Saturday, August 16, 2008

Bravo to the New Kids


A quick hats off (or on, in the above pic) to the three players on the Olympic Team who still have college eligibility remaining. It's tough coming into your first world championship at the senior level with all the pressure and expectations of each game, but the USA's New Kids have certainly contributed to the team's success so far. Tobin Heath has come off the bench to add a spark in three of the four games while Amy Rodriguez has earned a starting role and terrorized defenses with her speed, work rate and bulldog strength. Then against Canada in the quarterfinal, Lauren Cheney -- who was added to the team after Abby Wambach's injury -- got her first minutes of the Olympics, coming off the bench at the end of overtime and to do some great work on the defensive end in addition to holding the ball to help salt away the clock, and she even almost scored twice. There is still much work to do at the Olympics, as well as in their young international careers, but bravo for their positive contribution so far.

Go Michael Go!

The U.S. team was fortunate enough to arrive in its waiting area for the flight to Beijing this morning just about the time Michael Phelps was stepping into the starting blocks to chase his seventh gold medal of the Olympic Games. And fortunately for the team, there was a flat screen tuned into what turned out to be a legendary race, won by the slimmest of possible margins. Can you say "a fingernail"? In this WNT video blog, you'll see what the Olympics are all about. Cheering on your U.S. teammates and enjoying Olympic experience.

video

Goodbye Shanghai...Hello Beijing


Lori Chalupny waves goodbye to Shanghai.

The U.S. team traveled this morning from Shanghai to Beijing and it was a tired bunch after a late night of lightning delays and overtime. Still, tired and happy to be moving on to the semifinals beats tired and anything else, any day of the week. The two-hour flight was a smooth one and the team arrived in Beijing with a bit more pep in their step before heading to the Athlete's Village. It's the team's first day in the Village during the Olympics and we hear they are having fun, but the WNT Blog is not staying there so we'll have to get some reports from the players tomorrow. We do hear that the food is great and the vibe is fun.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Party like it's 9 a.m at the Official U.S. Soccer Bars on Monday!

The number of folks not hitting the snooze button and joining their fellow fans to watch the U.S. Olympic Soccer Teams at the Official U.S. Soccer Bars has been inspirational! We know, because we've been there. Now the U.S Women have given us almost as great a gift as reaching the semifinals - a kickoff time at 9 a.m. ET on Monday!

U.S. supporters should be out in full force on Monday at the Official U.S. Soccer Bars as the team is one step away from getting the chance to defend their Olympic Gold. Several watering holes will be opening at burnt toast and coffee time to allow fans the chance to support the USA. For those of you who can't make it in with your fellow fanatics, the match will be shown live on Monday, Aug. 18 at 9 a.m. ET on MSNBC, Universal HD and the NBC Olympic Soccer Channel. Below is a list of the Official U.S. Soccer Bars who will be ready to welcome you - not so bright and early - on Monday morning to watch the U.S. take on Japan:

The Globe Pub
1934 Irving Park Rd.
Chicago, IL 60613
773-871-3757
http://www.theglobepub.com/

Doors open at 5 a.m. CT

Summer's Grill and Sports Bar
1520 B. Court House Rd.
Arlington, VA 22201
703-528-8278
http://www.summers-restaurant.com/

Live at 9 a.m. ET

Nevada Smith's
74 Third Ave.
New York, NY
212-982-2591
http://www.nevadasmiths.net/

**Showing tape delay only beginning at 12 p.m. ET**

Mulligan’s on First
159 First St.
Hoboken, N.J.
201-876-4101
http://www.mulligansonfirst.com/

Live at 9 a.m. ET

Another Wild One in China

Well, that was eventful. Thanks to all the fans back in the States who got up early, and stayed up, and stayed up, and stayed up...through the 99 minute lightning delay. From those that were at the stadium, let's just say when the skies opened up and that first bolt of lightning hit...it was one of the loudest things we've ever heard. The amount of lightning and pure decibel level of the thunder was something out of a movie, so kudos to BOCOG for not putting the athletes in danger as well as to the U.S. team for dealing very well with yet another unusual adversity. The team will travel to Beijing tomorrow morning where it will get its first experience at the Olympic Village. No training tomorrow, though. Just rest and recovery after a hard match in rainy conditions. All-in-all, another inspiration performance by the U.S. team that absolutely peppered the Canadian penalty with shots and crosses. Truth be told, the score could have been much higher, but props to Canada for some gritty defending. Now, that the daunting task of taking down an arch-rival behind them, the U.S. team looks to the semifinal against - who would have thought? - Japan. Well, if you saw the USA-Japan game or Japan take apart Norway, you may not be surprised that the Japanese -- who have scored seven goals in the last two games -- knocked China out of this tournament. It is sure to be a great semifinal pitting two teams playing quality soccer. On to Beijing...

