CHICAGO – The U.S. women say they are ready for anything in the upcoming World Cup.
With Hope Solo and Heather Mitts healthy, the roster coach Pia Sundhage released Monday contained few surprises. Star scorer Abby Wambach warns the rest of the soccer world to not be surprised by anything the Americans accomplish as they go after their first world title since 1999
"I will do everything I can to make sure we will be standing on top of the podium," Wambach said. "It will be the most difficult championship to win, World Cup or Olympics, and I am excited to get started.
"We always fight, we are a resilient team."
Wambach, Solo and Mitts were joined on the 21-player roster by Christie Rampone, Amy Rodriguez, Heather O'Reilly, all mainstays of the U.S. team since Sundhage took over following a disappointing finish at the 2007 World Cup. Wambach scored nine goals at the last two World Cups, and Rampone was captain of the squad that won the gold medal at the Beijing Olympics.
The Women's World Cup will be played June 26 to July 17 at nine sites in Germany. The top-seeded Americans will be seeking their third World Cup title and first since 1999 when they begin play June 28 against North Korea. The U.S. also faces Colombia on July 2 and Sweden on July 6 in group play.
"It has been extremely hard to pick the 21," Sundhage said. "The players have done a great job to compete against each other (in training) so we would be able to compete against the world."
Solo was magnificent in the gold medal game against Brazil. But she had shoulder surgery in September and missed World Cup qualifying, where the Americans were upset by Mexico and forced to beat Italy in a two-game playoff to earn a spot in Germany. She returned to the national team in March, and leads the Women's Professional Soccer league with a .50 goals-against average.
Solo's memories of the 2007 World Cup aren't nearly so fond. Weeks after her father died, Solo played well in the first round and quarterfinals. But she was benched by coach Greg Ryan for the semifinals against Brazil, replaced by veteran Briana Scurry, a hero of the 1999 champioship team.
The favored Americans were routed 4-0.
After the loss, Solo said: "It was the wrong decision, and I think anybody that knows anything about the game knows that. There's no doubt in my mind I would have made those saves. ... You have to live in the present. And you can't live by big names. You can't live in the past."
Ryan dismissed Solo from the World Cup team. She wasn't allowed on the bench for the third-place game, did not participate in the medal ceremony and flew home from China on her own.
Sundhage says 2007 is no factor for Solo, pointing to the keeper's brilliant performance at Beijing.
"The last World Cup, I talked about that, but between then and now we had the Olympics," Sundhage said, "and the way she played in 2008, the way she saved (Brazil star) Marta in the final ... right now I am very happy with what I see."
Mitts, one of the best U.S. defenders, has been struggling all year with a hamstring injury. But she returned for the three-week training camp that concluded last Friday.
Sundhage took four forwards, seven midfielders, seven defenders and three goalkeepers. Only nine of the 21 players have World Cup experience, but 14 were part of the gold medal team in Beijing. Rampone, the only holdover from the '99 squad, is the oldest player on the roster at 35. She strained her right groin in a WPS match last weekend, but team spokesman Aaron Heifetz said Rampone is expected to be fully healthy for the World Cup.
Alex Morgan, who scored the winner in the 2008 Under-20 World Cup final, is the youngest at 21.
The Americans will play Japan on Saturday in Columbus, Ohio, and again on May 18 in Cary, N.C., before facing Mexico in a June 5 send-off at Red Bull Arena. They will then travel to Austria for their pre-World Cup training camp.
Goalkeepers: Nicole Barnhart, Jill Loyden, Hope Solo.
Defenders: Rachel Buehler, Stephanie Cox, Ali Krieger, Amy LePeilbet, Heather Mitts, Christie Rampone, Becky Sauerbrunn.
Midfielders: Shannon Boxx, Tobin Heath, Lori Lindsey, Carli Lloyd, Heather O'Reilly, Megan Rapinoe, Lindsay Tarpley.
Forwards: Lauren Cheney, Alex Morgan, Amy Rodriguez, Abby Wambach.