US SoccerUS Soccer
Abby Wambach

Conference Call Quote Sheet: U.S. WNT in Glasgow

Conference Call Quote Sheet:
U.S. WNT in Glasgow
July 20, 2012

U.S. head coach PIA SUNDHAGE
On France, the USA’s opponent in the first match of the Olympic Games:

“Yes, we’ve been scouting them and yesterday we watched the game France against Japan. I had one of our scouts there watching and I got a report from them. This year (because they’ve seen France play a few times) it’s a little bit easier to be honest to play France the first game instead of North Korea (the USA’s first game in the 2011 Women’s World Cup and a team they knew little about) just because we know how they’re going to play and how they’ve been playing and we’ve been able to give enough information to our players’ so that they can prepare for that game. Their strength is the attack. When they get comfortable with the ball in the attacking third they are unpredictable so we need to stay tight and our back four with the midfielders need to be compact and control the game by doing some good defending.”

On Alex Morgan earning a starting role after being a reserve at the 2011 Women’s World Cup:
“She provides speed with Abby up top and those two play very well together. This team is a little bit different than the World Cup. We played a similar system but have a few different players out there and the way Alex Morgan has been playing lately not only gives her confidence but the entire team including myself.”

On the goals for this tournament:
“I would say we always look at the next game and want to play well. And if we always win the next game we’re going to win the gold medal, but I’m not talking about the gold medal that much, I’m talking about the next game. I think that it’s exciting because if you look at our group we have France first and they play very different than Colombia and Colombia plays very different than North Korea. So I’m excited about different styles of soccer and we will make sure that we prepare for the next game and we really want to win the next game and go all the way to the final.”

On how confident this team is going into this tournament and the comfort level playing in the technical style that some European teams play:
“When we look back on the World Cup, we take out the best part of it and the fact is that we played the best soccer in the final when it mattered and that is something to be said about the team….So it’s a little bit about our defending style to be able to be physical and compact and not give a technical team a lot of space and time. But more so, the best defending is to keep the ball and we will keep the ball in many different ways. It could be by knocking it around or big balls. So we have the personalities on the field and we are very confident that we’ll go into this tournament to do our very best and bring out the best performance.”

On the possible lineup for the France match:
I think we have different personalities and players like (Lauren) Cheney that can read the game well and play in different positions. What I am really happy about is if you look at the backs we do have different options and that makes coaching so fun…With those kinds of options it’s a little bit about the individual player but also the relationship between who she is playing with and this team can play well together. So I’m really excited about the different starting lineups that we could have going forward.”

On Hope Solo and how she’s improved her game:
“She has more experience than she had in 2008 and she has gone through ups and downs because of injuries so forth. I really appreciate the game with her feet that will be very important in this tournament. Right now she is in a good place and it will be important that she plays well.”

On the evolution of the team in her tenure and how different this team is than the last Olympic team:
“I’m happy about that question because that’s something I really appreciate with this team. In 2008 (after she took over as head coach), it was eight months and then here we go. It took while to get to know the players and Abby got injured just before the Olympics and here we are and I think we are a much better team. Everything we’ve done is better than in 2008. The thing I like the most about this team is the different personalities, so it looks different depending on who’s playing in the starting lineup. If you look at the women’s game in general the game is different. Speed of play everything is so much better and we’re talking about just four or five years and you can imagine in the next four or five years it will look different because the improvement on the women’s side is really fast right now. For me it’s a privilege and I really want to emphasize that, to be around good players in 2008 but even better in 2012.”

On the lack of a Women’s Soccer League in the U.S. and how that affects their preparation:
“As soon as we found out that there wasn’t a league this year we changed the schedule a little bit and we added many days (of training) to this team. The only thing that has been a little bit stressful is amount of games. You can imagine players play in the league they could get six, eight or 10 more games and playing games is very important. However, we’ve been playing against boys in scrimmage and right now with all the days we’ve been together and the games we’ve been playing I think we are really ready for the Olympics.”

On being a young player at the 2004 Olympics and now playing with a young Alex Morgan in 2012:

“I think Alex definitely brings a total different skill set than I do. She is a very speedy, fast forward who gets behind back lines and defenses and maybe I was doing that in my 22, 23, 24-year-old time but I am more of a target forward that stays central to get the ball through me so we can move up the field. Alex is definitely surprisingly very strong on the ball. When she has the ball and has the chance to score it takes a lot to knock her off the ball. I think one thing that I remember in 2004 is that Mia and I complimented each other and I think that’s what Alex and I have now. I remember when she first got on this team, being pleasantly surprised with the talent and confidence talent that this young women has…I just hope she continues to perform and score goals at the rate she is doing and giving our team a better chance of winning games. She takes a more little bit more attention off of my back and I know that she’s making a name for herself and the World Cup was just the beginning for her. Hopefully she can continue on through these Olympics.”

