Saturday, March 7, 2009

Brush With Greatness

Kacey White is buddies with Lindsay Tarpley, but when she was 11, she met another U.S. forward

U.S. midfielder Kacey White shared a cute story with us the other night. It seems that when she was 11 years old (in 1995), she attended the U.S. Women's National Team match vs. Canada at Lake Highlands High School in Dallas, Texas (Kacey hails from close by Arlington). The U.S. had just administered a 9-1 beating in front of what was at the time the largest crowd ever to watch the U.S. women in the United States (6,145). After the game, there were hundreds of screaming girls begging for Mia Hamm's autograph. Hamm, who spent part of her early years in Texas, was playing in one of her home states for the first time (Alabama and Virginia also count her as a local) and was just starting to become a global icon. We'll let Kacey tell the rest:

"I was pressed up against a fence, screaming like the rest of the girls and it looked like Mia wasn't going to come over to our area. My mom decided to take action and yelled Mia's name and something like 'HEY MIA, I PLAYED WITH YOU IN A TOURNAMENT WICHITA FALLS, TEXAS!' As soon as Mia heard Wichita Falls and saw my mom, she made a bee-line over to where we were standing. It turns out that my mom played with Mia when Mia was 13 years old, my mom was 24 and I was sixth months old. I don't know if Mia remembered my mom, but she definitely remembered playing in the tournament and she signed me and my friend's program and hardly anyone else got something signed because security ushered her away! In that moment, my mom was the ultimate hero. And she still is! I seriously felt so cool. It was so out of character for my mom to do something like that, but to this day I still think it was such a great thing to do for your daughter. To this day, I try to sign as many autographs as I can after games because I just remember how happy that made me."

Two words: Sand Castles

The U.S. team competition continued today in a unique fashion at the Algarve Cup with a sand castle building contest. As a reminder, the players are competing in a series of on and off the field games during the Algarve Cup, earning individual points with a grand champion to be crowned at the end of the tournament. Today's winning team members got a whopping six points each. The teams were divided into groups by positions: goalkeepers vs. defenders vs. midfielders vs. forwards with three judges -- goalkeeper coach Paul "Simon" Rogers, Erica "Kara" Walsh and Pam "Paula" Durant rating each creation on the its theme, creativity, overall architecture and team work. In the end, it was the defenders who took top honors in a very, very tight race. While this competition has been settled, we are willing to open up the vote to the fans. Keep in mind, the pics do not do these sand castles justice as several (we won't say which) were quite creative and eye-catching. In fact, a few old English couples sauntered up to take a few pics and we think they thought a professional sand sculpture contest was underway. (Ok, not really). Vote away.

THE FORWARDS: We wish we would have gotten a better aerial view of the Castle of Love, but suffice it to say that this could be the prettiest castle, with excellent utilization of flowers and (claimed Amy Rodriguez) 600 rocks.

MIDFIELDERS: We swear this castle looked better in person. It was wedding theme. You can see the wedding cake to the left and the bride and groom on the right. There is also a huge church built around it. Carli Lloyd even found a really nice rock that served as a wedding ring. Said the middies: "You have to appreciate all the nuances." We're not sure the judges did.

DEFENDERS: They called this masterpiece Destiny and utilized fresh kelp, flowers and bamboo looking sticks, as well as castle turrets, sand drips and shells. Well played defenders, well played.

GOALKEEPERS: With just two goalkeepers, Hope Solo and Nicole Barnhart created this "Under the Sea" sculpture that was formulated by Barnhart. We're not sure if it was a seal, mermaid or walrus, so we'll just call it a MerHopeRus. It also had little sea creatures around it: a turtle, a seahorse and a fish.

Finally, Sun

After 10 days of cloudy skies, wind and rain here in the Algarve, the sun finally came out on Saturday, bathing the south coast of Portugal in warm, comforting rays that the team has gotten to know so well at this tournament. The gusting winds even calmed and instead of providing chills, there was a nice cooling breeze. The U.S. team is hoping for a nice day on Monday for its Group B finale against Norway, especially on the wind-o-meter (is that a meteorological term?) as the wind wrecked havoc with the soccer ball in the USA's match with Iceland last Friday.

