Los Angeles Soccer: Rachel Buehler
A half-dozen of the 21 players on the U.S. roster announced Monday for this summer's Women's World Cup have strong links to the L.A. area. And two others have either played here or are from close nearby.
Here's a quick look at the eight U.S. players we might call our own:
Hometown: Redondo Beach
High school: South Torrance
College: Notre Dame
So Cal link: She's from the South Bay, has lived in L.A. and Orange County
Previous big events: 2003 and 2007 WWCs, 2004 and 2008 Olympics
A few words: The big, powerful central midfielder has been one of the world's premier defensive midfielders since playing her way onto the 2003 Women's World Cup roster -- she was selected for the U.S. before she'd ever taken the field for the team -- with spectacular performances in the Women's United Soccer Association, the 2001-03 pro league. Very dangerous going forward.
Club: Boston Breakers
Hometown: Del Mar
High school: Torrey Pines
So Cal link: Rugged back is from San Diego County
Previous big events: 2008 Olympics, 2002 and 2004 U-19 WWCs
A few words: The rugged center back, a fixture on the U.S. backline since 2009, has put medical school on hold to pursue soccer, and she's been the top defender and a team leader on every side she's played, club, college and the national team. She's vice captain to Christie Rampone.
Lindsay Tarpley received a rare start with the U.S. women's national team Friday, and she made it count, scoring the first goal as the Americans advanced to the Algarve Cup title game with a 2-0 victory over Norway in Vila Real de San Antonio, Portugal.
Tarpley (Hermosa Beach), in the starting XI for the first time since July 2009, finished a feed from Amy Rodriguez (Lake Forest/Santa Margarita Catholic HS and USC) after defender Rachel Buehler played a ball behind Norway's backline in the 33rd minute. Carli Lloyd netted the second in the 63rd minute.
Tarpley grew up in Michigan, led the University of North Carolina to an NCAA title, plays for the Boston Breakers in Women's Professional Soccer, and lives in the South Bay because her husband, former Indiana University defender B.J. Snow, is the women's coach at UCLA. She played up top in the first half and on the right side of midfield in the second half, and the goal was her 28th in international play, 14th on the all-time U.S. list.
Shannon Boxx (Redondo Beach/South Torrance) nearly scored and was a force in midfield for the U.S., and defender Whitney Engen (Rolling Hills Estates/Peninsula HS) and forwards Alex Morgan (Diamond Bar/Diamond Bar HS) and Abby Wambach (Hermosa Beach) came on in the second half.
The Americans (2-0-0) finish group play in the annual event Monday against Finland. They can win their fourth Algarve title in five years Wednesday.
UCLA's Sydney Leroux gets her second stint with the U.S. women's national team when it begins preparations for next summer's Women's World Cup with a six-day training camp at Home Depot Center.
Leroux, who was in camp with the U.S. before two October friendlies but has not yet made a full international appearance, and defender Whitney Engen (Rolling Hills Estates/Peninsula HS) are among seven uncapped players on coach Pia Sundhage's 26-player roster for the Jan. 8-13 session.
Other with local ties on the roster: midfielder Lindsey Tarpley (Hermosa Beach), and forwards Amy Rodriguez (Lake Forest/Santa Margarita Catholic HS and USC), Alex Morgan (Diamond Bar/Diamond Bar HS) and Lauren Cheney (UCLA).
Redondo Beach's Shannon Boxx (South Torrance HS), Hermosa Beach's Abby Wambach and fellow veterans Rachel Buehler, Amy LePeilbet, Heather Mitts, Christie Rampone, Carli Lloyd and Heather O'Reilly have been excused from the camp, but they will join 15 players from the camp on the U.S. roster for the semi-annual Four Nations event in China. The team departs on Jan. 14.
There's always a “Group of Death” in any FIFA competition, or so it seems, and that group at next summer's Women's World Cup in Germany belongs to the U.S.
And to Germany. And to Brazil.
There are three “death” groups in this year's field, product of the rapid growth of women's soccer outside the traditional strongholds of the U.S., Germany, Scandinavia and the Far East.
The Americans, seeded Sunday atop Group C, welcomed North Korea, Colombia and Sweden into their quartet during Monday's WWC draw in Frankfurt. That's three legitimate contenders (for at least semifinal berths) for just two spots in the eight-team knockout bracket. And we'll see about Colombia.
And it gets worse: A quarterfinal awaits with Brazil or Australia or Norway (and we'll see about Equatorial Guinea), and the likeliest semifinal foe are the Germans, prohibitive favorites to win their third successive WWC.
U.S. Soccer unveiled its Athlete of the Year finalists Wednesday, with a healthy number of local players up for awards -- and Galaxy captain Landon Donovan looking like a shoo-in for the top honor.
Online votes count for 50 percent of the balloting, with media and U.S. Soccer coaches and directors accounting for the other half. To vote, go here. (You'll need a free U.S. Soccer account to participate.)
