As the team with the most championships at the Algarve Cup since its inception in 1994, the U.S. Women’s National Team has certainly produced on the field, but that doesn’t mean that they didn’t enjoy their time off it. Here are six memorable clips from the U.S. WNT during their previous trips to the Algarve region:
Portugal 101 with HAO: Heather O’Reilly’s tour of Albufeira in 2009 once again proved her worth as a tour guide and gave fans a look at the area where the U.S. team stayed for years at the tournament. It seems her degree in education is definitely paying off, although her cartography skills could use a little work. To learn the basics about Albufeira and the U.S. WNT’s experience there, give this tour with HAO a watch. If you enjoy O’Reilly’s tour guide skills, here is a similar video when she showed us around Guangdong Olympic Stadium in China way back in 2007.
Secret Diet of Champions: Watch the U.S. WNT players treat themselves with these made-to-order crepes in 2007, followed by an attempt at a crepe-making from defender Heather Mitts. The final result received rave reviews from the team, even Aly Wagner, the ultimate crepe critic. (Warning: This crepe making and eating might produce hunger and crepe cravings.) But as shown in the video, “the bananas make it healthy,” and helped spur the U.S. WNT to a title that year.
Life of Two Souvenir Connoisseurs: Watch Megan Rapinoe and Lori Lindsey as they spend the afternoon souvenir shopping near the U.S. WNT’s hotel in the Albufeira, Portugal, in search of a perfect gift for each other.
Creative Soccer Tennis: Tobin Heath and Yael Averbuch got creative with their soccer tennis at the team’s hotel in Portugal in 2013. Hopefully the other guests didn’t mind too much as Heath and Averbuch turned the location into their own personal playground. Watch as they use people, pillows, chairs, plants and swimming pools as their net before winning the 2013 Algarve Cup.
The Other 2009 Algarve Cup: The spirit of the 2009 Sandcastle Competition forever lives on within the rivalries among the forwards, midfielders, defenders and goalkeepers. The sandcastle building teams, divided by position, put forth total effort, but alas, there could only be one winner. Watch as the champions celebrate and attribute the win to their excellent teamwork.
Can You Spell Pelada? Heath and Averbuch entertain yet again in their 2011 Trick Shot Battle. The “goal” was to spell pelada, the Portuguese word for a kick-around or pickup game. They earned letters by scoring trick shots, and whoever got to all six letters first wins. Also, watch the video that started it all, the original Ball Trick Battle from 2006 featuring Heath and Casey Nogueira.
On Feb. 9, 2013, the U.S. Women’s National Team kicked off the new year with a 4-1 victory against Scotland in Jacksonville, Florida. Christen Press, then 24-years-old, was responsible for two goals that day, scoring in the 13th minute and adding another in the 32nd to give the U.S. a 2-0 lead at halftime.
The early goal was Press’ first for the USA, coming in a match that was also her first cap.
Becky Sauerbrunn hugs Christen Press in the aftermath of Press scoring on her WNT debut.
Earning that first cap is special for any player, but a debut and a goal in the same game? That’s a rare feat. In the 30+ year history of the U.S. WNT 21 players have scored in their first caps.
NOTHING TO LOSE
Press’ path to that first game three years ago was an interesting one. In early 2012, she made the decision to move to Sweden after U.S.-based Women’s Professional Soccer folded. Press thought leaving the country might negatively impact her hopeful National Team career, but little did she know, it was only just beginning.
“I think just because I always thought that the National Teams would be watching the American league, I thought that going abroad was kind of like saying goodbye to my dream of playing for the National Team,” recalled Press. “I left around this time, in February, and I thought I would not get a call, I sort of thought that I would fall out of U.S. Soccer’s radar.”
As it turns out, head coach Pia Sundhage kept tabs on players in Europe, especially in her native land of Sweden. Press got off to a hot start with her new club, and it wasn’t long before she was on her way back home.
Press returned to the U.S. and joined the WNT in Florida in April during the final stretch of what had been an intense fitness camp. She kept to herself and tried to quickly learn as much as possible despite only being there for five days.
“I had nothing to lose,” she said. “It was my first camp, it was warm and I was so happy. I don’t think I spoke to anybody. I was not nervous, I was just happy to be in Florida and my dream was coming true. I’m always quiet when I don’t know my surroundings, so I just kept to myself trying to learn the rules, how to behave; it was all so quick.”
That short stint turned out to be the only one for Press before she was named an Olympic alternate in 2012. The following February, Tom Sermanni took over as WNT head coach, and it was then Press learned she would start against Scotland. Her chance had arrived.
“I went on the field, the crowd was so much bigger than I’d ever played in front of, and for me it was so much bigger than life,” said Press. “But I kept telling myself, ‘I’m not nervous, I’m confident, I’m a good player and I believe in myself.’”
Years and multiple goals later, plus one Women’s World Cup title to her name, the dream is alive and well for Press.
Press celebrates scoring her first World Cup goal against Australia in the USA's opening match of the 2015 Women's World Cup