The top ranked soccer side in the world looks to defend their claim to Olympic gold at the Summer Olympic Games in London.
United States Women’s National Team – Soccer
Head Coach: Pia Sundhage
Captain: Christie Rampone
Since first gracing the international soccer stage with their presence, the U.S. women’s national team has been what you would call a powerhouse. They won their first World Cup in 1991 (their first appearance) and again in 1999. Between World Cup wins they also pulled in three CONCACAF championships (’91, ’93, ’94) and Olympic gold (1996) in Atlanta. The turn of the century was marked by more winning, with three more CONCACAF gold cups (’00, ’02, ’06) and three Olympic medals (silver in the 2000 games in Sydney, gold in 2004 Athens and gold in 2008 Beijing).
The team has twice been honored by the U.S. Olympic committee as the Team of the Year and once by Sports Illustrated as Sportspeople of the Year. They have also amassed an astonishing eight Algarve Cups (’00, ’03, ’04, ’05, ’07, ’08, ’10, ’11), an annual invitational tournament considered to be one of the most prestigious in women’s soccer.
GK Hope Solo – While the vocal American keeper has on occasion had trouble stopping her postgame tirades, she hasn’t had any trouble stopping balls. She’s been the team’s first-choice keeper since 2005, has recorded numerous clean sheets, including a 1,054-minute streak without a goal, and led the American team to Olympic gold in 2008 with a shutout 1-0 win over Brazil.
DF Christie Rampone – Team captain and soccer’s elder stateswoman, Rampone has seen it all: four World Cups, three Olympics, numerous national team caps (actually, the most caps of any active player, male or female, and fourth all-time) and has got a mantel full of hardware to show for it. There is no doubt who controls the pace of the game for the Americans, and her experience will be revered by the handful of first-time Olympians on the team.
MF Carli Lloyd – An offense-minded midfielder, Lloyd has become a mainstay for the American side. Her breakout 2008 season, which included two lone goal victories at the Olympics (one against Japan and the other in the aforementioned Brazil game) earned her U.S. soccer’s Female Athlete of the Year and solidified her status as the answer to the departure of longtime team anchor Kristine Lilly.
FW Abby Wambach – When we talk about women’s soccer, we have to talk about Abby Wambach: 10 years after her departure she’s still the all-time scorer for the Florida Gators, she’s been named the U.S. soccer Athlete of the Year five times ( ’03, ’04, ’07, ’10, ’11) and the AP’s Female Athlete of Year in 2011, and she’s the second all-time scorer worldwide (behind former teammate Mia Hamm). At 32 she’s still got a lot left in the tank, and the U.S. team will be relying on her experience and skill to lead their attack in London.
Player to Watch: Alex Morgan – At 22, Morgan is one of the youngest members on the national team but has turned into one of its most prolific scorers; she’s already netted 17 in international play this year and has become something of a clutch-time playmaker. She’ll be looking to solidify herself as a household name on a team that’s chock-full of them.
Hope Solo on the U.S.’s incredible overtime win against Brazil at the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup: “Even when we were a player down and a goal behind in extra time, you sensed that something was going to happen…[the] team kept fighting. You can’t teach that. It’s a feeling — and we play with that feeling.”
Olympic Scouting Report: There’s no question the U.S. is the team to beat in London; they’re ranked first overall by FIFA and have been for some time. That said, the Japanese national team has presented itself as a stumbling block this year, handing the U.S. their only loss and their only draw in 2012 (although the Americans did win a 4-1 blowout in June). They’ve got one more tune-up against Canada, then it’s on to the Olympic group stages where they’ll see France, Colombia and North Korea.