The American women’s soccer team will be heading to London, England this summer to compete in the Olympics after dominating the CONCACAF Olympic Qualifiers. They wrapped up the qualifying tournament on Jan 30 with a 4-0 win over arch enemy Canada and outscored their opponents 38-0 over the five-game event, including a record 14-0 win over the Dominican Republic in the opening match.
However, they paid a steep price in that game as defender Ali Krieger tore her medial collateral and anterior cruciate ligaments during the match. Krieger is adamant that she’ll be back in time for the Olympics, which get underway in July, but it’s going to take a minor miracle for her to heal in time. The team will now have to search for a suitable replacement for her in the back four.
U.S. manager Pia Sundhage said she feels bad for Krieger because she’s a great person as well as an excellent soccer player. She said the team will experiment a little with its defenders to find out who will be a good replacement for Krieger. She believes it’ll take a bit of time to settle on a back four and Krieger will be hard to replace, but she’s confident somebody will be able to step in and do a good job.
Sundhage won’t have to wait long to start trying out players in Krieger’s position since they travel to Dallas for a Feb. 12 game against New Zealand and then head to sunny Portugal in early March to compete in the Algarve Cup tournament. Sundhage added that the replacement for Krieger could be a newcomer or somebody who’s already on the roster.
There could be a sharpness problem when the Olympics start though since the Women’s Professional Soccer League might shut down this season and many of the American players won’t have a league team to play for to keep in shape. These include some of the team’s top stars such as Abby Wambach, Megan Rapinoe, Hope Solo, Christie Rampone, and Shannon Boxx.
Sundhage said some players have played so many games in their career that it may not affect them too much if the league shuts down, but some players need to play somewhere to gain experience and stay in game shape. In fact, the manager feels that not playing might even do some players a world of good since they’ve been playing so much lately and their bodies could do with a rest.
However, some members of the American team will be playing games in Europe ahead of the Olympics and the Sundhage will be holding some training camps. It’s also possible the squad will head to Japan to play a few games before the summer begins. The Americans are the two-time defending Olympic champions since they won gold medals in 2004 in Athens and again four years later in Beijing. However, they were upset in last year’s World Cup by Japan, who beat them in a penalty-kick shootout.
Canada also went through the CONCACAF Olympic qualifiers undefeated, at least until they met the U.S., but they had already qualified by then and the 4-0 loss to the Americans was just for bragging rights.