By Eric Brown |Managing Editor|
The US Women’s soccer team is ranked number one in the world according to FIFA’s official standings, and they has shown exactly why that is in the opening week of the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2011.
Held this year in Germany, the US ladies shut out their first two opponents North Korea (2-0) and Columbia (3-0), before falling short by one goal to Sweden (1-2) in the final match of group play. This however was enough to secure the team with a berth in the quarterfinals against Brazil, to be played July 10 at 11 a.m. Eastern Time.
Despite the loss at the end of group play, the team is still bent on the tournament victory as they head into single-elimination. Having come in third in the 2007 tournament, the team has only improved, adding a fresh group of young talent that helped win the 2008 Olympic Gold Medal, the team has matured and gelled into the unit it is today.
As a unit, the team stacks up well on paper and performs even more beautifully on the field, with every player bringing something to the game for the team.
We’ll take a look at a few of the team’s stand-out players from this tournament.
The team’s starting eleven was slightly altered by head coach Pia Sundhage, but only proved for the better with forward Lauren Cheney making some moves fast and hard in the first two games of the tournament, including one goal against North Korea.
Cheney, 23, is one of the younger players on the team but has grown tremendously since joining the team shorthly before the 2008 Olympic victory.
Fresh legs like Cheney only serve to better the field for veterans like defender Christie Rampone and forward Abby Wambach. Rampone is the only remaining player from the team which won the Word Cup back in 1999 and is the captain for this tournament. Having 238 international caps, Rampone has locked down not only the US backfield but the entire team with her leadership and communication.
Wambach leads the team in goals scored but also as an emotional leader, often leading the team in pre-game traditions or offering encouragement from the sidelines to her teammates. Wambach has only one goal this turnament, but she also leads the team in assists, look for her to add to both totals as the tournament progresses.
In midfield, Carli Lloyd and Heather O’Reilly have been playing exceptional ball with a goal for each of them so far in the tournament. Lloyd has continually attacked the net in the tournament with O’Reilly proving difficult for defenders to contain as he opens up both breaks and passing lanes. The combination of the two should prove a continual headache for teams to come as the US midfield establishes its control of the ball.
Last but not least, the real center of this year’s team is goalkeeper Hope Solo. With 17 saves so far in the tournament, allowing only two in by Sweden after keeping a clean sheet for the first two games. Solo is looking to atone for the 2007 tournament in which she did not play against Brazil after being benched by the former coach, marching forward, she looks to not let any in as she can make a save from almost anywhere inside her box, with near-in human reflexes.
With so much talent, its hard to believe America isn’t as big about soccer as other nations, especially when one of your teams are number one in the world. Look for more to come from the US ladies as they aim for the cup.