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U.S. Women's Olympic Soccer Team Two Days Away From Opening Match


Monday, Aug. 9, 2004
U.S. Women's National Team
Notes from Heraklion, Greece on the island of Crete


COUNTDOWN BEGINS: The U.S. Women's Olympic Soccer Team is a little more than 48 hours from its first match of the 2004 Olympics against Greece on Wednesday, Aug. 11, at Pankritio Stadium (6 p.m. local / 11 a.m. ET Live on MSNBC) and the U.S. team is primed and anxious to play.  This will mark the first-ever match between the USA and Greece in women's soccer, and it will be a historic meeting, not only as it opens the Olympic soccer competition, but also the Olympics themselves, with four women's soccer matches starting at the same time to open the 2004 Summer Games.  With just 10 teams in the tournament, the opening games will feature several great matches, led by the Germany vs. China clash of two potential gold medallists, as well as 2003 Women's World Cup runner-up Sweden vs. Japan, which recently tied the USA, 1-1.  Following are the four women's matches in four different cities that literally "kick-off" the Olympics:

Date       Match No.   Group      Teams                      Venue                Kickoff Time
Aug. 11         1             G           Greece vs. USA       Heraklio             6 p.m. local / 11 a.m. ET
Aug. 11         2             F           Germany v China       Patra                 6 p.m. local / 11 a.m. ET
Aug. 11         3             G           Brazil v Australia       Thessaloniki       6 p.m. local / 11 a.m. ET
Aug. 11         4             E            Sweden v Japan        Volos                6 p.m. local / 11 a.m. ET

NO COMPLAINTS IN CRETE: The U.S. team got the day off from training on Sunday (Aug. 8) after 11 consecutive days of training or travel. The U.S. team used the day to relax and enjoy the beautiful surroundings of Heraklion at their beach resort hotel which is on the water’s edge overlooking the sparkling Sea of Crete, with a picturesque rocky coast butting up against translucent blue water. But despite the gorgeous surroundings and weather, the U.S. team has been disciplined in staying out of the sun, allowing themselves just an hour per day by the pool or the beach (with several players floating peacefully out into the bay on small rafts). They've spent the rest of their down time going on short walks into the local village, watching movies on their DVD players, listing to music, reading, or the ever-popular napping. The U.S. team has also been diligent about hydrating in the blistering heat - with highs reaching into the high 80s each day - by gulping down gallons of water and sports drinks. The U.S. team could not have asked for a better environment to relax and focus for the tournament.

ONE MORE TRAINING 'TILL GREECE: The U.S. team trained on Saturday morning at VAK Field and once again it was crisp, but intense, as the jet lag begins to leave the players legs and the first match of the Olympics looms. The U.S. team trained on Monday morning at OFI Stadium, an odd facility that is squeezed among apartment buildings and shops in the Kamina neighborhood, with the top of a beautiful church visible behind the stands on one end. The small stadium is situated as such that residents with third floor apartments would get free season tickets along with their rent, as their views of the field are even better than those in left field at Wrigley in Chicago. The USA will train once more on Tuesday evening, getting in their stadium training at Pankritio, before the much-anticipated opening game on Wednesday at the 27,000-seat stadium. The U.S. match will be followed by a men's game features Tunisia and Australia.

"WHAT ARE THE OLYMPICS?": U.S. players Lindsay Tarpley and Heather O'Reilly have been working hard all year to try to keep up in school after taking a semester off from college at North Carolina to train during the Olympic Residency Camp in Los Angeles. The pair have taken several Internet classes to earn credits. Tarpley will be a junior and O'Reilly will be a sophomore in the fall, and both will jump right back into school and their college seasons following the Olympics, missing only a few days of classes, but the mild-mannered Midwesterner Tarpley reached the end of her rope this week in regards to one class on her schedule. Both Tarpley and O'Reilly have had some extremely cooperative professors as they have chased their Olympic dreams, but this week Tarpley received an email from a professor for one of her fall classes that said, in part: "What exactly are the Olympics? Why is it more important than attending my class?" Tarpley quickly emailed her academic advisor asking them "to please get me out of that class."

