CHICAGO (July 7, 2015) – More than 30,000 tickets have been sold for the U.S. Women’s National Team’s first post-Women’s World Cup match against Costa Rica on Sunday, Aug. 16, at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Following the U.S. WNT’s historic Women’s World Cup victory on July 5, ticket sales increased rapidly, forcing the upper level stands of Heinz Field, home of the NFL’s Pittsburgh Steelers, to be opened in order to accommodate the large number of fans wanting to see the World Cup Champions live. The game will kick off at 1:30 p.m. ET on FOX Sports 1. Tickets are still available. (TICKETS)
The return to Pittsburgh will be a homecoming of sorts for U.S. defender Meghan Klingenberg, who hails from nearby Gibsonia. Klingenberg was one of five players who played every minute during the USA’s run to the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup title, as well as part of the backline that shut down opponents for 540 consecutive minutes, the second-best streak in WWC history. Over the course of seven games, the U.S. Women only allowed three goals.
The WNT’s match in Pittsburgh marks the team’s second visit to Heinz Field, after defeating Iceland there by a 3-0 score in 2004, following the USA’s Olympic gold medal run in Greece. The USA has played 15 times previously in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
Three days after facing Costa Rica in Pittsburgh, the World Cup Champs will play a second friendly against its CONCACAF rival in front of over 20,000 fans at Finley Stadium on Wednesday, Aug. 19 in Chattanooga, Tennessee (6:30 p.m. ET on ESPN2). Tickets for that match are sold out, with the number setting a WNT attendance record in the state.
Following the WNT's 5-2 victory over Japan in the FIFA Women's World Cup Final, the team headed to the FOX set in Vancouver to speak about the win and the tournament as a whole. There, the World Champions were also given their new jerseys with three stars, unveiling the new design for the first time. Today, the WNT will be at L.A. Live in Los Angeles for a rally beginning at 11 a.m. PT.
First Cap: USA vs. Venezuela
A good place to start is my first camp and cap with the National Team when Bruce Arena invited me to be a guest player with the final 23-man roster for the 2006 FIFA World Cup camp. The opportunity to be in that camp before the World Cup was incredible and totally unexpected. I had gone to Holland in January of 2006, started playing more with the reserve team and at the end of the season got a good run of games. I can remember sitting on the bus coming back from one of the last games and hearing I was going to have the opportunity to go into camp before the World Cup. It felt surreal.
I got to Cary and there were Bruce, “Mooch” Myernick and Pierre [Barrieu] and so many guys that I’d watched on TV for such a long time. We worked incredibly hard. Pierre had us running quite a bit – it was hot, it was humid, but for me it was incredible to be a part of it.
We were there for two weeks and at the end, I just assumed they’d go to play the Send Off games and I’d head home for a little bit of summer vacation before going back to Holland for preseason. One day after lunch, Bruce pulled me aside and said in a casual way that he thought I’d done well and he wanted to bring me along for the three Send Off games. Again, it was totally unexpected, but as an 18-year-old at that time, I certainly wasn’t turning down the opportunity. The first game was in Nashville against Morocco and just to be on the bench for that, to feel the atmosphere and be a part of it was special. The second game was in Cleveland against Venezuela and towards the end of the game, Mooch came down and told me to get ready.
“There might be a chance to get you on for a few minutes,” he told me.
Perfect in Opening Games of the Gold Cup
Dating back to the inaugural tournament in 1991, the U.S. MNT is a perfect 12-0-0 in CONCACAF Gold Cup openers, defeating Trinidad & Tobago (1991, 1996), Jamaica (1993), Cuba (1998, 2005), Haiti (2000), Korea Republic (2002), El Salvador (2003), Guatemala (2007), Grenada (2009), Canada (2011) and Belize (2013).
The team has outscored opponents 33-6 in its initial Gold Cup games, earning clean sheets in seven of the 12 matches. Chris Wondolowski’s hat trick in the team’s 6-1 victory against Belize in 2013 marks the most goals scored by a U.S. player in the opening match of the tournament.
Omar and Greg return to Dallas
Defenders Omar Gonzalez and Greg Garza hail from the Dallas area and both also played for famed U.S. Soccer Development Academy club Dallas Texans.
