With only 16 players available for the first Olympic women's soccer tournament, U.S. coach Tony DiCicco would seem to have faced some tough choices, but the final picks were almost a no-brainer.
Only 12 of the 20 players with the U.S. national team at the Women's World Championship in Sweden last summer are on the Olympic roster. Gone are Sarah Rafanelli, Holly Manthei, Debbie Keller, Saskia Webber, Jen Lalor, Amanda Cromwell, Thori Staples and Linda Hamilton, a starter in both the first two women's championships. But the familiar names -- such as Michelle Akers, Mia Hamm and Carin Gabarra -- are still around, along with newcomers Shannon MacMillan, Cindy Parlow and Staci Wilson.
Barring injury, the starting 11 is set. The toughest decision, DiCicco said, came when choosing between Wilson and Staples, who is one of four alternates for the Olympics. Staples played in Sweden, while Wilson was the last cut off the '95 team.
"Staci Wilson is an exciting, talented, and very, very tough defender," said DiCicco. "When I think of our team and I think of the category of hardness, toughness, Staci Wilson is on the top of the list."
The only real surprises came not in the 16-player roster but in the four-player replacement squad. Besides Staples, DiCicco said Cromwell, Jen Streiffer and either Tracy Noonan or Saskia Webber constitute the four. Streiffer, a high school all-America midfielder who'll play at Notre Dame next fall, is likely in the picture because Lorrie Fair, who had been invited to be on the squad, declined the invitation.
"She was devastated that she didn't make the 16," DiCicco said of Fair. "She didn't feel she could help our team as a replacement player. I respect her immensely for the decision that she made. And she will certainly have an opportunity to play for the United States in the future."
The fact that Cromwell, the new coach at UMBC, can even think about playing after suffering a major knee injury less than a year ago is amazing.
"Amanda has rewritten the rulebooks or medical journals on coming back from an ACL," DiCicco said. "She tore her ACL [in February] playing against Denmark. She has been competing for the last four weeks, so it's incredible how quickly she has come back."
Noonan was the No. 1 choice as the alternate goalkeeper, but DiCicco picked Webber when Noonan developed a bad back.
by Soccer America Associate Editor Dean Caparaz