U.S. Women Arrive in Italy for Friendly Before Algarve Cup
%=macroPart|font/arialBlue2=%USA WOMEN ARRIVE IN ITALY FOR FRIENDLY BEFORE ALGARVE CUP: The U.S. Women's National Soccer Team arrived in Rieti, Italy late last Sunday night after a long day of travel. The U.S. women will face Italy on Wednesday, March 7, at 3 p.m., before traveling to Portugal for the eight-team Algarve Cup that commences on March 11th and runs through the 17th. The USA will face Canada, Portugal and Sweden in the first round with China, Norway, Denmark and Finland in the other side of the bracket. The young U.S. team, with an average of 19 years, met at Newark International Airport for the team flight to Europe that took them first to Lisbon, Portugal. A seven-hour layover before the flight to Rome was endured with equal parts of listening to music, eating, sleeping and even a bit of studying, as all the U.S. players are missing college, or high school, classes during this trip (except for Keisha Bell who is on spring break from Florida). Numerous players sacked out across several seats and did not stir until rousted for the flight to Rome. The USA boarded the almost three hour flight to Leonardo da Vinci Airport, also know as Fiumicino (after a town nearby) after a short delay and landed in Rome just after 6 p.m. local time. Several missing bags however delayed the USA's departure to Rieti for more than an hour, necessitating several staff members to partially unpack the luggage truck and dig out the infamous "snack trunk" to feed a wide variety of snacks to the hungry U.S. players. The weary and famished players devoured generous helpings of chips, crackers, granola bars, licorice and cookies, along with gallons of water, in about five minutes. The bus ride to Rieti took about an hour and a half and the exhausted U.S. players finally arrived at their hotel around 10 p.m., had a light meal and hit the sack for some well-earned sleep. Several members of the U.S. delegation had been traveling for 30 hours.
%=macroPart|font/arialBlue2=%THE CENTER OF THE BOOT: The USA arrived in Rieti to find that the small town was literally the center of the country. Rieti is the geographic center of Italy, located equidistant between the North and South borders as well as the East and West boarders, with a town square that the locals proudly announce lets you stand right at the center of the country. The U.S. players found Rieti to be a quaint and charming old town, with a conspicuous mix between the old and the new. The roots of the village date back 2000 years to the ancient Romans, but the town was built up around 500 years ago, and several of the many churches look as if they may have gone up during that time. A bakery and ice cream store located adjacent to the hotel, which sits on the edge of a small but bustling square, has proved popular to the U.S. team. A light rain enveloped Rieti on Monday night, leaving the cobblestone streets damp and putting premature end to the Rieti nightlife, which as far as the U.S. players can tell, consists of hanging out in the town squares, chatting with fiends, eating ice cream, drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes. A bell tower next to the hotel at one of those ancient churches rings every hour on the hour, at 15 minutes to the hour, for reasons no one has yet to explain.
%=macroPart|font/arialBlue2=%HIGHER LEARNING: None of the 20 players on the U.S. roster have yet to earn their college degrees, while four are still pursing high school diplomas. Of the 16 players in college, only seven have declared majors and 16-year old Amy Steadman, 16-year-old Kristin Weiss and 17-year old Lori Chalupny have yet to even choose a college. Weiss and Chalupny are juniors. Steadman is a sophomore. Eighteen-year old Sara Randolph will attend North Carolina next fall. Of the seven that have declared majors, three are Communications (Jena Kluegel, Anna Kraus and Catherine Reddick); three are Sociology (Keisha Bell, Mary-Frances Monroe and Stephanie Rigamat) while goalkeeper Emily Oleksiuk bucks the trend with a major in Geography. Rigamat, a UCLA junior, was quick to point out that she is also pursing a double major in History.
%=macroPart|font/arialBlue2=%HIGHER LEARNING II: Several of the U.S. players have to write papers while abroad. Some of the topics: Divorce and its effect on children, an analysis of an historical film, insomnia and a research of family history. Goalkeeper Hope Solo must take two finals while in Europe, both of which will be proctored by her college coach at the University of Washington, Lesle Gallimore, who is serving as an assistant coach for the tour. Kristin Weiss, a junior at Walsh Jesuit High School in Ohio, used Monday night to diligently work on her American history homework that she had to e-mail back to her teacher.
