Quote Sheet: Heinrichs, Overbeck and Slaton Discuss Olympic Roster and Nike Road to Glory
APRIL HEINRICHS, U.S. Women's National Team head coach
On selecting Michelle Akers and Carla Overbeck: "Having Michelle Akers and Carla Overbeck on this team was a decision that I made in my mind two or three months ago because of Carla's leadership. While Carla's knee might be at only 70 to 75 percent right now, her will and power among these player along with her leadership makes her the glue of this team. Every team has a glue and I think Carla is the glue for this team. I was prepared to tell Carla three months ago that she would make this Olympic team based just on her leadership alone. We all know that Michelle is a world class player. We all know that Michelle one year ago helped this country win one of its most impressive trophies ever. One year away from that she is still a world class player but she struggles with her shoulder. I think what we will see over the next couple of weeks that she will get better and better every time she steps out onto that field."
On Michelle Akers' role in the Olympics: "We are getting pretty close to the Olympics. We were talking today in practice that we are only 35 days from our first game in the Olympics. With Michelle, it is going to be a day-to-day thing. We are not going to make any decisions today or at one practice. We are going to watch her and give her opportunities to succeed. Over time, what I have noticed and what I know about Michelle is that she always overcomes adversity and I think she will again."
On recent USA results against Norway and China: "One of the things that we understand on the coaching staff is that for us to go to Germany seven days after the Gold Cup and then follow Germany with games against Norway and to play that level of competition was a great achievement. We talked about those five games as being identical to the two weeks we would spend during the Olympics and that it was important for us to advance after the first three games with six points and we came away with seven points. It was a simulated Olympic experience for us. We are pleased about that. When we hit Germany we were pretty tired and then to go onto Norway was pretty difficult. As a coach, when you know that your team is a little tired and fatigued you still find ways to win and have success on the road. The key for us has been to get rest over the last couple of weeks. There is a part of us that still talks about Norway and we like that Norway is such a great team and brings the best out of us just like we bring the best of them. It is going to be exciting to open the Olympics against Norway."
On China and Norway: "China had a very difficult and long schedule June through July and what I think everyone saw at the Gold Cup was a tired team. Their experience parallels ours. Our fatigue time came in late July. I believe all three teams will be rested and will playing their best soccer come their first game in the Olympics."
On USA Olympic schedule: "Single, most difficult and challenging draw FIFA soccer has ever put out to a team that was ranked number-one in the world. FIFA has provided us the greatest challenge and the most hurdles and we love it. Every time something or somebody says that this team can't do, they prove them wrong and we hope that trend continues."
On draw procedure: "I don't really mess around with things that I can't control. I don't spend time concerning myself with things that I can't control."
On Danielle Slaton and Nikki Serlenga: "All three of the new players have been phenomenal. They came in and were some of the more humble of the younger players. They have what we call wholesome discontent and they want more. Danielle's first goal was to make residency and once she got there her goal was to work to be one of the final 18. What that demonstrates is a great focus and the ability to goal set. This is what it requires at the national team level. It is one thing to be very, very talented but it's another thing to know how to home that talent over time and what you have seen is a growth in Danielle. Every time she steps out onto the field she gets better. I coached Danielle on my first national team and recognized after 20 minutes of her being with us that she was going to be the captain of the U.S. Under-16 Girl's National Team. I said to myself that if her talent continues to develop the way her leadership is, she may someday be the national team captain. The younger players are watching the older players all the time. The older players are prodding the younger ones to be tougher, harder, stronger, faster, quicker and work harder. That sort of leadership and role model advantage that we have on this team is going to pay dividends in the long run."
On four alternates (Jen Branam, Michelle French, Christie Welsh, Nandi Pryce): "It was tougher to make the decision in January and February as to who we would bring in and who we would not. It was tougher to release Tisha Venturini back in March and it was tougher to decide who the alternates would be then it was to select the 18 members of the Olympic team. The 18 to me were so obvious. We have great complement of personality players and role players. We have a great complement of defenders, midfielders and forwards. Deciding who the four alternates would be was one of the toughest decisions that I have had to make. The very first thing that went into factoring who would be our alternates was performance. Michelle French was an obvious choice. Her work ethic is legendary. She is a fitness machine and she also provides good versatility. Jen Branam was another obvious choice because in camp she really pushed Siri and Scurry for a position on this team but Jenny is young and needs experience. We don't have time to give Jenny that experience. All the games that we have now have to be committed to our number-one goalkeeper and some playing time for our number-two goalkeeper. The other two slots for our alternates I really went to positions and attitude. You can't underestimate how Christie has put the ball into the back of the net this year. Nandi had continued to develop and she is someone that I have had great respect for over the years. I have great confidence that if we had an injury to the center-back position that Nandi could step in."
On what the team will be working on leading into the Olympics: "We will be spending time on set pieces and executing those pieces well. We will spend time on possession and rhythm . The final two ingredients will be on urgency in front of the goal and we will play with great heart. We will step out onto the field to out-battle, out-fight, out-crawl, out-run, out-tackle, out-head any team that we meet."
Her outlook for Australia: "I look at it as an opportunity to win a gold medal. As competitors, we want to win everything we enter. Our approach to these games is the same as every tournament we enter."
