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Conference Call Quote Sheet: U.S. WNT Head Coach April Heinrichs on the 2004 Olympic Roster


On how she decided on the final 18 players for the Olympic roster…
“Over the last two weeks once we broke for the WUSA Festivals, it had been increasingly apparent to me that this was going to be the most difficult selection that I’ve been a part of. I’ve been a part of ’91, ’95, ’96, a little bit in ’99, 2000 and of course the 2003 roster selection processes, and this was the most difficult. The reason for that has to do with two things. One, when you’re in residency the competition is there every single day. There’s competition for playing time, competition within practice and competition for opportunities. You have to compare and contrast every day. I think if you watch this team play one or three games, it is not really a reflection of six months of residency. If you watch our team train and play over the last six months it has been a wonderful process for us in terms of having opportunities to watch players play under pressure and in games against great opponents. Also, we’re able to address strengths and weaknesses within the training phase of our year. It has been the most difficult because of the parity within our camp and the great talent pool that we have. We brought in something like 37 or 38 players during the course of the year and that made it greater as well. The second part of it is just simply being in residency. Having such a great talent pool and having the opportunity to have a residency opposed to league play, you get to see the players that are gamers, and working on areas of their game. It makes it tough when these players are as invested as they are in making this team, as it was their sole objective the past six months.”

On factors that went into selecting Heather O’Reilly…
“One of the more difficult choices and decisions we had to make was between what we felt were the three forwards of Shannon MacMillian, Christie Welsh and Heather O’Reilly. It’s been very difficult to choose between those three because they’re very different.  They all play the same position but they’re very different and offer our team very different things.  Welsh is a handful to deal with and she pops up in good spots.  She’s difficult for tall defenders, strong defenders, big, quick, fast or little defenders. Macmillan has experience and has obviously played for this country for a very long time and is also very clean in a lot of the technical areas that are functional to her. O’Reilly is raw athleticism, speed, quickness, agility, energy, enthusiasm, excitement. (She) can take your breath way in a matter of mere minutes in terms of what she can do to get behind opponents and getting behind opponents is obviously one of the primary objectives as a forward. All things being equal, the various strengths and weaknesses not being the same, I think what we did is pick the player that could get behind if we needed a goal more consistently and in that regard it was Heather.  The second part was that in February and March she started to struggle in our camp. At the end of the day there have been a lot of expectations heaped on this young player and when she came in during the early part of the year, and she was struggling and it was hard for her, but she really bounced back and was one of our higher performing players the last month and a half so we went with the young one that can get behind defenders.”

On Saturday’s game and whether it will be a test run…
“I think what you’re going to see us trying to do two things at the same time and I think they’re conflicting agendas, but they’re both very important.  We’ll play Brazil and Australia in our group play. We’ve just recently played Brazil and we’ll play Australia later in this month, so we want to be careful that we don’t throw everything at them that we have.  At the same time, the other agenda is to blend and provide good chemistry with all the players in the starting lineups.  We’ll be trying to do both at the same time but our number one priority has to be us and our team as opposed to deception and what other teams think they’re going to see from us. We’re the most well known team in the world, we’re the most scouted team in the world, and our videos are easier to get on tape than any other country in the world.  So I’m not sure there are going to be any secrets when it gets down to it.”

On choosing goalkeeper Kristin Luckenbill…
Luckenbill is a player we’ve kept our eye on in the last three years in the WUSA and we’ve always felt that in our pool of goalkeepers, and the ones that we had selected, that she was somebody that after the World Cup we should consider. One of the most difficult things to do in the game of soccer is to get your goalkeepers playing time because you have so few games to begin with.  As we all know, this year we’ve had plenty of training, but still in a lot of respects, very few games. Our calendar was very heavily loaded in the front end because we had to qualify for the Olympics in February.  We brought Kristin Luckenbill in in January and we brought her back and had a two-week trial period with her, and we always had our eye on her. She came in and she did extremely well and when an athlete can come in and do well with the women’s national team in her first camp ever that tells you something.  Coming into the women’s national team is a very intimidating environment and she did well in every aspect. Then, when you put her in situations and she rises to the challenge, you really take note. We played Kristin in the Brazil and Japan games, and she’s done well in training – extremely well in training.  You start to say, ‘What is the core of the strength of her game,' and Kristin Luckenbill’s core strengths are big saves in big moments.  If you look at her career at Dartmouth she was very renown for keeping Dartmouth in games and escalating Dartmouth’s program on her shoulders.  Luckenbill was largely credited with keeping the Carolina Courage in games early in their second year.  She’s able to make the leap to our level and you say her core strengths are worthy of being considered one of our players. And we challenged her – we stuck her in all three games we’ve had thus far and she’s consistently played well in all those games and done well in residency.  She’s separated herself in the training opportunities and that’s what’s so hard to do. It’s hard to separate yourself as a goalkeeper when you’re in a residency program.