%=macroPart|font/arialBlue2=%CENTRO D'ITALIA STADIUM: The USA will play Italy at the aptly named Centro d'Italia Stadium on Wednesday. The 10,000 capacity all-seater is a wonderful venue for a women's international match. The stadium serves as the home to the Rieti F.C., which plays in the Italian Fourth Division.
%=macroPart|font/arialBlue2=%A CENTERED TRAINING: The USA held its first training in Europe on Monday at the Centro D'Italia Stadium, spending two hours on the game field preparing for Wednesday's clash. The USA played some possession games, then worked on individual defending to goal, with one-on-one's, two-on-two's and three v. threes, before finishing with a full field game featuring the potential starters vs. the reserves. U.S. goalkeeper coach Eric Yamamoto ran the midfield for the reserve team, and despite a sore hamstring, displayed some exquisite touch and pinpoint passing. Okay, the passing wasn't pinpoint. Well, his short passes were somewhat accurate. Stephanie Rigamat scored the lone goal in the scrimmage. The USA trained on Tuesday at Rieti F.C.'s training pitch adjacent to the stadium. Although mushy from the evening rain, the field held up well as the USA played 3 v. 1 to warm up, then 8 v. 8 on big goals, and finished with a shooting and volleying drill.
%=macroPart|font/arialBlue2=%SOLO IS SHAKEN BUT NOT STIRRED: Goalkeeper Hope Solo was at school last week when the major earthquake hit Seattle. Solo, who was driving at the time and listening to music at a high volume, did not even feel the earthquake, but thought it odd when she saw people running into the streets and looking up at the buildings. She did not even know that the jolt had hit until she parked and strolled into a market to see people propped up against the walls and groceries littering the floor. There was no damage to Solo's apartment apart from a few pictures that fell off the walls.
%=macroPart|font/arialBlue2=%ADD SOLO: FROM SOCCER FIELDS OF ROME TO THE RUNWAYS OF SEATTLE: The University of Washington will unveil its new "look" on April 19 with some tweaking of the logo and colors of all of the uniforms for their athletic teams. The new Nike uniforms and gear will be put on display during a fashion show with some of the Husky athletes, at which time Solo, who lead UW to the NCAA playoffs last year, will make her runway modeling debut.
%=macroPart|font/arialBlue2=%CAT'S GRIDIRON CORNER: U.S. defender Katherine Reddick grew up in Birmingham, Alabama. For those of you who have never been to the Deep South, that's football country. The tackling kind. Fans love their college football in Alabama and Reddick is no different, except for one small detail - she's a Florida Gators and Georgia Bulldogs fan. Reddick's mom, Anne, went to Florida and her dad Phil, a Georgia alum, bleeds red and black. Although it has not been confirmed by the NCAA, it is likely that few 19-year-old women know more about football than Reddick. For each addition of the Daily Notes, Reddick will give her opinion on one segment of the college game.
Today: The Florida State Seminoles.
"Chris Weinke was a great quarterback, but he didn't deserve to win the Heisman. He had way more life and athletic experience than the boys he was competing against for the trophy. I'd have voted for LaDainian Tomlinson from TCU, but my favorite was Drew Brees. What he did for Purdue last year was awesome. And another thing, Bobby Bowden is a great coach, but I think the game has passed him by and he just doesn't have control of his kids anymore. It might be time for him to step down."
Note: Reddick was the quarterback, as both a junior and senior, for her powder puff football team at Briarwood Christian High School. She won both games. She ran for one touchdown as a junior and threw for one touchdown as a senior as her team won 7-0.
%=macroPart|font/arialBlue2=%INJURY REPORT: Midfielder Aleisha Cramer is still hampered from a sore left ankle, suffered when she took a few kicks to it in a scrimmage against USC during training camp at the U.S. Olympic Training Center two weeks ago. Defender Keisha Bell has sore left hip flexor. Both are listed as probable for the game. All other U.S. players are healthy and read to go.
%=macroPart|font/arialBlue2=%LITTLE KNOWN FACT: As a junior player varsity basketball at Richland High School, goalkeeper Hope Solo led the league in steals.
