Sunday, August 12, 2012

Observations from the Couch 8.12

Three hundred and eighty-nine days, 389 days after the U.S. women's soccer team lost to Japan in the World Cup they found redemption at the Olympics by defeating the same Japan team 2-1 and winning the gold medal. The American team had played six games in sixteen days in three different cities and won the gold in front of 80,203 spectators in Wembley Stadium, home of the English national 'football' team. It was the largest crowd ever to watch a women's soccer game in Great Britain or at any Olympics games. The win even earned them a tweet from President Barack Obama who signs his personal tweets bo.

My MVP of the team has to be goalkeeper Hope Solo and it has nothing to do with her cute butt. At one point in the tournament Solo, arguably the best keeper the team has ever had, strung together 368 minutes of shutout soccer in the net. Solo was also one of only three women at the Olympics to play every minute of every game for her country and allowed only six goals doing it. She came through for the team when the only options available were gold medal or failure. She now has two Olympic gold medals and a Golden Glove award as the best goalie at last years World Cup.

The team will play a series of exhibition games this fall but what comes after that is anybody's guess because both the player's association's and coach Pia Sundhage's contracts run out at the end of this year. With no major international competition until the 2015 World Cup and no major women's professional league in the U.S. it will be hard to keep the team together in its current form. Seven of the eleven starters are currently listed on the roster as having no club affiliation, none of Japan's were listed that way, so you can't blame any of them for going overseas to play at a high level.

Defender Heather Mitts, who is 34 and has three Olympic gold medals, announced her retirement after the game Friday. Captain Christie Rampone, who is 37, a mother of two, and the only American to have played in four Olympics and four World Cups, has mentioned the possibility as well. Hope Solo, Amy LePeilbet, Carli Lloyd, Shannon Boxx and Abby Wambach are also all over the age of thirty. Still it's a deep team with Alex Morgan, Sydney Leroux, Lauren Cheney, Tobin Heath and Kelley O’Hara are all under the age of 25 and the NCAA brimming with prospects.

Last year's World Cup and this Olympics showed how the rest of the world has caught the U.S. in women's soccer, a sport the team has owned from its birth. Japan, France, and Canada all had awesome tournaments but in the end London also proved something else. Once again the Americans are at the pinnacle and the team to beat in women's soccer.

"We filled Wembley Stadium, and you're telling me there is no league to play in?" Solo said after the game. Seems what Forbes Magazine called "the most compelling team in American sports" deserves at least that.

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