“It’s very special to come back to Dallas while playing for your national team,” Gonzalez told reporters prior to training on Sunday. “[We’re] playing in such an important tournament this year and against a good opponent in Honduras. Hopefully we can get the result we want.”
“What else can you ask for, right?” added Garza. “It’s a dream come true. For me being home, having my family, my parents, my grandparents, my aunts and uncles – everyone being here to see me, I’m just really happy to be here.”
While Gonzalez has regularly played at Toyota Stadium with his club side LA Galaxy, Garza said he also has familiarity with the venue.
“We had the U-23s game against Mexico here about three or four years ago,” he said. “Other times, I’ve youth tournaments here and stuff like that as well. I’ve played on these [training] fields a lot when I was with my club team, the Dallas Texans, but I’ve done a couple of camps here with the youth national teams as well. Wherever you are, you have to be ready for whatever circumstances. I think it’s a good feeling to be home, but the main thing is for all of us to adapt the best way possible.”
Garza told reporters that he was trying to get as many tickets as possible to Tuesday’s game for family members while Gonzalez said he’d keep his ticket requests to just immediate family.
Otherwise, “it’d come out of my pocket,” he joked.
Gold Cup Games in Dallas
The U.S. MNT has played five previous Gold Cup matches in the Dallas metro area, going a perfect 5-0-0.
Four of those five matches came during the 1993 Gold Cup when the U.S. defeated Jamaica 1-0, Panama 2-1 and Honduras 1-0 in group play before using Cle Kooiman’s extra time winner to down Costa Rica 1-0 in the semifinals.
More recently, the U.S. defeated Honduras 3-1 at Arlington’s Cowboy Stadium in the 2013 Gold Cup semifinals, with U.S. midfielder Alejandro Bedoya assisting on both of Landon Donovan’s goals.
Bedoya’s Fond Memory in Dallas
Almost two years on from that semifinal win in Arlington, Bedoya holds fond memories of how that performance helped him move forward with MNT.
“That was sort of my breakout back being with the National Team,” Bedoya said. “I hadn’t been playing all that much when Jurgen came in and was happy to be back in the mix on the Gold Cup roster. I waited for my chance and got it late in the group stage, continued that on and in the semifinal against Honduras I was able to create a lot with my runs. I got two important assists by being aggressive, running at them and being a presence out wide.”
Bedoya’s performance at the 2013 Gold Cup propelled him to six appearances in the team’s remaining eight matches that year and eventually on to the 2014 FIFA World Cup roster, where he appeared in all four matches for the U.S. and when healthy, has been a constant call-up to Klinsmann’s side.
“That semifinal gave me a lot of confidence,” he continued. “Since then I’ve tried to do my best for the national team and throughout 2014 and after the World Cup I think I’ve had some good, consistent performances. In terms of getting on the stat sheet, that semifinal with two assists is probably my best.”
Including the team’s two victories against Honduras in Dallas, the U.S. is 5-0-1 all-time against Los Catrachos in Gold Cup play.
Fourteen years to the day of Tuesday’s opener, the teams played to a 0-0 draw before the U.S. defeated Honduras 4-3 on penalty kicks to lift the inaugural 1991 CONCACAF Gold Cup at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
After meeting in 1993, the teams wouldn’t match up again until the 2005 semifinals when late goals from John O’Brien and Oguchi Onyewu pushed the U.S. to a 2-1 win at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.
The sides met twice during the 2009 tournament, with the U.S. using goals from Santino Quaranta and Brian Ching to earn a 2-0 victory during group play at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C. Clarence Goodson and Kenny Cooper scored for another 2-0 win against Honduras in the semifinal at Chicago’s Soldier Field.
The most recent Gold Cup meeting was the 2013 semifinal where Eddie Johnson scored in the 11th minute before Donovan put the game away with goals in the 27th and 53rd minutes in the 3-1 win.
It’s hard to tell if any young player will grow up to be elite. Beyond skill level, so many factors play in to the equation: size, fitness, physicality, athleticism and mentality all seem to matter. Yet one very underrated quality is the soccer brain – the understanding of the game and what it means to be successful in it.