceremonies:
Rachel Buehler
"China did a spectacular job. The visual effects were awesome. My favorite part was when the guys with the lights on their bodies made a tower. It was pretty amazing when they unveiled that huge globe and the guys were running around it. It was just great to see the American team come into the stadium and also see all the other athletes from all the tiny countries."

Heather O'Reilly
"It was a pretty phenomenal display for the first hour and then to see the pride on all the athletes faces reminded me once again of what this is all about."
Shannon Boxx
"I thought the beginning was amazing. All the people that it took to make it happen, and how all the performers were so in sync, was just unbelievable. Seeing all the countries come into the stadium makes you really appreciate being a part of this."

Christie Crossbar

The U.S. team end the short training today with a game of crossbar. The players (and some staff) paired up and each had one chance to hit the crossbar per round. If one partner hit the bar from the top of the penalty box, they advanced to the next round. If both missed, they were out. Christie Rampone led her team (which also included Shannon Boxx) to victory, banging the crossbar on her team's first attempt twice. Not bad for a defender, but remember Rampone is pretty comfortable around the penalty box, having scored 79 goals in her college career.


Crossbar champs!

Condensation Anyone?

No, it wasn't smoggy today in Qinhuangdao. In fact, it was a decent day. Hazy and hot? Yes. But the skies were pretty clear. The above picture is what happens when you bring your camera out of a nice air-conditioned hotel into the 80-degree heat and dripping humdity. It's just really hard to get your lens clear in order to take a nice pic of the team in front of a fountain. Oh well.

Pre-Game Prep

The U.S. team held a short training outside the Qinhuangdao Olympic Training Center Stadium this afternoon as the team makes final preparations to face Japan tomorrow at 5 p.m. local / 5 a.m. ET live on USA Network and the NBC Soccer Channel. The squad did an extended warm-up, some light finishing, a bit of tactical work, and then played the crossbar game. Besides Lori Chalupny, who will know tomorrow if she can play or not, the U.S. team is healthy and ready to go for this critical Group G match. Above Pia Sundhage speaks to the team before training and below the U.S. players back-peddle through poles during their warm-up.

Big Gulp

It's no secret that the humidity is oppressive in China during the Olympics and the U.S. players, always great at hydrating themselves, are taking extra care to keep the fluid intake up the appropriate levels. In this Part 2 of the U.S. WNT & Sports Science, see the simple way in which the players know how much to drink after a hot and sweaty training, although they certainly drink a lot more during a normal day as well.

video

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Sharing the Bun

The Olympics are as much about sharing culture as they are about competition. The U.S. players have been meeting many friendly folks from China and all over the world, including the USA's main team liaison, Sherry. The other day Amy Rodriguez decided to share some American hairstyle tips with Sherry, showing her how to do the "A-Rod bun." We think this small piece of culture exchange was a success. In fact, we are thinking the A-Rod bun might catch fire in China.

Fans for a Day

A few of the U.S. players got to take in their first Olympic event this afternoon as a group went to watch the Italy-Honduras game at Qinhuangdao Olympic Training Center Stadium. The Italians looked pretty confident hanging around the hotel (but Italians always look confident we've found) and they had little trouble in a dominating 3-0 win over Honduras. There were two PKs and according the players "one great goal." The team was back at the hotel for dinner to rest and relax tonight. They will get to sleep in a bit tomorrow morning as training is in the afternoon. There might be a bit of shopping in the morning as well. This trip has been remarkably devoid of shopping for the U.S. players, but since they've all been here so many times, maybe they're shopped out in China. Speaking of fans, tomorrow night the team will get together to watch the Official Opening Ceremonies on a projection screen in the meal room. All of China is abuzz about the Opening Ceremonies. Just seeing the fireworks on TV above the Bird's Nest during rehearsal was amazing and it should be spectacular.