On selecting midfielder Lindsay Tarpley…
“The first thing that comes to mind when you watch Tarpley train and play is that she is a winner. She finds ways to win and she finds ways to stick ball is in the back of the net.  Her shots taken to shots on goal ratio is probably the best of any national team player I have watched, and that’s going back many years.  Just about every shot Lindsay takes get on the frame.  She takes half chances, she surprises goalkeepers, she surprises defenders, she’s popping up in good spots and she is dangerous.  We had her in last year and she was doing well with us but she still a little bit struggled with the transition from college soccer to the women’s national team. Deferring respectfully to the senior players and deferring respectfully to the great players around her, this year she started off very well, has maintained her consistency throughout the six months and now made herself more versatile.  We are as likely to play her as a forward, as an attacking center mid, or either of the wide midfields in a 4-3-3 or a 4-4-2.  Lindsay may be our most versatile front player.  She pops up in places and creates havoc.  She’s also become a consistent young player who is exciting for us to have on this team.”

On midfielder Shannon MacMillan not making the roster…
“There’s no question that in ‘96 and ‘99 that Shannon was a great sparkplug coming off the bench and contributing to the ‘96 Olympics and ‘99 World Cup team. There’s no question that what she has done for this country and the lengthy career that she’s had with the national team has been very celebrated.  There’s no question that what she’s done for this country on the soccer field has been remarkable. Shannon’s career has been celebrated. As I said earlier, the reasons why we considered players such as Christie Welsh and why we picked Heather O’Reilly were because of Heather’s qualities to get behind, her explosiveness and ability to create havoc. “

On defender Kate Markgraf…
“Kate is having the best national team year of her career.  She is confident, aggressive, and is playing uninhibited and outstanding as our left back.  She can get forward and has some tremendous assists this year and has really created some great attacking play on the flank for us.  We also can play her centrally as well – I know she played in ‘99 centrally.  She’s versatile and is emerging as a leader back there and is one of our most consistent performers.”

On being drawn into Group C at the Olympics…
“Our mantra after draws is that every draw is a good draw.  You can be drawn into the Group of Death and there are a lot of positives to that. I don’t suspect Brazil will play the same way they played against us in April and Australia is going to learn something about us at the end of this month and that’s going to make it difficult for us to beat both those teams.  Then you have us playing more games than the other teams. 
It’s a difficult group, but one that I think if we play well and we can control as much as we can and really focus on the United States, that we can advance.  It’s a matter of taking one step at a time if and when that happens at that time.  Managing our group play is a difficult task.”

On forward Mia Hamm’s playing style and legacy…
“She’s gone through a couple phases in her career.  In the WUSA she became more of a playmaker and I think that was the final piece to her game that can define her as one of the greatest, if not the greatest to ever play the game.  Her pass is as dangerous as she is.  In the past couple months in training she has been finishing very well.  She’s put a lot of focus on finishing breakaway situations and slipping the keepers and I have to say in residency both Abby (Wambach) and Mia have been two of the most dangerous players and scoring the important goals in training. The chemistry of the two of them makes Mia a better player.  Abby finds a way to push Mia and Mia pushes Abby. Mia also teaches and sort of nurtures her, while Abby is able to take pressure off of Mia.  In the final days of Mia’s career, she has been the best player that she has ever been and has been much more lethal.”

