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