Olympics: Soccer

Watch: Wambach, Rampone on final

August, 9, 2012
8/09/12
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Julie Foudy catches up with U.S. women's soccer co-captains Abby Wambach and Christie Rampone to get the inside scoop on the Americans' gold-medal match against Japan:

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Watch: Claressa Shields going for gold

August, 8, 2012
8/08/12
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ESPN.com's Prim Siripipat and Bonnie D. Ford discuss Claressa Shields' attempt to win gold in women's boxing, the men's 5,000-meter final and women's soccer final against Japan:

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Watch: Foudy's take on U.S.-Canada clash

August, 6, 2012
8/06/12
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Julie Foudy recaps the United States' wild come-from-behind victory against Canada in extra time that pushed the Americans into the gold-medal final against Japan:

Watch: Foudy on U.S.-New Zealand match

August, 3, 2012
8/03/12
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Julie Foudy breaks down the U.S. women's soccer team's 2-0 win against New Zealand on Friday:

Monday afternoon, the U.S. women’s soccer team continued its tour of historic British football stadiums, this time taking a walkthrough of Old Trafford, the second-largest football stadium in England (after Wembley, where the gold-medal game will take place Aug. 9) and home to Manchester United since 1910. Old Trafford will also be the site of Tuesday night’s game against North Korea. “It’s gorgeous,” midfielder Megan Rapinoe said after taking “at least 25” pictures of herself and her teammates posing out on the field. “With all the history and everything you hear, you can see why they talk of the magic inside.”

Forward Alex Morgan purchased a Manchester United jersey and wore it during the walkthrough. Goalkeeper Hope Solo celebrated her 31st birthday by taking a few extra birthday shots -- with a camera, people -- and posting at least one of them to Twitter.

After spending about a half hour on the field, the women also walked through the Man-U changing rooms, ogling the glass cases filled with trophies and cups and the walls lined with photographs of 130 years of Man-U legends. “It was inspiring,” Rapinoe said. The Olympic teams, however, won’t share the home club’s changing room. “I think they cleared out an office or something for us to use,” Rapinoe joked.

Although the women concede it would be nice to play the entire Olympic tournament in front of packed stadiums in London, they realize that by playing in cities like Manchester and Glasgow, they are becoming an even bigger part of history. It’s not every week a women’s team is invited to play in the Theater of Dreams. “It’s not every decade,” said Rapinoe, who added that the only experience that’s come close was playing in a U-19 tournament in Estadio Azteca in Mexico City. “Only a few women’s teams ever have [played here]. It’s unbelievable. We saw this in our original draw and, I mean, it’s already unbelievable to be in the Olympics, but it’s a huge bonus to play in a stadium like this.”

Come Aug. 9, she might be saying the same thing after a walk through Wembley.




Hope Solo rips Brandi Chastain via Twitter

July, 28, 2012
7/28/12
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U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo took to Twitter to criticize NBC television analyst and former U.S. soccer star Brandi Chastain for comments she made during Saturday's broadcast of the United States-Colombia match.

Chastain singled out Rachel Buehler in the first half, saying the defender needed to improve during the Olympic tournament.

"Rachel Buehler with the giveaway there. As a defender, your responsibilities are -- defend," Chastain said during the broadcast. "Win the ball and then keep possession ... [that is] something that Rachel Buehler actually needs to improve on in this tournament."

After the Americans' 3-0 victory, Solo posted this on her Twitter feed in separate posts:

Its 2 bad we cant have commentators who better represents the team&knows more about the game @brandichastain! #fb

Lay off commentating about defending and gking until you get more educated @brandichastain the game has changed from a decade ago. #fb

Its important 2 our fans 2 enjoy the spirit of the olympics. Its not possible when sum1 on air is saying that a player is the worst defender!

