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US women hosting China in friendly
Ask the members of the USA women’s national team to describe the training camp they have just endured and most would agree it was grueling.
That’s just how Pia Sundhage wanted it. But it was also how it had to be as she was faced with making some tough decisions in setting the USA Women’s Olympic roster. The next step in the process of helping Sundhage select her 18-player roster comes Sunday night, when the United States takes on China in a friendly in front of a sold-out crowd at PPL Park in Chester, Pa.
“It’s very competitive right now because there are 18 spots up for grabs,” USA captain Christie Rampone said. “Every training session is so intense. Most camps right before the roster is determined are competitive, but this one is probably the most competitive since I’ve been around the team because nobody quite knows who is going to make it.
“Is (Sundhage) going to take an extra midfielder, or is she going to take an extra forward,” Rampone said. “How many numbers of each (position) hasn’t quite been determined so it keeps us on edge, which keeps up getting better.”
“This team is by far the most deep team that we’ve ever had,” said USA star forward Abby Wambach. “Pia’s really pushed us the past couple of camps, and mentally it’s grueling, but this is the kind of thing that, in an Olympic Final, you remember days like this.”
For Sundhage, the China friendly will be the first chance to see how her talented collection of players have responded to the rigors of the recent training camp in Princeton, N.J.
One of the players under the spotlight is 21-year-old forward Sydney LeRoux. The Canadian-born striker has had an outstanding year since moving up to the senior team, but she is also competing for a position at which the United States is already loaded.
That hasn’t stopped the precocious striker from impressing in camp and establishing herself as the player most likely to make the team among those who weren’t on the 2011 World Cup team.
“Syd has all the qualities, has everything it takes to be here, and now it’s just about getting into the flow of training every day,” Rampone said of LeRoux. “She definitely has the speed and the intelligence for the game, so she’s definitely going to be a mainstay.”
“She had a bit of a dip in April, but you know young players will go up and down,” Sundhage said of LeRoux. “Right now she has the right attitude, but we try to remind her, like with all young players, that you have to be able to do it every day and be consistent."
“I go out every day and do the best I can and I hope my best is good enough,” LeRoux said. “I think I’ve been doing well, but so is everybody else.”
The China match should also give us a glimpse of how the Alex Morgan and Wambach forward partnership will look. When both are healthy, Morgan and Wambach should feature together in a 4-4-2. However, Wambach’s penchant for getting injured because of her physical play makes being able to switch to a 4-2-3-1 a vital priority for the Americans.
Sundhage also recently addressed rumors suggesting she will definitely be leaving the US national team coaching job at the end of the year — her contract expires Dec. 1.
“That’s totally wrong,” Sundhage said. “Look around. I’m working with the best players in the world. I love working with them, and I’m grateful everyday for the chance to work with this group. Having the chance to be around good players like Christie (Rampone) and Abby (Wambach).”
Sundhage will get to see those special players Sunday, as the USWNT moves one step closer to the Olympics — and to finalizing the 18-player roster that will be making the trip to London.
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