%=macroPart|font/arialBlue2=%STAT OF NOTE: Defender Anna Kraus, a likely starter against Italy on Wednesday, has one cap for the full national team. She earned that cap against Italy back on July 7, 2000, when she came on as a substitute for Christie Pearce in the 68th minute. Six other players on the U.S. roster for the match also played in that match: Katherine Reddick, Mary-Frances Monroe, Aleisha Cramer, Alyssa Ramsey, Jena Kluegel and Christie Welsh.
%=macroPart|font/arialBlue2=%QUOTE OF THE WEEK: As the U.S. players boarded the airplane for the final leg of their trip from Lisbon to Rome, two Italian soccer fans, one for Roma and the other a supporter of arch-rival Lazio, were sitting in the front of the plane. The Lazio fan was apparently not enamored with women's soccer.
Lazio Fan to the U.S. players as they filed down the aisle to their seats: "You girls play soccer?"
U.S. Players: "Yeah, we play soccer. We're the U.S. team."
Lazio Fan (mockingly): "I didn't know girls played soccer."
Roma Fan: "Hey, these girls could beat Lazio."
%=macroPart|font/arialBlue2=%A LOOK AT THE USA-ITALY RIVALARY: The USA has played Italy eight times in its history, losing the first three (all played in Italy) before reeling off five straight wins (all but one in the United States). The last meeting between the two teams was a rousing 4-1 victory for a young U.S. squad in front of a sold-out crowd at EAB Park in Central Islip, N.Y. The USA went into halftime up 1-0, gave up an equalizer just two minutes into the second half but roared back to score three times to put the game way. It was the last match for the Italian coach who resigned soon after. Italy is now coached by Italian legend Carolina Morace, who is tied with Michelle Akers for third on the world's all-time scoring list with 105 career goals. Morace, a well-known TV commentator and a lawyer, was the first woman to coach a men's professional team in Italy. She has done well in her brief stint as head coach of the national team since she took over in July of 2000, leading Italy to a 5-0-0 record and a berth in this summer's European Championships. Morace, 36, played more than 15 years in the Italian First Division winning 12 league titles with eight different teams. She scored 550 goals on the club level and played 153 times for Italy. She captained the national team for 10 years and twice led Italy to runner-up finishes in the European championships. U.S. head coach April Heinrichs played against Morace during her yearlong stint in Italy with Juventus and Prato. Italy has several talented players who led them to the 1999 Women's World Cup and a berth in the 2001 European championships. Forwards Rita Guarino and Patrizia "The Scorpion" Panico are among the best in Europe while defenders Daniela Tavalazzi and Manuela Tesse are vastly experienced players who add an edge of toughness to the back line. Midfielders Damiana Deiana and Tatiana Zorri are also Women's World Cup veterans. Italy's goalkeeper, 34-year-old Giorgia Brenzen, is the Dino Zoff of the women's game and plays the position with a veteran savvy. Brenzen was a high school senior when Heinrichs played in Italy. Panico was the leading scorer in the Italian First Division last year and is once again racking up the goals for her club Lazio.
%=macroPart|font/arialBlue2=%HEINRICHS APPEARS ON LOCAL TV: U.S. head coach April Heinrichs appeared live on a local TV station on Monday night with Italian assistant coach Betty Bavagnola to promote the upcoming match. Heinrichs and Bavagnola played against each other in the Italian First Division many years ago. Heinrichs can understand Italian, but her speech is a bit rusty, so she did her interview in English. Heinrichs and Morace appeared together during a press conference at the Rieti town hall on Tuesday afternoon, both answering questions and speaking highly of the other and their teams. The Italians present Heinrichs with a plaque commemorating the match and congratulating (and this is a loose translation) the "selector of the national team," which on the plaque was listed as U.S. general manager Nils Krumins. No word as to when Krumins will give Heinrichs the lineup for tomorrow's match.
%=macroPart|font/arialBlue2=%STRANGE BUT TRUE: Rieti features an ancient arch in the middle of town that once served as one of the "doors to Rome" as the territory used to be surrounded by a large wall. There were five such doors in Rieti. Once the doors closed at night, you could not get back in until the next morning.
Wednesday, March 7: 3 p.m. - USA vs. Italy at Cento d'Italia Stadium
Thursday, March 8: 8 a.m. - USA bus to Rome