The US Women’s National Soccer Team had to quickly turn their attention to 2012 and the London Olympic Games after an emotional, exciting, and historic 2011. It was time for the USA to prepare for what should be an entertaining women’s soccer competition in the United Kingdom. This was after their successful qualifying campaign in Vancouver, Canada, in January.
In the Olympic tournament, 12 countries will compete instead of 16, so the level of play will be even higher. This is because the US team aims for its fourth gold medal in the five Summer Games with women’s soccer.
It was expected that the US Women’s National Soccer Team roster would not change much from the players in Germany since it has been a back-to-back World Cup Olympics cycle since 1995/96.
US Women’s National Soccer Team Head Coach
Pia Sundhage and her staff had to make even more difficult decisions when the roster was trimmed from 21 players to 18. Before naming her final Olympic roster, Sundhage had ample opportunity to get to know the core of her player pool over the past four years.
Taking over at the end of 2007 with a short time frame to prepare for Olympic qualifying and the Olympics in Beijing, Sundhage has already prepared teams for a world championship on short notice.
Before leaving for London and the Olympic Games, the US team played three domestic friendlies in 2012, one in February, one in May, and a send-off game in early July.
As usual, the USA’s international schedule was packed with trips to Portugal for the Algarve Cup in March, Japan for several matches in early April, and Europe in June.
Sundhage had plenty of opportunities to evaluate players before the Olympics, as the squad played 17 games before the games. After winning the inaugural gold medal for women’s soccer in 1996 and a silver medal in 2000, the USA has won the last two Olympic gold medals.
Aiming for Olympic success, this time in soccer’s birthplace will be the goal for 2012. In the FIFA Women’s World Rankings, the US Women began and ended 2011 at the top. As of the end of 2011, the USA had lost eight matches in regulation time since the FIFA Women’s World Cup in 2003 – just five under Sundhage.
However, they hope to continue building on their success, making them one of the most successful women’s soccer nations.
In 1991, Sundhage played in the inaugural Women’s World Cup, while in 1995, she played in the tournament in her own country of Sweden. While Sundhage was a player in the Olympics (1996, when she played for her last world championship), she will be coaching in her second Summer Games as a coach.
A goal from Carli Lloyd gave the US Women’s National Soccer Team an overtime victory over Brazil in 2008 in Beijing. Sundhage has fashioned a squad that came within minutes of winning the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup in her fifth full year at the helm of the United States. To win the Olympic title after falling short at the 2011 World Cup, Sundhage has seamlessly integrated numerous experienced veterans with some of the world’s top young players.
Although a few young players will be brought in, the USA primarily relies on the talent that took them to and through the Women’s World Cup in Germany.
US Women’s National Soccer Team Defense
Most countries would envy the USA’s depth in goal. However, she won the Golden Glove as the top keeper in the Women’s World Cup in Germany after recovering from shoulder surgery in the fall of 2010.
During Solo’s recovery, Nicole Barnhart performed exceptionally well in her stead, and the duo should enter the tournament as one of the most experienced goalkeeping pairs. After a stellar college career at Villanova, Jill Loyden emerged as the consistent third-choice keeper for the US.
In the US back line, US captain Christie Rampone anchors the back line as the most capped active player in the world. As well as her, several players from the back four have vast experience playing a variety of positions.
Three USA players have demonstrated their ability to play in the center or at the outside back role. In addition, Rampone’s partner in the middle, Rachel Buehler, has proven to be equally adept at playing outside back positions.
At the Women’s World Cup, Amy LePeilbet played as a left-back, but in WPS, she played in the center, where she has been named Defender of the Year twice. Her one game of action in Germany was at center back, but she can switch outside if the need arises.
Ali Krieger’s injury in January of 2012 necessitated Sundhage and her staff to strengthen the back four. It will be difficult for the US Women’s National Soccer Team to maintain its depth on the flanks after losing Lori Chalupny in 2009 and Krieger in January 2012. After being hampered by injuries in 2011, Heather Mitts recovered strongly and has won two Olympic gold medals in addition to more than 100 caps.