Sugar and Spice, and More Spice

With two days off before the next game, almost all the U.S. players decided to indulge in another Algarve Cup ritual for dinner tonight...Indian food. While the Indian restaurant that the players usually dine at is closed this year during the tourist off-season, the players ventured to Bombay Palace and had a wonderful meal, most notably of chicken tiki marsala, butter chicken, chicken korma and chicken curry (yes, the WNT likes chicken) along with several different kinds of nan bread. Yummy. With full stomachs, the players walked back to the hotel, but not without a stop for several of them for some ice cream and crepes. Yep, it's good eatin' in the Algarve.

Friday, March 6, 2009


Natasha Kai celebrates her 90th-minute game-winner against Iceland

When watching a soccer game we must remember that it lasts 90 minutes...and the USA used every one of them today against Iceland as Natasha Kai scored a spectacular goal with about 30 seconds left in regulation time. The goal, a chest collection off a long ball, a flick over a defender and a perfect half-volley, was a work of art. Chest, bounce, flick, bounce, boom!!!

When asked after the match if it was her greatest ever goal, Kai said no, she prefers her diving header game-winner against Canada in the 2008 Olympic quarterfinal. The WNT Blog will say this, and stand by it, that while the goal against Canada was certainly great and perhaps her MOST IMPORTANT ever goal, this one was surely the GREATEST of the 24 for she has scored for the National Team. This goal was also important as it gave the USA the group title and a berth in the championship game after Denmark defeated Norway, 2-0. Had the USA tied 0-0, both Iceland and Denmark would have had a shot at the championship game depending on the results from the final group match day on March 9.

To see more videos, visit's youtube page.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Ferreiras Can Be As Cold as Ice

Carli Lloyd and Iceland captain Katrin Jonsdottir in the most recent match between the two sides in 2006 in Richmond, Va.
The U.S. Women's National Team plays tomorrow against Iceland at Ferreiras, a small stadium very close to the team hotel. The U.S. Women are 5-0-0 at this venue during the Algarve Cup, most recently defeating Finland there 1-0 in 2007, but the stadium is notorious for gusting, whipping winds. This is also the stadium in which more than once a stray dog has run on the field during the game, and refused to leave. The rain seems to have stopped here in the Algarve, so everyone is hoping for a nice and wind-free, not too mention dog-free, day.

The Competition Continues...

The almost daily competition amongst the U.S. players at the Algarve Cup continued today with a post-practice challenge that we like to call "Closest to the Wall." The players, in teams of two, tried to get a soccer ball to stop closest to a wall adjecent to the field on what was about a 50-yard kick. The winners? A very happy Heather Mitts and Kendall Fletcher. (See above). Mitts kick stopped just a few feet from the wall. The defenders seem to be ruling the competitions this trip. Tonight, there was another competition -- WNT Trivia - that pitted the Blonds vs. the Brunettes. Each team had to answer 10 questions, five multiple choice and five in which they had to know the answers. The Brunettes edged the Blonds to earn the overall competition points for the dark-haired players. Below is an example of some of the questions from the game.

How many players have been capped in the history of the full U.S. Women's National Team?
a) 113
b) 182
c) 221
d) 302

Counting youth and senior Women's World Cups, and the Olympic Games tournaments, which player on the Algarve Cup roster has scored the most goals in world championship tournaments?

The players got both of the above correct. Can you match the WNT's knowledge?

Map Maker

You might have read in a earlier blog post about the map that U.S. goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart was making for Christie Rampone's daughter Rylie to help her learn her colors (the three year-old is still sorting out her oranges from her yellows). As avid blog readers might know, Barnhart has quite an artistic side, as one of her major's at Stanford was art studio. That talent sometimes manifests itself in some unusual ways, see above. We didn't know she was so good at drawing monkeys?

