Saturday, January 24, 2009

Carli Lloyd Answers Your Questions

Thanks very much for your questions for U.S. midfielder Carli Lloyd. There were some excellent ones this time and we’re sorry that we could not answer them all. We’ve chosen a select few for Carli to field as she lounged at the team hotel in an FC Barcelona t-shirt. (It’s her favorite club). So here we go…

Synsyn23 asked: What do you feel is the best piece of advice you could give to a college soccer player who hopes to become as skilled as you someday?

Carli: “I really think that the important work on your skills is done at a young age. Hopefully, you loved the game enough to go out and play as much as possible when you were a little girl and now that is paying off. Of course, you can always work to improve your ability with the ball, but I feel like college is the place where you get mentally and physically tougher. It’s also a special four years where you really grow as a person off the field and that can help you develop your maturity as a player as well.”

Zoe asked: Was there ever a time in your soccer playing career that you didn't make a certain team or roster? If so, how did you deal with that and what did you do to make it the next time around?

Carli: “I’ve struggled in a lot of different environments…when I tried out for ODP, when I first came in with the U.S. U-21s and of course trying to break into the full National Team. I’ve found that nothing is ever easy when you are trying to reach the highest levels. Even when I first broke into the National Team in 2005, I was left off a few game rosters. One thing I always did was kept working hard. Sometimes it’s hard to find the self-confidence, and I admit at times mine wavered, but you have to keep believing that you belong here and be smart about doing the things that will help you impress the coaches and contribute to the team’s success. Making the National Team is to be among the most elite of players, so there is bound to be some failure along the way. It happens to everyone, but the players that stick are the ones that learn from their mistakes and keep improving.”

Changy12 asked: It seems like you always score goals at the right place and the right time. But whenever you take a shot do you ever feel really nervous or are you more relaxed and collected? And during the Olympics against Brazil, after you connected with the ball, did you know that it was going to go in?

Carli: “That’s a lot of questions Changy, but I’ll do my best. I am always looking to shoot in games, but since I’ve trained so many hours and put in all the hard work, scoring a goal in a game happens by instinct. You are never nervous. Getting a chance to shoot is more fun than nerve-wracking. In the Olympic gold medal game, I knew that when the shot left my foot that I had hit it well. You never know if a goalkeeper is going to make a great save, but it happened to take a dip at the right time and skidded under the goalkeeper. I have to say, I was kind of in shock when it went in. Overtime. Gold medal game. It was just amazing.”

Jelly asked: Off the pitch, what is the most amazing thing you have done (sky diving, bull riding, serving for a week building a house for a family, etc.)? What could be included on a list of things you would like to do in your spare time?

Carli: “I was on the Eureka Sky Deck in Melbourne, Australia, that is the highest public vantage point in the southern hemisphere. It’s basically sort of a glass cube/observation deck that moves out 10 feet from the building when you are lying face down looking through the glass about 1,000 feet up. I was completely sweating. Feet, palms, the whole thing. It was the scariest thing I’ve ever done. As far as my spare time, I do things much less exciting than that. I talk on my phone a lot, text, sometimes I scrapbook and certainly watch a lot of shows on my DVD player. That’s basically the life of someone who spends so much time on the road.”

Blacke12 asked: Does all the traveling ever wear you down or make you jet lagged? How do you recover from such long trips such as the 12 hour flight to China and still have enough energy to perform as well as you do on the field?

Carli: “That’s a good question because a lot of times people forget how hard it is to fly across the world and have to perform at a high level. I make sure to really hydrate on the plane ride over there and keep hydrating the whole time. Eating good food is also important and for sure getting in a good workout right when you get there helps the legs a lot. You really have to try to adjust your sleep patterns right away, and fortunately I’ve never had a problem doing that. Some players on the team really struggle with their sleep in other time zones, but I guess I’m just a really good sleeper.”

Carli shows how to hydrate on the road

Kate asked: I am assuming you were like every child one day dreaming of going to the Olympics and World Cup, winning the game for your country and team. But when did you actually start to think, "wait I can actually do that" and what made you think that? Thanks and great job in China!!!