Stephanie Cox, a versatile player with a particular skill on the left flank, can play on either side. In addition, Kelley O’Hara, who has played forward or flank midfield during her college and youth national team careers, has seen increased time as a flank defender, where her attacking skills are put to use.
In 2012, she would no doubt have been an option for those positions. However, during the very beginning of her full international career, Meghan Klingenberg, a starter on the USA’s U-20 world championship team in 2008, has shown promise both at right back and right midfield.
During her training with the US team, Whitney Engen has also excelled, pushing veterans and creating intense competition for roster spots.
Having complemented each other well since the 2008 Olympics, Carli Lloyd and Shannon Boxx will be looking to maintain that chemistry as the US team prepares for London. In addition, Lauren Cheney could be inserted as an attacking midfielder in the US lineup.
US Women’s National Soccer Team Attack
On the international stage, the long-time striker has proven her worth in that position. She has demonstrated extraordinary qualities in her new role by holding the ball high and collapsing the defense to open up the flanks and get her team up the field. Cheney will play an essential role in the US team’s effort to win gold, whether running toward the goal or with her back to it.
The veteran Lori Lindsey, who played 90 minutes against Colombia in the Women’s World Cup, has established herself as an effective backup to Lloyd or Boxx, while Keelin Winters, one of the top center midfielders in WPS, and Christine Nairn, who still has one season of college soccer to play, provide cover in the midfield. At the end of 2011, Ingrid Wells also trained with the USA.
There is a remarkably deep squad at flank midfield for the USA, which has rarely happened in recent years. She now holds the record for the most consecutive games played by a US player in right midfield, Heather O’Reilly.
During the Women’s World Cup, Megan Rapinoe was a breakout star, demonstrating her versatility. In addition, while Amy Rodriguez has almost exclusively played as a striker during her career, she has also shown that she can play on the wing.
As a left midfielder, Tobin Heath is an excellent dribbler and a highly skilled player. Despite not seeing much action at the 2012 Olympics, Kristie Mewis, the 2008 US Soccer Young Female Athlete of the Year, showed tremendous potential.
After the CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying Tournament, the US Women’s National Soccer Team all-time leading scorer with 131 goals will be Abby Wambach at forward. However, Alex Morgan, who consistently shows her ability to come off the bench, is one of the best US bench players in history. Morgan scored both goals in the semifinals and final of the World Cup due to her tenacity and speed.
Cheney and Rodriguez, both 2008 Olympic gold medalists who played significant minutes in Germany, are attacking players who can play striker and put pressure on any defense. As the USA’s all-time top scorer in FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cups, Sydney Leroux’s toughness, bravery, and speed might make her a factor for the 2012 London Olympics.
There is no doubt the US has the talent to win in London, but the competition is constantly improving, and the Americans are always on their backs. Fortunately, the US players relish both challenges as they strive to return to the top of the medal standings in London.
US Women’s National Team 4 – France 2
At Glasgow’s Hampden Park, Alex Morgan scored twice to lead the USA to a dramatic 4-2 victory over France in their Olympic title defense. As a match pitting together two of the finest teams in women’s soccer, the Americans’ stirring comeback was a memorable highlight.
The reigning Olympic champions were stunned by France’s 2-0 lead inside 14 minutes after the French suffered a semifinal defeat at the hands of the Americans last year at the FIFA Women’s World Cup. Gaetane Thiney’s first goal was a thing of beauty, smashed home from 25 yards by Hope Solo, who got a hand to the ball but could not keep it out.
Despite Pia Sundhage’s best efforts, the US team started weakly and fell two behind two minutes later. Rather than clearing a corner, France took advantage of a frantic penalty box scramble by Marie-Laure Delie to double their lead with a powerful low shot that deflected beyond Solo.
