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A Gold Moment: Talking To the US Women’s National Soccer Team
Posted By: Amy Maestri
July 24, 2012
WSN Guest Blogger, Amy Maestri, writes about participating in a teleconference with the USWNT
The US Women’s National Soccer Team will kick off their Olympic run on Wednesday, July 25, against France. If you could measure the weight of my excitement, you would need one of those animal scales they use at the zoo.
After the heart breaking loss in the 2011 Women’s World Cup to the team which will not be named (well I guess I have to name them just in case you have been living under a rock; we lost to Japan. Japan is the team which I will not name. Japan, damn it!) we have a team filled with passion, fire and determination. They have been conditioning, mentally preparing and practicing their pageantry wave for when they stand atop the podium. I was recently on a media conference call with head coach, Pia Sundhage and players Abby Wambach, Christie Rampone and Hope Solo. I was lucky enough to participate in this call thanks to WSN247. The task, I decided, was to listen, ask questions and do my best to not embarrass myself. I realized I would be tempted to drift into my favorite old timey newspaper reporter character which in return also made me realize the ‘not embarrassing myself’ task would not be so simple.
Sundhage was up first and in her answers made it very clear that they intend to take these matches one game at a time. France is their first test on Wednesday and it will be a good one. As she stated, France has a very dangerous attack. The US defense and midfield will have a battle raging against them all game. Sundhage also made it clear that she is excited to have an impossible number of options for a starting lineup against a technically sound France. With their infinite options and their conductor of the back line, Christie Rampone, I am confident we will see a shining victory.
Abby Wambach, in her ever calm demeanor and laid back style approached questions with an intelligent response each time, while also tossing in a few, “What up’s” to the media. Wambach answered some questions about the pairing of her and Alex Morgan and why they are such a fantastic team. She explains it’s the balance they provide in an attack. While Abby soars 1.7 miles in the air higher than any human on earth to stuff a header into the back of the net, Morgan is usually right behind her with a goal of her own from winning a ball through speed, strength and skill before calmly placing a shot into that same, tired out net. The combining of opposite players like Morgan and Wambach has obviously been epic. But Wambach also brought up the strategy Sundhage has brought to this team. She talked about where the US has always been strong and where they are learning from Sundhage. It’s two opposing styles coming together on one field, making said field a sitting duck waiting for an explosion of versatility from the USA. They still have the typical US strength, speed and an almost sickening ambition to never, ever quit on anything. But now they also are more possession oriented and implementing different tactics.
When getting to ask captain, Christie Rampone, a question I hesitated for a moment. I knew I had a good question, but I also knew there was a better one I should have asked. I asked how she is handling the changes in the back four (organizationally) and also how she sees Becky Sauerbrunn’s role changing and developing. But I know my question should have been, “When can we expect to see another ‘Reece Race’?” Come on Amy, think! But I went with the first question and she came back with a response reeking of an excellent captain. She knows the back line has had many changes and they are still learning and growing. She also said that the best way to learn is to make mistakes and move forward as a collective unit. They have been spending a lot of time working on spacing, timing and angles and watching videos (game tapes, not old Full House episodes on original VHS; much to my dismay). She also had immensely good things to say about Sauerbrunn who she calls a very technical, calm player with a great presence who Rampone is sure will have an amazing career. She was also asked about Kelley O’Hara; complimenting her one on one defense and how she quickly learned to connect with the back line. And of course the question came about her post Olympics career. Although her decision is not yet made, and probably won’t be for a few months; I still insist she is going to be playing and still owning people well into her 90’s. Ok, realistically maybe only 87.
Hope Solo answered questions with a genuine tone and well thought out answers backed by knowledge. When asked what her reaction is after letting a goal in she painted a picture of a prideful goalkeeper who can always see the good in things and be proud of her team but will never be satisfied if a ball has passed her goal line. But as she stated with a win, “…my happiness trumps everything.” Good, because we love seeing that smile after a game. If you’re interested in learning from and being inspired by someone who is able to cut out distractions from her life and dive into her passion head first; then learn more about Hope Solo. Also, check out her full response to a question pertaining to that subject on the quote sheet at www.ussoccer.com (along with the rest of the call). Then they wrapped up the call with my question because obviously they save the best for last. Or they were hoping they would run out of time before getting back to me. Either way…my question was about the balance on the team of newer players and veterans and how effective it is. She mentioned Lauren Cheney who although by age is younger, has a lot of minutes under her belt and was crucial for them in last year’s WWC. So by looking more at experience than age you see what a young player can really bring to the table. While she also stated that any championship team needs that balance.
Now onto my in depth analysis and opinion of what the Olympics will look like for the USA. It will look like a heavy circular object connected to a pretty ribbon and will be a distinctive color; not like a bronze or a like a silver…more like a gold. (…to put it briefly) The competition is stiffer than it has ever been and the gap is closing drastically in skill sets between teams in the women’s game. Lots of teams will be fighting until the end and putting up a battle. France will be a challenge as our first opponent with their speed, technical skill and attacking force but I am beyond confident in this USA squad. That other team that will not be mentioned will be racing towards the finish line as well looking to come out with back to back summer gold medals. They have been growing by the day in skill it seems, but I am sure our girls will shut down the team which will not be named and send them back to their country which will not be named without a gold medal around their anonymous necks.
The USA sound ready, they sound hungry, they sound fit, they sound excited and they sound a little bit crackly. I guess that was probably just from the speaker phone though. Best wishes to the team and staff! Go USA!
Side note: In case you were wondering, I did manage to stifle my old timey newspaper character. I can’t make any promises for next time, though. See ya in the funny papers!! – Amy