August 22, 2008

U.S. Reaches Olympic Soccer Finals

By John Philip Wyllie

The injury-riddled U.S. Women’s Olympic Soccer Team didn’t exactly get off to a great start when it fell to Norway 2-0 in their tournament opener, but following that embarrassing loss, the red white and blue managed to pull themselves together. Successive victories against, Japan, New Zealand and Canada set the stage for a second meeting with Japan, this time with everything on the line. Monday’s come-from-behind 4-2 semifinal victory over Japan earned the U.S. at least a Silver Medal in China and a shot at the Gold. The U.S. took on powerful Brazil in yesterday’s final, but the results of that one were not known at press time.

Stephanie (Lopez) Cox and Amy Rodriguez continued to make history as the first two women of Hispanic origins to represent the United States in Olympic soccer competition. Cox played only briefly coming off the bench in relief of right back Heather Mitts, but Rodriguez menaced the Japanese defense with her speed and grit throughout. There were many stars for the United States in this semifinal victory.

U.S. Olympic defender Heather Mitts Photo J.P. Wyllie

Angela Hucles scored the first and last goal of the day and Heather O’Reilly tallied a goal and recorded an assist. But it was Lori Chalupny’s blast right before halftime from just outside the box that turned the tide in this one. Rodriguez, who was active all day on the attack for the Americans set the play in motion. Taking a pass from Carli Lloyd Rodriguez dished to Chalupny on the left wing. Dancing to her right along the 18-yard box, Chalupny found a seam and blasted the ball just under the crossbar and over the outstretched fingertips of the Japanese keeper. The goal gave the U.S. the lead and the momentum it would need to prevail in the second half.

On the defensive side of things, Hope Solo did well to prevent Japan from going up 2-0 early in the game. Her defensive wall of Mitts, Christie Rampone, Kate Markgraf and Chalupny provided her ample support once again in this game.

La Prensa spoke with Mitts, the veteran right back for the U.S. and former WUSA defender prior to her departure for China.

“I broke my leg before the (2007) World Cup so I wasn’t really sure what was going to happen. The (WUSA) league was no longer around, but when I got invited to a national team camp I just threw all my cookies into one basket. I came in as fit as I could be and gave it my best shot. I ended up making this Olympic team.”

Mitts not only made the team, she’s been a fixture at right back for its so far solid defense.

“I am hoping that I’ll have a chance (after the Olympics) to continuing to play for the national team,” she said. “That is what I am dedicating myself to. I am trying to improve my game and my skills, just fine tuning it so I can continue to compete at the highest level.”

Asked to compare this Olympic team with the legendary ’99 U.S. Women’s World Cup Team Mitts offered this.

“All we can do is keep at it every day and continue to be one of the best teams in the world. We have to continue winning and keep taking care of business and everything else will take care of itself.”

Return to the Frontpage