Commentary

A closer look at the U.S. starting XI

Updated: July 16, 2011, 9:57 AM ET
By Ravi Ubha | ESPN.com

Two words have taken on special meaning for the U.S. during its World Cup adventure in Germany: "destiny" and "legacy."

Ever since rallying against Brazil in the quarterfinals, everyone on the team has felt the soccer gods are on their side. Winning against Japan in Frankfurt on Sunday would allow the current crop to leave its mark, similar to the 1999 squad that featured stalwarts Mia Hamm, Brandi Chastain and Kristine Lilly.

But who are the projected 11 trying to make history? ESPN.com takes a closer look with kickoff fast approaching.

GK: HOPE SOLO
Birthplace: Richland, Wash.
Form: Solo has been the best goalkeeper at the World Cup and one of its best players. Her top performance came against Brazil, but she backed it up in the semifinals against France, especially in the first half.
Did you know? Solo might look glamorous, but she doesn't mind roughing it. She loves the outdoors and went camping a fair bit in her youth.

LB: AMY LEPEILBET
Birthplace: Crystal Lake, Ill.
Form: Getting better. LePeilbet, naturally a central defender, struggled in the group stage before picking it up defensively against Brazil and France. Coach Pia Sundhage stuck with her, which must have done her confidence good.
Did you know? At Arizona State, she majored in sociology and compiled a 3.81 GPA.

CB: RACHEL BUEHLER
Birthplace: La Jolla, Calif.
Form: Buehler, like LePeilbet, didn't look completely assured in the group stage. But she was unlucky to be dismissed against Brazil. The extra rest won't hurt when she's restored for the final.
Did you know? Buehler holds a degree in human biology and hopes to enter the medical field after her soccer career ends. Her dad, Donald, is a heart surgeon.

CB: CHRISTIE RAMPONE
Birthplace: Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Form: Rampone, 36, has been the U.S.'s top defender and most consistent performer. She's due for a third straight lung-bursting run after chasing Marta in the quarterfinals and setting up a scoring opportunity versus France.
Did you know? Rampone is the only mom on the U.S. team.

RB: ALI KRIEGER
Birthplace: Alexandria, Va.
Form: Krieger had her hands full in the semifinals, having to deal with France's Sonia Bompastor, who went forward on every opportunity. However, for the most part, Krieger has been solid and reliable.
Did you know? Krieger played club soccer in Germany and speaks fluent German. One day she wants to become a wedding planner.

M: LAUREN CHENEY
Birthplace: Indianapolis
Form: Cheney began the tournament well, faded slightly, then excelled against France: scoring once, setting up Abby Wambach's winner and adjusting well to a new position in central midfield.
Did you know? Cheney underwent open-heart surgery at the age of 3 and has a 10-inch scar as a reminder.

M: CARLI LLOYD
Birthplace: Marlton, N.J.
Form: If there's one player who can't wait for kickoff, it must be Lloyd. She was poor against France and was hauled off in the 65th minute.
Did you know? Had an ice-cream flavor named in her honor: "Carli's Cake Batter Cookie Dough Kick." Sounds delicious.

M: SHANNON BOXX
Birthplace: Fontana, Calif.
Form: France had more numbers in the center of the pitch than the U.S., the main reason it dominated for intervals. Boxx, like Lloyd, predictably had difficulty coping. But she was outstanding against Brazil.
Did you know? Her sister, Gillian, won a gold medal in softball at the 1996 Olympics.

M: HEATHER O'REILLY
Birthplace: New Brunswick, N.J.
Form: O'Reilly produced a wonderful cross to set up Cheney for the opener against France. But like most of her teammates, she sagged. Of the two wingers, she's now more susceptible to being replaced by Megan Rapinoe.
Did you know? O'Reilly's dad, Andy, was a three-time All-American at Villanova in track.

F: ABBY WAMBACH
Birthplace: Rochester, N.Y.
Form: Wambach's Achilles isn't 100 percent, and she appeared out of sorts against North Korea and Colombia. But she kept going and has now scored in three straight games. Her aerial ability will trouble a smaller Japanese side.
Did you know? Wambach is the youngest of seven children.

F: AMY RODRIGUEZ
Birthplace: Beverly Hills, Calif.
Form: Not good. Rodriguez isn't scoring, and she's not doing much else. Alex Morgan, meanwhile, would seem to be a more logical choice. Yet Sundhage probably won't mess with the Wambach-Rodriguez tandem up front at this stage.
Did you know? Rodriguez's favorite players are Barcelona's Lionel Messi and Chelsea's Fernando Torres.

London-based Ravi Ubha covers soccer and tennis for ESPN.com. You can follow him on Twitter here.

London-based Ravi Ubha covers soccer and tennis for ESPN.com.