Carson, CA (September 16, 2012)-The victory tour continued for the U.S. Women’s national soccer team stopping in the city of angels this weekend as the team took on Australia at the Home Depot Center. This was the second stop of a promised ten city victory tour since capturing their third consecutive gold medal just a little over a month ago in London.
19,851 fans came out to show their support and cheer on the gold medal team and the U.S. women delivered with a 2-1 win.
Coach Pia Sundhage started out the afternoon with a rousing rendition of “You Are My Sunshine” prior to kickoff. Coach Sundhage’s singing will be one of the many reasons she will be missed as she moves on to take over the reigns of the Swedish national team.
It was clear from the start of the game that the Australian team-known as The Matildas, would form more of a challenge for a U.S. squad coming off an easy 8-0 win over Costa Rica just a few weeks ago.
Goal keeper Hope Solo was put to work early when a shot by forward Sarah Walsh just cleared the cross bar in the 4th minute and then Solo had to fend off a shot by Lisa de Vanna only a few minutes later.
Minutes later Walsh who is also the captain of the Australian squad had what looked like was going to be the first goal of the game when she had a shot just miss by hitting the right post after the U.S. defense was tricked up by the forward line. The strike left Solo scrambling and defender Christie Rampone clearing the ball to safety.
Alex Morgan quickly answered with her own near miss in a shot that brought the crowd to their feet before they realized the strike was just wide. Morgan was one of the few bright spots in the first half for a U.S. team that overall played sluggishly and had trouble making good passes.
The Australian team finally broke through in the 34th minute as Australian forward Vanna out ran defenders Amy LePeilbet and Rampone on the left side and finished with a shot to the upper right side of the net that Solo couldn’t get to and gave the Matilda’s the early 1-0 lead.
Morgan did have an opportunity to equalize in the final minute of the half when fellow forward Abby Wambach flicked a ball to her feet to set up a shot that would just miss wide right.
The U.S. women headed to the locker room at halftime no doubt thankful it was only a one-goal deficit after being outplayed for most of the first 45 minutes.
Coach Sundhage made four changes in the second half, two on the back line with Heather Mitts coming in for LePeilbet and Rachel Buehler for Rampone. Heather O’Reilly and Shannon Boxx also came in to replace Carli Lloyd and Megan Rapinoe.
The U.S. came out much stronger in the second half and only ten minutes into the half the team brought the crowd to their feet when Morgan scored from 15 yards out off a beautifully passed ball from O’Reilly. It was Morgan’s 32nd career goal for the national team.
The game continued to favor the home team as a penalty kick was awarded to the U.S. after Morgan had a collision with the keeper. Boxx took the kick and gave the Americans the lead in the 63rd minute.
The U.S. women were able to keep control throughout the second half to hold onto their lead. Midway through the second half Sydney Leroux and Amy Rodriguez came into the game providing fresh legs and the energy needed to keep the pressure on the Australian defense.
The next match for the U.S. will be in just a few days as the victory tour moves on to Denver when they face Australia once again on September 19 at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. It will also be the last game for Coach Pia Sundhage at the helm of the national team.
One player that many thought would be moving on after this year is Christie Rampone. The defender hinted last spring that after the Olympics this summer she would most likely be looking towards retiring. 37 years old and a mother of two girls that often travel with her, there is not much more that Rampone needs to prove in what has been an amazing soccer career.
Yet in an interview I did with Rampone yesterday after the team training session the captain stated that she is now open to staying a little longer on the national team.
“If I get a call in [to the national team] you know I would like to continue playing. I would really like to commit everything for another year and really see where I’m at and if I like the schedule that the next coach has and if I can make it. But if I don’t get invited that’s great too, I think I have really been fortunate with a career.”
U.S. Soccer is still in the midst of deciding who will be leading this U.S. team and Rampone made it clear that they may be looking to make the team younger overall and might not have much use for a player with 268 caps to her name.
“At the end of the day you have to be invited to every camp….it doesn’t matter if I want to play, it doesn’t matter. Do they want to go to a younger generation? Or stay with a mix of old and young? I think that is just going to be waiting and doing everything I can to be ready to be called up and hopefully I get the call up and keep performing.”
While Rampone may not have youth on her side she does offer an invaluable asset to the new coach-leadership. She has been the anchor for this team over the past several years that at times has leaned heavily on their veterans as they have muddled through some thorny issues. And for Rampone the desire to still play is there.
“I didn’t get that feeling that I thought I would like I’m done. I thought I would have this great moment and win the gold and be ready to go. But I am still enjoying it. Why give it up if I have a few more years to give?”
Hopefully the next few months don’t also serve as the last time we see Rampone in a U.S. national team jersey. It doesn’t sound like she is quite ready to say goodbye.