Back in Action

The game is back on, live on USA Network, NBC Olympic Soccer Channel, nbcolympics.com and ussoccer.com's MatchTracker.

Update: Restart at 8 a.m. ET

Word from Shanghai is that the teams will come out for a warmup in five minutes, and then 15 minutes later at 7:35 a.m. ET the game will get back underway.

UPDATE: As scheduled, the players are entering the field at 7:45 p.m. local time, with re-kickoff set for 8 p.m. local / 8 a.m. ET.

The clock will restart where it was stopped. That is, if the lightning stays away ... let's cross our fingers!

Worst Conditions Ever?


After Angela Hucles scored in the 12th minute, the weather got nasty with some lightning and loud thunder, so the match officials decided to clear the field. As you can see from this weather map.

In the meantime, USA Network and the Olympic Soccer channel are showing the Brazil-Norway game. Think of how close the U.S. was to be playing Brazil! Keep an eye out for American referee Kari Seitz in this one.

We'll keep you updated here if we hear anything, but as of right now we're just waiting for the weather to clear and no timetable has been presented.

UPDATE: The IOC rules don't allow players to take the field until 30 minutes after the last lightning (which there is still plenty). After that, there is a 15 minute warm-up and then we'll get back underway.

Meantime, you can watch the rain at NBColympics.com, if that's your thing.

U.S. Lineup vs. Canada

Here's what the U.S. team looks like for today's match. All the U.S. players are available.

USA: 1-Hope Solo; 17-Lori Chalupny, 15-Kate Markgraf, 2-Heather Mitts, 3-Christie Rampone; 7-Shannon Boxx, 11-Carli Lloyd, 9-Heather O'Reilly, 5-Lindsay Tarpley; 16-Angela Hucles, 8-Amy Rodriguez
Subs: 18-Nicole Barnhart, 4-Rachel Buehler, 14-Stephanie Cox, 13-Tobin Heath, 10-Aly Wagner, 12-Lauren Cheney, 6-Natasha Kai

All Systems Go

It's about 45 minutes before the USA-Canada match kicks off and the rain and lightning have held off so far today. It's still quite hot and humid, but there is actually a decent breeze blowing through the stadium so that will help. With no rain today, the field looks in great shape and it's one of the wider ones the team has played on recently. The players are coming on the field for warm-ups and lineups should be up shortly.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Stormin' in Shanghai

There was some dramatic lightning and thunder tonight in Shanghai that lit up the sky and crackled across the city. Fortunately, the U.S. team was safely in the hotel by the time the big stuff started hitting. Temperatures are forecast in the high 90s for game time tomorrow (wow), but the real trouble could be if the lightning decides to start up again. See above! Yes, that's the stadium to the right.

Shopping in Old Town

This morning, the U.S. players took a short excursion to the Old Town section of Shanghai where there is some of the best souvenir shopping around. The players were briefly caught in a short thunderstorm, but luckily there were plenty of indoor shops to ride out the rain. As usual, the players did well on the shopping front and their family and friends can rest assured that there are some cool gifts coming. In the middle of a big square, there was a huge board showing pictures of all of the Chinese gold medallists so far as well as an up-to-the minute scoreboard tracking the medal count. It was quite a popular stop for the many Chinese in Old Town who are certainly very, very proud of how well their countrymen and women are doing so far.