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Air Wozzy Flight 12 Cleared for Takeoff

Hug me!

If you are a coach, you have to love young players scoring big goals in a big game, especially as they had combined for a grand total of 7 caps and 1 goal coming into the match. That's what happened today as Angie Woznuk and Tina DiMartino, incredibly skillful players not previously known as "mudders" scored in the rain in Lagos, Portugal, their second and first-ever goals respectively. Woznuk's half-volley from a near impossible angle was, dare we say, "Hamm-like" and she topped if off with her trademark airplane celebration. Give DiMartino credit for an opportunistic goal as the USA's smallest player was first to the rebound of a Natasha Kai header against the towering Danes.

Tina D sneaks in to finish smartly, nutmegging the out of frame Danish player at the left post

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Game Time

It's been 76 days since the U.S. team laced up the boots for a full international match and to talk to the players, it's time to get back to work. The USA will open the Algarve Cup tomorrow, March 4, taking on Denmark in Lagos, Portugal in the first match since a Dec. 17, 2008, victory over China. Fans can follow the USA-Denmark clash on's MatchTracker at 7 a.m. ET. If you are on the West Coast, well, you can check the score when you get up.

There's Only One Rachel Buehler

A Canadian gets Buehlered
She's the kind of player everyone wants on their team. Find out why U.S. defender Rachel Buehler makes teammates smile and opponents cringe in this special feature on


U.S. head coach Pia Sundhage has named defender Lori Chalupny as the team’s co-captain. Defender Kate Markgraf was the team’s co-captain, but is taking time off due to her pregnancy. The honor for Chalupny comes on the eve of what will be her 88th cap for the USA when the team opens the Algarve Cup against Denmark. Defender Christie Rampone is of course the U.S. captain, and will continue to wear the armband during matches, but if for some reason she was not the on the field, the band would go to Chalupny, who will also take on more leadership responsibilities on and off the field. One of the USA’s most consistent performers over the past five years, the “Ginger Princess” has been hailed as one of the best left backs in the world and has shown to be one of the USA’s most talented all-around players.

Chalupny on being named co-captain:
“It’s obviously a huge honor and when Pia came to me, I have to admit I was a bit surprised. I am embracing the role and will do whatever Pia asks of me. It hasn’t been that long since I broke into the national team and I feel I can help the young players along in their development. Leadership is something that is shared by all the players on this team, but I am going to do my best to help us keep having success and winning.”

U.S. head coach Pia Sundhage on selecting Chalupny as co-captain:
“In my eyes, Lori has improved her game a lot. She was fantastic in ’07 but even better in ’08. She leads by example like Christie Rampone. I want all the players on the field to always speak up and communicate, but as a captain, you don’t have to be loud. Christie and Lori are excellent players, but one of their greatest strengths is that they both lead by example. It’s also good to have someone who is younger than Christie Rampone. Lori is coming from the new generation and I am very interested to see how the new generation can help improve my coaching as well.”

Decisions, Decisions

If you are an Amy Rodriguez fan (and who isn't? Well, perhaps anyone who had to play against her in the Pac-10), you probably know that she often wears her trademark headband during games, especially her lucky green one. Not only is it functional to keep the wispy bangs out of her eyes, but they look good too. Damn good. As A-Rod is heading straight from Portugal to pre-season training with the Boston Breakers of the WPS, she had to bring her entire collection of head bands with her. At left, she displays her current collection. Which one will she wear tomorrow against Denmark? It could be a game-time decision. But the blue one with stars (above) is pretty cute.

Singing in the Rain (in Seville)

Here is a pic of a few players on the slick streets of Seville, Spain. (How's that for alliteration?). As you can see, it rained during the visit to the more than 2,000-year old city, so the players adapted and bought some paraguas. Kendall Fletcher and Rachler Buehler even got polka dot paraguas.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Blue Hawaii

After the U.S. team returned from Spain, almost the whole squad decided to go to dinner at a local eatery called The American Diner. While the food is quite good, and even somewhat like home (especially the breakfast), the decor is even better, with many slices of 1950s-era Americana decorating the restaurant. Above, U.S. forward Natasha Kai, who has been known to croon a few songs herself, hangs out with the guy who greets everyone when you walk through the door. And oh yeah, the milkshakes are quite good too.

