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11 Questions with Christie Rampone

Who is the second most capped player on the U.S. Women’s World Cup Team? That would be Christie Rampone, who has quietly built a legacy as one of the greatest defenders in U.S. history. She heads into her third Women’s World Cup with 168 caps, tied with former captain Carla Overbeck, and will play a key role for the USA on the right side of the defense. Still one of the fastest and grittiest players on the team, she headed over to China without her 23-month year old daughter Rylie, which is one of the topics covered as she sat down for 11 Questions with’s Center Circle. This is your third Women’s World Cup, but first as a regular starter. How is your mindset differing heading in this tournament?

Christie Rampone: “The biggest difference heading into this World Cup is confidence and experience. Internally, I’m ready. In 1999, I was still new on the team and didn’t play that much. In 2003, my role kept changing and there was uncertainty, but now, I am confident in my role and feel very comfortable with the defense. There’s obviously always going to be nerves, but the past two years has really prepared us for this tournament.” You are traveling without your daughter Rylie for the first time in a while. It’s only been a few days, but how are you coping?

CR: “It’s a lot better than I expected. So far, it’s been great. I had a great flight over, I was able to read 60 pages of a book without interruption and I’ve been able to have conversations with my teammates without having to get up to chase after Rylie. Having no interruptions, in conversations and sleep, has been the big thing so far. I miss her and my husband, but I know I will see them soon. In all honesty, Skype with the webcam has been a key to keep me going.” The back line has three players with more than 100 caps, making it one of the USA’s most experienced groups. How does that experience help the team heading into the WWC?

CR: “It helps the team because the three of us (Rampone, Kate Markgraf and Cat Whitehill) have played together for so long that we have the experience and confine with each other. We’ve tried to help make the transition easier for the young players, answering questions and helping them along. We’ve really become a united group over the past two years. The defenders are put through some extremely tough trainings by asst. coach Bret Hall. How has that impact the group?

CR: We’ve gone through a lot together, with new coaches and a new mentality, being tested to our fullest every day in training. That in turn has brought the defenders closer together. We look out for each other and cover for each other. We know that a good day for someone can be a bad day for another. We have to look out for each and defend as a unit, not just as one player. Because we’ve trained so hard, and because of the amount of hours we’ve training together on individual and group defending, I really feel like I know these players so well and that helps us all play better together.” Does the USA’s past success in World Cups impact this one?

CR: “No one can take 1999 away from us, no one can take 2003 away from Germany, but this is a new World Cup with new challenges. No one has the trophy right now so we have to go after it. We’ve been training for two years for this and I know we have the talent and mentality to win.” Rylie is starting to put sentences together. What kind of things is she saying?

CR: “She likes to ask “What are you doing? Where are we going?’ She’s not so much into the “why’s” but more the “what’s.’ Like any kid, she really inquisitive. I think I’ll be in trouble when she really starts to learn how to talk.” U.S. head coach Greg Ryan has asked, and given you the freedom, to get forward and attack when appropriate. Do you enjoy going back to your days as a forward when you get into the attacking third, or are you just think, I have to run all the way back now?

CR: “I love it. My primary focus defending, but now I try to get forward as much as I can to support our attack. I am comfortable in this role because I feel I have the fitness to get up and down. I want to make it more about the forward chasing me than me chasing the forward. I want to get into the attack and be productive. I don’t want to be one dimensional, but at the same time, if I’m going forward, I want to make it count.” What do you plan to do with your down time during the Women’s World Cup, especially as Rylie is with her dad?

CR: “Since I just bought a new computer two days before I got here, I’m working on organizing a lot of photos of Rylie. That will take a lot of time. I’m also just relaxing and resting for the tournament. I’m watching a lot of movies and playing learning how to play cribbage. Some of the players said it was an old ladies game, but Boxxy and I are two of the more veteran players on the team, so I guess that’s ok. We are also going to have a few dance parties. Natasha Kai is holding hip-hop classes and I am one of her better students, I think. I am enjoying my down town for sure.” You’ve been a part of two Women’s World Cup Teams and two Olympic Teams. What would be your advice for the young players heading into their first World Cup?

CR: “Don’t let the pressure get to you. Stay confident because the team is prepared. You have done the work. You are here for a reason and just focus on the next opponent. Don’t look too far ahead.” Can you believe you are the second most-capped player on the Women’s World Cup Team besides Kristine Lilly?

CR: “No, I can’t. And I didn’t even realize it until I saw a fan at one of our games with a hand-made poster that had all 21 players listed in cap order on it. I went to sign it and I was looking toward the middle, and she said, “no, you’re up top, right under Kristine.” I am not sure how that happened, but it’s been an honor to be on the team this long. One perk is that it helped get me premier seating on the flight over to China! Now I know how Kristine lives.” You’ve always been known as a quiet and reserved person. Has Rylie helped you become more vocal?

CR: “Yes, because she’s more vocal than I am, so it makes me become more vocal because I am always talking to her, teaching her new lessons, and I want her to know that speaking up is ok. I want her to be out of her shell before she realizes she has a shell. I would like her to be a combination of her dad and I. Well, maybe not as out-spoken as her dad, but not as quiet as her mom. She’s definitely not afraid to speak her mind, even though most of it is babble right now.”