I feel bad 4 our fans that have 2 push mute, especially bc @arlowhite is fantastic.@brandichastain should be helping 2 grow the sport #fb

The United States, which clinched a spot in the quarterfinals with Saturday's win, will next face North Korea.

“We’re focused on us.”

There are no gimme games in the Olympics. That is what the 18 members of the U.S. women’s soccer team took from their Thursday afternoon outing to watch Spain -- a gold-medal favorite in the men’s tournament -- take on Japan in its opening game at Hampden Park. Japan won in a 1-0 stunner. “It’s an honor to be considered one of the favorites and to have that pressure,” midfielder Megan Rapinoe said Friday afternoon, talking as much about her own squad as she was about Spain. “But you have to go out and win every game. We left that game thinking, ‘Don’t take anything for granted.’”

For 24 hours, head coach Pia Sundhage allowed her staff and players to look back. They reviewed game tape and focused on what the team did right in their 4-2 comeback win over France on Wednesday night. But beginning Friday morning, they began looking ahead to their next game in group play against Colombia, a team that, ranked 28th in the world, would be easy to overlook.

“I think Colombia is looking to come back from last game’s loss against North Korea,” U.S. forward Alex Morgan said. “I expect a good fight. Colombia is pretty technical, and they’re feisty. We had a lot of prep time for France and not as much with Colombia, so it’s about making sure our bodies are recovered in time for the next game. We haven’t seen much of Colombia since the World Cup, so right now, we’re really focused on us.”

Midfielder Carli Lloyd, who came off the bench to score the go-ahead goal against France, will start Saturday’s game in place of Shannon Boxx, who is out with a right hamstring injury. But Lloyd said her change in status will not affect her prep over the next day and a half. “I prepare the same way when I start as when I don’t,” she said. “The visualization, stretching, hydrating, it’s the same routine, so I won’t prepare any differently for this next game. When Pia stresses that the game winners are on the bench, we have to embrace and believe that. But Colombia is a great technical team. They’re physical, and we can’t overlook them one bit. No. 10 on their team, I remember her from the World Cup. She’s good.” So can fans expect a physical game at midfield?

“I’m a Jersey girl,” Lloyd says. “I enjoy crunching people. I was pleased to see that the ref was letting some things go in the last game. I’m tough and willing to go into any battle and fight. Yeah, I’ll tackle her.”

Unlike their teammates down in London, these women will not take part in opening ceremonies, instead remaining in Glasgow to prepare for Saturday night’s game. “We’ll dress up in our gear tonight and watch together and have fun,” says midfielder Heather O’Reilly. “It is a little disappointing. It would be so fun to be at opening ceremonies with all the other athletes, and get that USA camaraderie. But at the same time, we’re here as a team and feel isolated from the Olympic craziness, and that’s good for us. That is our rally cry -- to be in London at the end of it all.”

Abby WambachAP Photo/Chris ClarkU.S. Coach Pia Sundhage praised Abby Wambach, who helped the team to come back against France.

Thursday is an off day for the U.S. women’s soccer team. So, naturally the women spent the day basking in the glow of their opening-game come-from-behind win over France Wednesday night. OK, maybe not.

This morning, coach Pia Sundhage and her staff met early to review tape of last night’s game. After lunch, they met with the team for an hour and a half of game analysis. Then they headed, as a team, back to Hampden Park to watch the Spain vs. Japan men’s match (Japan won 1-0).

After the game, Sundhage took a few minutes back at the team hotel in Glasgow to tell us what she learned during those review sessions and how she feels about her squad moving forward.

On what she said to the team …

“It was a unique game. I wanted to grab onto that feeling that we did something we had never done before. Giving up two goals -- that happened before, in 2008. But the fact that Boxx got injured and we had 10 good minutes at the beginning of the match. That didn’t happen against Norway in 2008. And the fact that we came back. So I said to them, ‘This team is better than 2008.’ I tried to grab the moment and talk about positive things. I mentioned Abby Wambach’s name several times, in a very positive way.”