Pre-Game Training

The USA's pre-game training today was changed from the stadium pitch to the practice field outside the stadium due to the inclement weather, but the Americans did a short walk-through of Shanghai Stadium and found the field to be in excellent shape. U.S. head coach Pia Sundhage and defender Heather Mitts attended the pre-game press conference in front of a small media gathering before heading out to training, which lasted less than an hour. The rain cooled down temps today, but it will still be quite hot and humid tomorrow for the match. With more thunderstorms in the forecast, the USA will be ready for a wet game, but with the dripping humidity so far at the Olympics, every game has been a bit slippery.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Airport Images

Heather O'Reilly makes a new friend at the Shanghai Pudong Airport. This young lady was with the team from the time they de-boarded the plane until they got on the bus.

Hungry after the flight, but always a giving person, Lindsay Tarpley offers some trail mix to her teammates. Perhaps Tarp did not partake in the noodles with pork or steamed rice with beef that were offered on the plane? (The noodles were excellent).

The U.S. team had a surprise guest at the airport in Shenyang. As the "team kids" are not traveling with the USA during the Olympics (they are with their dads), and it's difficult to get the friends and family into the hotels for security reasons, the USA's "Rylie Rampone time" has been limited. But the players got a good dose in Shenyang before they boarded their flight to Shanghai. You might be able to keep Rylie Rampone out of a hotel, but never an airport check-in area.

...Hello Shanghai

The U.S. team got another wonderful greeting when they arrived at the Olympic Village/Hotel in Shanghai and of course took a picture with the hotel staff. Today was an off-day from training, but the majority of the players got in a workout in the gym, or some regen in the pool, or some treatment in the training room, but no one put on the cleats today. The players were a little tired after the late night last night and the travel day today, so naps abounded in the afternoon and a few players got to spend some time with their families as well. Tomorrow, the team will train in the afternoon at Shanghai Stadium, which seats 56,000. This stadium is not the same, and far bigger, than the Shanghai Hongkou Stadium in which the USA played for the 2007 FIFA Women's World Cup. Seven Olympic matches have been played on the pitch so far, so the team will get a feel for the quality of the field tomorrow. The Village/Hotel is across the street from the stadium, so some of the rooms have a fantastic view of the stadium, which you can see below lit up in the background.

Goodbye Shenyang...

The U.S. team left Shenyang this morning, hopping a flight to Shanghai and getting in around mid-day. Once again, the transfer for the U.S. team was handled very smoothly by the Olympic volunteers. Really, we've never seen more volunteers anywhere at any event and we're pretty sure that soon, more people in China will speak English than in any other country in the world (maybe even the United States!). Remember, there are 1.3 billion people in China. The team had a great experience at the excellent Olympic Village/Hotel in Shenyang (man, those fresh noodles and soup during the team meals were good) and were warmly sent off from there as well. The U.S. team and staff took up almost all of the small plane to Shanghai for the two-hour flight. It was almost a charter, except for the few Chinese guys in the back and one reporter from New Zealand. (Our friend Jeremy Ruane who does a bang-up job covering Kiwi women's soccer). The players were quite happy to get to Shanghai, one of the world's most amazing cities, and were excited to see a Starbucks and a Cold Stone within walking distance of the hotel! You know, it's the little things matter when you travel so much.

Youth Rises

Two first-time Olympics, Amy Rodriguez and Rachel Buehler, linked up for the second goal in the win over New Zealand and the duo are certainly familiar with each other on the soccer field. Both play (or in Buehler's case played) in the Pac-10 and have done battle on the collegiate field. The two also played together on the U.S. team that finished third at the 2004 FIFA -19 Women's World Cup in Thailand. Both are playing in their first world championship at the senior level and Buehler's long ball that picked out Rodriguez showed that she knew the spark-plug striker could get on the end of it. After Rodriguez finished smartly, she turned back up field and you could read her lips: "Nice ball...nice ball" she said pointing at Buehler. It certainly was. Above, the two share a moment after the match.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

What A Night

How did the U.S. team go into tonight's match in second place in the group with a minus-1 goal difference while Norway was in first place and had a plus-three, and at the end of the night, the USA was in first with a plus-three and Norway was in second with minus-1? Well, in an ode to Curb Your Enthusiasm...WE FLIPPED IT! You Larry David fans know what we're talking about. Go figure. But that is the wild, wacky, live on the razor's edge world of Olympic women's soccer. And to the Japanese...Arigatou gozaimasu! We told you they were darn good. The U.S. team is asleep right now and the Blog will soon be as well. The team is leaving in the morning for Shanghai, so we'll check in from China's most vibrant city (we think, outside of Beijing of course) tomorrow.

