Saturday, December 13, 2008

China, Again

If you've been following the U.S. WNT for a while now and you think that the team seems to have played a lot of matches against China, you'd be correct. Only Norway and Canada have played the USA more times than China, which will play its 13th and 14th all-time matches inside the United States on this final leg of the Achieve Your Gold Tour. The USA has played 12 matches against China in China and the rest have been at neutral sites like the Algarve Cup or other tournaments around the world. China has dropped from its world power status of the late 1990s, but still always outs out a talented side. The USA has won six straight games against China and eight of the last nine matches with one draw. The last time the USA lost to an Asian team was in January of 2003, a 2-0 loss to China at the Four Nations Tournament.

Friday, December 12, 2008


In perusing the records from this historic year for the WNT, we found one especially amazing stat. It seems that U.S. captain Christie Rampone has already played more minutes in 2008 than any single player has ever played in a calendar year for the WNT. She has played 2,886 minutes so far while the team has played 3,150, meaning Rampone has been on the field for 91% of the USA's game-action this year. And that's even with having her gall bladder taken out last May! Her play in the 2008 Olympics was certainly inspirational and vital in the USA's run to the gold medal, especially in shutting out powerful Brazil in the championship game. If she plays all 180 minutes of the final two matches of the year against China, she will become the first player ever to play more than 3,000 minutes for the USA in a calendar year.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Caption That

U.S. defender Lori Chalupny seems to be making a point about something in the above pic, which was taken at the end of training as the U.S. team prepared for a game of "crossbar." What do you suppose she was saying? Fair warning: we'll only post the funny and/or clever responses. And we think you know that the WNT Blog knows funny and clever.

Busy Day for Boxx

U.S. midfielder Shannon Boxx had a busy day. First came training, then a quick photo shoot (below) for the L.A. Times (as Boxx, a Torrance, Calif. native will be playing this Saturday with the USA at The Home Depot Center just minutes from where she grew up) then came a ride on the Goodyear Blimp with a few teammates (we may have pics and some more info from the flight tomorrow on the Blog), and finally she had another photo shoot during the late afternoon (above). But hey, when you are a finalist for the 2008 FIFA Women's World Player of the Year, your time is in high demand and you get to do fun things like ride on blimps and dress up for photo shoots.

Who's that Girl?

U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo showed up at training camp this week with a bit of a different look. Seems the former blond has changed teams to the brunettes. Since Hope always has fun whether she's blond or brunette, we'll put that old adage to rest. The WNT Blog thinks it's a good look for the USA's #1 and perhaps even makes her more intimidating in the nets? For now, she'll go with a color we like to call "Gianluigi Buffon," but we're sure she'll go back to the "Peter Schmeichel" at some point.

Pia Honored

U.S. head coach Pia Sundhage has been apparently picking up some accolades in her native land after coaching the USA to the 2008 Olympic gold medal. Of course, Pia is too humble to tell anyone back here about it and since we can't read the Swedish articles, we're not quite sure what she won, but after becoming privy to some info, we got out of her that she was named Swedish Soccer Coach of the Year and is up for another prestigious award for top leader of the year for all sports in Sweden. There has been a steady stream of Swedish media coming by Los Angeles to interview her this year and a reporter from Swedish daily Norra Skåne chatted her up after training today. We hope that if Sundhage wins another award (perhaps a Nobel Prize?... they are given out in Stockholm every year after all) that we'll find out about it a little sooner.

Back Line of Babies

While the U.S. WNT is not setting the record on this trip for most babies on board (we think the record is five players' kids in a WNT camp) there are four babies with the U.S. team this week, which certainly makes meal time entertaining. Of course, the veteran kid Rylie Rampone is here with her mom Christie as is Keegan Markgraf with his mom Kate. Add Mya Ellertson, newest daughter of Tina and the rookie baby, Sidney, Kristine Lilly's daughter, and you've got the making of a pretty good back line for an Under-3 soccer team. Usually a ham for the camera, Rylie Rampone, seen below sitting between her parents at team dinner tonight at P.F. Changs, apparently is tired of the paparazzi.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Healing Up

The U.S. Women's National Team lost three key players during its run to the 2008 Olympics as Cat Whitehill and Leslie Osborne tore ACLs and Abby Wambach broke her leg. The WNT Blog is happy to report that all three are doing great and are on schedule -- or ahead of schedule -- in their comebacks.

