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Thursday, April 12, 2012
Christie Rampone rethinks retirement

ESPN.com news services

NEW YORK -- U.S. captain Christie Rampone no longer is sure she'll retire after the London Olympics.

Her coaches are trying to persuade the defender to stay on the women's soccer national team through the 2015 World Cup in Canada -- the summer she turns 40. And Rampone, a mother of two, is considering it.

"I am feeling great," she said Thursday, "but the reality is, I want to walk away from the game enjoying it."

The way she's feeling on the field now, Rampone still could be enjoying competition at the highest level for another three-plus years. But off the field, all the travel that comes with national team commitments is a strain on her family.

Her older daughter started kindergarten after last summer's World Cup, and this soccer mom knows she can't just pull her from school for every faraway tournament. So Rampone, who also has a 2-year-old daughter, will take some time after the London Games to decide whether to continue a career that stretches back to 1997.

The competitor in her has plenty of motivation to keep playing. The Americans lost last year's World Cup final in excruciating fashion, twice blowing leads before falling on penalty kicks to Japan.

The U.S. hasn't been able to defeat the Japanese in two matchups since, and Rampone relishes trying to figure out how to win against them.

"It's not beating them with speed; it's not beating them with strength, which is great because I've come to the level now of playing smarter soccer," she said.

While Rampone is in great shape, what excites her most about her current level are the calm and composure of experience.

"Being able to go out there and just feel relaxed and play -- you play with so much more confidence, which makes you a better player," she said.

At the 2004 Olympics, U.S. soccer greats Mia Hamm, Julie Foudy and Joy Fawcett scripted a perfect finish to their careers with a gold medal. If the Americans win a championship again this summer, Rampone could go out on top, too.

But there's also the temptation of trying to lead the United States to its first World Cup title since 1999. Rampone is the only current member of the national team to have won a World Cup, though she played in just one game in '99. If she stays on through 2015, she'd become the oldest U.S. player to earn a cap; former teammate Kristine Lilly retired at age 39.

"Obviously, in sports, not too many people get to actually choose when they retire," said Rampone, who is now co-captain with star forward Abby Wambach. "I was like, 'That would be absolutely amazing to follow in Mia and Julie and Joy's footsteps, where they actually chose to do it.' The timing was perfect for them. That's why I don't want to stretch it beyond my capability.

"I always kind of saw my future ending like that. But you can only hope for that."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.