Saturday, May 23, 2009

Matriculating to the WNT

We don't know how much PT they will get on Monday, but props to the four collegiate players that U.S. head coach Pia Sundhage has called in four this event, all of whom have represented the USA at a FIFA youth Women’s World Cup. The players have just 17 caps between them, but 16 of those belong to Lauren Cheney, one of the top forwards in the country at UCLA and a member of the gold medal-winning 2008 Olympic Team. Cheney, who has scored 53 goals in three seasons for the Bruins, was a late addition to the Olympic roster, replacing Abby Wambach after she suffered a broken leg in the final pre-Olympic match. Midfielder Christine Nairn, a Penn State freshman and a member of the 2008 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup champions last fall in Chile, gets her second call up after training with the USA in January, but is looking for her first senior team cap. Sundhage also called up forward Casey Nogueira, a member of the USA’s 2006 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup Team in Russia, who had a fantastic junior season at North Carolina last year, pounding in 25 goals with eight assists including both scores in the NCAA title game victory against Notre Dame. She picked up a slew of national player of the year awards after the season. Nogueira earned her lone cap at the 2007 Four Nations Tournament in China, playing the first half against England. Goalkeeper Kelsey Davis from the University of Portland also gets a call up, earning the opportunity to train alongside veterans Hope Solo and Nicole Barnhart. A long-time veteran of the USA’s youth national teams, Davis was the back-up goalkeeper at the 2004 FIFA U-19 Women’s World Cup in Thailand and the 2006 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup in Russia and was a member of the U.S. U-23 Women’s National Team that won the 2007 Nordic Cup in Finland. No matter how much these players get to play against Canada, with the Women's World Cup two years away, the time is now to invest in young players to see if they can make an impact down the road.

Lloyd Hurt: Gruesome, but Not Serious

U.S. midfielder Carli Lloyd suffered a laceration to her left knee today in the USA's scrimmage and will not be available for the match against Canada on Monday. The injury, which was much worse looking than it actually was, occurred when she skidded on the ground after trying to cross a ball. She suffered a deep, 2.5 inch gash almost directly on the front of her kneecap. No one could figure out if it was a cleat that opened the wound, a rock, or just friction on the ground, but suffice it to say it was pretty gross. So much so that the WNT Blog has decided against posting a picture of it. But to give you visual image, it looked as if a small shark or a barracuda had chomped on her knee. She should be able to make up some good stories with the scar after she is all healed up. "So, I was snorkeling in Bermuda, and out of nowhere, a giant squid grabbed my leg!" Carli is fine, and in good spirits, but once again amazed at the freakishness of injuries she has suffered with the WNT, which includes a broken wrist after she lost her balance hitting a shot early in her career, and a broken nose. The U.S. medical staff, which did a great job cleaning, stitching (it took 5-6 stitches to close that sucker) and dressing the wound on the field, estimates about two weeks until she can get back on the field after the cut has healed and closed up well.

Turf Monsters

The USA's match on Monday against Canada will be played on the FieldTurf, but the Americans should be somewhat used to it by now, having played two matches on the fake stuff in the latter part of 2008 and three games total on plastic last year. No soccer player likes to play on an artificial surface, but the U.S. team has trained on it this week in Canada and finished its domestic schedule last year at Ford Field in Detroit inside the massive dome there. As far as we can figure, the USA has never lost a match on an artificial surface, although they did tie a game in Tromso, Norway in 2000 that was played on a real grass, plastic grass hybrid. You couldn't tell to look at it, but if you bent down, you could see the plastic blades among the real ones. Makes it more durable, which is needed in a place like Tromso where it’s totally dark for half the year. But we digress...If the USA has to play on an artificial surface, it's great to be playing in a fantastic soccer venue like BMO Field. Toronto FC won it's MLS match today against the New England Revolution, so the Canadians fans will be primed and ready for another good performance from their team come Monday. A crowd of 10,000 is possible, which would make for a great environment for the USA's first match in Canada since 2001.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Goal for the Ages

Here at the WNT Blog, we've unearthed a gem from the archives and we just had to share it with you. When Pia Sundhage was hired to coach the U.S. Women's National Team, part of her long soccer biography was the fact that in the 1984 European Women's Championships, she scored a goal for Sweden against England in Gothenburg in the first leg of the two-game Final. Sweden won that match, 1-0, and although they lost the return leg in England, 1-0, Sweden won on PKs to take its first and thus far only European crown. Sundhage scored the winning PK in that shootout. But back to Sundhage's goal. As you will see, it was a brave diving header that rivals anything Abby Wambach has produced in her 99 goals and Abby has scored some nasty goals for sure. Sundhage scored 71 goals in her 146 international matches, but this goal was perhaps one of her best and surely one of her most important. It also gives you a glimpse of why she finished sixth in the voting for FIFA Women's Player of the Century back in 2000. Keep in mind, this goal was scored 25 years ago! Yikes! So now, we're Gonna Fly Now. Well, Pia is.