On what players are being considered alternates for the Olympics…
“The timeline is the USOC timeline of July 21.  All the players we released will be considered for those roles. The key when you consider alternates is who can embrace the role and who can offer you something that the 18 you selected may not.  Based on the 18 we selected I feel that we’re talented, we’re experienced, we’re prepared based on the residency, and we have versatility in there, so I think the first thing you consider is who can embrace that role.  If a player is injured and you know you’ve had a pretty traumatic day, if the team has suffered that sort of a loss you may pick a player that might contribute to the chemistry and be uplifting. A player who might not see the field, but they just blend in and be a part of that cohesive team and contribute in terms of the chemistry.”

On the benefits of having a residency…
“The most obvious benefit to residency is the amount of time the team and the coaching staff get to prepare for the event and you get a large quantity of training sessions. You get to control the sessions.  The most obvious benefits are directly contributing to the team being able to succeed.  The factors of team building.  There’s very little you can achieve in one or two days.  The format that any coach would choose would be a residency format.”

On the strength of roster…
“There’s no question that this team is a better team. We're sharper, cleaner, crisper. We’ve improved every area of our game and every area of every individual’s game. Residency is a process of natural selection.  These 18 are hardened, they’re prepared, they’re confident, and they’re confident in each other. They’ve gone through a long hard, fun, successful and rewarding year together. We’re going into this Olympics with a team that is as versatile as it was in 2003, with that nice blend of experience and talent and youthful energy.  The top half of our roster has become better.  The bottom half of our roster has improved.  The middle core has been challenged as well.  We’re going into this Olympics as a better team.”  

On the emotional difficulty of selecting the roster…
“There’s mourning and a sense of loss when you go from 30 players down to 18 and I think our camp feels that and feels that on a collective level and an individual basis there’s a loss of a friend, of personality.  So in general there is a sense of mourning when you do have to make those selections. You have to make those selections and you can feel that. We felt that coming and there was a lot of pressure and stress in our camp leading up to the selection after this weekend it will be behind us and we’ll start anew.”

On whether her job is in jeopardy if they don’t win gold…
“No. Selecting Heather (O’Reilly) might mean I’m looking toward 2007, which would be the direct contradiction to your question. I think the answer is when you select Heather you feel like she can help you play today and help us find a way to win on the short term.  The selection of players have been with a long-term vision and plan to make sure we’re picking the highest performing players of the past couple of months and over the next two months more importantly, and beyond that we’ll have three years before the next world event.” 

On if the team is missing anything without Shannon MacMillan…
“We have every element in this team and roster in the players we selected and gotten everything this team has to offer as far as being able to perform over the next four months.”

On the inclusion of Heather Mitts to the roster…
“Whenever a player narrowly misses making a World Cup roster and then the next world event is just around the corner, they are fueled by that disappointment and I think Heather is a great example of that. She stepped into our camp in January as one of our fittest and most motivated players. That is exactly the kind of response you want from a player that doesn’t make a World Cup roster. She came in and seemed confident and contributed in two positions as a center back and a wing back. She has tremendous versatility and despite her size, she has bite in her tackle. Going through her mind was probably, ‘I’m going to show these guys that I deserve to be on this Olympic team.’ Also, I think when you don’t make a World Cup roster, you also let go of fears as she had nothing to lose now. Heather has played like that all year.”

On the exclusion of Tiffany Roberts from the roster…
“In regards to Tiffany Roberts, it was one of the toughest decisions. She’s a team favorite to the players, including the coaching staff. She’s an emotional favorite, sort of a spiritual favorite of everyone. When you have Tiffany around you realize why she makes teams, because she makes people around her enjoy the game more, she makes training sessions fun and drills fun. She is one of the best human beings this program has ever seen, but at the end of the day, she was competing for one or two spots where we have the most depth. That made it difficult when we felt we had good depth at the back and good depth in the midfield.”

On Heather O’Reilly’s comeback to make the roster…
“I think her injury required a longer rehabilitation time than she or the medical people even thought. I think her injury contributed to her difficult start to the year. As I said earlier, the expectations heaped on this young player I think affected her not only during her injury, but also in her college season. One of the things I know is that when we trained with Heather O’Reilly every day is that she was killing herself to make this team. She would do anything and everything any teammate or coach asked her to do. In that regard, you look at her and know she is really prepared to help us. She came into camp 100 percent physically, but having spent almost six months away from the highest level it was a difficult time for her and her confidence.”