On following up the World Cup with the Olympics:
“Well there is no better motivation than losing in my opinion. We did a lot of really cool things last summer in Germany and we got a lot of people excited about the women’s game again and truthfully throughout my career I wasn’t sure it was going to happen. I believe this team has something to prove. I know that a lot of us are competitors through and through I mean we’re competing when we’re playing ping-pong on our team floor. Whatever it is, we want to win and because we got so close and lost in the most dramatic way you can lose soccer game, a soccer tournament, not to mention the World Cup, adds even more fuel to that fire. We had a short time from the World Cup to prepare and I think that it’s important that the freshness of that loss is stuck in our minds and honestly in our hearts because what’s in the past is in the past but this team still has something to prove. This team is different than the teams that have won gold medals and we hope to continue on the tradition that they set for us.”

On the style of play Sundhage has brought to the U.S. WNT:
“I think what we have all come to realize that the physicality and mentality in the way we play is a USA engrained culture. It’s who we are. When Pia got on board she definitely wanted to focus more on possession and keeping the ball and changing the point of attack. I think what we realized in the last year is that combining the two is very important. We know that we have this winning mentality, a never quit mentality, and if you can combine that with the possession style that Pia would love us to play, that’s a team I would fear. I think any team in the world would agree that we’re definitely fighters and play hard and bringing on the philosophies that Pia has brought and implementing that into our game makes it a deadly combination. I feel like we do combine that and I feel that Pia has given us a lot of different things, a lot of different tactics to think about. We’ve gone through different formations this year and we have a few things in our back pocket in terms of what we can bring to a game. In the end, yes, tactics and technique and coaching and players and output and execution is all important but I’m pretty clear that if we had a chance to get into that gold medal game in the waning minutes it’s about who wants it more… everybody’s done the work, everybody’s good enough, everybody’s done everything that they possibly can to win that gold medal and for me it’s about who wants it more.”

On how she feels physically:
“Physically speaking I am way more in a pain free place than I was a year ago even. I’ve done a lot of different kind of therapies in the last six months, whether it be holistic methods or trigger point therapy or doctor prescribed medications and obviously the physical therapy I’ve been enduring for last two or three years. I feel strong, I feel healthy, I feel as good as I felt in a long time so it’s good news.”

On whether she will play in a foreign league after the Olympics:
“First and foremost our whole national team has been working tirelessly this year to hopefully bring home this gold medal so that we can solidify a league in the United States for us. That’s our number one priority and if that weren’t to come to fruition, then yeah there will be other opportunities around the world; Japan, France, Sweden, Germany, and recently since Japan won the Word Cup there has been interest there to get their programs even more up and running. We have to play and we have to get games in. I know that is going to be important for the next national team coach whether it’s Pia to continue on or another one. I know that it’s going to be very important to us to stay involved in playing the games. You can’t just be going into training camps and get better. We want to keep evolving with the game and unfortunately if there isn’t a league next year then a lot of us are going to have go to different places to do that.”

On Alex Morgan’s progression as a player:
“I think Alex has had probably the most improvement on her confidence. I’ve told her that time and time again when she scores a big goal that wins us the game. Obviously, scoring in the World Cup final and scoring against France (in the World Cup semifinal), those are goals that you put in your back pocket. Like I say for every forward, when you go through tough times not scoring goals you have to remember the times when you did especially the biggest ones and her confidence has been the turning point in Alex’s career much like my confidence after the ‘04 Olympics did a huge service in my career. I think Alex will continue to grow, she’s had a fantastic year, she’s our leading goal scorer and I continue to support her and she will continue to support us because team accolades are what it’s all about. I told her a couple weeks ago, you know I’ve scored a lot of goals in my career but to me it’s more about championships than scoring goals and she is in her part of her career where it needs to be a little more goal focused. If she’s focused on scoring goals she’s helping our team win championships.”