On her critique of Wednesday night’s play …

“We didn’t show them one bad thing [from last night’s game.] Well, we showed them one picture where we were a little bit stretched out. But that’s only one picture. My glass is half full. I fully believe in coaching the healthy part instead of picking apart the mistakes. That is easy after the first game, though.”

On what she picked up this morning that she didn’t see Wednesday night …

“When they scored the second goal last night, I was calm and thinking, ‘I’m very happy I’ve been here before. Having the experience of big events helps a lot. Inside, though, you want to scream bad things. But you don’t. You look at it in a positive way and the positive thing was that I looked out and saw … Well, in 2008, we didn’t have Abby. We did last night. And we looked more dangerous in the beginning of the game this time. When I watched it again this morning, I thought the second half was a little better than I had felt last night.”

On Shannon Boxx’s hamstring injury ...

“I will have a long meeting with Shannon and the medical staff. I want to leave it alone right now. For her, it’s tough. I thought she played well and then she goes down. I want her to deal with the day and then tonight after dinner; we will talk and come up with a plan. We’ll see how serious it is and go from there.”

On the depth of her team …

“I look at the bench and this team is so fun and exciting to coach. If you’re not in the starting lineup … I’ll give you two examples: Heather O’Reilly and Carli Lloyd. Carli scored the winning goal in 2008, and all of a sudden, I am the one that put those two girls on the bench. And that is hard for them. But they are good team players and good teammates. I lay it out for them by saying, ‘This is a good team. If you don’t start the game, you can finish the game.’ That is what Carli Lloyd did. I’m so happy for her, because I expected her to play maybe the last 20 minutes, but when Boxxy went down, I looked at her and she was prepared. She has never complained or moaned. For me, that is a good team player. That is the key to this team. They look at the team and have different roles, and they do it for their teammates.”

On what she thinks about the next two weeks …

“We scored four goals and it was amazing. If you look at how we scored -- getting behind, setting pace, long-range shots -- two things come to mind. We say, ‘We’ll never give up.’ We’ve said that since 2008. With this team, they find a way to win. And I give credit to the team. Nobody was pointing fingers at anybody after being down 2-0. Can you imagine, with such high expectations, the pressure? But we put it together. That confidence means a lot going forward.”



DALLAS -- Win an Olympic gold medal and lose once in 59 games, and no one pays attention. Lose a World Cup in the middle of a slow sports summer, and marketers and media knock down the doors.

That's been the upended world of the U.S. women's soccer team in the past four years. The sports world hardly noted the squad that stormed back from an opening-game loss to top the podium in Beijing. "In 2008, we won a gold medal, and there was really no talk about us," midfielder Carli Lloyd said. "It was crazy."

Nor did people pay much attention as Pia Sundhage's team continued an unbeaten streak that lasted until a shocking World Cup qualifier loss to Mexico in November 2010.

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AP Photo/Martin MeissnerThe U.S. women's team lost to Japan on penalty kicks in last summer's World Cup final.

Now, though, the U.S. team is in high demand; and thanks to the male under-23 side's failure to qualify for London, it will have the American Olympic soccer stage to itself. Keeper Hope Solo famously competed on "Dancing with the Stars," newcomer Alex Morgan famously donned body paint in Sports Illustrated's swimsuit issue, and Abby Wambach belatedly garnered the media recognition that her Hall of Fame career merits.

It all stems from one moment in the World Cup quarterfinal against Brazil last July in Germany, when Wambach's dying-moment goal sent the match to penalty kicks, enabling the U.S. to advance.

"What sold everything was the Brazil game; that was the endorsement game," Lloyd said Tuesday at the Olympic media summit. "That did it for everybody. To have such a dramatic game like that drew so many fans, fans who don't even watch soccer. It's been great."

The thriller commenced a summer soap opera in which the Americans slipped past France in a tight semifinal game and lost a heartbreaker on penalty kicks against Japan in the final, a drama that kept fans glued to the tube and Twitter.