Chalupny Back in Lineup

SHENYANG, China (August 12, 2008) - U.S. defender Lori Chalupny has been cleared to play today against New Zealand in Shenyang for the USA’s third Group G match at the 2008 Olympics. Chalupny was injured in the USA’s first match against Norway, and sat out the USA’s 1-0 victory over Japan on Aug. 9. Further neurologic testing has shown marked improvement in her condition and she is currently not suffering any ill-effects from the collision on Aug. 6.

Here's the U.S. lineup:

Solo; Mitts, Buehler, Rampone, Chalupny; O'Reilly, Lloyd, Boxx, Tarpley; Hucles, Rodriguez

Monday, August 11, 2008

It's Not Raining

So much for the forecasters. While the Internet weather sites continue to insist that it will rain today, as of right now...the rain has stopped, the sun is out, the ground is dry and the skies are blue. A little more sun would surely help dry out the field before tonight's game, but no one in the U.S. camp is too concerned about the weather, as it is what it is. It is nice however that the rain has cleared away the almost constant haze.

Chupdate

For those wondering about the status of U.S. defender Lori Chalupny for tomorrow's match...she did train today, but will be evaluated tomorrow and a game-day decision will be made as to her availability to play against New Zealand. We're all hoping the Ginger Princess can go.

Afternoon Chat


Before the rain really started coming down, Lindsay Tarpley and Shannon Boxx had a chat in the lobby of the hotel while waiting for the team bus to depart for training. We got no story here, we just liked the picture.

Yao Ming Would Not Fit On This Bus

While all the organization has been fantastic so far in Shenyang, the team bus the U.S. is taking to and from training, as well as for any excursions, seems to have been designed for oompa-loompas. Shannon Boxx, who is 5-9, but certainly no giant, barely fits in the leg room between seats. The USA's 6-6 goalkeeper coach Phil Wheddon pretty much has to sit sideways with his legs across both seats. Speaking of excursions, a few of the players went shopping this morning, but they took the team to a big mall where the prices are the same or more expensive than the USA. That wasn't going to yield much shopping success. The U.S. players like bargains!

Pre-Game Presser

U.S. head coach Pia Sundhage and midfielder Shannon Boxx attended the official pre-game press conference that are required of each team in every venue. There wasn't that much media there aside from a smattering of Chinese reporters, but they kept up their streak of asking Sundhage about the Chinese National Team during every single interview session she's held this year in China. For the record, she doesn't coach them any more so she doesn't have that much insight, but they are a very talented team and playing in front of the great crowds in China is always a good thing. After the press conference, Boxx chatted with a few volunteers (above) and signed a few autographs.

Fruit Art

The amount of small touches the Chinese have made to make this Olympics a special one are far, far too numerous to mention, but if you are a fan of turning fruit into art, check out this watermelon flower that was in the USA's meal room at one of the meals. This really has nothing to do with the U.S. players or the Olympics, but we thought it was pretty cool. Ok, back to the soccer team.

It's Raining


It started raining today in the morning in Shenyang and it didn't really let up until the evening. The U.S. team had a short training in a steady downpour on the practice field outside the stadium as organizers understandably didn't let any of the four teams here practice on the game field. The pitch is quite water-logged and was not in the best condition before the two men's matches yesterday, so the field conditions could be questionable for the USA-New Zealand match, especially as rain is forecast to come down all during the night and all day tomorrow. You think that would cool things down? Nope. Temps are forecast for the low 80s. So, that is what the Amazonian rain forest feels like. Still, both teams have to play in those conditions and the U.S. team has never shied away from a little muddin'.