On Megan Rapinoe and her game:
“Well Megan is one of those players on our team who has the ability to change the game. She can come on and be the best player on the field. Her biggest challenge is probably herself and I think she has done such a great job this last year since the World Cup, working hard on getting back into the starting lineup…When she’s one hundred percent focused on the game and one hundred percent involved, she plays better soccer. When she keeps the ball and when she shares the ball is when Megan Rapinoe plays her best. In the game against Canada a couple weeks ago, she was the best player. She served me some balls that I will even say out loud that I should have finished and I apologized to her after the game because very often forwards are always complaining about service and she put some balls that we needed to finish away to give us a better lead against Canada. Megan has a chance to be a breakout star. She plays a specific role on this team and she can stay within the confines of playing in that role she’s going to be one of the next big stars of this team.”

On Great Britain’s star Kelly Smith’s game and the interest of soccer in the UK:
“First off Kelly Smith has been on my timeline one of the best players in the world. She’s had to deal with a bunch of injuries as of late as we grow older things starts to hurt more than they did when we were young. She is one of the work horses of her team, she’s their quarterback, and she’s the person they want to get the ball to. I’ve always been a really big fan of Kelly even when she was at Seton Hall. We were talking about it the other day even though the rest of her (college) team may not have been at her quality she’s such a quality player. She’s someone who has come to the United States and supported the women’s league in the United States and yes it is surprising that the game has taken a little bit longer to evolve in England being that England has such a rich history in football. I know they are trying to do something right now to change that fact. Obviously hosting the Olympics will be a big deal for them.”

On this being possibly her last major tournament:

“My plans are up in the air to be honest. I’m committed to this journey here in the Olympics and we’ll reevaluate after the Olympics and win or lose I don’t think I’ll be making the decision until January. With that said, I still need to be called in by the head coach so I don’t see myself denying a call-in but I will have to sit the family down and kind of see where we’re at come next year.”

On Hope Solo’s form heading into the Olympics:
"She is right on right now you know her body’s feeling good, she’s mentally in a good place, and Pia said her footwork is faster than ever. I think she’s really settled in the last month and a half and back to her peak form, focused and ready to go.”

On a women’s league in the U.S.:
“I think the challenge is getting more 90-minute games in, more so for the non-starting eleven because they’re not getting those 90 minutes consistently. But as far as being together more and having that consistency with the team and playing a lot of scrimmages against other teams against youth men’s teams, we’ve been getting the 90-minute games in. Obviously our focus is doing well in the Olympics but we also haven’t forgotten about the league and our goal coming through the fall is to make sure we try to get this league going so that we do have another option to play in America and not have college soccer (and the youth national teams) be our only feeder system into the national team. We want to make sure we stay on top of the national team and making sure to be the best in the world and that’s having a pro league on our home soil in our back yard.”

On the defensive tactics going into the Olympics:
“I think the back four has been getting stronger each game, and yes we’ve had break downs but we haven’t had that much time together. We always talk about relationships on the field with your partner next you and in front of you and I think over the last two months the team defending has gotten so much better and a there’s been more of a focus on making sure our spacing is correct between our backline and our midfield and taking more responsibility with that. Part of my job is making sure that spacing is correct and Shannon Boxx’s job is making sure that spacing between her and the forwards is correct. So that’s something that is ongoing throughout the game. But overall I think defensively we’re trying to put the other team under as much pressure as possible and at times making it a footrace in the back as well as we’re always trying to dictate the tempo as a back four against the other opponents, the forwards, making sure they’re not comfortable and that they’re not dictating our line but we are we’re dictating their line.”

On the evolution of the game since the last Olympic games:
“Looking back at some clips from the ‘08 Olympics I do think this is probably the biggest four years where the level of the game has risen. The awareness and more so the speed of play and the decision making of players has really risen and I think that is also attributed to the technical side of the game getting better which allows the speed and fitness to improve but I do think it’s the biggest jump. Seeing younger players being able to come into the game and really make a difference more so than trying to build through experience. Experience does help but you’re seeing a lot of younger flare and personality shining through with the younger players. I feel like I am always trying to stay one step ahead knowing what’s out there, making sure I continue to stay mentally focused and fit and taking every day for what it is. I think being able to compete at practice with an Abby and an Alex makes me better every day so when I do step on the field against the opponent I know I’ve seen pretty much everything at training. They give me the confidence to step on and be the leader out there it’s more of a mental game than it is a physical game these days because it’s more about my voice and direction and leading the team through all my experience. I think the combination of both has helped me stay around.”

