The U.S. Women's National Soccer Team is prepped, ready and completely focused on this month's London Olympic Games.
The 2012 games should be the most entertaining competition in the women's play since its inception. The U.S. has been so dominant that it will be shooting for its fourth gold medal in five summer games.
With just 12 countries in the Olympic women's field, American coach Pia Sundhage looks for the most challenging matches for her team since she took the reins as head coach in 2007. In their final team warm-up match prior to the games, with Canada on Saturday, the women looked extremely solid with a workmanlike 2-1 win over the Canadians.
The U.S. Women's National Team has long carried the top spot in the FIFA Women's World Cup rankings. Amazingly, through the beginning of 2012, the team had lost just eight regulation matches since 2003 and only five with Sundhage at the helm.
As the level of competition has risen, the American's roster has met the challenge and is packed with a talent laden squad. It features the world's top goalkeeper, Hope Solo, who is backed up by Nicole Barnhart, who could no doubt start for any other team. There is even a Pennsylvania connection in the team. USA's other keeper, Jill Layden, had an incredible career at Villanova.
Anchoring the defense for the USA will be team leader and captain Christine Rampone. Rachel Buehler, Rampone's partner in the middle, has looked awesome in team play. The U.S. boasts an excellent controlling midfield, always on the attack with center midfielder Carli Lloyd and Shannon Boxx leading the way.
Up top at forward is the amazing Abby Wombach, the USA's all-time leading scorer with 129 goals after the Olympic qualifying tournament. She will be the key to finishing many goals for the American women as no one else in the game can hit a header at goal with more intensity than Wombach. She has been nearly unstoppable at finishing and scoring off corner kicks for the squad.
Fans will first get a glimpse of the American ladies in action Wednesday, July 25 when they open against France. The rest of their group matches feature action with Columbia on July 28 and Korea DPR on July 31.
Scholastic coaching changes
In area scholastic soccer, some changes are in store for the upcoming season.
Spring Cove School District is initiating a boys and girls high school program and has chosen its coaching staff. The Central boys will be led by Randy Trexler, Spring Cove Soccer Club president and previous head coach in the junior high program from since 2010. He has been active in the Keystone Classic Soccer Club, serving as the team manager for the 2011-12 Keystone Krew U-15 team under the direction of Altoona Area High School boys coach Dave Alexander, who served as head coach for the Krew. It was a good move for Alexander as five of the Krew's players were from Altoona and would be playing for him at the high school level.
Trexler's son, Eric, was also part of the squad, and he will have the opportunity to work with his dad in the upcoming scholastic season.
The Central High girls squad will be led by Brad Reininger, an active AYSO coach and volunteer girls high school coach at Northern Bedford School District for several years. The team's soccer boosters will help in a big way to sustain and maintain the program financially as stated in its recent school board meeting.
Penn Cambria High School has always tried to maintain its coaching staff with in-house personnel, if possible, believing it made for smoother and easier communication with coaching staff and administration. Although Penn Cambria still does not sport a varsity boys program, it will have a new coach from within the school district for the girls program. Jess Kline, hired on as a social studies instructor and who has a strong playing background, will be stepping up as the head girls soccer coach. Kline should receive some strong assistance for the 2012 season from all-conference seniors Sabrina Palguta and Marissa Rodriguez, along with league leader in saves, goalie Alli Reese.
Another area squad seeking leadership close to the start of the season is the Cambria Heights School District. Athletic director Tom Boyle is seeking a varsity and assistant coach for the boys high school program.
With the number of changes occurring in area scholastic soccer programs, the 2012 season should prove to be quite interesting.
Tom Schmitt writes a monthly soccer column for the Mirror.