U.S. Women's National Team Heading for Soccer Gold
Alex Morgan, Hope Solo and Abby Wambach may now be part of the lexicon of sports fans around the world, but as the U.S. Women’s National Team seeks qualification into the 2012 Olympics and a fourth gold medal, it will take a team effort to succeed.
The United States has already qualified for the semifinals of the 2012 CONCACAF Olympic women's qualifying tournament in Vancouver, Canada, having beaten the Dominican Republic 14-0 and Guatemala 13-0.
However, the team faces a tougher challenge in tomorrow’s final Group B qualifying match against Mexico, who have also won both their games, beating Guatemala 5-0 and the Dominican Republic 7-0, respectively.
With only two teams going on to compete in the 12-team tournament in July, the U.S. will want to finish top of the group and hope to avoid facing hosts Canada until the final. Canada currently sits at the top of Group A on goal differential over Costa Rica.
With the semifinals scheduled for this Friday and the final being played two days later on Sunday January 29th, here are five reasons the U.S. will win the whole tournament and qualify as one of the favorites for the Olympics in London this summer.
SIMPLY THE BEST
From the front, to the back, to the bench, the U.S. team has strength in every position.
With 2011 AP Female Athlete of the Year Abby Wambach leading the line, Gold Glove winner from the 2011 World Cup Hope Solo between the sticks, and being able to call the speedy and exciting Alex Morgan from the bench, it’s easy to see why this team is so strong.
While it’s easy to get caught up in the big name recognition, this team plays to its strengths.
The service to the front line and protection across the back makes this team formidable in every area across the field.
With a team that is quick to close the opposition down, ruthless in the tackle and lightning fast in attack, it’s fairly obvious why any team would be intimidated by facing a 4-4-2 formation which features such stalwarts as Carli Lloyd in central midfield.
A defense that takes pride in the number of clean sheets it keeps makes facing a back four of Heather Mitts, Becky Sauerbrunn, Christie Rampone and Kelley O’Hara a challenge for any team that they come up against.
RIVER DEEP, MOUNTAIN HIGH
Mexico are a good outfit that are hard to break down. The last meeting between the two teams saw the U.S. win 1-0 with a stoppage time winner from Lauren Cheney.
However, the spirit and determination that runs through the U.S. team is second to none, and the self belief and will to win is unquestionable. If the U.S. were 0-3 down at halftime, I’d still expect them to storm back and win 4-3, just as they would believe it themselves.
This is a team that is unwavering in its resolve, and a very proud squad who believe in each other and what they can achieve together.
Some managers may be in a hot funk about their players lacking respect for the opponents they face and the jersey they wear, but every time the U.S. women’s team takes to the field, you can be certain that every one of them is aware of who they are playing and who they represent.
The whole organization—from the front office to the back-room staff—seem to be focused with the one goal of winning on the field.
The players all seem to have the honor and pride one would expect from pulling on the national jersey, no matter if it's the white of home or the black of away.
NUTBUSH CITY LIMITS
Domestically, the women’s game seems to be standing on shaking foundations, with only a handful of teams and players such as Abby Wambach and Hope Solo unsigned, following the termination of magicJack by the WPS.
The national team, however, seems solid as a rock. The foundations for this team have been structured with that of a winner’s mentality. The shellackings the team has been handing out in the last two games make playing soccer look like a joyous affair.
Being able to bring players off the bench, such as Alex Morgan and Sydney Leroux—who scored five second-half goals against Guatemala—has to put a smile on any coach’s face.
This isn’t to say the competition is easy—it’s not. But the belief and pride the U.S. team plays with makes winning look fun.
The U.S. not making the Olympics would be a major surprise and a huge disappointment for fans of the women’s game worldwide.
A gold medal in London is by no means a guarantee with the likelihood of facing such teams as World Champions Japan, hosts England, Brazil with the skillful Marta, and European powerhouses such as Germany, France and Sweden.
The possible loss of Ali Krieger through injury is a huge blow to the squad, though there are others who can step into her defensive role.
However, all this aside, with the tremendous skill, power and pride the Women’s National Team possess and show every time they step on the field, and with the incredible strength and depth of the squad, a repeat for the 2008 Gold Medal winners seems more than a possibility for this dream team.