U.S. women look to recapture championship
Posted: Saturday June 19, 1999 12:03 PM
They have one of the most talented rosters in the world and will enjoy the immeasurable luxury of the home-country advantage. But the key factor for the U.S. Women's National Soccer Team heading into the World Cup may be a long memory.
"Norway, they are the world champions; we are not," said Carla Overbeck, a defender and team captain. "We won the Olympics in '96, but they are the World Champions."
The U.S. won the inaugural Women's World Cup in 1991 but lost in the semifinals in '95. That disappointment, more than the thrill of the Olympic gold-medal victory the following summer in Atlanta, remains the team's primary motivational tool.
"For us, that was probably the worst moment of all our playing careers," said midfielder Julie Foudy, one of the team's most outspoken personalities. "Everyone on the team, we can point to that as the depth of our careers and say, We don't want to go back to that."
With eight players who have appeared in more than 100 international games, the U.S. team is linked with Norway and China as pre-tournament favorites.
"The leadership that Carla and Julie and the other players create is kind of the culture that drives this team," said U.S. coach Tony DiCicco. "Every player buys into that culture, and it's a very positive but yet demanding leadership."
Of course, leadership carries a team only so far. It's then that goal-setting takes a back seat to goalscoring, and offensively, this may be the deepest U.S. team in the program's history.
"Now, we have five, six, seven players that can step up and crack a shot, and we can rely on to take the chance and be the big winner in the game," said veteran midfielder Michelle Akers, who for years has battled the effects of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
Akers has more than 100 career goals. And of course, there's Mia Hamm, the most recognizable women's player in the world and the all-time leading scorer. But, in fact, midfielder Kristine Lilly and forward Tiffeny Milbrett currently lead the team in goals and points, respectively.
"For sure, I know we have dangerous weapons on the bench," said Milbrett. "I know we have the depth that we need. You're gonna need all 20 people to take you through an intense, short, many-game tournament like this is."
For Team U.S.A., the hope is that recent history will repeat itself. These women want to take a page from the men's World Cup of last summer, won by France, on its home turf.
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