An unexpected savior arrived in the form of the USA. With so many times she has become her team’s talisman, Abby Wambach looped home a header from Megan Rapinoe’s corner to pull the Americans back into contention. If the Hampden crowd thought the game’s excitement had ended after the third goal in just seven breathless minutes, they were wrong.
The French defender had accidentally headed the ball into Morgan’s path after Sundhage’s side pressed relentlessly after half-time, and Alex Morgan equalized with a superb shot beyond Sarah Bouhaddi. In the second half, it was no great surprise to see the holders take the lead after 11 minutes, regardless of the odd flurry of excitement in Solo’s penalty area.
From 25 yards, Carli Lloyd, the US Women’s National Soccer Team hero in 2008, swerved and dipped the ball into the bottom corner to complete the game’s six goals. Tobin Heath’s inviting low cross was missed by three players, including Bouhaddi, but Morgan completed the comeback at the back post, tapping home.
US Women’s National Team 1 – North Korea 0
A rain-soaked Old Trafford in Manchester hosted the final Group G game between the USA and Korea DPR.
Their third consecutive win sees them finish top of the section, leaving the Koreans in third place and uncertain of their fate.
As assistant coach Erica Dambach promised before the game, the USA attacked the ball. The Korean rearguard looked vulnerable under Morgan and Wambach’s attack, as they combined well and pressed forward.
Within the first quarter-hour, Morgan had two scoring chances, but the defending Olympic champion Americans could not capitalize until the 25th minute.
She brought down the ball inside the penalty area, drawing out her defender before slipping the ball across the goalmouth to Wambach, who had the easiest of tap-ins. American women scored their 50th goal in Olympic football history, which was extravagantly celebrated.
Wambach continued to push forward throughout the first half, but she failed to score again. A single shot on goal was not managed by the Asians during the first 45 minutes.
The Americans missed their first opportunity after the break, as Tobin Heath replaced Megan Rapinoe.
Knowing they needed a point to stay alive, Korea DPR threw caution to the wind, with the Americans happy to absorb the pressure.
Choe Mi Gyong, who was sent off for a second yellow card in the 81st minute, was the reason for the Asians’ charge losing momentum. The Koreans’ numerical disadvantage and fatigue prevented them from achieving their crucial goal.
A final-eight encounter with either the third-place finisher from Group E or F awaits the Americans, who are among the favorites for another gold.
US Women’s National Team 2 – New Zealand 0
Another Olympic goal for Abby Wambach helped the USA to a 2-0 win over New Zealand at St James’ Park in Newcastle in a quarter-final clash at the 2012 Olympic Games.
US Women’s National Team 4 – Canada 3
As a result of a sensational semifinal at Old Trafford in Manchester, the US Women’s National Soccer Team have advanced to the Women’s Olympic Football Tournament final and will have the chance to reap revenge against Japan.
As the Americans had not led until the final seconds of the match, Alex Morgan scored the winning goal with a terrific header from a cross from Heather O’Reilly in added time.
This ensured her side kept their record of reaching every Olympic final since 1996 when the women’s tournament was introduced.
The Canadians were up three times after Christine Sinclair scored a hat-trick, but twice Megan Rapinoe and then Abby Wambach equalized for the USA to keep their hopes alive.
In the first 20 minutes of this match, the USA had been dominant following their victory over France in their first encounter.
Although they lacked possession, Canada resisted their neighbors’ attacks aggressively as they attempted to keep a clean sheet.
In the 22nd minute, Canada delivered a sucker punch that stopped USA’s momentum. A precise pass from Melissa Tancredi found Sinclair in the American goal.
As Sinclair continued the counter-attack, she ran into the box, evaded a defender, and finished past Solo with composure.
Five minutes later, the Canadians had the opportunity to double their advantage. Again, Sophie Schmidt guided a header toward the goal that Solo handled well, this time through a swift counter-attack.
In quick succession, Pia Sundhage’s team responded impressively, with Morgan playing a crucial role twice. Her glancing header drifted agonizingly wide of the far post after receiving an inswinging Rapinoe free-kick.
