United States National Women's Team
Release Date : 01-May-2015 | Name : | Category : Football/Soccer
Author : Myak Homberger
They say ‘it’s tough at the top’ but wow, the USWNT (United States Women’s National Team) have had a tough time with an almost endless list of issues and challenges on and off the field with players, media and even fans not liking the kit that Nike have made specifically for the World Cup. It’s like they can’t catch a break.
Until recently they were ranked number one in the world (Germany are currently number one). World Cup winners in 1991 and 1999, the team has a unique stat in that they have participated in every Olympics, winning a medal in each; winning in 1996, 2000; being Runners-up 2004 and then winning in 2008 and 2012. The sheer weight of expectation, pressure and demand has been significantly more than for other countries.
As far as experience goes they have it in spadefuls: defender Christie Rampone will be attending her fifth World Cup, Shannon Boxx and Abby Wambach will be playing in their fourth World Cups, while Carli Lloyd, Hope Solo and Heather O’Reilly enter their third. They will be leading a group of eight into their first World Cup: Ashlyn Harris, Alyssa Naeher, Whitney Engen, Julie Johnston, Meghan Klingenberg, Morgan Brian, Sydney Leroux and Christen Press.
Given this and the expectation of lifting the cup again we thought it would be good to spend time getting to know the team behind the news and hype, to see what lies behind the stories.
The first thing I would say is that we found that there were no airs and graces from any of the players or the staff, no diva’s and no corporate lines given to us. We considered it a privilege to have been invited to a closed training session to watch the team train, spend time chatting with the players and then to interview the players after their game against England. Of course there were things we were asked not to film etc., but nothing more than you would expect from any national team. For me this is a huge plus and shows their openness to talk and allow us to see them as they are.
Talking with the players it was clear that they love playing for their country and as Nicole Barnhart put it, “I don’t take it for granted, each caps is amazing.” They want to play for USWNT and for sure the World Cup is a huge draw for them. Both Ali Krieger and Carli Lloyd said almost the same words when talking to them about the World Cup: “...it’s the journey, the journey to the World Cup.” For them so much has gone before but there is so much to come, for the players each of their journeys and training are their stories and listening to them you can sense their desire and focus.
Anticipation is high amongst the players as they head into the World Cup and as they look to focus on the World Cup, be a team and what it means to win. In our conversation with her after the England game, Alex Morgan said that the team was “focused on being selfless” and this was the key to their winning ways. This is great to hear for a number of reasons, most importantly for the sake of Abby Wambach, their ‘go to’ lynchpin in a tough situation. The 2012 FIFA World Player of the Year, holder of the world record for international goals for both female and male soccer players with 178 goals is a colossus on the field. She has ‘thrown the team on her back’ and willed it to victory when that looked almost impossible, as Mia Hamm put it. With more focus on team the pressure is off her to pull the team through and do what she does best and also to give room to other team mates to flourish. This focus can be the glue that pulls them together and can show the world that they are back on top and how things can be done. This is a team with desire and destiny.
There are wrinkles that they are working on and hopefully they will have straightened by the World Cup, I hope so for their sake because they have accomplished much both as a team and as individuals and they have a lot more potential and a lot more to give. If you look at the team on paper, there are a number of players who would be on anyone’s list of a world 11 team. There are great players and good people that make up the team and I look forward to seeing that connection and the burning desire that I saw in players as we spoke as well as that determination and pride of representing the USA to bring this team to new found glory.