U.S. play­ers are ea­ger to get started

Los Angeles Times - - WOMEN’S WORLD CUP - By Kevin Bax­ter kevin.bax­ter@la­times.com

WIN­NIPEG, Canada — The U.S. na­tional team has been point­ing to­ward this month’s World Cup for nearly four years. So now, with Monday’s group-play opener against Aus­tralia just a day away, many play­ers have grown tired of wait­ing.

“I need it to start,” de­fender Becky Sauer­brunn said Satur­day. “Up un­til that first whis­tle, I’m go­ing to have nerves. But when that first whis­tle sounds, it’s go­ing to be soc­cer.

“We’ve been train­ing for this for so long. It’s a dream cometrue for us. So we’re go­ing to make the most of the op­por­tu­nity.”

Mid­fielder Megan Rapi­noe said she and her team­mates have been pass­ing the time by read­ing, watch­ing TV and mak­ing use of the ping-pong ta­ble at their down­town ho­tel.

“You have to learn how to be OK with the bore­dom. Be­cause you can’t just be go­ing out and do­ing a mil­lion things,” said Rapi­noe, who, like Sauer­brunn, will be play­ing in her sec­ond World Cup. “You need that time to re­lax. It is im­por­tant to be able to find what­ever it is that re­laxes you away from the game.”

Talk­ing it over

The team also filled some of its am­ple down­time with meet­ings. Lots of meet­ings. “We’ve gone over prac­ti­cally ev­ery sin­gle sce­nario that could ever hap­pen on the field,” Sauer­brunn said.

But the most im­por­tant of those meet­ings may have come Fri­day, when FIFA of­fi­cials briefed play­ers about what ref­er­ees will be look­ing for dur­ing the games.

“The game can be quite dan­ger­ous when you look at cer­tain in­juries, es­pe­cially head in­juries,” Sauer­brunn said. “And they­were very adamant about what they would call yel­low cards, red cards, things like that.

“Any reck­less chal­lenge to­ward the head — that would re­sult in a yel­low or red card pretty eas­ily.”

Mor­gan un­cer­tain

For­ward Alex Mor­gan, out two months with a bone bruise to her left knee, trained with the rest of the team Satur­day, although her sta­tus for the U.S. opener re­mains un­cer­tain. How­ever, Rapi­noe said, the team, which missed Mor­gan dur­ing its re­cent three-game send­off se­ries, is ready for any even­tu­al­ity.

“Our hope, ob­vi­ously, is that she’s fit and ready to play,” Rapi­noe said. “She’s a bril­liant player with the abil­ity to score goals. So at some point we’re go­ing to need her.

“But the team has pre­pared in dif­fer­ent ways — with­out her or her com­ing off the bench. And I think that we’re ready for that.”

If the U.S. de­ter­mines Mor­gan is un­able to play in the tour­na­ment, it has un­til 4:30 PDT Sun­day— 24 hours be­fore its first game— to re­place her on its ros­ter.

Sev­eral teams have al­ready made in­jury ad­just­ments, with Brazil, among the tour­na­ment fa­vorites, suf­fer­ing what may have been the most costly loss when ex­pe­ri­enced de­fender Erika was dropped in place of for­ward Rafaela.

Mex­ico also made a change, drop­ping mid­fielder Ari­ana Calderon of Sacra­mento for Anisa Gua­jardo, a mid­fielder from Fresno and Pep­per­dine Univer­sity.

Calderon scored Mex­ico’s only goal in a mid-May loss to the U.S. but left that game with an in­jury.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.