Ghosting Past a Defender?

The U.S. team trained today at Allan Lamport Stadium in Toronto, a small venue (seats just under 10,000) that was built in the mid-1970s. The stadium, named after a former mayor of Toronto from the 1950s, was built on the site of the infamous Andrew Mercer Reformatory for Women, i.e, a prison. The prison opened in 1872 with the idealistic promise of a "homelike" atmosphere for its inmates, but in it's almost 100 years of existence earned a dark and dastardly reputation, and in 1969 it was closed and demolished. There has to be some irony that the site which was not a happy place for women would one day host the top-ranked women's soccer team in the world? While some of the players were told that the stadium was haunted, no ghosts were least not yet. The team will train there once more before the match against Canada on Monday.

Lori Chalupny just misses cutting off a pass from Lindsay Tarpley to Amy Rodriguez at Allan Lamport Stadium, former site of an infamous women's prison.

Cast Aways

When you are a soccer player, it goes without saying that you'd rather hurt your hand than your foot (unless you are a goalkeeper). We're not sure what caused the rash or wrist/thumb/arm/hand injuries on the U.S. Women's National Team, but as you can see, Shannon Boxx and Marian Dalmy both are sporting some protection for injuries. Nicole Barnhart is a GK so they always are taping something, right? You can always use some extra support for the thumbs when you are fielding shots from Abby Wambach and Carli Lloyd. Boxx took a ball off the arm in a WPS training (although she says she's fine and it's looks WAY worse than it is) and Dalmy fell on her hand during a WPS practice and tore a thumb ligament. We think the U.S. team will be fine as long as Boxxy and Dalmy aren't called up to be emergency goalkeepers.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Hungry, Hungry Hippo

The U.S. team trained far from its hotel this afternoon and in rush hour traffic, it took over an hour to get to the field. While the trip back wasn't nearly as long, as the bus pulled into downtown Toronto, the players were famished and Megan Rapinoe commented that she was hungry enough to "eat my arm." She was then asked if she was a Hungry, Hungry Hippo and she responded that indeed she was. The mention of the popular kids game brought back some fond childhood memories for Marian Dalmy. Said the U.S. defender: "I beat the heck out of those hippos!" Yeah, that was one fun, frantic marble munching game.

Same hair stylist?

Amy LePeilbet and Megan Rapinoe showed up at national team camp with remarkable similar haircuts. Amy's has a bit more reddish tint to it, but both are using the classic pre-wrap hairband to keep the wispies in check. Truth be told, it's not only cute, but very functional for a professional soccer player who is in the sun all the time and constantly sweating. We are feeling a shampoo endorsement for these two.

Cutting it Close

Just over a week ago, when the USA's two matches against Japan in Texas and Utah were changed to one match against Canada in Toronto, U.S. goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart realized that her passport was expired. Whoops! Yes, you need a passport to travel to Canada. In the words of Forrest Gump..."It's this whole other country." Barnhart had a week to get a new one, but being the conscientious Stanford grad that she is, got right on it. Problem was, she couldn't get an appointment at the ridiculously busy San Francisco Passport office. When she finally got through to a living, breathing human, they said to call back 48 hours before her flight, which she did, and finally got an appointment. Problem was, after dropping off her paperwork, she couldn't get back to San Francisco from the South Bay Area to pick it up, so she hired a courier service to bring it to her. However, when the service went to pick it up the night before she was to travel to Canada, they couldn't get it. Paperwork snafu! Barnhart made calls, resent the paperwork and threatened the courier service with bodily harm (ok, Barnie would never do that). The next morning the service got the passport, drove it back down the peninsula and delivered it to Barnhart after FC Gold Pride training and just an hour before she was going to leave for the airport. Phew! Stressful? Yes, but Barnie made it to Canada, as you can see by the photo below. There is a silver lining. Barnhart said she really needed a new passport photo. That last one was like 10 years old...

Welcome to Tex...Toronto

After some big-time shuffling last week following Japan dropping out of its North American tour, all systems are go for the USA's match against Canada on Monday night in Toronto. Kudos to the behind-the-scenes U.S. Soccer and Canada Soccer staff and officials for the juggling act that brings the U.S. women to Canada for the first time since 2001 in a match that will be broadcast live on Fox Soccer Channel at 7 p.m. ET on Memorial Day. Most of the U.S. players are arriving in Canada today, although the four West Coast-based players arrived late last night as they might not have been able to make it in for afternoon training today had they left early this morning. Those players are of course Rachel Buehler and Nicole Barnhart from FC Gold Pride and Shannon Boxx and Brittany Bock from the Los Angeles Sol. Poor Boxx and Bock flew through Denver and arrived without their bags (wonderful airport Denver, but why are bags always getting lost there?), but they'll get their stuff this morning well before training which is scheduled for 5 p.m. The U.S. team is scheduled to train once a day leading up to the match at BMO Field which will be played on the FieldTurf surface.