SOCCER: Pia Sundhage Names 2008 U.S. Olympic Team for Women's Soccer
Nine players on the roster were members of the U.S. team that won the gold medal four years ago in Athens, Greece, including team co-captains Christie Rampone and Kate Markgraf, who will both be participating in their third Olympic Games.
The USA will open play at the 2008 Beijing Olympics on Aug. 6 against Norway in Qinhuangdao, China. The USA will then face Japan on Aug. 9, also in Qinhuangdao, before finishing Group G play against New Zealand on Aug. 12 in Shenyang.
After taking over the U.S. team at the end of 2007, Sundhage evaluated 46 players in training camp environments during the past seven months and capped 26 players across 18 international matches before selecting the final roster.
"There are many players that have a lot of experience and are very competitive in practice," said Sundhage. "They really show up for every training and want to perform every time they are on the field. It's good to see them train at a level that is close to the game. For all the coaches, we want to make practices as game-like as possible, and I never had to get on them or yell at them to work hard. They push themselves in a very nice way and that is why it is difficult to pick a team."
In addition to Rampone and Markgraf, the 2008 Olympic roster includes 2004 gold medalists Heather Mitts, Lindsay Tarpley, Shannon Boxx, Angela Hucles, Heather O'Reilly, Aly Wagner and Abby Wambach.
Wambach, who scored the winning goal in overtime in the 2004 Olympic gold medal game, leads the USA in scoring this year with 12 goals. With 98 for her career, she is just two away from the century mark.
Six players who were on the roster for their first-ever world championship at the 2007 FIFA Women's World Cup have been selected to their first Olympic Team. Those are goalkeepers Nicole Barnhart and Hope Solo, defenders Lori Chalupny and Stephanie Cox, midfielder Carli Lloyd and forward Natasha Kai, who becomes the first Hawaiian to make an Olympic Women's Soccer Team.
Three younger players, defender Rachel Buehler (22 years old), midfielder Tobin Heath (20) and forward Amy Rodriguez (21) make their first-ever roster for a senior level world championship. All three have extensive youth world championship experience with Buehler having started for the USA at the 2002 and 2004 FIFA Under-19 World Championships, Heath at the 2006 FIFA U-20 World Championships and Rodriguez in both 2004 and 2006.
Heath was the youngest player selected while Rampone, who will be 33 tomorrow (June 24), is the oldest. The average age of the U.S. team is 26. Barnhart, who rebounded from minor knee surgery in early May to earn her spot, is the least capped player on the squad with nine. Rampone is the most capped player with 193.
Two players, Cox and Wagner, made late runs to earn their roster spots. Cox was released at the end of the USA's early June training camp from the final 22 players in contention for the Olympic Team. After defender Cat Whitehill was injured in training at the Peace Queen Cup, Cox was recalled and played well enough in the tournament to earn her place. Wagner has played in just four matches this year - all at the Peace Queen Cup -- after recovering from double-hernia surgery last January, but also did the job in South Korea to earn a place on her second Olympic Team.
With the naming to her second Olympic Team, Mitts also completes a long road back from injury. She tore her left ACL in May of 2007 which knocked her out of the 2007 FIFA Women's World Cup. She returned to the U.S. lineup in late April for the USA's series of domestic games and has re-established herself as a consistent presence at right back.
Sundhage named four alternates for the Olympic Team: goalkeeper Briana Scurry, defender Ali Krieger, midfielder Kacey White and forward Lauren Cheney. This will be the first U.S. roster for a world championship that does not include Scurry since the 1991 FIFA Women's World Cup. The legendary goalkeeper started for the USA at the 1995, 1999 and 2003 FIFA Women's World Cups and won gold medals at the 1996 and 2004 Olympics.
All 22 players - the Olympic Team plus the four alternates - will leave for Europe on June 27 for two matches, the first against Norway on July 2 in Fredrikstad and a second against Sweden on July 5 in Skelleftea. The USA's two Olympic send-off matches against Brazil, on July 13 in Commerce City, Colo. (2 p.m. MT on ESPN presented by Dodge) and on July 16 in San Diego, Calif. (7 p.m. PT on Fox Soccer Channel), will feature only the 18 players named to the Olympic Team.
"Of course it has been a challenging situation," said Sundhage of her seven-month period to evaluate players and instill her coaching philosophy. "Everyone was expecting a change, but it couldn't be too much of a change, we still had to rely on the strengths of the U.S. team. It couldn't be too little of a change, or no one would notice the difference, but the game plan has gone very well so far."
