A monthly column about the State of U.S. Soccer that takes a hard look at everything from the performance of the U.S. National Teams to pro soccer in the good ‘ole U-S-of-A. If you’re looking for a viewpoint that you won’t see in a generic, nuts-and-bolts U.S. Soccer press release, you’ve come to the right place.
The cap numbers of some of the veteran U.S. Women’s National Team players are legendary. In fact, no less than 17 players have busted the 100 cap level and five have kept right on going past 200. With all those caps, there hasn’t been as much room for younger players on the field for the U.S. Women’s National Team in the past decade, but times are a-changin’. With the U.S. Women’s Youth National Teams among the strongest in the world, the young talent coming up through the ranks is impressive. U.S. head coach Greg Ryan has many months to prepare and choose his team that will attempt to qualify for the 2007 Women’s World Cup, and ultimately head to China for what may be one of the most spectacular tournaments ever, giving plenty of time for young players to emerge. But who are the young players who may make their first splash on the world’s stage in 2007?
You see where we’re going, don’t cha? In the last edition of Center Circle we had the top 10 Men’s National Team Players under 10 caps and this month it's our WNT edition of the “Top 10 Under 10.”
If you don’t agree with us (what’s new?), give us your feedback or even your own “Top 10 Under 10.” Maybe we’ll post your list, maybe we’ll just point and laugh at it (heck, you’d never know), but we’d like to hear from you. E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Listed In alphabetical order)
Nicole Barnhart (Goalkeeper) - 3 caps
How many goalkeepers have earned their first cap for the full Women’s National Team as a field player? Just one: Nicole Barnhart. But that wacky start to her national team career (when the USA ran out of subs in a 2004 Fan Celebration Tour match and she played the final four minutes as a forward) should soon be just a fun career footnote as the 5-foot-10 former Stanford All-American continues to develop. While she has just two caps (in goal), one at the 2005 Algarve Cup and one against the Ukraine on July 10, both were shutouts, and her extensive experience in the nets for the U.S. U-21s should prove invaluable as she works her way into the rotation with the senior team. Tall and rangy, Barnhart is a big presence in goal that makes the net seem smaller to opposing forwards. She will play in her fourth consecutive Nordic Cup tournament this summer with the U-21s, but may have minor knee surgery after the tournament, which could sideline her for a few months.
Amy LePeilbet (Defender) - 7 caps
The hard-nosed defender earned her first six WNT caps in 2004, playing in the Four Nations Tournament in China, the CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying tournament in Costa Rica and the Algarve Cup in Portugal. Whether her future is in the center of the defense, where she has played most of her career, or at outside back, remains to be determined. She made her first start in a 2-0 win against Canada in China on Feb. 3, 2004, and earned her first cap and first start of 2005 against Canada on June 26, going the distance at right back. LePeilbet earned some valuable experience as a member of the USA’s 2004 Olympic Residency Training Camp and is looking to entrench herself into the squad in 2005. She was a key player in the center of the defense for the U.S. U-21s at the 2002 and 2003 Nordic Cups while playing every minute of every game in both tournaments. The former Arizona State All-American did not miss a start in her four years for the Sun Devils, and is a world-class ball-winner on the ground and in the air.
Carli Lloyd (Midfielder) - 1 cap
With good size, great skills and a thunderous shot, Lloyd has been a top player on the U.S. U-21s for the past several years, but earned her first call-up for the U.S. Women’s National Team match against Ukraine on July 10, to get her first cap. The former Rutgers star trained briefly with the USA during the 2004 Olympic Residency Camp and showed well, but most of her WNT experience has come with the U-21s. She will attend her fourth Nordic Cup this summer. A rare player in the women’s game who can put opponents behind her on the dribble in the center of the field, Lloyd is looking to shoot anytime she gets within 30 yards of the goal, and U.S. goalkeepers can tell you she hits one of the heaviest balls on the U.S. team. With a U.S. midfield packed with talent, it may be difficult for Lloyd to get quality minutes, but her unique attacking qualities should get her an opportunity over the next two years.
Stephanie Lopez (Defender) - 1 cap
The crafty left-footer played every minute of all six matches at the 2004 FIFA U-19 Women’s World Championship, and picked up both assists in a 2-0 win over Australia in the quarterfinal match. She earned her first call-up and first cap at the 2005 Algarve Cup in Portugal, coming on as a sub against Denmark. Silky smooth with her skills and a great positional defender, Lopez could be part of the new breed of U.S. outside backs who are equally as adept at stopping goals as creating them. Able to beat players down the line and bend in dangerous crosses from the left flank, Lopez also has experience in the middle of the field where she played every game for the University of Portland as a freshman in 2003. She sat out the 2004 season to play in Thailand, but will return to the Pilot back line this fall when they may have one of the best teams in the NCAA Division I.
