The bedroom in Woburn, Mass., contains the articles of faith of a 13-year-old girl, circa 1999. There is a Mia poster, and a soccer ball lamp, and an autographed Mia photo, and a soccer ball piggy bank, and another Mia poster, and the soccer ball clock that Sara Brothers made in wood shop.
Like her idol, Mia Hamm, Sara is a striker with an instinct for attack. She scored 26 of her youth league team's 38 goals in the fall of '98. Also like Hamm, who endures the often vicious tackles of her opponents, Sara has a high threshold for pain. Two years ago she played an entire match without realizing she had broken her right foot. She takes the field each weekend despite suffering from Von Willebrand's disease, a blood-clotting disorder. A bruise can cause Sara to bleed internally; her mom, Cindylee, must bring clot-inducing medicine to her matches.
Last summer Sara used the $52 she had saved from collecting recyclable cans and bottles to buy a ticket to the U.S.'s first-round game against North Korea, in Foxboro. When Sara got Hamm to sign a copy of her book, Go for the Goal, at a U.S. practice in Wellesley, "I was too nervous to say anything," she says. "I was shaking."
"These players don't put on airs," says Cindylee. "You see them signing autographs and spending a few minutes with the girls at practice, and you come away with a real good feeling."
During the final Sara huddled in front of the television with her friend Lindsay, enduring two hours of tension until the final, primal scream of victory. "I was crying," Sara says, but not for long. Within minutes she was standing atop a ladder outside, hanging a 44-foot-long banner that reached from one end of her house to the other: CONGRATULATIONS U.S. CHAMPS!