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Remembering '99: Rachel Buehler

The 1999 Women’s World cup was an inspirational moment in my soccer career. I was 13 at the time and I vividly remember the final game against China. I watched the game with all of my club teammates, huddled in front of the TV. With our faces painted and decked out in red, white, and blue, we were rooting for the USA with all our heart. There were so many people at the Rose Bowl and the excitement in the air was almost palpable. It was truly unbelievable to look into that crowd. I remember when the National Anthem played at the beginning of the game. As the whole stadium began to sing, I thought about what an honor it would be to represent my country. I had never really thought about playing on the National Team before, but suddenly I realized that I could one day be on that field representing the USA.

It was such a long, intense final game. Both teams fought so hard. Michelle Akers sticks out most in my mind. She played until she was absolutely exhausted. They literally had to drag her off of the field and give her an IV. Her passion and effort really struck me. I found her play and desire to be so incredibly impressive. She will always be my favorite player. I will also never forget the corner kick in overtime when Kristine Lilly headed the ball off the line. It seemed like a miracle to me at the time. And then, of course, there was the famous Bri Scurry save and then Brandi Chastain penalty kick finish. I loved watching Bri and Brandi celebrate. There was such pure joy and adrenaline in their reactions. When we won, I jumped up and screamed with my Surf teammates. As we celebrated I felt completely connected to the women on that TV screen. I was just a little girl, like they had once been, and they were doing something amazing that I could maybe do one day.

Little did I know that I would actually have the incredible honor of representing the USA in the 2008 Olympic Games. And now I have met and played with several of the women from that 1999 team. Looking back after 10 years, I would like to thank those amazing women for inspiring me, and an entire generation of soccer players, to reach for our dreams.

Rachel Buehler is a defender for the FC Gold Pride.