Happy B-Day Aly

Yesterday was Aly Wagner's birthday. We've decided that if you have to spend your birthday on the road in a foreign country, the U.S. team hotel in Shenyang, China is the place to do it. Let's just say the hotel staff went all out. Wagner got a beautiful cake with candles, several renditions of Happy Birthday, a wreath made of flowers, a gift from the hotel staff (it was small hand mirror, causing Lauren Cheney to remark that it was a gift for the "pretty, pretty princess"), and took a bunch pictures with the staff and chefs. It blew away any birthday you might celebrate in the States at a chain restaurant where the waiters wear a lot of "flair." You now what we're talking about. Wagner, being a natural born entertainer, hammed it up with everyone and the U.S. team had one of its best post-dinner birthday celebrations in recent memory.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

The King and His Court


A bunch of U.S. players were in the lobby today as the Brazilian Men's Olympic Team left for its match, which of course meant a lobby walk from Ronaldinho himself, carrying a drum and flanked by his teammates, and security. And you thought the U.S. women's players were getting asked to pose for a lot of pictures? During the match at Shenyang Olympic Stadium, after several magical pieces of ball work by AC Milan's newest signing, young Tobin Heath remarked, "It would be a privilege to be nutmegged by that guy." We're not sure if the Kiwis felt that same way, but several had no choice in the matter.

I am Atlas!

(Or is it Nike?) Anway, in the lobby of the team hotel in Shenyang are several massive inflatable soccer balls that all the teams have been signing. When you combine U.S. soccer players and humongous soccer balls, silliness ensues. Below, Hope Solo makes the "biggest" saves of her life.

From The Farm to Shenyang

Lots of SAT points in this picture

The New Zealand Women's Soccer Team came to the Brazil-New Zealand match tonight to cheer on their countrymen, which gave the USA's Stanford graduates Nicole Barnhart and Rachel Buehler that chance to chat with current Stanford striker Ali Riley, who plays for the Kiwis. Actually, New Zealand was staying at the same hotel with the USA in Qinhaungdao so it might have seemed liked a Stanford road trip at times in the hotel lobby. Riley is from Pacific Palisades, Calif., and is one of the top college forwards on the West Coast for the Cardinal. She will be a junior this fall. Playing in the Olympics? That's pretty good pre-season training.

Good Seats!

After a nice lunch and some rest time, a bunch of the players went to the Shenyang Olympic Sports Center Stadium to watch the Brazilian Men's National Team take on New Zealand. It was a show and the U.S. players had great seats for performance. At every Olympic soccer venue, there is an area reserved for the athletes to watch the matches in which they are not playing (they call it the "athletes stand"). The one in Shenyang happened to be about the 4o-yard line (to use American football terms) and about 20 rows up, a perfect vantage point to see four of the five Brazilian goals, two from Ronaldinho. The team left with 15 minutes remaining in the match so they missed the fifth goal that came in stoppage time. The 60,000-seat stadium had nary an open seat, partly because Brazil almost always plays to packed house, but also because China was playing in the second game (a 2-0 loss to Belgium). It won't be nearly as full for the USA's match against New Zealand, but it's almost new (completed in 2007) it certainly is one of the nicest stadiums the team has ever played in...once they play in it. The team was set to train at the stadium tomorrow, but due to some field issues, the USA and New Zealand will not be able to train on the game pitch. Instead, the USA will train in the afternoon on one of the practices fields outside.

...Hello Shenyang!

When the team arrived in Shenyang, they were once again ushered quickly off the train, but only had to walk a few steps to the waiting team bus for the short ride to the hotel, were ushered through security and they were greeted with another rousing welcome from the staff. Each player got a gift of a "good luck" necklace (see right), got right in the elevator up to the team floor where they found their names on the hotel doors and the keys inside. That kind of service really only happens at the Olympics, probably only at an Olympics in China. While it was a nice day in Shenyang for the USA's arrival, it is still quite hot. And without the ocean breezes of Qinhaungdao, it seemed even hotter. Fortunately, the USA's match against New Zealand will kick off at 7:45 p.m. on Aug. 12, although that same kickoff time did nothing to alleviate the heat in the USA's opening match against Norway.

Goodbye Qinhuangdao...

To say that U.S. players have posed for a few pictures on this trip to China would be a huge understatement. It seems every hotel employee, volunteer and average citizen wants a picture. The U.S. team has posed for more than a few team shots and as they left their hotel in Qinhuangdao this morning -- their home for two weeks -- the players took a picture with the hotel staff...and the security...and the volunteers...and finally got on the bus. We must say the transportation has been extremely well run during the Olympics. The players were driven straight onto the waiting area next to the train track, waited a few minutes as another train left (loaded with the team's friends and family by the way) and then boarded the bullet train (along with the New Zealand National Team) for a super smooth two hour ride to Shenyang.

Just waitin' for the train.