On this Olympic team compared to other Olympic teams she’s been on:
“I think when any team goes through a tough time, and I say that more in a positive way because we experienced so much through World Cup preparation, the highs and lows as well as making it to a final and not finishing off our goal, that we just need to stay committed. I think this is the first time you’ve seen a full squad go into two world championships back-to-back with the exception of one new face in Sydney Leroux. We have dealt with the emotion together and gotten stronger and I think we’ve been really committed. We’re all on the same page leading into these Olympics. We know we have the offensive flare it’s just sharpening up our commitment as a team defensively and I give a lot of credit to Alex Morgan who’s made a huge transition from the World Cup to the Olympics in not only her confidence but how she handles herself with her obligations off the field as well. On the field, she is staying fit and focused and being very consistent through her training sessions and that’s awesome to see.”

On the key to slowing France down:
“The first thing is weathering the nerves and emotion that you have within yourself because it’s the first game in the Olympics. The quicker we can come together as a team and work off each other and work through those emotions and put France on their heels, the quicker we’ll get into this tournament and into these games. France is a very good team that we highly respect we have to make sure we don’t let them out of our USA mentality.”

On playing in her ancestral homeland, home to her great-grandfather on her mother’s side:
“It feel’s great. I’ve had such an amazing welcome here in Scotland. They really have taken me under their wing as one of their own and it’s been great having my great-grandfather play here for ten years and kind of getting a little bit more of the history.”

On the group stage:
“I’ll be honest with you, my focus and I would say that the team’s focus is really just on France. But we also do have in mind that next game is going to come quick and then two days recovery we’re on to Colombia. We know that playing Colombia and North Korea in the World Cup so both are great teams in their own way. Colombia is definitely young and they’re athletic so they’re definitely going to bring it. They won’t have as many nerves as they had in the World Cup but I’m sure that they’re getting better. North Korea we don’t know a lot about them and haven’t seen them since the World Cup so the only thing we can off on is the way they played in the World Cup. They’re definitely always a team in my career that has always been strong. Obviously in the third game when legs are a little more fatigued, at that moment it’s definitely going to have to be more of mental game and making sure were committed to staying focused for that entire game.”

On Kelley O’Hara and the back line:
“Some of the great defenders on this team have started as a forwards early in their careers and made their way to the back. So I think a left back position for Kelley is a great spot for her and she goes forward very well and she gives our offensive attack a lot more flare. She’s really coming into her own defensively, on one-to-one defending she’s doing real well and I think she’s learning her role of connecting with the back line. So I’m really confident in the way Kelley’s playing and looking forward to seeing how well she does here in the Olympics. I think we’ve been working with the same players but rotating in different positions in the back so yes it does get a little choppy at times and the flow isn’t as great but now that we’re close to the Olympics and staying with the same back four I think it’s been working out really well. I think we’ve had some great communication watching film and realizing where our mistakes are coming from and our spacing. We have a great leader behind us in Hope who is also directing traffic and that ties the back four into a five.”

U.S. goalkeeper HOPE SOLO
On the competition getting better in women’s international soccer:

“The gap has definitely lessened and I assure you that is what makes the game a lot more fun. When we do win, knock on wood, it’s going to make it all the more worthwhile because the game has changed so much over the past decade. It’s come a long way. No longer can we rely as a U.S team on our strength, on our athleticism, on our speed. You have to be able to play the game and play it in a beautiful way. The way Brazil has always been known to do and the way Japan does so well. So it’s a better game, it’s more entertaining for the fans to watch but you see the French team possessing the ball, you see the even Swedish team changing their style of play. In order to compete to be the best team in the world you can no longer rely on the athleticism in the long run anymore.”

On her emotions after surrendering a goal:
“I am never happy after a game if we’ve given up a goal. With that said, I have to balance it because I am really proud of our team when we play a hard fought game and we come out on top. Hence the quarterfinal game against Brazil last Olympics, obviously my happiness trumped every other emotion that went on in that game and there were a lot of emotions, anger for letting a goal go in, anger towards the refs, anger at the penalty kicks. There were a lot of emotions but when we win my happiness trumps everything. With that said, I am a goalkeeper and my job is to keep the ball out of the back of the net so when the ball makes it to the back of the net I’m not doing my job and I take responsibility for that and take it incredibly personal but the best defenders in the world take it just as personal as I do.”