On how the injury affected O’Reilly…
“When an athlete takes an injury it is usually an emotional period for them. Then when they start coming back there is a little bit of fear and certainly after not making the World Cup team. She was playing in college, but not at the level of expectations for her as a college freshman. I’m sure there was a reconstruction of her foot in some way and a reconstruction of her psychological confidence before she could push to compete at this level again.”

On Abby’s Wambach’s ability to become such a dominant player over the past year…
“In some of our exit meetings with players that did not make World Cup team one of the things we used was Abby Wambach as an example of how you can be right on the edge and compete with these players, but how then be able to refine your strengths to have a breakthrough year. Look at where Abby was a year ago and look at where she is now. Sometimes I say you have to have a breakdown to have a breakthrough. Abby was disappointed that she wasn’t on our rosters consistently early in 2003, but she continued to persist. She became a more and more impactful player everyday she played with the Washington Freedom and with the national team. I talked to Abby last year and told her to stop worrying about making the World Cup team, as long as she stayed healthy she was going to make the team, but now she had to fight for a starting position. I felt she was on the upswing and that was a good thing for us.”

On what Wambach is doing differently… 
“Abby’s strengths are her prowess in the air, her ability to manage the physical game, her winning attitude and mental toughness. That’s what really helped her in 2003. What’s she’s become now is a student of the game. She’s interested in moving more tactically, becoming more technically clean in various aspects of the game, and contributing in every way a forward can.”

On the decision to include Brandi Chastain, who’s coming off an injury, to the roster…
“I’ll go back to the 2003 World Cup where actually 19 out of the 20 of our players played. The only one who didn’t play for anything other than an injury that occurred during the World Cup was Angela Hucles. It is tougher when you go form 20 to 18. Certainly there’s an injury to Brandi right now. She’s not in a boot anymore. Brandi is not 100 percent, but we think she is near 95 percent. We are about six weeks out from the Olympics and I’m not worried about her foot. It is a bone bruise. That is different than a stress fracture, which is what she had in the World Cup. A bone bruise is something that heals up nicely, its not something you worry about long-term. With Brandi’s leadership, experience, composure and versatility, she is a great selection for us.”

On the legacy the veterans may leave if this is their last major competition…
“We all know the legacy these players are leaving. We know the last five years in U.S. Soccer can be directly attributed back to our senior players. We know the legacy is ongoing and that it will be incredibly difficult to replace all those players, whether one retires or they all retire at one time. On the other hand, when you talk to them it isn’t about them, it is all about their aspirations to finish their careers as winners, so regardless of the results I don’t think their legacy will chance. I think they area approaching the last couple months as lets enjoy the journey, find ways to make each other better, and lets try and make this the best team to ever represent the United States.”

On it possibly being her last major competition she’ll coach for the USA…
“My brain doesn’t go to any thoughts that this could be the last of anything. My brain goes to how are we going to practice today, what are plans for the Olympics when we arrive, and then start preparing for Australia. There are still a lot of things we need to do in training still. My brain has a vision of where I want to be in the end and obviously our goals are to win, but my mind is set on the process.”

On announcing the roster now…
“It is always difficult to name a date that you will name a team because you don’t want to do it too late. There are strengths to naming the team early and there are potential pitfalls to naming the team too early. Conversely, there are pitfalls and strengths to naming the team later. There is always a good in between and I try to find that balance. I had a suspicion we would internally start to tell individuals where they stood this week. I don’t think I could have told you three weeks ago I would be prepared to name the team, but after the WUSA weekends I was able to evaluate players and after I was able to evaluate the U-21s, I felt a lot more comfortable with being able to name the roster.”

On the other players that did not make the roster…
“We’ll continue to watch them all. Once again, about our pool of players is that I think we’ll have a couple that will go back with the U-21 and we’ll have our eyes on them. We have players that are committed and have a good history of staying fit themselves, so we’ll keep our eyes on all of them.”

On having the team in Residency being an advantage…
“I think this year that is true, there is no question. Having said that, not having the WUSA in the future is going to be a huge problem for this country. The alternative is to have a residency, but that reduces the pool by about a third, maybe 25 percent, of the pool of players that you could be developing. Because with the WUSA you are developing about 120 players.”

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