The long-ignored squad was full of overnight celebrities, and they've had staying power.

"We have superstars now," midfielder Lauren Cheney said. "Hope's a superstar. Alex is a superstar. Abby's a superstar. The outside stuff, Vogue magazine, 'Dancing with the Stars,' all of that is awesome."

A year and a half ago, Morgan was a college kid in a dorm room at Cal. Now, she's a marketing machine and an Internet phenomenon. "I have gotten overwhelmed at times," she said. "I've tried to stay level-headed, I've tried to still look to my family and my friends for support. I've really tried to balance my schedule right."

She seems to be handling it. The youngest member of the team has become a regular starter at forward for Sundhage, and her goals have come even more frequently than her endorsement opportunities. (She has 11 goals in eight games.)

"Leading up to the Olympics, I want soccer to be a priority," she said. "I just need to take a step back when I get overwhelmed."

The players say the added attention hasn't created any rifts in the locker room. Quite the contrary.

"Everyone's down-to-earth on our team. No one's got a huge head from what they've done, and it's perfect," Lloyd said. "When we're together, half the time we're not even talking about that stuff. It's been great for our team, great for women and great for women's soccer."


VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Despite a gloomy prognosis that her recovery from a torn right ACL and MCL could take six to eight months, U.S. defender Ali Krieger said Sunday she hasn't given up on the 2012 London Olympics.

"I'm not going to give up, not going to lose hope," Krieger said after watching her teammates beat Guatemala 13-0 on Sunday at the CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament. "People who have had this say everyone is different. Some people are back in four months, some people have gotten back in nine months, a year. But I'm going to stay hopeful and stay positive, and I'm pretty strong. I'm a fighter and I've been there before.

"I think I'm going to come back stronger than ever."

Krieger injured the knee in Friday's game against the Dominican Republic when an opponent collided with her plant leg. She said she knew it was bad, but didn't know it was that bad until the MRI came back Saturday.

"I didn't know it was my ACL," she said. "It didn't feel that bad, but I knew something obviously was wrong with that much pain."

Krieger said she will fly home to the D.C. area Monday and have surgery on the knee as soon as possible. "I'm going to get it done this week because I want to start that process started and try to get back. I'm still hopeful for the Olympics."

"I'm really sad for her," U.S. coach Pia Sundhage said. "She helped the team and she had a very good World Cup. That's tough for her, but at the end of the day, we can't do anything about it. The next step is to move on and find someone who can replace her. ... We need to look at it and find players to compete for that spot. But we have time, so I have no doubt in my mind. Maybe [the replacement] is already in squad, maybe she will be someone else coming in and fighting for the spot."

Krieger said her feelings have come in waves since the injury.

"It's been pretty emotional, pretty draining the past few days," she said. "This is the first time injuring my knee and it's pretty bad. Obviously, I want to be playing -- who doesn't? -- but I'm taking it pretty well. I'm staying positive and looking forward. I'm just taking one day at a time."

U.S. team awaits word on Krieger injury

January, 21, 2012
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VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Despite the record-setting score, the U.S. women's soccer team's 14-0 rout over the Dominican Republican might have come at a price. Defender Ali Krieger left the game in the first half with an injured right knee and her status for the rest of the Olympic qualifying tournament is unknown.

U.S. coach Pia Sundhage said the team won't know the full extent of Krieger's injury until it receives the MRI results Saturday.

"It's probably a serious injury, but by tomorrow we'll find out what it is," she said. "We as a team will move forward with or without her -- we just have to figure out what the deal is with her knee. We're obviously all thinking of her and wishing her nothing but success."

Krieger, who was not available for comment after the game, injured the knee when she fell awkwardly.

"She shoots and I think comes down funny on it," teammate Abby Wambach said. "With this kind of [turf] surface [at BC Place], you never know exactly what the prognosis is going to be until you get the results back from the MRI."

