After a disappointing loss to Japan in the 2011 World Cup finals, the U.S. Women’s national soccer team is ready for redemption. The upcoming Olympic games provides them with a great opportunity.
Since 1996, the United States has been a force in women’s soccer. In the last four Olympics, they have come home with three gold medals and one silver. As the Olympics commence on July 27, the women are looking not just to medal, but also to win another gold. Getting to the Olympics was fairly easy for the team. They had to take first in their division of the CONCACAF (North American, Central American, and Caribbean league) tournament to secure an Olympic spot. The two divisions consisted of four teams each. Group A was Canada, Costa Rica, Haiti and Cuba. Group B was the U.S., Mexico, Guatemala and the Dominican Republic.
Group play started on January 19 and in the first round the U.S. beat Dominican Republic, 14-0 behind five goals by Amy Rodriguez. Then they beat Guatemala 13-0 with five goals from Sydney Leroux and three assists from Alex Morgan. Then, with a 4-0 win over Mexico, the U.S. secured first place in their division. After winning the division they played Costa Rica, who finished second on the other side (Group A), and handled them 3-0. Canada won their side and played the U.S. in the CONCACAF finals where the United States continued their dominating streak, winning 4-0, easily winning the tournament and securing an automatic bid to the Olympics.
As the U.S. prepared for the Olympics, the team the roster still hadn’t been set. Head coach PiaSundhage invited 28 players to a New Jersey training camp. From those 28, the Olympic team roster would be found. On May 27, Sundhage announced the official roster full some of the best soccer players in the world.
GOALKEEPERS: Nicole Barnhart, Hope Solo
DEFENDERS: Rachel Buehler, Amy LePeilbet, Heather Mitts, Kelley O’Hara, Christie Rampone, Becky Sauerbrunn
MIDFIELDERS: Shannon Boxx, Lauren Cheney, Tobin Heath, Carli Lloyd, Heather O’Reilly, Megan Rapinoe
FORWARDS: Sydney Leroux, Alex Morgan, Amy Rodriguez, Abby Wambach
Even though the team is so solid, full of veterans and very strong newcomers, the Olympics will be tough. The U.S. was placed in Group G along with Colombia, France, and North Korea. Back in the 2011 world cup, the U.S. faced Colombia and cruised to a 3-0 victory. But that was a whole year ago. Both the U.S. and the Colombian teams have grown in skill level so it is hard to guarantee a winner. But if I had to guess I would say that I think the U.S. will beat them just like last year. The U.S. also beat North Korea easily in their last meeting so they should be able to do it again.
France on the other hand is a whole other story. Although the U.S. beat France in World Cup play last year, the French have greatly improved. Since August 2011 they have won 14 consecutive matches. In those 14 games France has outscored its opponents 50-4. The U.S. plays France in their first game, making for an early test of how they will do.
If the U.S. does advance past group play, they may end up playing other quality teams such as Brazil and Japan. In the 2011 World Cup, the U.S. narrowly escaped a loss to Brazil. A goal in the 122nd minute on a header by Abby Wambach tied the game and forced penalty kicks. The U.S. beat Brazil in PKs and advanced in the tournament. And, of course, who can forget the game between Japan and the U.S. in the finals? It came down to penalty kicks, and the U.S. couldn’t get the job done.
Goalkeeper Hope Solo stated just how determined the team is. “London 2012 is all about winning a medal. Not just any medal, the gold medal,” she told FIFA.com. The road to gold won’t be easy for the United States, but with redemption on their mind, I believe they will win it all.