|espnW.com: More Sports|
As we look to the start of the 2012 NCAA women's soccer championships, espnW talked women's soccer with Olympic and World Cup champion Brandi Chastain.
The two-time World Cup and Olympic champion serves as an advisory board member for the Capital One Cup, a program that recognizes the top men's and women's Division I athletics program across 20 women's sports and 19 men's sports. The winner of the women's College Cup (and men's College Cup) will earn 60 points toward the Capital One Cup.
espnW: Other than Santa Clara, who are you looking forward to seeing play in the women's College Cup?
Brandi Chastain: No. 1, it has to be said that there's more than 320 teams playing at the Division I level in women's soccer and that is just huge. The fact this is the 40th anniversary of Title IX shows having opportunity has forced the playoffs into a great position. There's much more parity than there's ever been in women's soccer and though Stanford is the reigning champion and has been ranked highly for the majority of the year, there are still teams out there that can make a dent, whether it's Oklahoma State or Notre Dame or hopefully Santa Clara or Duke or Florida State. The list goes on and on and I love that about the state of women's soccer right now.
This tournament is going to be exciting and the fact that Capital One and the Capital One Cup will recognize their greatness is great and they have such a big influence on the outcome of the cup. Stanford won it last year in women's soccer and their university won the cup, so maybe soccer could be a predictor on the women's side of who may win the Capital One Cup.
espnW: The U.S. women's national team just named a new coach, Tom Sermanni, the former head coach of the Australian women's national team. What are the implications of hiring someone who is not from the United States?
Chastain: I don't think that's an issue. Tom Sermanni is good at what he does, which is coach women's soccer. He's proven that over the years. Being on an island out in the middle of the Pacific Ocean has got to be a difficult place to try to have a team that makes a run for a championship and he had created a wonderful team of young players in a non-soccer traditional country. He did an excellent job going from Oceana into the Asian qualification group playing against Japan, Korea and China on a regular basis. He's got a world of experience playing with some of the best teams in the world. I think it's a great hire by U.S. Soccer. Not only have I played for Tom with the WUSA San Jose CyberRays, but I've become a friend of his and I enjoy his perspective about the game, so I was very thrilled when I heard the news.
Sports are unique in that everybody has their own personality and personalities are important. I think the most important thing Tom can bring to the team immediately is the ability to communicate with the players and he's shown time and time again he has the ability to get across what it is he wants his teams to do, the objectives or priorities. He has a way of doing that in a really calming, great disposition and I think he's going to be a breath of fresh air and knowledge for the U.S. team.
espnW: What was your experience like serving as one of NBC's women's soccer broadcasters during the 2012 Olympics in London?
Chastain: It was great being a player in the middle of it is much different than being a commentator or an analyst. Actually being in the stadiums this time around was exciting. All the stadiums -- from Glasgow, Scotland, to Wembley -- have a lot of tradition and a lot of soccer lore, obviously much more so on the men's side, and now for the U.S. and the women's team to be a part of that soccer lore is wonderful for our history. It allowed a culture to see women's soccer in a different light and maybe even become fans and hopefully it will advance the women's game even more in Great Britain. There's a lot of possibilities that came out of the tournament of 2012.
espnW: There are a lot of comparisons made between this year's Olympic gold medal team and the 1999 World Cup team. Who was better?
Chastain: There's obviously going to be discussion and debate about what this team did and that team and how they compare. That's why people love sports because they can either pontificate about it or they can share it or have a great debate and it makes it interesting. Both teams obviously are championship teams. Great quality, great leadership, great leaders in different positions in different ways. Teams change over the years -- the personnel changes, coaches change -- it's more about philosophies and systems of play and how players work in those systems and can those coaches find the right chemistry for them to work. I love the talk about it. There hasn't been a U.S. World Cup winner since 1999 so that's hard when you get asked those questions. I think it's always positive for women's soccer to be spoken [about] whether it's at a pub or at a barbeque or in the stadiums or at a tailgate.
espnW: How does Alex Morgan compare to Mia Hamm?
Chastain: Alex Morgan isn't anywhere close to Mia Hamm. She's such a young player. She's scored a lot of goals, and I don't say that in a way that's negative, I just think that Alex Morgan's career is in its freshman season. We'll talk about it when Alex Morgan is years into her national team career as Mia was and was such a force for so many years and such a great goal-scorer for so many years. I've played with Alex Morgan on a club team here in California and I've watched her play against my husband's team [he coaches for Santa Clara and Morgan played for Cal] and there's no doubt Alex has physical gifts that are almost hard to touch because it's hard to stop her physically and she uses those to her advantage in such a great way that it's exciting and I enjoy it. But to talk about her in terms of Mia Hamm is just a little premature.
espnW: Do you think Abby Wambach will keep playing long enough for another World Cup or Olympic medal run?
Chastain: I hope so. I don't know if there are many teams out there that can stop her in terms of just the physical presence she has. Today, I was reading my local paper about Landon Donovan making a comment saying he's not sure he wants to play in the 2014 World Cup and I think what people have to remember is these players are people, too. They've been playing on the national teams for a long time, and ultimately you have to make personal choices. Personally I'd love to see Abby continue to play because I think she has such a great impact on the game, and I think with Tom Sermanni being the new coach, she has a chance to play in a system she hasn't played before and that would be exciting to see how she would fit into it and what he could do with her. For that reason, personally, I'd like for it to happen, but I'm not sure how Abby feels and [how] physically she feels. It takes a great amount of physical commitment to be on the national team and play as many games as they do. So, we'll see.