The U.S. women's national soccer team officially has begun its quest for a three-peat of Olympic gold. Hoping to avoid the tough start of losing their opening game, as they did in the 2008 Olympics, the USA ladies overcame a slow start and a sloppy initial 15 minutes of play against France in this year's opener.
The U.S. suffered from a midfield that was slow to recover and a back line that did not pick up attackers. The American women spotted France two goals in that time frame then took total control of the game on both sides of the ball with Abby Wombach starting the scoring with a vicious header in the goal off a brilliant corner kick.
The Americans continued to rally, scoring a total of four goals in 45 minutes and shutting France out of the game. This was followed up by shutting out Colombia, 3-0. Colombia couldn't match up to the physical play of the U.S. The American squad was not to be scored on again by any of the other teams in its bracket as it shut out the North Koreans, 1-0, in its final game of bracket play.
There was some concern by American coach Pia Sundhage when star Shannon Boxx suffered an injury that took her out of the game. Because USA is so deep in talent, filling the gap was an easy task. Carly Lloyd stepped up and has performed beautifully in her absence.
The next step en route to the gold medal was disposing of New Zealand in the quarterfinal round with a 2-0 shutout. Alex Morgan and Abby Wombach were outstanding on the front line, controlling the offense and ripping shots at the New Zealand goalie. America could have easily notched four or five goals in the game while the defensive line was aggressive and stingy, helping American goalie Hope Solo attain her third shutout in the 2012 games.
Wombach has now accumulated an amazing 16 Olympic goals. The women now move on to the semifinal round at 2:45 p.m. today against Canada.
n The PA West soccer league has representation on the 2012 women's Olympic team with Meghan Klingenberg of Gibsonia being chosen as an alternate on the 2012 squad. This is a first for Pennsylvania since the initiation of women's soccer in the Olympics.
Klingenberg played classic team soccer for the Hotspurs and Penn's Forest in addition to being a standout in the Olympic Development Program.
n Classic teams from the central Pennsylvania region were unable to pull off any appearances in the finals in the PA West State Cup Championships this year from U-12 boys and girls brackets to U-19s. America's oldest soccer club, Beadling Soccer Club, capped championships in seven age groups in the state finals with seven Beadling finalists garnering runner-up status at the state tournament. It would be nice to see one of our area's younger classic teams rise to the level of championship caliber in the upcoming years.
n With PIAA opening day practice for high school teams just one week away, several local school districts are caught short on coaches. Cambria Heights School District was in need of a head boys varsity coach and assistant coach and had to hire staff from within the district on very short notice to cover for the 2012 fall season. Spring Cove School District, opening its high school boys and girls program for its initial season, lost its boys coach just prior to the start of the season due to an occupational move. The district is now scrambling to fill the head coaching slot and pull the boys program together prior to the start of the season.
n More school districts also are actively trying to get junior high and middle school programs in place so that those players stepping in as freshmen in high school programs have at least two years of competitive experience under their belts.
n Altoona will play host to 30 coaches from a 60-90 mile radius on Aug. 10-12 as they come to our area to undertake the E licensing course for coaches. Coaches will be exposed to technical and tactical skills from PA West Director of coaching Paul Halford and his staff. Emphasis will be placed on the use of utilizing practice games which are dynamic, emphasize free movement, de-emphasize structure, work decision making skills and fun to teach players rather than continually running static drills which are regimented, require no decision making on players part and often become boring.
Tom Schmitt writes a monthly soccer column for the Mirror.