Thursday, December 18, 2008

That's All Folks!

This is likely the final WNT Blog post of 2008. No tears, please. All good things must come to an end you know, and for now, so too must the WNT Blog. At least for the remainder of this year. We'll be back in late January when the U.S. women reconvene for a training camp, but for now it's time to focus on family and loved ones during the holidays and reflect warmly on all the great things that happened this year, on the field and off. So to all you WNT fans out there, thanks for the great support and we'll see you in 2009. Porky says Peace Out.

Happy Holidays from the WNT!

This guy says it all. The WNT players and staff wish you and yours a very Happy Holidays and a great New Year.

Thanks Detroit

Kudos also to the more than 11,000 fans who showed up on a freezing Wednesday night at Ford Field to watch the final match of the year for the U.S. women. Of course, it was 70 degrees inside Ford Field, but the fans had to drive through the snow and sludge to get there. It was a great way to end an historic year, not only with a victory - the USA's 25th shutout of the year -- but with a big and appreciative crowd. The team wishes it could have put a few more in the net, but once again great defense by the USA earned the victory. So thanks to all those who came out to make the 2008 finale a fun one and hopefully it won't be another 15 years before the WNT gets back to Detroit.

I'll Have the Double-Double

Kudos to Heather O'Reilly for scoring her 10th goal of the year last night against China, which along with her 10 assists, make her just the sixth player in U.S. history to score double-figures in goals and assists in a calendar year. The others? Well, you've probably heard of Mia Hamm, who did it five times. Carin Gabarra, the MVP of the 1991 WWC did it once, as did Shannon MacMillan and Tiffeny Milbrett. Abby Wambach has done it twice, including this year, when she scored 13 goals with 10 assists before breaking her leg.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Snow is Glistening...

It's snowing in Detroit.

About 3-4 inches are expected to fall tonight which of course won't impact the match against China tomorrow as it's being played indoors and according to locals, won't impact the locals too much either, who apparently treat 3-4 inches of snow as a Californian would treat one inch of rain.

The team went out to dinner at a restaurant that was a short distance from the hotel, but it was a snowy walk through a winter wonderland that everyone seemed to enjoy, including Christie Rampone who crafted some snowballs (above), and her daughter Rylie, who seemed to rejoice in throwing mini-snowballs at Rampone's teammates, and her mom.

Italian dinner...gooooood.

Welcome Home, Michiganders

Gold Medal Michiganders Markgraf and Tarpley

It will be a special match tomorrow night for two U.S. players who will be playing in their home state for the first time with the U.S. Women's National Team. Both Kate Markgraf (formerly Kate Sobrero when she attended Detroit Country Day) and Lindsay Tarpley endured some cold winters of training during their formative years to get to the National Team so it seems only appropriate that they will get to play indoors at Ford Field where the weather will be a balmy 70 degrees! The Michiganders have certainly left their mark on the National Team, with both players' bios chocked full of accomplishments that have secured their spots in U.S. WNT history and both have surely made the soccer community in Michigan very proud. Markgraf will have a least 35 friends/family at the match. Tarpley, who hails from Kalamazoo, where she attended Portage Central High School and as a senior was named Michigan’s Miss Soccer and the state’s Gatorade Player of the Year, should have a large group coming down from K-Zoo, depending on how much snow falls tonight, that is. I think now is the time to say, "Can we get a Region II shout out please?" "Region II!"

Q&A w/ Pia

Pia Sundhage took some time after training today to speak with a group of youth soccer coaches from Michigan, talking about the USA's run to the gold medal as well as the strengths of her team and what the U.S. women need to improve to stay on top of the world. After her talk, she answered a bunch of questions. During one answer, she shared a quote that crystallized her goals of moving the USA towards a more technical, creative and unpredictable attack, while still maintaining the fantastic defense and legendary winning mentality so closley associated with the U.S. team. To paraphrase, she compared the growth of women's soccer in the southern European countries to the historic strengths of the nothern European countries saying, "(in the north), we take care of the goal, (in the south), they take care of the ball." Bounce that around in the 'noggin for a bit.

Last Practice of 2008

The U.S. team ran through its final training of 2008 today at Ford Field, spending just over an hour shaking out the legs and getting used to the fast pace of the artificial surface. It will be the USA's fourth match of the year on the fake stuff. In what has been a fantastic year for the entire U.S. Women's National Team programs, with the gold medal at the Olympics, the championship at the U-20 Women's World Cup and the second place finish at the U-17 WWC, U.S. head coach Pia Sundhage had one of the lightest pre-game trainings of what has been a challenging 2008 schedule that has taken the USA to six countries and 11 different states. In a meeting after lunch, Sundhage made a point of thanking her players and her staff for the wonderful year and fantastic journey that will continue in 2009 as she has signed a four-year deal to stay on as head coach of the WNT.

