Despite its success in the Olympics, which includes three consecutive gold medals, the U.S. women’s national team is hungrier than ever to end a 15-year drought and win a World Cup.
That journey starts at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at Sporting Park where the team will face Trinidad & Tobago in the first game of the CONCACAF Women’s Championships. Group A also includes Guatemala and Haiti, who will play at 5 p.m.
“We know our destination and what I’ve tried to convince them is that it’s the steps in between, it’s the path, that is the most important,” coach Jill Ellis said. “We all want to be on that gold medal stand at the end of this journey but committing to the steps and qualifying is a big part of that and they’ve bought in to it.”
Although this is Ellis’ first international tournament as head coach, the team has 11 players with previous Women’s World Cup qualifying experience. Abby Wambach and Heather O’Reilly lead that list having each played in the last three tournaments. Christie Rampone and Carli Lloyd joined them in the last two.
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“We’re ready for these games to start and to start seeing how we’re involving with our new formation and the way Jill has been handling training sessions,” Rampone said. “We are excited but we can’t take anything obviously with the last qualifier.”
She was referring to the team’s 2-1 semifinal loss to Mexico in 2011, which forced the U.S. into a playoff for the final berth Women’s World Cup. Outside that game, the team boasts a dominant 22-1-0 record since 1991 in qualifiers and has won four of its five tournaments. The team advanced to win the World Cup in 1991 and 1999.
“I would love for this team to win a World Cup,” Rampone said. “Winning another World Cup, the country needs it and this team needs it to continue growing soccer.”
The team 10-2-3 this year and is undefeated in its last nine matches. Most recently, it won a pair of matches against Mexico.
Trinidad & Tobago qualified for the CONCACAF Championship by defeating Jamaica 1-0 in the inaugural Caribbean Football union Women’s Caribbean Cup. The Soca Princesses won Group B with a 4-0-0 record outscoring opponents 20-0. They are coached by Randy Waldrum who won two NCAA titles with Notre Dame and now coaches the Houston Dash of the National Women’s Soccer League. Whitney Engen and Meghan Klingenberg of the Dash are on the U.S. team.
Historically, the United States has done well against Trinidad & Tobago winning all seven matches which include four in CONCACAF qualifiers.
Guatemala vs. Haiti at 5 p.m.
Guatemala also brings a lot of experience with seven players who participated in the 2010 CONCACAF Women’s World Cup Qualifying tournament. The team is ranked sixth among CONCACAF teams and went 3-0 in Central American qualifying to reach the final round.
Haiti lost to Trinidad & Tobago in the semifinals of the Caribbean Football Union Women’s Caribbean Cup.
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