One Week ‘Til Canada: The USWNT, in Their Own Words

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By MC Bousquette
USWNT Beat Writer

Antsy is an understatement.

With only one week left until the Women’s World Cup kicks off in Canada, the US Women’s National Team cannot wait to tend to some unfinished business.

USWNT midfielder Tobin Heath perfectly captures the atmosphere of the moment; “Obviously we’re extremely hungry. To finish a World Cup like the last one, you just want those four years to come as quickly as possible.”

Defender Ali Krieger shares her confidence in the team’s current position; “This team has never been about one individual; we can’t win with just one individual, one star player. It’s about coming together as a team, working together, working hard, figuring out a way we can be successful all together… And I think we all understand that. And that’s why I think our last game was really good. We’re fine-tuning all the little details into the mentality of how we can put each other in a good position to be successful and help this team win.”

A Veteran Approach to the World Cup

Although the USWNT has major objectives for the World Cup, they are by no means naïve — they know well the challenge ahead.  Referring to the USWNT loss in the 2011 World Cup finals, Heath points out, “We know what it takes to get to the championship match… This World Cup is going to be 10 times harder than the last one.”

Striker Alex Morgan, a veteran of the 2011 USWNT World Cup squad, agreed; “Going into this World Cup, I know I can expect more… I know what I needed preparing for this World Cup, and I feel mentally a little more at ease with this experience. “

The Roster

Addressing the choices behind the World Cup roster, Coach Jill Ellis firmly reiterated her belief in the players chosen; “All 23 of our players have started a game. We haven’t picked our 22nd and 23rd players just for chemistry; we’ve picked players that we believe can impact the game and be out there. We’ve got tremendous depth and experience. “

Goalkeeper Hope Solo echoes Ellis’ sentiments with her own personal experience; “It’s the first tournament I’ve been a part of where we actually have the opportunity to rest players during the tournament, to get a number of players minutes, and you’re not going to see a drop-off in the level of play. And I think it’s the first time we’ve had so much depth on a US team.”

The Concerns

Morgan, essential to the US attack, sought to assuage concerns about her knee injury  moving into the World Cup; “Once June 8th comes, there is no question in my mind that my knee will not be bothering me and I will be 100% – Im looking forward to the World Cup and knowing that that’s not going to set me back.

The team also addressed possible emotional and legal concerns. When facing a query about an appeal to the acquittal of domestic violence charges against her, Solo responded calmly, “I’m here to talk about the World Cup and soccer. What I can tell you is that I’m in the best place of my life both on the field and off the field. I have great teammates behind me, great coaching staff, and I’m just honestly really excited for my third World Cup.”

35 year-old veteran forward Abby Wambach, the all-time leading international goal scorer who seeks her first World Cup title in Canada, took Solo’s response a step further, reflecting on the team’s tight-knit nature; “Whenever any hard times or controversies happen within our group, within our wolfpack, it’s important that people understand that we want to be there for each other as teammates, kind of as sisters, because that’s life. I know that people put us on this big pedestal because we represent our country, but we are human beings and things happen. Life happens. And we don’t get excused from things happening from life – and that’s why this team is so special, because we’re genuine, we’re real, and we can still go out on the field and put out a product that’s fun to watch, and we win games.”

It seems that not even Friday’s very public indictments of numerous FIFA officials can distract the squad. “Whatever happens in Switzerland, or in Brazil, or with the federations or even our own federation, we have no idea what goes on. Or we have no control. We’re really all just here because we want to talk about the Women’s World Cup… I want to talk about us. I want to talk about football,” says Wambach.

Beyond Canada 2015

The USWNT’s sights don’t stop at simply taking home the World Cup for the United States – the team is intently interested in the broader implications that a victory would have on the women’s game in the United States.  The sheer difference in attendance between the USWNT’s 2011 World Cup send-off match against Mexico, 5,234, and that at this year’s pre-World Cup friendly in St. Louis against New Zealand , 35,817, is impossible to ignore.

“[The 2011 World Cup] had a really big impact, but certainly now with the rush of social media I think our sport is reaching even more people…. In this country we all get a lot of attention. Ultimate what does it mean for our sport? I think it provides a platform for people to see how amazing these athletes are, how special our game is,” shares Ellis, “I see it as an opportunity to do something great for this game in our country. “

Midfielder Carli Lloyd is on the same page; “We’re at a point now where, if we win… this could be huge. And there’s no better time to win it than with the coverage, with social media and with the fact that we haven’t won it in 16 years. It’s a great time to win it; it’s one of the best environments we could be in. We’re ready to go after it.”

Heath, who played for Paris Saint-Germain’s women’s side until she joined NWSL’s Portland Thorns FC, discussed her goals for the future of the US domestic game; “If we had a league that could get to a 10 month season, that would be the ultimate goal.” Morgan echoes the hope for a successful domestic league sprout from a US victory in Canada; “I could see having a great league in the US, for not only players who grew up here but international players to come over and play.”

The Send-Off: New Jersey

The USWNT’s final international friendly, a send-off match against the Republic of Korea at Red Bull Arena will be special for the squad, but particularly so for several players who call New Jersey home. Christie Rampone, Heather O’Reilly, Lloyd, and Heath will all play their final match before Canada in their beloved home state. Lloyd in particular is ready; “I bring the Jersey attitude every day- it’s great to have our last send-off game in New Jersey.”

But, as excited as the squad is about Saturday’s match, the main event begins on June 8th against Australia. Wambach sums up the team’s attitude of ownership over their World Cup experience; “This team’s legacy is whatever we want it to be. Every world championship we get to write our own book, we get to write our own chapter.

The US Women’s National Team take on the Republic of Korea in their final match before the World Cup begins this Saturday, May 30th, at 4:30 pm EST at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, NJ (ESPN, WatchESPN, Univision Deportes (Delay, 9pm EST).

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