Carli: “To be honest, it was just a couple years ago that I thought I might be able to excel at this level. It really happened when I did a 180-degree change with my training habits, which helped me become confident and certainly much fitter. I came to the realization that I needed to make some changes in my work ethic or I just wasn’t going to make it on the National Team. I had a lot help in my coaches and trainers and when you start to get some success, you just want to do more.”

Agatasoccerchick asked: It's so cool that we may ask you a question. I have two for you. First of all, what do you guys like to do as a team (National Team)? My other one is, because I am getting a tattoo in short future. It will be a National Team logo with a word underneath it, can you please help me pick a word, something like dedication, commitment, sacrifice or maybe you have something else? Thank you sooooo much!

Carli: “Thanks for the questions and I’m glad you guys got the chance to ask me some questions as well. As far as what we do together as a team, we do a lot of things when we’re on the road, but nothing too exciting. We’ll go shopping, to movies, to the beach and of course we love to play with the kids whose moms our on the team. In the past, we’ve spent so much time together that you have to find ways to fill the downtime, but a lot us like to chill in our rooms as well because training certainly takes a lot out of you. As far as the tattoo, this might be a question for Natasha Kai. I really don’t think I should be suggesting a word that will be permanently inscribed on your body. I do think tattoos are a personal thing, and if you do get one, it’s got to come from your heart and your experience. If watching us play for the National Team brings any certain emotions from you, maybe that’s a good word to choose. So now I am record with your mom as not suggesting anything!”

Carli during her downtime

Tickets to the Sacha Kljestan Show

Stephanie Coxx, Ella Masar and Rachel Buehler take in some MNT action at The HDC
The entire U.S. team attended the U.S. Men's National Team game vs. Sweden tonight at The Home Depot Center where they were treated to a five-goal shoot-out that ended 3-2 for the good guys. U.S. midfielder Sacha Kljestan scored all three U.S. goals, his first for the full National Team, including a hat-trick capping strike that turned out to be a game-winner. It was created off a fantastic control and beautiful pass from Brian Ching just seconds after Sweden had pulled a goal back to make it 2-1. The game should be good motivation for the U.S. players, who will play their first 11 v. 11 scrimmages of the training camp on Sunday afternoon, which will be a prime chance to make their case for an Algarve Cup roster spot.

Congrats Heather and Angie!

The USA's two newest brides-to-be...

Two members of the U.S. Women's National Team came into training camp with a little extra weight on their left ring fingers as defender Heather Mitts and midfielder Angie Woznuk are both engaged to be married. Heather will be marrying AJ Feeley, who is a quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles while Angie will tie the knot with Adam Kerr, who works as a nurse in the intensive care unit of a veteran's hospital in Portland, Oregon. Mitts will be getting married about a year from now, while Woznuk's nuptials will be next August. Kerr, by the way, is from Montana, so life-long San Diegan Woznuk can now be considered as something of an outdoors-woman. We hear that while visiting our nation's 41st state, she's been hiking, fly-fishing, hunting grizzly bear with a bow and arrow, participated in an excavation searching for fossilized dinosaur eggs, and gone white-water rafting in class 5 rapids. Ok, she went just hiking, but she loves Montana and says it's beautiful. Even as beautiful as San Diego.

Friday, January 23, 2009

First Week: Over

It was a mentally and physically demanding first week of Women's National Team training camp (well, four days), but the team will get Saturday off after a two-practice Friday that featured some intense 3 v. 3 and 1 v. 1 games as well as quite a bit of finishing. Today's trainings were played partly in rain, but that just made the slide tackles that much more fun. The entire U.S. team will attend the U.S. MNT match vs. Sweden tomorrow at The Home Depot Center and then hit the field again on Sunday for a pair of scrimmages. The competition for the 18 roster spots for the upcoming Algarve Cup is fierce as a number of younger players are battling for that plane ticket to Portugal. With 11 days of trainings still left to this camp, certainly the opportunities still abound.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Welcome to Pre-Season