He's No Marmaduke

In the tourist off-season, the Algarve region can surely be called sleepy. And with the current economic crunch in Europe keeping tourists away even more, it's even sleepier this year. And if anything embodies that leisurely spirit, it's the Algarve dogs who seem to have very few cares in the world as they sleep away the days. Yes, past Algarve Cups have seen several dogs run on the field to delay play, but we think this big boy has better things to do. Like wait until this restaurant opens so he can get some snacks.

Pantheon of Players

There are quite a few soccer pubs in Albufeira where the USA is based at the Algarve Cup and we stopped at one to snap this pic of a bunch of players who may be one-dimensional on the wall, but are certainly not on the soccer field. Can you name all the world class players in this pic? Hint: One of them was the 2007 Algarve Cup MVP and leading scorer.


While it's nothing compared to the blizzard hitting the eastern part of the USA, it was quite rainy in the usually sunny Algarve today. Which was unfortunate, as it was the day off from training for the U.S. team. About 75% of the squad headed east to spend the afternoon in Seville, a beautiful Spanish city not far from the Portugal border. It was also rainy in Seville, but that didn't stop the U.S. players from touring around the city, doing a bit of shopping and having a nice lunch of tapas. Unfortunately, the forecast is for more rain tomorrow during the USA's final pre-Algarve practice, and then again on Wednesday for the Denmark match. The Algarve can be quite windy on any given day, but add in some rain and there could be some adverse conditions for the tournament openers on March 4. The USA-Denmark match is probably the marquee match-up on the first day as it pits the participants in the last two Algarve Cup Finals, but Sweden vs. China will also certainly be interesting.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

O'Reilly's Algarve

If you are an avid follower of, you remember Heather O'Reilly's tour of the Guangdong Olympic Training Center in Guangzhou, China. Well, since she was such a good tour guide the first time, we had Heather show the all_access video camera around Albufeira in Portugal where the U.S. team is based. We'll try to get some video up on Heather's walkabout in the near future. We think she might be a good candidate for her own show on the Travel Channel.

Long Ball Champs - SD Rules

The U.S. team held another team competition after training today, this one consisting of hitting long balls into a relatively small area on a fence surrounding the field, with increased distances from each round. It was basically kicking field goals with a soccer ball. Today's champs? Rachel Buehler and Angie Woznuk, but truth be told, Buehler carried the day. The way the game works is that each partner gets a chance to make it, and just one needs to suceed to move to the next round. If the first player makes it, the second doesn't have to try. Woznuk never took a kick. Buehler made it every time, smacking her last one from 40 yards out. "This game plays to my strengths," said the central defender. Below, Heather O'Reilly does her best Cristiano Ronaldo impression as she lines up her attempt.

Hello Hege

U.S. Women's National Team head coach Pia Sundhage continues to be the Barack Obama of women's soccer. First, she brought change, new ideas, and some exciting cultural diplomacy to the U.S. team and now she is reaching out to "the other side of the aisle." Everyone knows that Swedes have the same relationship with Norwegians as do Texans with Oklahomans (ok, maybe not that fierce a rivalry), but Sundhage has hired Norwegian legend Hege Riise to join her coaching staff. You can read about the appointment here. The irony of Riise, a long-time "friendly" rival of the U.S. team and of Sundhage when played internationally for Sweden, is not lost on many, but it just goes to show that in the world of international soccer, everyone can get along. Riise, one of the greatest players of her generation, earned the Golden Ball at the 1995 FIFA Women's World Cup as Norway lifted the trophy and captained her country for many years. Riise will be at Sundhage's side for the Algarve Cup, a tournament she played in many times for Norway (the first 14 years ago!) and we have to say, Hege, you look great in U.S. gear!