Special Team

Special thanks to Vai Sikahema, the sports anchor for the NBC affiliate in Philadelphia and correspondent for the NBC "Olympic Zone" program, for making the long drive from Beijing to do a story with fellow islander Natasha Kai. Sikahema (who was born in Tonga), is a former NFL standout who played for the St. Louis/Phoenix Cardinals, the Green Bay Packers and the Eagles. If you are over 30 and love the NFL, you remember his electrifying kick returns. Turns out Sikahema is friends with Kai's dad Benny (and who isn't, it often seems?). He also grabbed interviews with Jersey products Carli Lloyd and Heather O'Reilly (for the New York NBC station) as well as former Philadelphia Charge star Heather Mitts (who worked briefly at the NBC station in Philly). Sikahema, you might recall, recently knocked out Jose Canseco in a celebrity boxing match in Atlantic City. From the shores of Atlantic City to the shores of Qinhuangdao, it's been a busy month for the former Pro Bowler.

Record Set for Volunteer to Player Ratio

The U.S. team trained at Northeastern University today. No, not the one in Boston. This was Northeastern University of Qinhuangdao, which is one of the four training sites in this city for soccer. Suffice it to say the volunteers were happy to see the soccer players, even if there were only six of them. When the team arrived, there were only three volunteers on the track next to the field. When asked to take a picture, the players certainly obliged, but were surprised to see almost 60 people file out of door under the stands. (It must have been air conditioned in there!). The players posed for the pic (above) and signed a book, which looked like the kind of book you sign at a wedding. Either way, the volunteers left happy. Another example of the hundreds of friendly folks we've encountered in China.

Small Sided Training

Just six players trained on the field today, four field players and two goalkeepers, but it surely was intense and hard working. And hot. The heat has not let up in Qinhuangdao, but as you may have heard somewhere before, it's not so much the heat as the humidity. With just four players and 30 soccer balls, you can imagine that they got a lot of touches, doing some passing patterns and then finishing with some fitness/shooting/finishing. But when you watch a loss on the bench as those players did last night (except for Tobin Heath who played 12 minutes) it gives you some energy to go out and have a good training no matter how many players are on the field. The six will get their teammates back tomorrow, but they won't have five soccer balls each to play with.

The Day After

Well, while that was no way to start the Olympics, today we are happy to report that the players are in good spirits. While the post-game mood last night was certainly and understandably somber, a good night's sleep can do wonders. The starters, plus Stephanie Cox and Amy Rodriguez, who played a lot of minutes, did not train today. For them, it was a light workout in the gym and/or pool. Tomorrow afternoon the team hits the field again to make final preparations for the Japan game on Saturday. The USA will play the earlier game on Aug. 9 (sorry to those on the West Coast) and a win is vital. Know this: No one is panicking in the U.S. camp. Yes, the road just got tougher, but everyone knows that wins in the last two games and six points guarantees advancement to the quarterfinals. A big challenge, but isn't the Olympics about challenges?

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

USA-NOR Lineups Are In ... Early Updates

The U.S. lineup vs. Norway is in ...

USA: 18-Hope Solo; 2-Heather Mitts, 15-Kate Markgraf, 3-Christie Rampone – Capt., 17-Lori Chalupny; 9-Heather O’Reilly, 7-Shannon Boxx, 11-Carli Lloyd, 5-Lindsay Tarpley; 16-Angela Hucles, 6-Natasha Kai
Subs: 4-Rachel Buehler, 8-Amy Rodriguez, 10-Aly Wagner, 12-Lauren Cheney, 13-Tobin Heath, 14-Stephanie Cox, 18-Nicole Barnhart

NOR: 1-Erika Skarbø; 2-Ane Stangeland Horpestad, 3-Gunhild Følstad, 7-Trine Rønning, 12-Marit Christensen; 4-Ingvild Stensland, 6-Marie Knutsen, 13-Lene Storløkken; 10-Melissa Wiik, 8-Solveig Gulbrandsen, 11-Leni Larsen Kaurin
Subs: 5-Siri Nordby, 9-Isabell Herlovsen, 14-Guro Knutsen, 15-Marita Skammelsrud Lund, 16-Elise Thorsnes, 17-Lene Mykjåland, 18-Christine Nilsen

These are the first Olympic starts for Solo, Chalupny, Lloyd, O'Reilly, Kai and Hucles. It's a hazy night in Qinhuangdao and while it's very humid, not too hot.