A strong header from Wambach ended up off-target after Morgan was released with space on the right-hand side again in the opening period.
A pulsating second half was shared by Canada and USA when the floodgates opened after a lack of clear chances in the first 45 minutes.
A vital feature of the first half was Rapinoe’s delivery from set-pieces and open play, and nine minutes after the break, he helped the USA level the score. She made it 1-1 with a whipped corner kick that caused havoc among the Canadian defense.
In the 68th minute, Sinclair and Tancredi combined again to regain Canada’s lead. After finding room on the left wing, she crossed for her teammate, who headed the ball back toward goal and beyond Solo’s reach.
In perhaps the most exciting game of the tournament so far, the goal ignited a stunning period of football. Rapinoe equalized with a brilliant shot off the post two minutes after the USA fell behind for the second time.
The Canadians didn’t give up, and Sinclair netted a hat-trick in five thrilling minutes to claim a hat-trick for John Herdman’s side. After reaching Schmidt’s left-side corner, the 29-year-old beat Solo again with a header.
Despite having ten minutes left on the clock, the US Women’s National Soccer Team clawed it’s way back into the match. As she has in every USA match, Wambach added another goal to her tally, converting a penalty following a Rapinoe free-kick handball.
As extra time was required to decide the match, Wambach had a chance to win when Morgan found her at the back post, but her effort went wide. Schmidt surged forward, only for Solo to see her as she charged clear of the American defense.
The pace did not slow during the additional period, but Wambach’s looping header bounced off the crossbar in the 118th minute to mark the closest either side came. The remaining seconds seemed destined for penalties until Morgan had her moment.
US Women’s National Team 2 – Japan 1
By beating Japan 2-1 in front of an Olympic record of 80,203 spectators at Wembley Stadium, the USA made it four gold medals out of a possible five.
The hero of the hour was Carli Lloyd, 30, just as she was in the final of Beijing 2008. Even though Japan set up a nervy ending in the 63rd minute for the Stars and Stripes with a goal from Yuki Ogimi, she scored in each half to help her side to victory.
Eight minutes into the game, Wembley saw its first goal. Keeping the ball in play, Tobin Heath passed it to Alex Morgan, who crossed it. Then, Lloyd scored from close range after Japan’s defense focused on Wambach.
With 60 seconds left in the first half, Japan had two excellent scoring chances. Christie Rampone cleared Nahomi Kawasumi’s shot off the line after it appeared to be headed toward the goal.
Despite some brave defending by Kelley O’Hara and Hope Solo, the rebound fell kindly to Ogimi, who was about to shoot. Immediately after, Solo had to tip Kawasumi’s cross over the bar after Ogimi headed it toward the goal.
In the second half, Japan almost handed the USA their second of the evening when Iwashimizu’s header back to Fukumoto hit the inside of the post and bounced out along the goal line before bouncing away to safety.
The Nadeshiko hit the woodwork again, but this time at the right end. As a result of Shinobu Ohno’s tricks, several USA defenders were left in the dust. Aya Miyama squared the ball to her captain, whose shot beat Solo but not the crossbar. Likewise, Miyama went close to equalizing four minutes later with a shot from the box that fizzed past the right post.
Both sides began the second half looking to score for different reasons. The USA hoped to extend its lead, while Japan sought an equalizer. The US Women’s National Soccer Team slammed Japan with a bolt of lightning just as Usain Bolt was warming up for the 200m at the Olympic Park.
A Lloyd right-footed shot was placed across the face of the goal after picking up the ball deep inside the Japan half, running at the defense, and hitting the ball across the face of the goal.
After a superb pass by Miyama, Ohno played Sawa with the ball in the 63rd minute. It appeared her shot would find the back of the net, but Rampone once again cleared it off the line. Despite this, she passed the ball straight to Sawa, who showed great composure to pass it to Ogimi, who easily converted the chance.
