US women's soccer team in control after 1st win

BY foxsports • July 26, 2012

Shannon Boxx nursed her ailing hamstring. Abby Wambach put her sore legs in a blue contraption that looked like something made from spare NASA parts. The whole team went to see a shocker - the Japanese men beating Spain at Hampden Park - then ate Italian food for dinner while discussing how they'll watch the opening ceremony.

All is not perfect with the U.S. women's Olympic soccer team, but life is generally good now that the Americans are firmly in charge of their group after a come-from-behind opening win over France.

''Luckily enough for us, we were extremely composed,'' midfielder Tobin Heath said Thursday as she relaxed in the lobby of the security-laden team hotel a short walk from the River Clyde. ''We have such a belief in this team that we can really come back from the impossible.''

Overcoming an early 2-0 deficit to win 4-2 wasn't exactly achieving the impossible, but it was a strong finish to a game that raised some early alarm bells. Assistant coach Tony Gustafsson spent halftime telling the defenders to stop giving the French so much space, a trend that can't continue if the Americans are to win a third consecutive gold medal.

But head coach Pia Sundhage has taught her players to put a positive spin on just about everything. Said defender Christie Rampone: ''If you're going to give up two goals, we definitely gave it up the right way. We had a lot of time ahead of us.''

Besides, with such prolific scorers, a defensive miscue or two in the back end isn't cause to panic.

''I enjoy being a defender for this team,'' Rampone said with a laugh. ''They make it easy.''

With their toughest group opponent out of the way, the top-ranked Americans are poised to finish atop their quartet of teams and get a favorable seed entering the quarterfinals. They next play Colombia on Saturday in Glasgow, followed by a game against North Korea in Manchester next week.

The less-than-cheerful news was about Boxx, who had to leave the first half of Wednesday's game with a hamstring injury. Sundhage said Boxx was to meet with the trainers to figure out a rehab plan to see if she can recover in time for Saturday's game.

Most national teams would find it a severe blow to lose a solid veteran midfielder like Boxx, but the Americans have an incredible array of replacement parts on the bench. It speaks volumes that the substitute for Boxx was Carli Lloyd, a longtime starter who is adjusting to a new role as a substitute. Lloyd scored the go-ahead goal in the second half, a blast from outside the box that brought back memories of her game-winner that secured the gold medal in Beijing four years ago.

''We do know how deep this team is, and how our 18th player could be starting on any other national team,'' Heath said. ''We don't take a negative approach on that; we take a positive approach. As Pia says, there's game-winners on the bench - as Carli showed.''

The team also spent part of the day doing yoga, and veteran striker Wambach took to Twitter to show how she helps settle down the Achilles that are showing the wear and tear of a decade-plus of national team games. She posted a photo of herself lying on the floor, legs wrapped in blue insulation with the comment: ''Doing whatever it takes.''

The team resumes practice Friday and then will gather to watch the opening ceremony on TV in the hotel. The U.S. women's team hasn't marched in the ceremony since 2000 because it requires too much time to travel from the remote soccer venues, but this time the players are adding a new touch: They're going to wear the official opening ceremony outfits sent to all the U.S. athletes.

''We're going to rock 'em,'' Heath said. ''I don't know how the procession's going to go, but we're going to do something awesome.''


Joseph White can be reached at