Abby Wambach actually pulled on her cleats for the first time yesterday since breaking her leg and we were lucky enough to grab a pic (above). She is starting to kick a ball and do light running and is planning on being ready for the USA's training camp in late January. Abby has been at the USA's trainings during this camp and is looking great. Needless to say, she is chomping at the bit to get back into action. Pretty soon, we might have to tape her to the bench to keep her off the field.

Leslie Osborne, who took the opportunity to have reconstructive surgery on her knee and ankle after she tore her ACL is ahead of schedule as she has started playing a bit of soccer, without contact, but she is running, cutting and kicking. Due to the double surgeries, Osborne was predicted to be out 8-10 months, but may be back sooner. She came to the USA's training today and is also looking great.

Today was a big day for Cat Whitehill! She played pickup soccer for the first time and reports that she too is feeling great. She has been aggressive in her rehabilitation, but has set no time table for her return to action, so she's taking her time to make sure she is 100% healthy before diving into high level soccer again. She has also been working with a personal trainer, who has been "kicking my b--t."
All three on easily on pace to be at or close to 100% for the WPS season starting in April and the U.S. WNT looks forward to seeing them all back in a National Team uniform sometime in 2009.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Back in the Saddle

U.S. legend Kristine Lilly trained with the U.S. National Team today for the first time since October of 2007. The only woman in history to play in five Women's World Cup tournaments took most of 2008 off to have her first child, a baby girl, who was born last June. Lilly has worked her way back into playing shape and while her legendary fitness level is probably still a few months away, she felt great after her first intense training in over a year. Some of the players were talking after training about how many practices Lilly has under her belt. They figured a 10-1 training-to-games ratio was probably a fair one, and with a world record 340 caps, that's about 3,400 National Team practices! And that's not even counting trainings during her three years with the Boston Breakers of the WUSA or stints in Sweden. And of course, when you've played that many games and had that many trainings, you need to stretch the legs, as Lilly does after practice with fellow veteran Briana Scurry below.

Four Players Short

The USA's roster for the two matches against China did include 22 players, but injuries and illness have reduced the number of players available to head coach Pia Sundhage. Forward Natasha Kai, the USA's leading scorer this year with 15 goals, will miss the trip due to illness. Forward Lauren Cheney will also not join the team due to the battering her body took during the just completed college season as well as her preparation for final exams at UCLA. Midfielder Aly Wagner and defender Stephanie Cox are with the U.S. team in camp, but injuries to a calf and hamstring respectively have ruled them out of the matches. They will focus on rehabilitation for their injuries during the week.

China Circle

The U.S. team that started 2008 at the Four Nations Tournament
The U.S. Women's National Soccer Team is back together for its final two matches of 2008, starting a week-long training camp today at The Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif. The team started its historic year in China at the Four Nations Tournament, capped its run of five tournament titles this year at the Olympics in China, and will now end the year against China with matches at The HDC on Dec. 13 and in Detroit at Ford Field on Dec. 17.

Consider these nuggets from this historic year:
The USA set a record for most wins in a year in the 24-year history of the program and is now 31-1-2.

The only loss was in the opening game of the 2008 Olympics, from which the U.S. team famously rebounded to win the gold medal.

If the team wins or ties the two games against China, it will also set a record for best winning percentage in a year that it played more than 10 matches.

The USA won all five tournaments it entered, none of them in the United States:
January: Four Nations Tournament in China
March: Algarve Cup in Portugal
April: Olympic Qualifying in Mexico
June: Peace Queen Cup in South Korea
August: 2008 Olympics in China

The U.S. team that won the 2008 Olympic gold medal