I have a riddle for you all…
What has infinite talent…endless options…38 goals scored…0 goals against…and a Baby Horse?
The answer is the US Women’s National Soccer Team at the 2012 Olympic Qualifying tournament in Vancouver. Did the Baby Horse give it away??
The USWNT took on Canada for the championship in Olympic Qualifying last night and dominated them 4-0. We already were guaranteed a spot in the 2012 London Olympics, but 1st place for the current tournament was on the line which they secured beautifully.
First, I need to take a moment and speak just about Alex Morgan. This past summer she gained the nickname “super sub” as she would come in late in games and score almost immediate goals many times. I’m guessing Canada is wishing Pia had used her “super sub” as just that last night: a sub. Because from the opening minute to the 90th, Alex Morgan was unstoppable. Out of the 4 goals the USA scored she was involved in all 4. With 2 goals and 2 assists on the night Alex Morgan came to play. Her speed and her finishing abilities are obvious and widely admired. But let’s move past her sickening speed and her ability to finish a goal faster than Kim Kardashian can sign a prenup. She has proven her ability to take players on 1 v 1, control the ball, have the knowledge and vision to find open teammates, maintain the same brilliant level of play for a full 90 and fight off multiple defenders single handedly; and on top of all that, her hair looks great all the while. Can we all please agree that this “super sub” is actually a “super starter all around player with finishing abilities, speed, agility and knowledge who can own a full 90 minute match”? Hm, I fear that may not be as catchy a nick name. I’ll work on it.
As if the fantastic night Alex Morgan had wasn’t enough for you…#20, one of the greatest female soccer players of all time, the one and only Ms Abby Wambach scored her 130th and 131st international career goals. This puts her ahead of US Soccer legend, the incomparable Kristine Lily, now only trailing Mia Hamm. There are no true words for Abby’s impact on the women’s game nor are there words for the inspiration she brings to others through her grit and determination to never be satisfied and always be searching for more. As she sits on 131 goals the only thought in my head is, “I can’t wait for 132, 133, 134, 135, 136….” (you get the picture.) Thank you, Abby for taking us on this journey with you. This nation is captivated by you and immensely proud we get to see you wear that jersey day in and day out.
Abby’s leadership, dominance in front of goal and heading ability with Alex’s speed, finishing shot and 1 v 1 abilities paired up together they are unstoppable; there is no question. There is also no question that this team has more depth than they even know what to do with. It would be one thing if we scored 38 goals in 5 games and allowed 0, while only playing our starters. But we played a wide variety of players, at different and new positions, trying different ideas in a new formation and still dominated. The entire tournament was a shining example of the depth and skill set of this team.
Kelley O’Hara, aka the feistiest little leprechaun on the pitch, is a prime example of what this team is made of. O’Hara is a forward…sorry I mean a midfielder, or no, I meant a defender…wait, no that’s wrong too. Right, right, my apologies…O’Hara is a magical chameleon capable of playing any position she is asked to. After the devastatingly harsh loss of Ali Krieger (to an ACL/MCL injury), our phenomenal starting right back, there was a spot open in our back line. O’Hara, who has been practicing on occasion in an outside back position recently, stepped up. For someone getting used to a new position she looked confident and in control. Her recovery speed is fantastic which is a necessity if the outside backs are going to be moving up and getting involved in the attack. She defended the right sideline, she got involved in the attack and she tackled hard and played hard. I look forward to seeing her speedy little legs continue to keep opposing offenses in check while helping to start counter attacks for ours.
Now I just want to say one thing…Carli. Freaking. Lloyd. I am a long time fan of Lloyd’s and this tournament from beginning to end was prime example of why. Her passing? On point. Her shot? A bullet. Her endurance? Sickening. When she wasn’t connecting passes and finding openings for her teammates she was taking those openings herself and getting into scoring opportunities. When she wasn’t putting pressure on the opposition’s goal she was helping our defense relieving pressure from our goal. When Lloyd is on her game there is really nothing you can do. Someone that strong in the center of the field means nothing but a nightmare of a night for the other team. And after the display put on by her this past week I would have only one thing to say to upcoming opposing teams; Welcome to your nightmare. (And then I’d play some spooky music)
And then of course there is Lauren Cheney, who at this point I feel it is just a given that she is going to step up and play like the superstar that she is. There is no question in my mind every time she takes the field that she will be a crucial part to an epic win. And that’s that. Becky Sauerbrunn looked like the cool and composed defensive fitness beast that she is, as always and it was nice seeing more minutes for her throughout the week. Captain America, Christie Rampone did her thing (and by “thing” I mean she used her soccer machine robot lady skills to shut down anyone and anything trying to get past her). Heather O’Reilly put on her HAO game face and made moves all week. Her passing was impeccable and her 1 v1 speed and precision to get around players was as good as ever. There is no denying that when she is on her game, magic happens. And then awesome fist pumps and smiles happen which are equally as magical. Sydney Leroux had basically the greatest start to a national career you get ever ask for as a forward with 5 goals in her first game. All made even sweeter by the fact that some of the Canadian fans weren’t exactly thrilled with her (putting it mildly) for choosing to play for the US, being a Canadian born citizen. But I think goal number 1 said, “That’s right I’m here to play for America.” Goal number 2 said, “Sorry, Canada…I can’t hear you booing over my teammates and fans cheering for my second goal.” And by goal number 5 I think it said, “THAT’S (fill in your favorite expletive) –ING RIGHT.” All we know in America is that we are honored to have you playing for us and we will take on any Canadian crowd any day of the week to back you.
And last I want to mention the brick wall, the padlocked metal doors, the grand protector of our net…Hope Solo. She wasn’t tested much earlier in the tournament but when she was, she owned that 18 yard box. Against Canada every 1 v 1 situation went the same way: Hope flying out with speed and aggression, sacrificing her body putting it on the line to stop the ball and then getting up calmly with a that confident bad ass stare she owns the market on. As she played through a current quad injury, after a year of shoulder problems and obscene amounts of rehab and physical therapy, we see why she is the best in the world. When we need her to come up big…she does. There is no stopping this woman from stopping you from scoring. Pia said it best, “We have Hope Solo.” That’s really all that needs to be said. Sorry world…better luck next time.
I would love to mention every player as I think the whole team just pulled together and really showed what they are made of. But my fingers are tired and I am getting sleepy. Sorry I could not come up with a better excuse for you…as I said…I’m sleepy. This is a special team, with special players and exceptional amounts of talent that will not be silenced by anyone. London, get ready because this team means business. Prepare yourselves for a furious whirlwind of blinding ambition and power. The US Women’s National Team is on the prowl for another gold medal and I have a feeling they are about to pounce.