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Olympic soccer begins: USA women want gold for Red, White, Blue … and Rave Green

Post by Don Ruiz / The News Tribune on July 25, 2012 at 7:44 am with No Comments »
July 25, 2012 7:49 am

If the United States women’s soccer team comes home with Olympic gold, it will be a proud moment for the Red, White and Blue — and also for the Rave Green.

When Women’s Professional Soccer went belly up in mid-May, many USA national team members lost the clubs that would have provided regular training and games leading up to these Olympics.

Some of those players regrouped in the rave green jerseys of the W-League Sounders Women. And goalkeeper Hope Solo said what they gained in Tukwila could pay off in an Olympic run that begins today in Glasgow, Scotland.

“It was special to see that other national team players … decided to fly back to Seattle and step onto the field in a Sounders uniform,” she said. “… It was a great team to play for: quality soccer, and of course because every touch on the ball is going to help us in our journey to winning a gold medal in the Olympics.”

Over the four Olympics since 1996, the U.S. has taken gold three times and silver in 2000. They are among the favorites again this year. However, U.S. national team coach Pia Sundhage is hesitant to look beyond the opener at 9 a.m. today against France.

“I’m not talking about the gold medal that much,” she said. “I’m taking about the next game, and I think that is exciting because if you look at our group: We have France (today), and they play very different from Colombia (Saturday), and Colombia plays very different from North Korea (July 31). So I’m excited about the different styles of soccer. … We really want to win the next game and go all the way to the final.”

The road became more challenging when the WPS went under.

Partly because of that, Solo decided to sign with the Sounders Women, where she was joined by fellow Olympians Sydney Leroux, Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe.

“It’s always nice to be able to play with them and get some extra games and practices with my teammates,” Morgan said. “But it’s also nice to switch it up. We’re with the (national) team all the time, so it’s nice to get a feel for other players and get some games in and some competitions with teams other than playing intersquad scrimmages in training camp.”

With the Olympians fitting W-League games and training sessions around their national team duties, the Sounders went 10-3-1, good for second place in the Western Conference. None of the Olympians were with the Sounders Women on Sunday, when their season ended with a 1-0 playoff loss to the two-time defending champion Pali Blues of Fullerton, Calif.

Morgan played in three regular-season games, recording two goals and two assists. Leroux played in two games with two goals and an assist. Rapinoe played in two games with two assists. Solo played in three games, allowing one goal for a 0.3 goals-against average.

“I think they all had a great time,” Sounders Women owner Lane Smith said. “It was competitive play. It kept them in country. It kept them playing in front of large crowds. And it didn’t strain them, either. It kept them healthy. The work rate wasn’t as much as if they had to go off to some (other) country waiting for the Olympics to happen.”

Solo, a Richland native, also got the added benefit of playing in front of her Puget Sound fans for the first time since her days as a Washington Husky.

“My experience with the Sounders Women was everything that I thought it would be,” she said. “I knew the organization was as professional as any professional team I’ve ever played for. I knew that the city was invested in growing the women’s game, and there was no other club team that I would have rathered play for than my hometown of Seattle trying to build the game. It was everything I could have imagined. We had sellout crowds, we had great fan support, we put some quality soccer together.”

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