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Scurry absent from Olympic roster
by Ridge Mahoney, June 24th, 2008 7AM

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Goalkeeping didn't cost the USA the championship at last year's Women's World Cup, but it sure caused quite a storm, one that head coach Pia Sundhage has already addressed in naming her 18-player squad for the Olympic Games women's soccer tournament this summer. The absence of Briana Scurry will briefly roil the waters of controversy once again yet down the road, the other tough decisions Sundhage had to make will have much greater effect. She's had to replace veteran Kristine Lilly, who is taking time off to have a baby, and midfielder Leslie Osbourne and defender Cat Whitehill, who both suffered ACL tears in their left knees in the past month.

"I always start with a performance," says Sundhage, who played for more than two decades in her native Sweden and represented her country in the 1991 and 1995 Women's World Cups, and the 1996 Olympics. "I always start with everything on the field. I've competed in different teams, I've seen different teams, you don't have to love each other, but you do have to respect each other. Certain things you have to do on the field, but also off the field. In this team ... you can see on the field that they're a unit. I think they know, I know, we need to be a unit in order to win the next games.

"Yes, I'm very sad that these two, Cat Whitehill and Leslie Osborne are not with us but it is what it is and you have to adjust your play. The 18 we picked, I'm very happy with these players and I do think we have depth on the bench."

Forward Abby Wambach, one of nine veterans from the Olympic gold-medal winning team four years ago, is the top goalscorer in Lilly's absence with 98 goals in 123 appearances. The team captain, defender Christie Rampone, is the most experienced player (193 caps). Next on the caps list is defender Kate Markgraf with 181.

"It's tough when you have limited time, but everyone trusted Pia and believed in Pia," says Rampone of Sundhage, who took over in November after U.S. Soccer dismissed predecessor Greg Ryan. "She's done an amazing job with this team and in the way we have changed this system. We are a more possession-oriented team. Of course, there are times when we get away from it, but she believes in us and we keep trying to getting better on the field."

In addition to Rampone, Wambach and Markgraf, the roster includes Heather Mitts, Lindsay Tarpley, Shannon Boxx, Angela Hucles, Heather O'Reilly and Aly Wagner from the 2004 gold medalists.

Sundhage has infused an experienced core with several young players. Midfielder Tobin Heath is the youngest at age 20. Forward Amy Rodriguez is 21. Defenders Stephanie Cox and Rachel Buehler are 22. Cox played in the World Cup last summer and only made the Olympic squad because of Whitehill's injury; the other three will make their first national team appearances in a major competition.

"If you look at all three of them, they each offer something different," says Sundhage of the debutants. "It's good to have some youth players coming with a lot of energy. So, I'm happy with these three because they offer different qualities, which is important when you talk about 18 players."

Sundhage, who took over after the Americans finished third following a 4-0 bruising by Brazil in the World Cup semifinals, has named Hope Solo and Nicole Barnhart as her goalkeepers. Ryan replaced starter Solo with Scurry for the Brazil World Cup match, and Solo's bitter and personal criticisms of Ryan and Scurry triggered sharp reaction from several team members. Ryan dropped her for the third-place game, and the federation publicly insisted Solo apologize to Scurry and her teammates. Scurry played only one game in 2008.

"The reason why I have picked these two goalkeepers, they have just to get more international games, especially the way we play," says Sundhage. "We want to keep the ball. We talk about keeping possession and switching the point of attack. I want them to do that in the back four and even use the goalkeeper and both Hope and Nicole are very good with their feet and that's necessary with the way we're playing right now."

Scurry, 36, is one of four alternates named, along with defender Ali Krieger, midfielder Kacey White and forward Lauren Cheney.

Scurry started for the USA at the 1995, 1999 and 2003 FIFA Women's World Cups and won gold medals at the 1996 and 2004 Olympics.

The U.S. women play four more games before leaving for China in late July. They travel to Europe this weekend to play Norway (July 2) and Sweden (July 5) before finishing their domestic schedule with home games against Brazil in Commerce City, Col., July 13 and San Diego July 16.

2008 UNITED STATES OLYMPIC WOMEN'S SOCCER TEAM

GOALKEEPERS
Nicole Barnhart (Gilbertsville, Pa.), Hope Solo (Richland, Wash.)

DEFENDERS
Rachel Buehler (Del Mar, Calif.), Lori Chalupny (St. Louis, Mo.), Stephanie Cox (Elk Grove, Calif.), Kate Markgraf (Bloomfield Hills, Mich.), Heather Mitts (Cincinnati, Ohio), Christie Rampone (Point Pleasant, N.J.)

MIDFIELDERS
Shannon Boxx (Redondo Beach, Calif.), Tobin Heath (Basking Ridge, N.J.), Angela Hucles (Virginia Beach, Va.), Carli Lloyd (Delran, N.J.), Heather O'Reilly (East Brunswick, N.J.), Lindsay Tarpley (Kalamazoo, Mich.), Aly Wagner (San Jose, Calif.)

FORWARDS
Natasha Kai (Kahuku, Hawaii), Amy Rodriguez (Lake Forest, Calif.), Abby Wambach (Rochester, N.Y.)

For detailed roster with caps and goals click HERE.

For player bios, click HERE.



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