Half of the Olympic Team is from either California (five players) or New Jersey (four players). Hawaii, Missouri, Michigan (two players), New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Washington are also represented.
Sundhage named two goalkeepers, six defenders, seven midfielders and three forwards, but midfielders Tarpley and O'Reilly have also seen extensive time on the front line in their U.S. Women's National Team careers. Chalupny, a defender, played the entire 2007 FIFA Women's World Cup in the midfield and Heath, who has played exclusively flank midfield for the USA this year, played at outside back in the 2006 FIFA U-20 Women's World Championship.
2008 UNITED STATES OLYMPIC WOMEN'S SOCCER TEAM
Players Pos. Ht. DOB Hometown College Caps/Goals
Barnhart, Nicole* GK 5-10 10/10/81 Gilbertsville, Pa. Stanford 9
Boxx, Shannon** M 5-8 06/29/77 Redondo Beach, Calif. Notre Dame 92/18
Buehler, Rachel* D 5-5 08/26/85 Del Mar, Calif. Stanford 11/0
Chalupny, Lori* D 5-4 01/29/84 St. Louis, Mo. UNC 70/6
Cox, Stephanie* D 5-6 04/03/86 Elk Grove, Calif. Portland 42/0
Heath, Tobin* M 5-6 05/29/88 Basking Ridge, N.J. UNC 12/2
Hucles, Angela** M 5-7 07/05/78 Virginia Beach, Va. Virginia 84/7
Kai, Natasha* F 5-8 05/22/83 Kahuku, Hawaii Hawaii 48/19
Lloyd, Carli* M 5-8 07/16/82 Delran, N.J. Rutgers 62/15
Markgraf, Kate*** D 5-7 08/23/76 Bloomfield Hills, Mich. Notre Dame 181/0
Mitts, Heather** D 5-5 06/09/78 Cincinnati, Ohio Florida 78/2
O'Reilly, Heather** M 5-5 01/02/85 East Brunswick, N.J. UNC 90/19
Rampone, Christie*** D 5-6 06/24/75 Point Pleasant, N.J. Monmouth 193/4
Rodriguez, Amy* F 5-4 02/17/87 Lake Forest, Calif. USC 19/4
Solo, Hope* GK 5-9 07/30/81 Richland, Wash. Washington 64
Tarpley, Lindsay** M 5-6 09/22/83 Kalamazoo, Mich. UNC 96/26
Wagner, Aly** M 5-5 08/10/80 San Jose, Calif. Santa Clara 121/21
Wambach, Abby** F 5-11 06/02/80 Rochester, N.Y. Florida 123/98
* First Olympics ** Second Olympics *** Third Olympics
U.S. Olympic Women's Soccer Team By Position
GOALKEEPERS (2): Nicole Barnhart (Gilbertsville, Pa.), Hope Solo (Richland, Wash.)
DEFENDERS (6): Rachel Buehler (Del Mar, Calif.), Lori Chalupny (St. Louis, Mo.), Stephanie Cox (Elk Grove, Calif.), Kate Markgraf (Bloomfield Hills, Mich.), Heather Mitts (Cincinnati, Ohio), Christie Rampone (Point Pleasant, N.J.)
MIDFIELDERS (7): Shannon Boxx (Redondo Beach, Calif.), Tobin Heath (Basking Ridge, N.J.), Angela Hucles (Virginia Beach, Va.), Carli Lloyd (Delran, N.J.), Heather O'Reilly (East Brunswick, N.J.), Lindsay Tarpley (Kalamazoo, Mich.), Aly Wagner (San Jose, Calif.)
FORWARDS (3): Natasha Kai (Kahuku, Hawaii), Amy Rodriguez (Lake Forest, Calif.), Abby Wambach (Rochester, N.Y.)
Alternates Pos. Ht. DOB Hometown College Caps/Goals
Cheney, Lauren F 5-8 09/30/87 Indianapolis, Ind. UCLA 12/4
Krieger, Ali D 5-6 07/28/84 Dumfries, Va. Penn State 2/0
Scurry, Briana GK 5-8 09/07/71 Dayton, Minn. UMass 170
White, Kacey M 5-4 04/27/84 Arlington, Texas UNC 8/0
Head Coach: Pia Sundhage; Redondo Beach, Calif.
Assistant Coach: Jillian Ellis; Los Angeles, Calif.
Assistant Coach: Erica Walsh; State College, Pa.
Goalkeeper Coach: Phil Wheddon; Monroe, Conn.
Sports Science/Fitness Coach: Helena Andersson; Orebro, Sweden