James Galanis, president of the Universal Soccer Academy, hit back at USA’s World Cup 1999 hero Brandi Chastain’s criticisms of the USA’s current defensive form, saying she was merely worried that this new generation of players would “eclipse their legacy.”
Was there any truth in his comments? Is this current USA team the greatest yet?
Seven years ago in Singapore, when the honour of hosting the 2012 Olympic Games was given to London, it was largely due to Sebastian Coe’s promise to use the Games to create a legacy in getting more young people active.
We can see a real example of that unfolding. Mia Hamm, Julie Foudy, Joy Fawcett and Chastain all retired from the women’s USA squad in 2004, one year before London was awarded with the hosting rights for the Games, and the USA team was left with a new-look and much younger side—so their own legacy began. Hope Solo became the first-choice keeper, followed by Lauren Cheney in 2007. Defender Kelley O’Hara and Alex Morgan came in 2010; the latter has scored twice so far this tournament.
Since 2004, the side has lifted the CONCACAF Gold Cup in ’06 and Olympic gold in Beijing and, three games into their 2012 Olympic campaign, with three wins from three games, they seem well on their way for a medal position.
Although it was 32-year-old veteran Abby Wambach who got the game's only goal, it was 24-year-old Lauren Cheney who provided the Korean reserve goalkeeper O Chang Ran’s first test early on, hitting the woodwork. Ten minutes later came the breakthrough, a move started by Cheney, with 23-year-old Morgan assisting Wambach’s game-winning finish. The impact the young stars had on the game was undoubtedly vital.
“First in the group,” said Solo after the game, one in which she barely got her gloves dirty, keeping yet another clean sheet, “not bad. All we needed was a tie and I think we knew that, the energy was a little low. But we know how to step it up and rise to the occasion.”
Indeed, despite the day’s lacklustre performance, they have already proved their worth in this tournament, and it happened a mere 14 minutes into the tournament in their opening game against France. Two early goals from Gaetane Thiney and Marie-Laure Delie saw the French steal an early lead. Left [L3] astounded, the onlooking crowd did not expect such a poor start from the FIFA-ranked No. 1 country. But goals from Wambach and Morgan saw them fight back to a 3-2 lead before Carli Lloyd finished the job on 56 minutes.
Their second group game against Colombia proved a much simpler task, as they cruised to a 3-0 victory. Moreover, 2012 hasn’t just been a good Olympic Games for them. They have now played 15 matches since February 11, winning 14, losing one and drawing one, both against Japan, whom they later beat 4-1 in June.
So, when James Galanis said that this current incarnation of the USA’s women's national team is soon to “eclipse” the legacy of past heroes, during an Olympic Games built on the commitment of creating legacies, are we seeing the greatest USA women’s team blossom right before our eyes? Are we going to see a fourth gold or will the defence that Chastain is so quick to criticise be the Achilles heel, preventing them from being top of the podium?
This piece was written by Phil of The Reporters' Academy, a media production company run by young people. The Reporters' Academy is integrated into the world of media, education and employment, based in two great sporting cities, Manchester and Melbourne, and is officially Inspired by London 2012.
All quotes were obtained first-hand unless otherwise noted.