Scores are in for today's early games:
Japan 2, New Zealand 2
In the Group G opener, New Zealand got off to a 2-0 lead by Japan came back to tie 2-2. Each team scored a PK.
Brazil 0, Germany 0
Canada 2, Argentina 1

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Referee Named

The referee for today's USA vs. Norway class will be Nicole Petignat of Switzerland, widely hailed as one of the best female referees in the world. Petignat is no stranger to the U.S. team and big games, having done many important matches over the years. She officiated the 1999 FIFA Women's World Cup Final and the USA's 2007 FIFA Women's World Cup semifinal, where she ejected Shannon Boxx. Today's all-European crew is below:

Referee: Nicole Petignat (SUI)
Asst. Referee: Cristini Cini (ITA)
Asst. Referee: Karine Vives Solana (FRA)
4th Official: Dagmar Damkova (CZE)

NBC TV Schedule Set for Olympic Soccer

NBC has confirmed that all of the U.S. Men’s and Women’s Olympic Soccer Teams’ group play matches will be broadcast live on the NBC family of networks. For a complete schedule, click here for the release on ussoccer.com. For the NBC Olympic Soccer Channel, check with your local cable or satellite TV provider for more information. As we get update on replays of the matches, we'll update the page on ussoccer.com. The women will get U.S. Soccer's quest started today against Norway.

Aug. 6 vs. Norway
Venue: Qinhuangdao
Kickoff: 7:45 a.m. ET

Broadcast Start Time
MSNBC (7:30 a.m. ET)
Universal HD (7:30 a.m. ET) - Replay at 8 p.m. ET and 10:30 p.m. ET
NBC Olympic Soccer Channel (7:30 a.m. ET)

And they slept...

The hall of the WNT's floor at the team hotel was vacant quite early this evening. With the opening the of Olympics tomorrow, the players retired to their rooms for some quiet time and a good night's sleep. The team had its standard pre-game meeting tonight after dinner and all systems are go for the match against Norway tomorrow. As often happens on days that feature night games, the team will do a lot of eating and hydrating tomorrow. Breakfast is 9-10 a.m., lunch is at 1 p.m. and the pre-game meal is at 4 p.m. The squad leaves for the stadium about two hours before the match (it often takes some time to get into a stadium on game day, even with the police escort) and then the countdown to kickoff begins. The mood of the team? Excited? For sure. Full of anticipation? Of course. Perhaps a bit of nerves too, but that's natural. Overall, the players are just really ready to get this Olympic party started. Whether you are in China, or watching on TV at home, thanks for being a part of it.

Crossword at a Crossroads

Update on the progress of the World's Largest Crossword Puzzle: While several players have spent some time on it, most notably Kate Markgraf and Nicole Barnhart, the fact is the thing is just too darn large. There are over 28,000 clues! The players have gotten most of the upper right corner done, but as Barnhart so aptly put it the other day, "This thing will be finished by the 2012 Olympics."

Game Hair

What do you do when you've had your final training before the first game of the Olympics and there is really nothing to do but wait around for bed time? Answer: Game hair. Above, Christie Rampone braids Angela Hucles' hair. Took a while, but it looks great. None of the other players are planning anything too special for their hair...and in fact, the Cameroon National Team staying at the team hotel far outdoes the U.S. women when it comes to fancy hairstyles. Those guys have bleach blond, dreadlocks, braids, corn-rows. They could win the All-Hair Trophy at the Olympics. But if you are not braiding hair, what else can you do to pass the minutes until game day? Answer: Play Spades. See below. The big winner? Actually, it has been asst. coach Erica Walsh, with whatever partner she gets. But the players are working hard on their Spades games.

Ticket Time

As Stephanie Cox relaxed in her beach chair in the hall on the team floor (the U.S. hotel is right on the beach and the rooms have balconies, hence the easy availability of beach chairs, plus the wireless Internet only works in the hall), U.S. general manager Cheryl Bailey made her rounds passing out the players game tickets for the first round. Cox' tickets are for her mom, dad, husband, brothers and in-laws. When the tickets are handed out, you know the first game is close at hand. Most of the players will see their families tomorrow in the early afternoon as sharing the Olympic experience with loved ones is one of the reasons the Games are so special. Some of the players families have already arrived in China. The first to land? Nataha's Kai's parents Sharon and Benny Kai...and they had the shortest flight of anyone...from Hawaii.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Chups and the Lions

All eight teams playing in the Qinhuangdao venue have checked into the team hotel which serves as the Olympic Village in the outlying venues. With the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon and the just plain indomitable South Koreans last to arrive, the hotel is packed with Olympic soccer players. One of the great parts about the Olympics is meeting athletes from all different countries and cultures, and Lori Chalupny took the chance to have her pic snapped with three members of the Cameroon team. We're not sure the French-speaking Lions spoke too much English, but they were nice enough to oblige young Lori with a picture.