The USA's 17-day camp is basically serving as a pre-season for the Women's National Team, with no international matches on the docket until the Algarve Cup in early march. The intensity level has been excellent and the fitness is also surprisingly good, although surely there are some sore muscles as training on your own is no match for double-days in a WNT camp. Today's two trainings and a weight session were excellent as the heat finally subsided in Los Angeles and a cool rain fell in the morning, making for perfect soccer weather. This training camp will be partially about tactics as Sundhage continues to mold the team, both offensively and defensively, according to her philosophy on how she wants the team to play. The team will have another double-day on Friday, then Saturday is off as the players will get the chance to attend USA vs. Sweden at The Home Depot Center as Bob Bradley's troops begin a big year for the MNT. The team will hit the field on Sunday with some rested legs for a full-field scrimmages.

Ask Carli

Carli Lloyd had a pretty good 2008. Career highs in goals and assists for the national team. The U.S. Soccer Female Athlete of the Year Award. Allocated to the Chicago Fire of the WPS. And oh yeah, she scored the winning goal in overtime in the Olympic gold medal game. So, in a special feature on the WNT Blog, we're giving you the chance to ask Carli some questions. (The first edition, "Ask Chups" with Lori Chalupny was quite successful). So, post your question(s) for Carli and we'll take a few of the good ones and have her respond in kind on the Blog in a few days. As always, we are looking for original, insightful and interesting questions. So go ahead, Ask Carli...

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Who are those guys with O'Reilly?

U.S. midfielder Heather O'Reilly traveled to Zurich, Switzerland two weekends ago to attend the FIFA Gala Awards at the magnificent Zurich Opera House and accept an award from FIFA President Sepp Blatter on behalf of women's soccer. You can read about that here, but the real fun, besides spending some time exploring the almost 800-year old city, was meeting some of the superstars of world soccer. We thinks you may know the boys in these pics. For probably about $300 mil, you can have them on your soccer team.

I Need Proof

You think the struggle between club and country creates some issues in the soccer world, you should see the struggle between school and country for the many college-aged athletes who have played for the U.S. Women's National Team over the years. For sure, it's a huge challenge to balance a heavy academic load with the commitment required to play for the U.S. WNT, and the U.S. players have long relied on the kindness of their professors to be flexible and understanding with missed classes, make-up tests, exams taken on the road, etc. Just this week young U.S. midfielder Tina DiMartino told one of her professors at UCLA that she would be missing class for this two-week training camp to play for the U.S. Women's National Team. The professor looked the five-foot-two DiMartino up and down and said incredulously, "I need proof." True, until she puts on her soccer cleats and becomes a dribbling dynamo, DiMartino, in her baggy sweats, may look more like a gymnast or a 10,000-meter runner, but we are talking about a player that finished in the top three for this season's Hermann Trophy (the Heisman of soccer), has played for the USA in U-20 Women's World Cup and has one cap for the WNT, a game in which she got an assist. So, for proof, see above pic, and if needed this link.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

And Then There Was One...

The ten-year anniversary of the 1999 FIFA Women's World Cup will happen this summer. Of the 20 players that represented the USA in that historic tournament -- to this day the largest women's sporting event in history -- only one remains. That would be U.S. captain Christie Rampone. Of course, while most of the players are retired, several of the them are still active, and could be called back to the WNT in the future, but Rampone was the only veteran of that legendary 1999 WWC Team called into this training January camp. Rampone, then Christie Pearce, did not play much in that 1999 WWC, but would go on to play major roles in the next two Women's World Cups and next three Olympic Games. Rampone (third row, second from right, under the e) comes into 2009 with 211 caps, fifth best all-time in U.S. history.