Jill Oakes (Midfielder) - 1 cap
The remarkably nimble Oakes was a star on the USA’s 2002 U-19 team that won the world championship, playing in the middle of the defense. She scored the clinching goal against Germany in the semifinal of that tournament on a brilliant left-footed strike from outside the penalty box. She had 20 caps with the U.S. U-19s, has 12 caps with the U.S. U-21s, and earned her first full national team cap at the 2005 Algarve Cup in Portugal, coming on against Denmark. Able to play in the central defense or defensive midfield slot, Oakes is a rising senior at UCLA who recovered from a major knee injury at the end of her freshman season and is sure to be one of the top college players in the country this fall. She will attend her third Nordic Cup this summer with the U-21s. In her first Nordic Cup in 2001 as a high school senior, she came off the bench to score a late tying goal against Germany that sent the USA to the championship game, where the Americans dismantled Sweden, 6-1.
Leslie Osborne (Midfielder) - 9 caps
The senior member of the “Top-10 Under 10” club with nine caps, Osborne was a member of the USA’s 2004 Olympic Residency Camp, earning her first nine caps and six starts during the year. A key member of the USA’s 2002 Under-19 World Championship team, she scored two big goals in the first round (against England and Australia) and played a part in the “golden goal” that beat Canada in the title game, slipping the pass behind the defense during the movement which led to the goal. She finished her U-19 career with 21 caps and four goals, but also has eight caps with the U.S. U-21s and played on the 2003 Nordic Cup championship team. She helped the Santa Clara Broncos to the NCAA Final Four as a senior in 2004 while playing on shredded ankle ligaments. She had major ankle surgery in 2005 which has kept her out for most of the year, but got her first WNT call-up this year for the training camp in Los Angeles in July and will be looking to re-establish herself as perhaps the heir to the defensive midfield slot currently owned by Shannon Boxx.
Nandi Pryce (Defender) - 8 caps
The former UCLA All-American has not played in a game for the full national team since 2000, but was a rising star at that time before a broken leg gave her struggles for two years. She has been in the last two U.S. Women’s National Team training camps and should add some depth to the center of the defense in 2005 that features the rock-solid Kate Markgraf and Cat Reddick. Pryce, an alternate on the 2000 Olympic Team, worked her way back to the national team through action with the U-21s in 2002 and 2003, helping the USA win both Nordic Cups. Tall, strong and fast, Pryce is part of the new wave of ultra-athletic defenders, who are in high demand due to th improvement in athleticism of forwards all over Europe. The co-Pac 10 player of the Year in 2003 as she helped lead the Bruins to the NCAA Final Four, Pryce can play at outside back, but might be most effective in the middle, where she patrolled for the Bruins.
Amy Rodriguez (Forward) - 2 caps
The explosive forward has experienced a meteoric rise through the national team programs, going from the U-17s to the U-19s to the U-21s to the full WNT in about a year. “A-Rod” earned her first two caps at the 2005 Algarve Cup, playing as a sub against Finland and Denmark, and performed well as the youngest player on the roster. Still age-eligible for the 2006 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Championship, she was a key member of the U.S. U-19 team that participated in the 2004 FIFA U-19 Women’s World Championship in Thailand. As the only uncapped player on the roster heading into the tournament, she scored in her first game in Thailand against South Korea and finished the tournament with two goals and two assists. Rodriguez, the 2004 Gatorade and Parade Girl’s High School Player of the Year, will attend USC in the fall. Possessing a low center of gravity combined with a lighting quick first step, great touch on the ball and tremendous strength, Rodriguez should be tough for defenses to contain for years to come.
Kelly Schmedes (Forward) - 4 caps
One of the top youth national team players in U.S. history, she helped lead the USA to the 2002 FIFA U-19 Women’s World Championship as part of the new "Triple-Edged Sword” that also included fellow forwards Heather O’Reilly and Lindsay Tarpley. She ended her U-19 career with 31 goals in just 19 full international matches, including nine goals in just five matches in Canada (she sat out one game at the world championship) and earned the Silver Boot as the second leading scorer in the tournament and the Bronze Ball as the third most outstanding player. Schmedes has earned all of her senior team caps at the Algarve Cup, three in 2002 (where she scored in her first-ever WNT match against England) and one in 2005. She was to play in her second Nordic Cup this summer in Sweden (she scored three goals in four matches in 2004 to help the USA to the title), but got injured just before leaving. Now she will look for more WNT call-ups after tearing up the USL W-League so far this season with the Charlotte Lady Eagles. Formerly Kelly Wilson, the two-time All-American at Texas got married last April.
Angie Woznuk (Midfielder) - 0 caps
The only uncapped member of the “Top-10 Under 10,” the attacking midfielder is brimming with talent, if not experience. Woznuk was one of the stars on the USA's U-19 team that took third at the 2004 FIFA U-19 Women's World Championship in Thailand last November, slicing open defenses with her passing and penetrating dribbling. She won the Silver Ball as the second most outstanding player in the tournament and the Bronze Boot as the third-leading scorer, pounding in three goals, including a blast from distance against Brazil in the third-place match, with three assists. She suffered a foot injury in that tournament which eventually required surgery, but she is back at almost full fitness and trained with the USA in Portland in the beginning of July as a practice player. Unable to play with the U-21s this year as she rehabbed her foot, she got her first official call-up to the full National Team for the camp in Los Angeles in late July. She sat out her second season at the University of Portland last year to play in Thailand, but will be a key player for the Pilots this fall as they shoot for their second NCAA title.