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.
To my brothers,
When I left my career two years ago, the position I attained, the money, and essentially the pinnacle and culmination of all I had worked for throughout my adult life, I made that sacrifice because I had a vision of what this team could achieve together. I never thought that I would return to the game after college, much less join such a remarkable group of misfits so many years later.
During my first camp, before we qualified for Rio, coach and I sat down and discussed my goals. ”Rio” was all I could muster. Throughout the last couple years, we laughed together, we fought together, we cried together, we sweat together, we bled together, we lost together, and we won together. We did it together with one common goal: competing in the Paralympics.
I often reflect back on the grit and determination this team has displayed so many times over the years, like the time we clawed our way from behind in the final minutes to earn a 5-3 victory against the Footie Povoa host nation, Portugal, to secure a third-place finish ahead of some of the best countries in the world. I think about the skill and mental toughness in overcoming injuries and absences by winning the bronze medal at the 2014 America’s Cup.
I think back to when we took the pitch in the second half against Scotland at the 2015 World Championships trailing 1-0, and looking in every one of your eyes and seeing there was no quit and no way we were going to lose. We fought and we won. Shortly after, we experienced heartbreak after taking the number-four ranked Dutch squad to double overtime to make it to the semifinals. But we rebounded back in a must-win game with a crushing 4-1 victory against Argentina to stamp our passports to Rio. And of course the 4-3 come-from-behind victory again over Argentina in Spain earlier this year.
The U.S. PNT celebrates after punching its ticket to the 2016 Paralympic games with a 4-1 win vs. Argentina at the 2015 Cerebral Palsy Football World Championships.
What truly showed how far this team has come in such a short time was on full display in Rio by concluding our season with a 2-1 victory over Ireland, the same team we lost to 4-1 and 5-0 just months before! Simply incredible, gentlemen.
These few examples, and many others I did not mention, do not fully capture the spirit, mentality, and potential of this team. We accomplished something that men, women, and children all over the world can only dream of. We reached the greatest stage in our sport and we did so while displaying the qualities of what makes our country, and each and every one of you, so great. We represented our country and ourselves with honor, respect, courage, sacrifice, and strength.
I know we are all saying, “what if…” and “if this…”, but the fact of the matter is that we made waves on the international stage. We showed that we’re a dangerous team, a term that had never been used to describe our team until all of you gave everything of yourselves to earn that. Our time in Brazil is something we will all share forever and no one will ever be able to take that from you. What an incredible legacy.
Throughout this tournament, not only did we now show that we belong with the best in the world, but we set this program up for success in the future. Aspiring players around our country who watched each and every one of you and learned of your tremendously powerful and inspirational stories will come into this team for their trials knowing that they will have to work their asses off to join our ranks. The results will come with the foundation that we have laid.
There are no words to capture the pride and love I have for each of you, my brothers. No matter where our roads take us in the future, I want you to know that if you ever need me, I’ll be there, as I know you would do the same for me. Hold your heads up high, reflect on what we did, on who we are, and let’s get back to the grindstone.
Our coach and staff created a formula for success with this team, and we have not fully honored that yet. Coach [Stuart] Sharp has led by example in his dedication to all of us. He has transformed this program and this team, using each of us as his instruments.
I am motivated to get back to work, to put that crest over my chest, and take the pitch with you all again very soon. We have work to do. I love you all.
US National 7-a-side Football Striker / Co-CaptainRead more