“We’re focused on us.”
There are no gimme games in the Olympics. That is what the 18 members of the U.S. women’s soccer team took from their Thursday afternoon outing to watch Spain -- a gold-medal favorite in the men’s tournament -- take on Japan in its opening game at Hampden Park. Japan won in a 1-0 stunner. “It’s an honor to be considered one of the favorites and to have that pressure,” midfielder Megan Rapinoe said Friday afternoon, talking as much about her own squad as she was about Spain. “But you have to go out and win every game. We left that game thinking, ‘Don’t take anything for granted.’”
For 24 hours, head coach Pia Sundhage allowed her staff and players to look back. They reviewed game tape and focused on what the team did right in their 4-2 comeback win over France on Wednesday night. But beginning Friday morning, they began looking ahead to their next game in group play against Colombia, a team that, ranked 28th in the world, would be easy to overlook.
“I think Colombia is looking to come back from last game’s loss against North Korea,” U.S. forward Alex Morgan said. “I expect a good fight. Colombia is pretty technical, and they’re feisty. We had a lot of prep time for France and not as much with Colombia, so it’s about making sure our bodies are recovered in time for the next game. We haven’t seen much of Colombia since the World Cup, so right now, we’re really focused on us.”
Midfielder Carli Lloyd, who came off the bench to score the go-ahead goal against France, will start Saturday’s game in place of Shannon Boxx, who is out with a right hamstring injury. But Lloyd said her change in status will not affect her prep over the next day and a half. “I prepare the same way when I start as when I don’t,” she said. “The visualization, stretching, hydrating, it’s the same routine, so I won’t prepare any differently for this next game. When Pia stresses that the game winners are on the bench, we have to embrace and believe that. But Colombia is a great technical team. They’re physical, and we can’t overlook them one bit. No. 10 on their team, I remember her from the World Cup. She’s good.” So can fans expect a physical game at midfield?
“I’m a Jersey girl,” Lloyd says. “I enjoy crunching people. I was pleased to see that the ref was letting some things go in the last game. I’m tough and willing to go into any battle and fight. Yeah, I’ll tackle her.”
Unlike their teammates down in London, these women will not take part in opening ceremonies, instead remaining in Glasgow to prepare for Saturday night’s game. “We’ll dress up in our gear tonight and watch together and have fun,” says midfielder Heather O’Reilly. “It is a little disappointing. It would be so fun to be at opening ceremonies with all the other athletes, and get that USA camaraderie. But at the same time, we’re here as a team and feel isolated from the Olympic craziness, and that’s good for us. That is our rally cry -- to be in London at the end of it all.”