Unfinished business, something left to prove, the urge to show the world it is the greatest are all incentives driving the U.S. Women's National Soccer Team to be at the very top of its game for the upcoming 2012 Olympics in London.
The U.S. women will be the two-time defending champions, having taken gold in Athens in 2004 and in Beijing in 2008. Unfortunately, it will be the third straight Olympics in which the Americans will be trying to make amends for World Cup disappointments from the previous year.
Their loss in the finals of last year's World Cup to Japan may be not only the most recent letdown, but the most devastating loss, given the way they had dominated Japan in the past. They came in highly favored and with high expectations only to drop the final to the Japanese women, who continually came back in the game until they had their chance to upset the U.S., and they pulled the trigger.
The U.S. women qualified for the Olympics in Vancouver with a 3-0 win over Costa Rica in the semifinals of the CONCACAF qualifying tournament. The top-ranked Americans were on a roll as they squashed the competition in their three previous games by a 31-0 difference. They even drew some criticism for being unsportsmanlike and running up the score on some far less talented teams.
American star Abby Wambach is very aware of the fact that under some big game pressure, the U.S. women can play a little tight, but the entire team knows coming into the Olympics it must guard against playing soft.
American coach Pia Sundhage has a problem most coaches would consider a blessing. Her team is so full of talent that there may not be a spot on the squad or playing time in the Olympics for some very good players. Sundhage herself will be departing following the Olympics to coach her native Sweden. This has led American goalie Hope Solo to put a major campaign in place to get former American superstar Mia Hamm to take the reins as the U.S. coach.
The attitude right now, however, by Sundhage and her squad is to take nothing for granted and go full throttle for every game from now through the entire Olympic games. One thing is for certain, pressure will be on the U.S. women to live up to their talent level at the London Olympic Games.
n The entire soccer world mourned the senseless tragedy in a game at the Egyptian port side city of Port Said where an upset victory by the home team over Egypt's top club team led to insanity. Fans rushed the field, and violence broke out claiming 74 lives and injuring hundreds more. Security was practically useless in what was the worst case of soccer violence in Egypt's history and the deadliest worldwide soccer disaster since 1996. One club player described the entire scenario as an outright war. Bob Bradley, former U.S. national team coach and Egypt national coach described it as an incredibly sorrowful disaster. Unless stronger iron-clad security can be put in place for these games, they really cannot continue. The game must be brought back into perspective.
n On the college front and looking at rising stars, Jenna Cantor, daughter of former Hollidaysburg Golden Tigers star Mark Cantor, who now resides in Potomac, Md., officially became a Division 1 NCAA soccer player on national signing day when she accepted a scholarship from Cornell University.
Tom Schmitt's soccer column appears monthly in the Mirror.