Amy LePeilbet has quietly established herself as one of the most consistent U.S. defenders despite a position change that has seen the long-time center back move from left back – where she played in the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup – to right back, where she just might line up in the Olympics. As the USA undertakes an intense training camp in Florida to prepare for the London games, ussoccer.com sat down with LePeilbet. She answered 11 questions ranging from the evolution of the U.S. back line to her Olympic dreams and hanging out in sunny Los Angeles.
You’ve been with the WNT since 2004 and have 66 caps. Do you feel like a veteran?
Amy LePeilbet: “I don’t think I totally feel like a veteran, but I would say I have become an experienced player and I’m more confident out there. I think I’ve taken on a role as being a leader in the back because I’ve played a lot of games, not only for this team but also in the WPS. So while I wouldn’t say I’m a veteran on this team, I do feel like I am a veteran professional, so I try to add those qualities to the U.S. team.”
You were very quiet when you first came on the team. Are you still quiet?
AL: I’m definitely quiet, but that’s just my personality. I’m more of a quiet person in general, but because I’m more confident, I think I’m louder on the field. I’m always talking and communicating out there. Off the field, if there is a group of players hanging out, I would not call myself the most outgoing one. I would say I’m better one-on-one, but if everyone is laughing and joking around, I’m usually laughing and listening.”
You have been a center back for most of your career, but you played left back in the World Cup and now you are at right back. Has moving around like that been difficult?
AL: “At first it was a little difficult when I went to the left because I had played center back for 10 years. It’s a position still on the back line but I sort of felt like I was in another world out there on the flank. But I didn’t shy away from the challenge. The way I went about it was just trying to learn the position quickly and improve a little each day. It’s been a much smoother transition to right back because I know the position of an outside back in both the defense and attack so it was just a matter of switching to my strong foot, which is always nice.”
Several of the current U.S. defenders have yet to score a goal for the national team. You, Becky Sauerbrunn, Kelley O’Hara, Ali Krieger and Stephanie Cox are still looking for your first. Who will be the first to score?
AL: “I am going to say Kelley O’Hara. She has an unfair advantage because she was a forward and midfielder who has moved into the back line and has probably scored more goals in her career than the rest of us combined. Kelley got two assists in her first game at outside back so that’s not really fair. I will be super excited if any of us score a goal. Actually, I want to see Christie Rampone score one. I would love that. I don’t think she’s scored in about 12 years so last time she scored I was 18 watching her on TV. I want to be there when she gets her next one.”
You have many fans out there who are crying for you to get on Twitter. Will that ever happen?
AL: “Most likely I will never be on Twitter. As I said before, I’m quiet and Twitter doesn’t really suit my personality.”
When Ali Krieger went down, it necessitated the shifting of some roles on the back line. How do you feel the growth of the back line is coming along?
AL: “I think it’s going well. It’s sad to not have Ali, but I think the back line has to respond and come together and I think the whole group of defenders has done that. As a unit, the back four is doing well. We are playing a bit differently from the past and learning a new system, but it’s coming along nicely.”
You’ve been spending some time in West Los Angeles during your breaks from national team events. Being a person who has lived in Chicago, Reno, and Boston quite a bit, what do you like about L.A.?
AL: “I think there is a nice lively vibe to West L.A. There’s always a fun energy you can feel buzzing around there. The weather is great so it’s easy to get up and out of bed to enjoy the days. The beach is always a beautiful place to go and relax. It’s also always a nice place to train because the weather is so good. Last week, a bunch of the WNT players met up at The Home Depot Center and had a great training session so it was nice to take advantage of the great fields there.”
U.S. Soccer recently announced matches against Sweden and Japan in Sweden this summer. The U.S. team has already played Japan twice this year. What is different about facing the Japanese that you might not see from other countries?
AL: “They are so talented at keeping the ball. No one in the women’s game compares to the Japanese players. They can string 20-30 passes together, so facing them you have to be very patient because they are waiting for you to be overly aggressive and then they can get in behind you. We just have to be very organized defensively as a team and once we win it we have to be patient and keep it in the attack.”
You missed out on the Olympics in 2008 when you were recovering from a knee injury. What would it mean to you to make the 2012 squad?
AL: “I would love to be on this team and play in the Olympics. The first time I came in with the national team was in 2004 while the team was preparing for the Athens Olympics. That’s when the dream developed to possibly be an Olympian and make an Olympic roster. It’s been a long road since then and it would be an honor and very special to make it.”
Now that we are about nine months gone from the World Cup, which was your first, can you give us some thoughts on your experience in Germany?
AL: “You get this question a lot from people, and it’s really difficult to put it into words because you went through so many emotions in that World Cup. As a team, and as an individual, we had our ups and downs, but what I will remember most is how this team came together and how it took all 21 of us to accomplish what we did. It was extremely disappointing when we lost to Japan, but after these months I have really realized how amazing the journey was and I’ll never forget that.”
You’ve played the third most minutes of any field player so far this year. What are the main keys in staying consistent in your performance?
AL: “As a defender, I always have tried to be consistent. I always try to make that a strength of mine because that does keep you on the field as a defender. I think I train hard, I put in the reps on the technical things I need to be good at. I also think I’m confident in who I am as a player so I don’t worry too much about little mistakes and let them pull me down. I just throw them to the side and move on, which allows me to perform more consistently.”