In the 81st minute, USA nearly added a third when Rachel Buehler almost hit Lauren Cheney’s cross with a flick-on, but Fukumoto made a fine save. After a half-cleared Miyama free-kick was hacked off the line by Amy LePeilbet, the game flowed from end to end.
At both ends of the field, there was drama as the game entered its final minutes. After Lloyd narrowly missed a hat-trick with her right-footed shot, Japan substitute Mana Iwabuchi forced Solo to save her powerful shot on the line.
In many ways, it was even better than the FIFA Women’s World Cup final between the two teams last year. It was a well-deserved gold medal for the Stars and Stripes tonight after Japan edged the Stars and Stripes on penalties in the previous match.
Women’s Olympic Soccer Tournament London 2012 Review
The USA won their third consecutive gold medal at London 2012 – their fourth out of a possible five at Women’s Olympic Football Tournaments – to cement their status as the undisputed queens of Olympic football.
Coach Pia Sundhage retained the core of the squad that took gold in Beijing four years ago, but also added new faces from the group that performed so well at the FIFA Women’s World Cup Germany 2011.
Among them was Alex Morgan, long used as an impact substitute but now an integral part of the USA front line. In addition, the Stars and Stripes showed an ability to dig deep and salvage results from challenging games, particularly in their group opener against France and their semifinal with Canada.
The US Women’s National Soccer Team’s gold-winning campaign ended with the sweet taste of revenge and victory over Japan, their conquerors in the final of Germany 2011. The Japanese, for their part, grew in stature as the tournament progressed and saved one of their best performances for the gold medal match. An Olympic record of 80,203 spectators was at Wembley for the grand finale of the women’s competition, and they were treated to a thrilling spectacle.
Homare Sawa and Co were not as dazzling at London 2012 as they were at Germany 2011. Still, their incisive counter-attacks and the predatory finishing of forward Yuki Ogimi were enough to see them progress to the final.
Despite the disappointing end to their campaign, Japan appeared more than satisfied with the silver medal, which represents their best finish at an Olympic Women’s Football Tournament.
Canada was one of the biggest surprise packages in London 2012. A year after their first-round exit at Germany in 2011, where they failed to register a single point and scored just one goal, John Herdman’s rejuvenated side reached the semifinals and took the USA all the way to the wire before falling just short. They then clinched the bronze medal to cap a year of remarkable progress.
The Canadians took the final podium spot from France, who, for the second year running, missed out on the consolation of third place. For all their technical quality, Les Bleues were too often unable to find an end product when it mattered. This was particularly true in their semifinal and bronze medal match, where they enjoyed plenty of possession only to be picked apart on the break.
Great Britain, meanwhile, delighted their home supporters by defeating Brazil on their way to topping their group. Steph Houghton and Scottish star Kim Little were the stand-out performers in a predominantly English squad, whose challenge ultimately fizzled out in the quarter-finals.
For Brazil, London 2012 proved a step backward compared with their past Olympic exploits. The Auriverde fell in the quarter-finals this time around despite having Beijing 2008 coach Jorge Barcellos at the helm once again.
It was a similar tale for Sweden, who could not kick on from their third-place finish in Germany in 2011, and Korea DPR, who also performed below expectations. The Koreans have been a real force in the lower age categories over the past few years. Still, the senior side’s two most recent appearances at the highest level ended in disappointing first-round exits.
On the other hand, New Zealand gave further proof of the constant development of women’s football in the country. Tony Readings’ side managed a historic achievement at London 2012 by reaching the second round of a FIFA competition for the first time.
African representatives South Africa and Cameroon, and South American participants Colombia, showed they still have room for improvement if they are to be competitive internationally.
However, the trio displayed encouraging signs that progress is being made in their respective countries, where women’s football is not as popular as in other parts of the world.
Rhett is an Australian-born, globe trotter who is a UEFA ‘A’ Licence Soccer Coach. With his family, he has traveled and coached soccer in more than 30 countries, while attending World Cups, European Championships, and some of the biggest local derbies in the world!