MALE ATHLETE: Donovan, a three-time winner (2003, 2004 and 2009), has to be the frontrunner. He was the best American player at the World Cup (Michael Bradley, too, was outstanding), was revelatory during a loan spell at Everton and was an MVP candidate in Major League Soccer.
Clint Dempsey won the honor in 2007.
F/M Landon Donovan (Redlands/Redlands East Valley HS), L.A. Galaxy
D Carlos Bocanegra (Alta Loma/Alta Loma HS and UCLA), Saint-Etienne (France)
M Michael Bradley (Manhattan Beach), Borussia Moenchengladbach (Germany)
D Steve Cherundolo (San Diego), Hannover 96 (Germany)
F/M Clint Dempsey (Nacogdoches, Texas), Fulham (England)
FEMALE ATHLETE: A fairly open race, although Abby Wambach's performance at CONCACAF's Women's World Cup qualifying tournament might have sealed her fourth award.
M Shannon Boxx (Redondo Beach/South Torrance HS), unaffiliated
D Rachel Buehler (Del Mar, Calif.), unaffiliated
D Amy LePeilbet (Crystal Lake, Ill.), Boston Breakers
F Amy Rodriguez (Lake Forest/Santa Margarita Catholic HS and USC), Philadelphia Independence
F Abby Wambach (Hermosa Beach), Washington Freedom
YOUNG MALE ATHLETE: A couple of very good U17s to consider -- Alessandro Mion and Andrew Souders -- but how do you pass up on Togo-born Gale Agboussoumonde, who plays in Portugal and made his full U.S. national team debut last week?
D Gale Agbossoumonde (Syracuse, N.Y.), Estoril (Portugal)
G Zac MacMath (St. Petersburg, Fla.), University of Maryland
D Alessandro Mion (Miami), Miami FC Kendall
M Dillon Powers (Plano, Texas), University of Notre Dame
D Andrew Souders (Amherst, Ohio), Columbus Crew Academy
YOUNG FEMALE ATHLETE: The big question: Where's Alex Morgan (Diamond Bar/Diamond Bar HS), the only college player (Cal) seeing regular time for the U.S. national team? She'd get our vote, but we're also high, of course, on Stanford's Christen Press. And on U.S. U-17 standout Morgan Brian, whom we had the pleasure of discovering at the U.S. Soccer U-14 identification camp a few years ago at Cal Poly Pomona.
M Morgan Brian (St. Simons Island, Ga.), Ponte Verde Storm
D Crystal Dunn (Rockville Cente, N.Y.), University of North Carolina
G Bianca Henninger (Los Gatos, Calif.), Santa Clara University
F Sydney Leroux (Vancouver, British Columbia/Phoenix), UCLA
F Christen Press (Palos Verdes Estates/Chadwick School), Stanford University
Western New York's expansion team in Women's Professional Soccer is getting started with a local player. Moreno Valley's Beverly Goebel (Moreno Valley HS) was one of the two players the Buffalo/Rochester-based club selected Friday in the league's expansion draft.
Goebel, a midfielder who played collegiately at Sacramento State and Miami, saw action in 16 games (starting nine) with one goal during her rookie season this year with the Washington Freedom.
The Flash, which won the United Soccer Leagues' W-League title but must remake its roster in stepping up to the WPS, took Atlanta Beat defender Kaley Fountain with the first pick. After selecting Goebel, they passed -- there were only 19 players available -- and will fill their roster through the college draft and in a deep pool of free agents.
Shannon Boxx is looking for a new home. FC Gold Pride, which the imposing midfielder from the South Bay helped to Women's Professional Soccer's title in September, disbanded Tuesday after failing to find the investment required to continue.
The Bay Area-based team follows the L.A. Sol and Saint Louis Athletica into oblivion. The Sol folded last January and Saint Louis' demise arrived seven weeks into the 2010 season. Boxx was on both clubs' rosters when they disbanded.
An effort by a group of investors to purchase part or all of Gold Pride and move the club to Orange County fell through. The group is one of two in Southern California seeking a WPS franchise for 2011.
Gold Pride, which played in Santa Clara in 2009 and in Hayward last year, put together the most impressive collection of talent the women's game has seen and posted a 16-3-5 record, finishing 17 points ahead of second-place Boston. The club routed Philadelphia, 4-0, in the title game.
The roster starred Brazilian superstar Marta -- the two-time WPS MVP -- Canadian striker Christine Sinclair and Boxx (Redondo Beach/South Torrance HS), plus WPS Rookie of the Year Ali Riley (Pacific Palisades/Harvard-Westlake School). Other local players were forward Kiki Bosio (Mission Viejo/Santa Margarita Catholic HS and Capistrano Valley HS), defender Kandace Wilson (Los Angeles/Walnut HS and Cal State Fullerton) and midfielder Rosie Tantillo (USC).