"IT'S CHINESE TO US": While U.S. forward Cindy Parlow was shipping some items home from the Athletes' Village in Athens, one of the workers at the Village post office gave her some instructions to read…in Greek. "This is all Greek to me," said Parlow. The woman bust out laughing and said, "Do you really say that? We have that saying, but we say, 'That's all Chinese to us!'"

U.S. GETS HOPE: The USA's alternate goalkeeper, former Philadelphia Charge player Hope Solo, arrived in camp in Heraklion on Saturday and will train with the U.S. team up until the first match.  Solo will be in Athens for the entire tournament on call if the U.S. team should need her.  Solo is playing professionally in Sweden with the Kopparbergs/Goteborg club in Gothenburg and the 23-year-old University of Washington All-American has received sparking reviews for her play, with the media tabbing her as one of the top goalkeepers in the Swedish First Division.  Solo, whose father is of Italian heritage, came straight to Crete from a short vacation in Italy (after finishing the first half of the Swedish season which is breaking for the Olympics), and should get a chance attend some Olympic events in Athens.

EASY RIDERS: U.S. head coach April Heinrichs and assistant coach Greg Ryan went on an afternoon excursion on their Sunday off, renting motorized dirt bikes and cruising around the mountain trails of Heraklion, down to the coast where they parked, and, yes, jumped off a cliff into the ocean. Asked how high the cliff was, Heinrichs replied, "High enough that you didn't just jump right off. You had to think about it."  Both took the plunge several times.

U.S. QUOTE SHEET:

U.S. midfielder Lindsay Tarpley on the USA's preparation so far:
"It has been an unbelievable experience, especially for a young player who is new to all of this.  I feel very fortunate that I have the chance to be here.  We've been training so long and hard for this, and now that it is finally here, we feel prepared for it and I think the team is very focused.  But along the way, we are definitely going to make sure to enjoy the experience."

U.S. midfielder Kristine Lilly on the team's preparation for Greece and how the host team will be big underdogs:
"I know the coaches have been scouting them and watching game tapes, so we'll have time to go over that, but as players you go into every game respecting the opponent and worry about what we need to do to be successful.  We'll know some key points about their team, but we will focus on what we need to do and we always respect every team we play as that's part of why we have been successful."

Lilly on being in Crete:
"There is not a whole lot going on around you except for the beautiful water.  You can focus now, do things as a team and concentrate on what you need to do to win."

Lilly on the unique Olympic tournament format of 10 teams:
"For the last Olympics it was eight teams, so now we moved up to 10 and you have to look at it as women's soccer growing and that's a positive thing.  And I think in the next Olympics, they will go to 12 teams and three groups of four.  I think the goal of FIFA is to keep increasing the competing teams like on the men's side and that's great for the women's game.  As far as our team, whether we play two or three games in the first round, we just look at it as another goal we have to accomplish.  We play Greece first and that is our focus."

U.S. head coach April Heinrichs on being encamped in Crete:
"Our athletes really enjoyed being in the Olympic village and took in every aspect they could in 48 hours.  But at the same time, they appreciate soccer being an outlying venue sport, as it was in 1996 and 2000.  You get out of the hustle bustle of the village and get to focus a little bit."

Heinrichs on the impending clash with Greece:

"I've seen them play maybe four times now, so I feel I have a good sense of what they are about.  We will meet as a team for a scouting report as we always do. We'll approach the game as we always do, with a tremendous focus that starts the night before the game.  We'll talk a little bit about their system, their style and their personalities, and the players we need to be mindful of.  That will last about 45 minutes, and from that point on, the focus is really on the Untied States and what do we need to do to beat Greece and start of this tournament with three points and momentum."

Heinrichs on the day off:
"We have been traveling or training for 11 straight days.  We knew we needed to train hard in the first part of our training here, but we are tapering into the game.  I can tell in the way the players are striking the ball in training that they are feeling good."

STATS OF NOTE:
U.S. team leaders in 2004:
Goals: Abby Wambach - 14
Assists: Mia Hamm - 12
Games Played: Abby Wambach, Lindsay Tarpley - 18
Games Started: Kate Markgraf - 17
Minutes: Kate Markgraf -- 1447
Hat Tricks: Shannon Boxx, Abby Wambach, Cindy Parlow (one each)
Two Goal Games: Mia Hamm, Lindsay Tarpley, Angela Hucles, Abby Wambach (one each).

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