Wambach fell several times on her left knee and said she was happy to get a breather when Sundhage substituted Alex Morgan for her in the second half.

"We want her to last as long as we can in this tournament, which is one reason we took her out at halftime," Sundhage said. "The other reason is we have some good players on the bench."

VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- The U.S. women's soccer team had an abrupt greeting when it arrived here this week for the start of the Olympic qualifying tournament. The first was snow and significantly colder than normal weather for Vancouver (it is much colder here now than it ever was during the 2010 Winter Olympics). The second was a fatal shooting in the restaurant of its hotel.

The players said they were all upstairs in their rooms when the shooting occurred Tuesday evening around 8:45 p.m. in the hotel restaurant.

"All of us were a bit scared," goalkeeper Hope Solo said Wednesday afternoon. "We all travel all around the world; big cities, small cities. It's a normal thing that crime happens. We were aware of the situation. It was scary for us, but it was handled incredibly well by the hotel staff and the police officers."

"It was a little scary at first," forward Alex Morgan said. "I've never been so close to a shooting even though we were upstairs. Everyone was taken care of really well by our general manager. We were calling down and guest services were very nice to us and telling us not to come down. The situation was handled really well.

"I don't think this affects us at all. Even though it was in our hotel, we didn't witness it, so I don't think that's going to be a problem. We were definitely a little shaken up the first moments when we heard about it."

Asked about whether the incident affected her, Solo replied: "Every experience in life affects you personally. You start to question what life is all about. You start to think about your loved ones. That's pretty normal. We know we're in a very safe place, both in Canada and up in Vancouver, and keep in mind, I live in Seattle, which is just a couple hours down south. I feel safe. The team has no second thoughts about being here or performing well in the tournament."

The eight-team tournament begins Thursday at BC Place Stadium, with the top two teams advancing to the Olympics. The United States plays its first game Friday night against the Dominican Republic.

With snow on the ground and temperatures in the 20s, midfielder Megan Rapinoe said she hopes the new retractable roof remains closed.


The Olympics are still six months and three weeks away, so there's still a little time to order a copy of Michael Phelps' "London on 10,000 Calories a Day" guidebook. The U.S. Olympic trials season, however, is just about to heat up.

Mark the following events and dates on your 2012 Mayan calendar if you want a head start on crushing all opponents in your Olympics Fantasy League.

(Disclaimer: This isn't all of the trials since some sports don't have them, but this list is a lot to put on your plate without also explaining the selection process for the modern pentathlon team.)

[+] EnlargeShalane Flanagan
Kirby Lee/US PresswireShalane Flanagan will be one of the favorites heading into the U.S. Olympic marathon trials.

Jan. 14: Marathon

Begin the long, grueling season of Olympic athlete trials and qualifications with -- what else? -- the marathon in Houston. The U.S. women may have their deepest field ever, including Desiree Davila, Kara Goucher, Shalane Flanagan and 38-year-old Deena Kastor. On the men's side, Ryan Hall is the favorite, but don't rule out 36-year-old 2004 silver medalist Meb Keflezighi, who set a personal record in the recent ING New York City Marathon. By the way, top marathoners average just under five-minute miles. For 26.2 miles. You'd be lucky to average that in Houston at rush hour in a car.

Jan. 19-29: Women's soccer qualifying tournament

Sadly, Hope Solo's "Dancing with the Stars" season finished shy of the coveted mirror ball. If she wants a shot at adding another Olympic gold medal to her collection, she and the rest of the U.S. women must first secure a spot. A field of eight countries from the Americas will compete in Vancouver, British Columbia, for two slots in London. The United States is in Group B with Mexico, Guatemala and the Dominican Republic, but another interesting story should be Group A in which Haiti will face Canada, Cuba and Costa Rica. Let's just hope Vancouverites don't burn down the city if Canada doesn't qualify.

