Rampone Bids Farewell

Matt Kremkau

by JACK BELL

HARRISON, N.J. — Christie Rampone closed the circle on a superlative career with the United States women’s soccer team, bidding farewell after 311 matches in the red, white and blue at a pregame ceremony on Saturday evening at Red Bull Arena.

She is the final member to retire from the team that won the 1999 Women’s World Cup, a path that began in a game against Denmark at Giants Stadium and ended minutes before the U.S. women lost to England, 1-0, in a game in the SheBelieves Cup. On the field before the game were her daughters, Rylie (11) and Reece (who turns 7 on March 6) along with a surprise guest in Abby Wambach.

“It’s been great, I feel I gave all I could to the game, I’m very satisfied,” Rampone told a throng of media members at halftime of the game.”

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Christie Rampone, right.             Photo, @howardmegdal

She added: “I have so many great memories. For the most part it was in the locker room with the girls. I’ve always loved the journey, but not necessarily the end result. It was the journey.”

Rampone, a native of Point Pleasant, N.J., was a three-sport start in high school and went to Monmouth University (a school hard by Rampone’s most loved Jersey Shore) on a basketball scholarship. She also played lacrosse and soccer in college — but not as a defender.

“It was a tough transition from forward to defender when I got to the national team,” Rampone, 41, said. “I was a forward converted to a defender and a basketball player converted to a soccer player. But being a defender was my specialty in basketball. And what do you do with a quick player in soccer? You put them up top. But at this level you need more sophistication and technical ability, and I think I lacked that after having played multiple sports.”

Yet Rampone (née Pearce) was quickly recognized for some intangible qualities that are crucial for any team’s success, especially over the long term.

“My role was consistently changing,” she said. “At the beginning I was the young bright-eyed girl who didn’t know what she was doing. Then I started after coming off the bench. There were injuries and some some training camp rosters I was on but didn’t make the final cut. Then I had the role of captain and it was a matter of how to balance myself and the team. It was about finding balances, growing up playing multiple sports helped, becoming a mom helped my game. I became that leader who was able to have an open-door policy with the girls. There’s a lot of down time, a lot that goes on in locker and the hotel that need to be taken care of.”

Matt Kremkau

From left, Rylie, Reece and Christie Rampone.

The three-time winner of an Olympic gold medal and a two-time winner of the Women’s World Cup is now a dedicated soccer mom (not that she always wasn’t), coaching her daughters. Rampone remains active with Sky Blue of the National Women’s Soccer League, about to play her fifth season in the league and 11th over all in the various women’s professional leagues.

On Sept. 15, 2005, as the U.S. team was on its way to trouncing Japan in the World Cup final, Rampone entered the match in the 86th minute, becoming the oldest woman at 40 years 11 days to play in the final. Rampone was the captain of the U.S. team from 2008-15. She played in her final international on Sept. 20, 2015 in Birmingham, Ala., as part of the team’s Victory Tour after winning the 2015 Women’s World Cup.

“By body was telling me it was time,” Rampone said. “I knew it was my time at the last World Cup.”

Now it is time to fully embrace being a soccer mom. It’s not a cliche to Rampone, it’s reality.

So on a cold, cold, windy day in a late winter day in New Jersey Rampone said: “I will not miss games on days like these. Two weeks ago I was outside in shorts and a tank top coaching.”

One journey ends. Another begins.

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