Stadium Training

The USA got in its one allowed practice at the game venue today, going for 45 minutes on the manicured grass of the Qinhuangdao Olympic Sports Center Stadium, which seats about 32,500 fans. There is a rather large track around the field, which pushes the stands quite far from the playing surface, but the stadium looks spectacular and will serve as a fantastic venue for the first two U.S. matches in Group G. Since it's two days before the opening match of the Olympics, U.S. head coach Pia Sundhage wanted to go more than 45 minutes, so the U.S. players grabbed their stuff, slung the bags of soccer balls over their backs and walked five minutes to one of the training pitches outside the stadium, where they resumed their work. The team will train for one hour tomorrow in its final pre-Olympic practice. U.S. head coach Pia Sundhage and team captain Christie Rampone attended the official press conference earlier this evening. You can read quotes from the two on ussoccer.com. Speaking of Rampone, check out the special ussoccer.com feature on how the U.S. captain traded in her high tops for cleats.


The Qinhuangdao Olympic Stadium is ready to rock.


Everybody Loves Pia

It's well known that U.S. head coach Pia Sundhage served as an asst. coach for China during the 2007 FIFA Women's World Cup. It seems that all Chinese know too. Although all the U.S. players are popular picture taking subjects, many of the Chinese fans and volunteers want pictures with Sundhage, including one of the USA's police escorts. She's always happy to oblige.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

A Hot Fudge Fairytale

Once upon a time, actually at 8:16 p.m. China time tonight, four U.S. Olympians emerged from the elevator on the team floor of the hotel. They carried bags filled with the most wonderful of things. U.S. captain Christie Rampone, Natasha Kai, Aly Wagner and Shannon Boxx summoned their teammates from the rooms. "Come on out," they said. "Team meeting in the hallway...and hurry!" Alas, most of the players had settled in for the evening, but Rampone's loyal compatriots slowly emerged from their dens with sleepy eyes and curious expressions. What could possibly be important enough to call for the pausing of their DVDs, the putting down of their books and extracting of their iPod ear buds? "We have brought treats!" said the magnanimous Rampone, as she reached into the brown bags. Lo and behold, the quartet had visited McDonald's, and inside the bags were piles of vanilla ice cream sundaes with hot fudge! The players rejoiced! There was ice cream for all! With hugs given out, high-fives administered, and smiles on their faces, the ice cream slurping players filed back to their rooms to retire for the night. And all the players were happy. The End.

This About Sums it Up

Before you starting thinking the Olympics is all glitz and glamour, remember that the U.S. team is about 200 miles from the host city of Beijing. While you can definitely feel the Olympic spirit here, the Chinese hosts have been enthusiastic and the organization has been excellent, the players have had a lot of down time. Yes, the players have had a few fun excursions while in China, but outside of training and meals (lots of meals), most of the day is spent resting, re-hydrating and getting ready for some of the biggest games of their lives. Below, we caught Carli Lloyd in her natural habitat showing a perfect example of how many players spend their afternoons, either reading or typing away on their laptops.

Old Dragon Head

With a day off today, the U.S. team took a short excursion to the most eastern point on the Great Wall of China, called the Old Dragon Head. Why? Well, this is where the wall begins as it stretches intermittently 4,000 miles across China. Hence, the Head of the Dragon. It actually juts out into the ocean creating a stunning view of a castle wall surrounded on three sides by the ocean. Let's just say the folks during the Ming Dynasty took their fortifications seriously. The Old Dragon Head was just a 20-minute drive and perfect for a short trip to get out of the hotel. Truth is, you don't want to be out of the hotel for too long as it's hot out there, necessitating a break at Dragon Head for a Chupsicle (below).

It's peach by the way.

A Buddhist temple can be seen in the mist out of a opening at the Old Dragon Head.