Monday, December 15, 2008


In case you didn't see, announced the first four 2008 Best of U.S. Soccer Awards today and the 'ole WNT Blog picked up a bronze. That's right, for the second year in a row, the WNT Blog finished third behind Soccer By Ives and Soccer Insider (Steve Goff's always entertaining Blog for the Washington Post). Last year Goff edged Ives, but this year Ives flipped Goff. Still, coming on strong with 14% of the vote was the WNT Blog, which apparently did win the electoral college, but not the popular vote. (We're big in California, Texas and Florida). But we digress (as we are known to do on the WNT Blog). Thanks VERY MUCH to all the fans who read the blog and who voted for us this year, because as we all know, blogin' ain't easy. The WNT Blog will take much-needed break after this match vs. China on Wednesday, but will be back in late January as the U.S. team regroups to begin its 2009 schedule.

Welcome to Detroit

After a nice Sunday off in Los Angeles, the U.S. team left a rainy Southern California this morning for the flight to chilly Detroit. The flight was delayed as someone found some water under a seat and in order to make sure the problem was fixed, they had to "pressurize" the cabin, meaning that everyone who was already on the plane (about 75% maybe?) had to de-plane. They got the problem fixed, re-boarded and the flight was smooth with the team landing in Detroit at about 6:40 p.m. Temperatures have dipped into the teens tonight and a high of 26 degrees is forecast for tomorrow. That's right, a high of 26. Thank goodness for domed stadiums, as the USA will train at Ford Field tomorrow for its one practice in Detroit before taking on China there on Wednesday night. Fans can follow the final U.S. WNT match of 2008 on's MatchTracker. The U.S. team is staying at a wonderful hotel here in suburban Detroit that features a very "Christmas-y" fireplace in the lobby. If you are anywhere cold, just stare at this pic for a while. It should warm you up.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Off to Detroit...Brrrrrrrrrrr

The U.S. WNT spent Sunday in Los Angeles after defeating China on Saturday night, and will leave for Detroit on Monday morning to prepare for the match against China at Ford Field on Wednesday night at 7:30 p.m. ET. It will be the last game of the year for the USA and (thankfully) the first game indoors. It's in the 20s and 30s in Detroit, but of course Ford Field is one of them fancy new domed stadiums. The temps in Michigan represent at least a 20-30 degree drop from "winter" in California, but since the only time the team will have to be outside is going from the airport to the hotel, or the hotel to training and the game (as well as shopping, movies, Starbucks runs, etc.), the WNT players should be fine. The cold will bring back fond memories for Michigan natives Lindsay Tarpley and Kate Markgraf, who grew up in the state playing their youth soccer in chilly temps for part of the year. Tarpley said she has trained in the snow many, many times. Fortunately, she won't have to do that this week. The USA is hoping for a victory in front of the win-starved Detroit fans who haven't seen a "football" victory yet this season.

Up, Up and Away

After countless practices at The Home Depot Center in which the U.S. WNT players have seen the Goodyear Blimp float overhead, a few players finally got a blimp-eye view of what the HDC looks like instead of vice-versa. The west coast blimp, the Spirit of America, is based just minutes from the HDC, right around the corner in fact, and the PR folks at Goodyear invited the Olympic gold medallists to take a ride (it's invitation only and not so easy to get one), but because there are only six passenger seats and the team's schedule was packed this week, just six players got the honor. Shannon Boxx, a Torrance, Calif., native was one who took a ride and she got to see her house and her high school. The players also got to cruise over the Pacific Ocean as well. The verdict? If you ever get the chance to take a blimp ride, do it.

First Goal for Tina

Defenders love when they get the chance to play forward and shoot!

It was a pretty entertaining match between the USA and China on Saturday night at The Home Depot Center, with some good soccer played by both teams. Highlights of the match included Amy Rodriguez' play as a second half sub -- she set up the winning goal with a powerful dribbling run that showed why she could be an impact player for the USA for years to come -- as well as a first international goal from Tina Ellertson. The goal came in her 33rd cap and first start for the USA at forward, her college position at the University of Washington where she was a two-time Pac-10 Player of the Year. After sliding to knock the ball into the net, Ellertson rolled on her back and did a celebration shimmy on the ground that she described as "a dead worm." It was a great moment for Tina and the team as it's always fun when someone gets their first-ever goal, especially when it's a defender and especially when it's a game-winner. You may recall Kate Markgraf's first goal on a penalty kick against Ireland on Sept. 20. That came in Markgraf's 193rd cap, but of course she's never had the opportunity to play forward. Hmmmm? With the last game of the year in her hometown of Detroit, Michigan coming up? Could Pia Sundhage throw Markgraf up top to display her striker skills? Ok, not gonna happen. She's already got her first goal anyway.

The New Craze in Celebrations: The Dead Worm