On balancing off-field activities with on-field training:
“I get that question quite a bit and it’s easy for me to answer because all my life since the time I was little has been a long distraction. At least that is the way some people want to perceive it, but for me, it’s given me a lot of strength, it’s given me a lot of fortitude, a lot of challenges that have given me the opportunity to really cut out those outside distractions. I’ve been able to do that and I think from the time I was little all of my freedom and happiness, all my fight came from playing the game that I love and that’s what allowed me to be the best at what I do and allowed me to get as far as I gotten. I’m grateful for those challenges I’ve had off the field. You fast forward to after the World Cup and we’re talking challenges like Hollywood and challenges like a dance show and all these can be perceived as distractions to certain athletes. But all my life I have been able to handle them and it only gives me that extra fight to keep pushing and prove everybody wrong so trust me, I am ok with the challenge.”

On playing club soccer in France earlier in her career and facing France in group play:
“I think they are going to be here for a long time to stay for a long time. When I played in France quite some time ago, they didn’t have the respect that they have now as a nation and as a national team. The club team I played on had a handful of players that played for their full team and even back then they had some of the most skilled players that I had ever seen. However, there was something missing, they had the ball skill, they were technically savvy on the ball, but three was something missing and I think it was putting it all together. Having 18 quality players or 21 quality players like in a World Cup kind of spurs the brilliance. But now to see the longevity the consistency I think they’re here to stay. It’s a highly respected team by everyone who plays the game and I think the outside people are starting to realize that it could be one of the next best teams.”

On what she can still improve on:
“As an athlete we evolve as years go by and I have different focuses as years go by. In last year’s World Cup I was coming from severe shoulder surgery and it took a lot more to get back than people realize. My entire focus was having the confidence to land on my shoulder over and over again, having the confidence to carry the ball with one arm, throw the ball, trying to gain strength back into my shoulder but not overdo it. All of my focus was geared to my upper body and my shoulder and everyone knows my strengths are my kicking, my distribution, my feet and to be honest the last year I was probably the worst I had ever been with my feet. I didn’t have the time to put into it because of all the time I put into rehab with my shoulder. For the last year after the World Cup, I feel like myself again before my shoulder surgery and I wasn’t quite myself in the last World Cup. Right now I am starting to feel well-rounded again, I’ve gotten my foot skills back, I’ve gotten my distribution back and my shoulder feels great. I’m feeling real good right now because I’m getting my footwork back and that’s what I’m known for.”

On playing for her hometown team Sounders Women:
“My experience with Sounders Women was everything I thought it would be. I knew the organization was as professional as any professional team I’ve ever played for. I knew that this city was invested in growing the women’s game and there was no other club team that I would rather have played for in my hometown of Seattle and trying to build the game. So it was everything I could have imagined, we had some sold out crowds, great fan support, and we put some quality soccer together.”

On her off-field activities and being in the environment of a world championship:
“This is what my life is all about, this is where my heart is, and this is where my passion lies. All the other nonsense is all the bells and whistles but it doesn’t make me who I am, it’s not a part of my lifestyle and it doesn’t breed happiness. Getting back here in an environment like this and I’m talking about the main stage, a big tournament where you feel the nerves, the positive energy, you feel the tension that can rise and now we’re five games out from that big game. That’s what I live for and that’s what I know and I love so of course it feels good to be back but to be honest I never really left.”

On Christie Rampone and her veteran leadership:
“It’s not only the fact that she plays at a high level but she’s well-rounded. She has a good mind on the field and she can read the game, she’s a great captain, she’s a great leader. She’s fun and fun to be around. She’s not a captain that people are afraid to be around, she’s very approachable. I gained respect for her of course for her quality of play but also for everything that she puts on her shoulders and carries. I mean she’s carrying the weight of the team, the weight of the country, the weight of the sport. She puts a lot of pressure on herself and she handles it well and you can’t see it affect her play and that is what I admire the most about her. She’s just a great teammate and not to mention one of the best center-backs I have ever played with.”

On the balance of young players and veterans on the Olympics Team:
“Every team has to have a balance between youth players and veterans, although I’d rather say experience. I think experience breeds a veteran outlook so you have someone like Lauren Cheney, people think that she’s probably the youth of the team but she’s actually a pretty experienced player now after playing a ton of minutes and being crucial player last year for us in the World Cup. So if you want to go by veterans, which to me means age and how long they’ve been on the team, or you want to go by experience, whatever it is every championship team needs to have a perfect balance.”