Yes, We Can

As the U.S. Women's National Soccer Team begin a new era on Jan. 20, kicking off its next cycle toward the 2011 Women's World Cup and the 2012 Olympics, so did the United States with the inauguration of Barack Obama. In December of 2007, new U.S. head coach Pia Sundhage came to the USA with a message of change for the WNT program while the Senator from Illinois was well into his campaign for President based on that same word. Sundhage's changes reaped gold on Aug. 21 in Beijing, China, and for Obama, it all came to fruition today (well, last Nov. 4 as well). Unfortunately, most of the U.S. players were traveling into Los Angeles this morning so they were only able to see bits and pieces of the historic day. Many caught enough to share some thoughts with the WNT Blog.

Abby Wambach lives in Los Angeles and was able to watch the whole day on TV

“When I woke up this morning and saw not just the festivities, but the amazing amount of people that were there, you wouldn’t be human if you couldn’t feel how powerful a moment it was and how far we have come. The speech was amazing and the whole day has been amazing. Just being a woman and having to fight for those rights for however long, I can’t imagine how he must have felt and I’m proud to be an American today.”

Lindsay Tarpley saw the speech and part of the parade

“Just seeing all the people piled into the mall and all over all the buildings, it was amazing to see how many people were excited about this day. After watching the speech, he called us to action and that was inspiring to me. He’s such a powerful and charismatic leader.”

Angela Hucles saw it as a culmination of an amazing two-year campaign that enlightened America

“What’s been exciting about this election is that it forced people to pay attention and not be apathetic like I feel we have been in the past. It’s exciting to see people in this country actually taking action and personal responsibility and paying attention to politics in a different and positive way.”

Shannon Boxx had to go out in the morning on errands, forgot to record Obama’s speech, and ran back in to set her DVR

“My emotions, first listening to it in the car, and then watching on TV, were that I just felt a part of it, like I was a part of something big. I am excited for change.”

Heather O’Reilly is 23 years old and was traveling from New York City today

“I missed most of inauguration day flying from New York, but this day will go down in history and it was cool to be part of the youth movement -- this young generation -- that was so important for this election and that really made a push for him. Our country is excited and hopeful and that’s a cool feeling. And if Sasha and Malia need a soccer trainer, I am available.”

Both of Tina Ellertson’s parents emigrated from Africa to attend college in the USA

“My parents loved it. My mom threw a party for every speech he had. Grown women screaming and shouting, and men too. They are just ecstatic. I don’t think I’ve ever seen my mom so happy.”

Abby Wam-BACK!

If the volume at training today was just a few decibels louder than usual, it's probably because it was Abby Wambach's first practice with the U.S. team since breaking her leg in the final Olympic tuneup match on July 16 of last year. The 5-foot-11 forward may not be 100% fit (heck, who is at this time of the year?), but she participated fully in training and yes, scored at least one goal that we saw. Long one of the USA's most emotional and loquacious players, Abby looked like she was having as much or more fun than anyone out there. Who cares if she could hardly breath after it was done? After her horrific injury against Brazil (she still has a titanium rod in her leg), Wambach has met her goal of getting back on the field in six months, and the USA once again has one of its leaders back in the fold.

Eye on Germany

The U.S. Women's National Soccer Team returned to the field today for the first time in 2009 as head coach Pia Sundhage put 25 players (well, 24 as Tobin Heath had travel issues) through a pretty intense 90-minute workout. There was definitely an energy to the practice as team seemed genuinely pleased to be together once again in what marks a first step on the long road to the 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup in Germany. With the U.S. MNT practicing on the adjacent fields at the same time, the Home Depot Center soccer fields were buzzing with activity on a warm, luxurious night in Los Angeles. This was the first of what will be about 17 trainings and four scrimmages over the 17-day training camp, after which Sundhage will choose 18 players to attend the 2009 Algarve Cup in Portugal, one of the most coveted trips for U.S. players due to the location (south coast of Portugal), the food (best pizza and crepes you'll find in Portugal) and of course the competition (almost all the best teams in Europe + China). While there will be many games, many trips, many players and the start of the new pro league before the next Women's World Cup, it's time to start the bus. The journey to Germany has begun...