By Mike Woitalla
The curb in front her house was an important part of Carli Lloyd's skill development.
“I used to kick the ball against the curb for hours daily,” says Lloyd, the central midfielder who helped set up both goals in the USA’s 2-0 opening win at the Women’s World Cup. “I swear that curb helped my first touch.”
Lloyd and her U.S. teammates share what they consider valuable childhood experiences in the "U.S. Women's National Team 2011 Handbook," which profiles the players who are currently aiming for the world title in Germany.
Forward Alex Morgan, the youngest player on the U.S. squad at 21, scored six goals in her first 14 games for the USA, including a crucial strike in a World Cup qualifying clash with Italy. At Cal, she 45 goals in 107 games.
“My dad bought me a Kwik Goal when I was 10, and since then I have gone out and done shooting and finishing while he acts as the keeper,” she says. “That’s most of the reason I feel so comfortable in and around the box.”
Midfielder Lori Lindsey says, “Dad, thanks for building all those goals in the backyard!”
Defender Stephanie Cox made use of her school gym:
“Hitting the ball against the wall at the gym helped me develop the technical ability with both feet that has helped me excel to this day.”
PLAYING WITH BOYS. Rachel Buehler, who patrols the central defense and scored the Americans' second goal in its 2-0 opening win over North Korea, credits pickup games with the neighborhood boys.
"I lived in a neighborhood of mostly boys and fearlessly joined in all of their athletic games,” she says. “That is where I truly learned how to tackle.”
Backup goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart recalls that, “I never played on a girls team until I was 10 years old and continued to play on boys teams through high school. That forced me to be tough and to hold my own, plus it taught me to bounce back quickly.”
Lindsey had no problem finding a place for extra practice and is thankful to, “My brother Chris for the countless hours of fast footwork drills in our living room … and for always letting me play on his older boys team without giving me a hard time.”
Also benefitting from sibling soccer was defender Heather Mitts:
“I had many one-on-one soccer battles with my brother Brian that would typically lead to fights. I attribute my toughness to him.”
TEAM MEMORIES. Midfielder Shannon Boxx fondly recalls playing for the same Torrance United team for seven years.
“That helped me build confidence,” she says. “I feel like I got a head start on understanding soccer and it started with that team. They really wanted you to learn how to play. And it wasn’t all about winning, it was about learning, too.”
Right back Ali Krieger says her father, Ken Krieger, was her club coach for 13 years with the Prince William Soccer Incorporated Sparklers.
“[He’s] one of the best teachers of the game I’ve ever met,” says. “He basically molded me into a well-rounded player at a young age.”
Midfielder Tobin Heath of New Jersey calls the PDA soccer fields, “The best place ever and where I learned to play the game.”
Lindsey Tarpley thanks her family for “the two-hour care rides each way to club soccer for all the ODP practices and tournaments.”
Becky Sauerbunn credits her Ladue High School soccer team for “showing me that soccer can be many things, but in the end should always be fun.”
And the grandmother of goalkeeper Jill Loyden, the U.S. starter during World Cup qualifying, gets credit for launching a dream.
“When I was 11 years old, my grandmother took me to the Summer Olympics in Athens, Ga.,” Loyden says. “I was able to attend the women’s soccer final in which the USA won the first ever gold medal for that event. Ever since then, it became a dream and a mission to become part of the U.S. women’s national team.”
(The “U.S. Women's National Team 2011 Handbook” is available at the USSoccerStore.com)
(Mike Woitalla, the executive editor of Soccer America, coaches youth soccer for East Bay United in Oakland, Calif. His youth soccer articles are archived at YouthSoccerFun.com.)