Cleveland, OH—In town since Monday, May 17, women's soccer's top two teams in the world held their last training sessions Friday at the Cleveland Browns Stadium.
All week the German Women's National Team prepared to face the world's No. 1. "We practiced a lot, watched videos of the games we played before with the United States so we can analyze the game," said striker Celia Okoyino da Mbabi.
To avoid potential rain, the Germans moved their practice time from 4:30 PM to 10:30 AM. As soon as they left the field, the Americans arrived for their scheduled 12 noon training session.
Twenty-two players donning the USA training jerseys practiced for an hour and half. Only eighteen would suit up for today's match. Included in this roster are a few players hoping to make a national team comeback.
"Kate Markgraf is fantastic. She's proven she's back on a higher level, playing for the Chicago Red Stars. So the practices here, she's been really good," said head coach Pia Sundhage.
"Megan Rapinoe is also coming back, and it's very interesting. At times she is one of the best, and we need to give her a little bit more time to play 90 minutes or so."
One player who has not been called up in awhile, and is one of only two players not representing a WPS team, is Ali Krieger. The FFC Frankfurt midfielder hopes to bring her experience playing in the Bundesliga to the U.S. WNT.
Explained Sundhage, "The main reason [Krieger is back] is she's playing well in Bundesliga. And the fact that she plays right back, and looking for outside back as well, she's very familiar with the German style. That might help her and also help the team."
As Sundhage continues to form the best roster that will represent the United States at the 2011 Women's World Cup in Germany, more international friendlies are set for this year (in addition to World Cup qualifiers in the fall). On July 13 and 17, the U.S. WNT are scheduled to play against the Swedish national team in Nebraska and Connecticut, respectively.
But for today, all eyes will be fixed on FIFA's No. 1 and No. 2, in what could be a preview of next year's World Cup final. The match will start at 6 PM ET and is televised live on ESPN2.
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Eighteen-player roster from USSoccer.com:
GOALKEEPERS (2): Nicole Barnhart (FC Gold Pride), Hope Solo (St. Louis Athletica)
DEFENDERS (7): Rachel Buehler (FC Gold Pride), Stephanie Cox (Boston Breakers), Ali Krieger (FFC Frankfurt), Amy LePeilbet (Boston Breakers), Kate Markgraf (Chicago Red Stars), Heather Mitts (Philadelphia Independence), Brittany Taylor (Sky Blue FC)
MIDFIELDERS (6): Yael Averbuch (Sky Blue FC), Shannon Boxx (St. Louis Athletica), Kristine Lilly (Boston Breakers), Lori Lindsey (Philadelphia Independence), Heather O’Reilly (Sky Blue FC), Megan Rapinoe (Chicago Red Stars)
FORWARDS (3): Alex Morgan (California), Amy Rodriguez (Philadelphia Independence), Abby Wambach(Washington Freedom)