The U.S. Womenâ€™s National Team kicked off training camp Wednesday in Bradenton, Fla., where the Women are preparing for their upcoming trip to Sweden. As part of the teamâ€™s preparations for the Olympics, the WNT will face China, Sweden, Japan and Canada before heading to London in July. ussoccer.com caught up with defender Stephanie Cox about a few familiar opponents and getting ready for London 2012.
What does it mean for the U.S. Womenâ€™s National Team to be playing some of the best teams in the world with the Olympics only months away:
Stephanie Cox: â€œI think getting to play in Sweden away in Europe is a great way to simulate what it will be like in the Olympics. To play some top teams is just a great opportunity for us to fine-tune what we need to be ready for the tournament.â€
Sweden and Japan have become familiar opponents for the U.S. recently, already having played both this year. Both will also be in the Olympics. Does it help to have that familiarity?
SC: â€œI feel like we always play Canada a lot but recently weâ€™ve been playing Sweden and Japan! I think itâ€™s great. Theyâ€™re both very different teams and such quality teams that I think it really brings out our best. We have to play at our best and they really challenge us, and I look forward to playing both of them.â€
How do Sweden and Japan differ in their styles?
SC: â€œI think if you line the two teams up side by side, you would see the biggest difference would be size. Sweden is a very dominant, physical team. Theyâ€™re great in the air. You look at them and theyâ€™re very powerful. Meanwhile, Japan is a smaller stature but theyâ€™re actually getting a lot more physical, a lot more combative of a team. Donâ€™t let their size fool you. Sweden, they like to use their pace up top, maybe a little more direct, where Japan is a little more patient. I think their two different attacking styles really create different challenges for our defense.â€
The team is traveling to Sweden soon and Sweden is also hosting next yearâ€™s Womenâ€™s European Championship. How fun is it to play in such a soccer-crazy environment?
SC: â€œJust recently we got to go to Japan and got to build off of their excitement from the World Cup and seeing how many fans were there in Sendai. I hope weâ€™ll have a similar environment in Sweden, building off the future, the UEFA Championships there and just the excitement for womenâ€™s soccer. Itâ€™s really fun for us, not just to be here in the U.S. and have games, but also to travel around the world and see the excitement from the World Cup and the Olympics for womenâ€™s soccer.â€
In this trip and the last trip, the U.S. Women played a game, had a day off and then played another game. Is that schedule a good preparation for the Olympics?
SC: â€œIt was challenging playing two completely different teams and wanting to analyze the Japan game but yet having to prepare for a very different opponent in Brazil. Weâ€™ll have the same thing [in Sweden]. I think itâ€™s very challenging to switch gears so quickly and physically just to rest and recover. But I think weâ€™re so deep that it forces us to use our depth and thatâ€™s definitely one of our strengths against other countries.â€
Is the team where it wants to be in preparing for the Olympics?
SC: â€œI think these next two domestic camps are just going to be a great time for cohesion. We have a lot of time together, a lot of practices to get us on the same page, feeling confident, hopefully naming the roster, which is huge. Weâ€™re all a little nervous, obviously, just anticipating that roster coming, but just really wanting to build and come together in these next two camps.â€