The U.S. women's national team opened a two-week camp Wednesday in Bradenton, Fla., where a lot of the real preparations for this summer's London Olympics will take place. No games attached, so plenty of double days, fitness work and tactical sessions for 27 players hoping to be among the 18 that travel to the U.K. in July.
Among the group is Palos Verdes Estates' Christen Press (Chadwick School), the 2010 Hermann Award winner as college soccer's best player following her senior season at Stanford, where she scored a record 71 goals in four years. Press, who enjoyed a fine rookie campaign last year in Women's Professional Soccer (scoring eight goals for magicJack) and moved to Sweden's Kopparbergs/Göteborg FC when the league when on hiatus in January.
This is Press' first call-up to the full U.S. national team, although she was in the under-20 pool and played for the U-23 side. She's a terrifically skilled player, but she doesn't have the explosiveness of old college rival Alex Morgan (Diamond Bar/Diamond Bar HS), who has emerged as an international force the past year, and her lack of physical presence had been a detriment on a team that has too often prized strength and athleticism over technical skill. She could add a needed dimension to the U.S. game.
The other local players in camp are regulars: midfielders Shannon Boxx (Redondo Beach/South Torrance HS) and Amy Rodriguez (Lake Forest/Santa Margarita Catholic HS and USC), forwards Morgan, Lauren Cheney (UCLA), Sydney Leroux (UCLA) and Abby Wambach (Hermosa Beach), and defender Whitney Engen (Rolling Hills Estates/Peninsula HS). All appear certain of Olympic spots if healthy, with the exceptions of Engen, a camp regular looking to make her first official competition roster, and perhaps Leroux, who has risen among the top group in the past five months.
Another locally based player not in the mix is forward Lindsay Tarpley, a 2004 and 2008 Olympian who played at the 2007 Women's World Cup but missed last year's WWC after tearing an anterior cruciate ligament in a match last May against Japan.
Her comeback from the injury has been halted by something else: She's pregnant.
U.S. Soccer announced on its blog that Tarpley, who is from Michigan, starred at the University of North Carolina and lives in Hermosa Beach with her husband, UCLA women's coach B.J. Snow, is about five months along and scheduled to give birth to a son come summer. That will certainly keep her from the Olympics.