Feb. 13-19: Women's boxing

Qualifying for the Olympics is a two-step process for the U.S. women. Boxers must win the trials in Spokane, Wash., in February. Then those boxers must finish among the top eight in the three weight classes at the world championships in China in May. This will be the first time women's boxing will be on the Olympic calendar.

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AP Photo/Martin MeissnerThe U.S. women's soccer team will compete in Vancouver for a spot in the Olympics.

March 22-April 2: Men's soccer qualifying tournament

Because of the age restrictions, men's Olympic soccer isn't viewed as big a deal as it is for the women. But can Freddy Adu and his teammates grab the spotlight away from the women with a medal? Well, the Americans will first have to get there. The qualifying rounds will be played in Nashville, Tenn., and Carson City, Calif., before the semifinals and final March 31 and April 2 in Kansas City, Kan. Don't drip your scarves in the barbecue.

April 21-22: Wrestling

In addition to the usual hopefuls, there are two possible wrestlers who could make this event very interesting. Both 2000 gold medalist/"Biggest Loser" competitor Rulon Gardner and 1996 gold medalist/pro wrestler Kurt Angle have said they will attempt to make the team. A slimmed-down Gardner is working at the Olympic training center, while Angle is training on his own. No chairs, please, Kurt.

Late spring, basketball roster selections

The Olympic spots are set, it's just a matter of hearing the final rosters. The men are coming off gold in 2008, while the women are 33-0 in the Olympics dating back to 1992. BTW: If men's coach Mike Krzyzewski needs a vowel, he can buy it from women's coach Geno Auriemma.

(Read full post)

Don't bet against Beckham for 2012 Games

July, 29, 2011
7/29/11
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While all the controversy surrounding the Great Britain soccer team revolved around who might not be playing, one exceptionally familiar and aging footballer bucked the trend by offering to sign up for duty -- David Beckham.

[+] EnlargeBeckham
Eamonn McCormack/Getty ImagesDavid Beckham will be 37 when the 2012 Olympics roll round.
The former Manchester United and Real Madrid star turned-L.A. Galaxy midfielder aided the successful London Olympics bid. He has now articulated a desire to participate as a member of the soccer team.

The Olympic tournament has idiosyncratic selection rules: 18 players form a squad but only three can be over the age of 23. The structure is designed to prevent it from encroaching on the World Cup's territory.

Beckham, who will be 37 when the 2012 Olympics roll round, has played many roles in his career: hero, villain, savior of the American game, touchline ambassador for the 2010 England World Cup team, unsuccessful lobbyist for the England 2018 World Cup bid. Despite amassing a net worth estimated at $219 million in the process, Beckham evidently still feels a draw to pull on a Great Britain Olympic shirt.

While pundits debate potential Great Britain dream teams involving the likes of Arsenal tandem Aaron Ramsey (Wales) and Jack Wilshere (England) and Manchester United's defensive duo of Chris Smalling (England) and Jonny Evans (Northern Ireland), few etched Beckham's name into the squad. A popular poll on national website Faces of Britain found no room for him on the team, a widespread sentiment which led Olympic organizers to float the notion that he could be considered as a coach.

Don't bet against David. Born and bred around London's East End, he considers himself a local boy. He has undeniably been a remarkable servant to the English national team, racking up a 115 caps, a record for an outfield player. But above all, for a media-hungry creature like Beckham, the Olympics are the ultimate catnip.

The competition ticks all of his boxes: global broadcast exposure, soccer balls and the chance to drape yourself in a Union Jack flag. Mark our words, he will be there. And with 12 months still to go, he could still yet mount a charm campaign to ensure he is granted the honor of lighting the Olympic torch, by popular acclaim.

Roger Bennett is the co-host of Off The Ball and appears on Futbol Frenzy on "Morning Joe" every Monday. He can be reached via Twitter: @rogbennett


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