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Supporting cast achieves gold
by Paul Kennedy, August 22nd, 2008 7AM
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[ANALYSIS] With Mia Hamm and the other golden girls in retirement and Abby Wambach injured, the U.S. women's national team didn't have any big-name stars at the 2008 Olympics, but Coach Pia Sundhage put together a winning team with a collection of players who previously played supporting roles.

The best example is Angela Hucles, a reserve for much of her national team career who played every minute at the Olympics and finished as the top scorer on the tournament's highest-scoring team.

Only four starters on the USA's 2004 gold-medal team returned for the Beijing Olympics -- defenders Christie Rampone and Kate Markgraf playing in their third Olympics and Shannon Boxx and Lindsay Tarpley, starters in 2004 and 2008 in midfield.

Three Americans who played in the gold-medal game were playing college soccer last year -- meaning that the young American team should remain an international force for years to come. For complete player analysis ...

Note: Grades based on Soccer America Report Cards throughout the tournament.

USA-Brazil Game Coverage
USA-Brazil Report Card

Carli Lloyd (6 games, 600 minutes, 2 goals)
Grades: 4+7+7+6+6+8=6.33 avg.
Ability to strike from distance won first Japan game and gold-medal game.

Christie Rampone (6 games, 600 minutes)
Grades: 6+7+6+6+6+7=6.33 avg.
Captain was the highest rated defender, a steadying force in the middle of the backline.

Shannon Boxx (6 games, 600 minutes)
Grades: 5+6+6+7+7+7=6.33 avg.
Struggled against Norway but another player whose performances improved in knockout phase.

Hope Solo  (6 games, 600 minutes)
Grades: 4+6+5+5+5+7=5.33 avg.
Certainly the player with the most to prove -- and came through with a big game in the final against Brazil.

Angela Hucles (6 games, 600 minutes, 4 goals)
Grades: 4+4+6+5+8+4=5.17 avg.
Replaced Abby Wambach up front and scored team-high four goals.

Heather Mitts (6 games, 566 minutes)
Grades: 6+7+5+5+6+6=5.86 avg.
Missed out on Women's World Cup in 2007, came back from knee injury to have solid Olympics.

Heather O'Reilly (6 games, 535 minutes, 2 goals)
Grades: 5+7+8+7+7+6=6.67 avg.
Finished as the highest-rated U.S. player; athleticism a key to revived U.S. attack.

Kate Markgraf (5 games, 510 minutes)
Grades: 4+5+DNP+6+5+7=5.40 avg.
Bad backpass cost USA second goal against Norway; her play improved as tournament went on.

Amy Rodriguez (6 games, 496 minutes, 1 goal)
Grades: 4+5+6+6+6+6=5.50 avg.
Earned starting role in first Japan game and kept it.

Lori Chalupny (5 games, 434 minutes, 1 goal)
Grades: 4+DNP+6+6+7+6=5.80 avg.
Returned from concussion suffered early in Norway game to show why she's best left back in women's soccer.

Lindsay Tarpley (6 games, 424 minutes, 1 goal)
Grades: 3+5+7+5+6+5=5.17 avg.
A hero at 2004 Olympics, up and down in China.

Natasha Kai (6 games, 201 minutes, 1 goal)
Grades: 4+NR+5+6+5+5=5.00 avg.
Benched after first game, won Canada game in overtime.

Stephanie Cox (5 games, 189 minutes)
Grades: 4+6+5+DNP+NR+NR=5.00 avg.
Filled in for Rampone at left back.

Rachel Buehler (2 games, 97 minutes)
Grades: DNP+NR+6+DNP+DNP+DNP=6.00 avg.
Started for Markgraf in New Zealand game.

Lauren Cheney (3 games, 70 minutes)
Grades: DNP+DNP+DNP+5+NR+5=5.00 avg.
Effective in long spell off bench in final.

Tobin Heath (3 games, 69 minutes)
Grades: NR+5+DNP+5+DNP+DNP=5.00 avg.
Used early in the tournament late in games.

Ali Wagner (1 game, 14 minutes)
Grades: DNP+DNP+4+DNP+DNP+DNP=4.00 avg.
Came back from long layoff to make team.

Nicole Barnhart (0 games)
Backup keeper.




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