On whether or not she was disappointed that there were not more younger players on the team: "Not in the least. After the first week some players approached me and were a little concerned about brining in these young players. I told them if we had more than two-to-three younger players, we've made too much of a change. I'm so proud of these players who've hung in there, and clawed to hang around this team. We weeded out the ones that aren't mentally ready yet, and we weeded out the ones that aren't physically ready yet."
On the need to motivate Michelle Akers: "I don't think any players with this kind of experience need a kick in the pants. If anything we need to hold them back at times. She has been looking ahead and dealing with the pain involved with her injuries and the stress. If she doesn't have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, she's just like everybody else on the street, but she chooses to be an elite athlete."
About her approach to the Russia game: "This is a great game for us right now. They (Russia) really should be in the Olympics. Russia qualified in my mind by being one of top eight teams last summer at the Women's World Cup. We'll approach the Russia game with the same conviction as any other game. It'll be a chance to put a starting lineup on the field before the Olympics."
Her thoughts on the goalkeeping situation: "I think we have phenomenal goalkeeping. We're probably the envy of every other team in the world. We will start Siri (Mullinix), but I have great confidence that Briana (Scurry) will be there if needed."
On Nikki Serlenga and her progress: "When I saw her play in the collegiate Final Four I couldn't believe how special she was. She has an awareness of the game that you just don't see in the college game. She heads the ball well, and she has a bit of nasty in her. The first few weeks we brought her in I didn't see too much in her, so I sat with her and she told me that she wasn't much of a practice player but more of game player. I told her she needed to step it up, and she has. Pound for pound, she strikes the ball better than any female player I have ever seen."
On Julie Foudy: "Julie is such a person and a character. When I first took the job of coach I was talking to her about leadership issues and rosters and training and contracts and everything. She's a player that doesn't seem to need coaching. She's embracing a new role on the team, playing behind players in a more supporting role."
On Joy Fawcett: "Joy is the quintessential quiet person. There's nothing loud about her. She's the kind of player that often goes unnoticed, but is never under-appreciated. If she were on that (Survivor) island she would be the last person voted off."
On the prospect of losing veterans to retirement: "When you look forward it looks like the youth have a long way to go. Then you look back and see how far we've come. Eventually there will be a passing of the torch. Thank goodness that it won't be all at the same time."
On pressure felt to win a gold medal: "There's been pressure since the day I arrived, but none more than I put on myself."
On Nandi Pryce: "She is a super kid and a great player. She called me about a month ago and wanted closure. She felt like she disappointed me, but she hasn't disappointed me, she just isn't ready yet. If she continues to work hard her time will come."
On Christie Welsh: "Christie found herself in great spots and her teammates were giving her great opportunities, but at this level the game is played 90 percent of the time away from the goal and that is the area Christie needs to work on the most. She had dreams of being on this team but I don't think she had visions of being on it. She knows that it just isn't her time now. She is ecstatic about being an alternate."
On whether she would have named Carla Overbeck to the team if she was not healthy: "If she were not able to play she would not be on the team. I'd take her as a coach, though."
CARLA OVERBECK, U.S. Women's National Team defender
On being ambassadors of women's sports: "I think that this team opens its arms to that. When we were growing up we didn't have role models in our sport. We really appreciate the fans, young girls and even the young boys that want autographs and pictures. Anything that we can do to have a positive effect on their lives we get enjoyment out of. You can take any person on this team and know that how they conduct themselves in front of televison, radio or print media that they are going to represent the team and country extremely well. After the Women's World Cup last summer fans have realized that there are good teams out there and that the margin of victory is slim. Obviously Americans want us to win and a lot of Americans also expect us to win another gold medal but it is not going to be easy. April will have us very well prepared so hopefully we can bring back a gold."
On Nikki Serlenga's shot: "I have been on this team for a long time and I have never seen someone strike the ball, whether it is rolling or bouncing towards her, as good as her. Her shot is amazing!"
If the team will be successful if it doesn't win gold: "I think the reason you go to the Olympics is to win gold. As far as if we don't win, we'll be disappointed, but the spirt of the Olympics and being part of it is an honor. We've been successful in the past and that's what out players and staff want to see in the Olympics."
On reacting to different styles of goalkeeping of Mullinix and Scurry: "When Briana made her comeback from injury, April told the players to play how they always play. Defensive players definitely think its great because both goalkeepers are so far off their line they're cleaning balls away. We defenders don't have to make those 30-40 yard runs to get back for balls. Both play different styles, but the defenders, and the entire team, are comfortable and confident with both."
On concern about making the team: "That was a concern of mine after being diagnosed with Graves disease. I got that under control and when I left San Diego I felt great. Then my knee surgery came about and finding out my knee wouldn't be right for six months when I only had three was hard but I was determined to make it back in time. I just tried to stay fit. I made a pack with myself that I was going to do everything in my power to be as fit as I could be come Australia."
On her knee injury: "In training this morning, we had a pretty tough practice and I made it all the way through, so I was happy about that. Each week it seems to get better and better, so I am just going to take it one day at a time. I am still about one month away."
DANIELLE SLATON, U.S. Women's National Team defender
On reaction of making the Olympic team: "Just to play with the national team is such an honor and something I have looked forward to when I was little. In April, when I was invited to residency and as I progressed my expectations continued to get higher. I am just excited to be here and have the opportunity to learn from these veteran players."