In five days, the U.S. women begin their pursuit of yet another Olympic gold medal. If they prevail, theirs will be the fifth gold medal for Team USA in the six Olympiads since 1996, the year women’s soccer became an Olympic sport.
That’s a truly remarkable record.
The team that coach Jill Ellis has put together for the Rio Games seems up to the challenge. It’s a smart mix of accomplished veterans and ambitious, remarkably poised youngsters.
The backline is as solid as an iron gate — and any opponent who does get past Becky Sauerbrunn, Julie Johnston, Meghan Klingenberg, and Kelley O’Hara (or Ali Krieger) will still have to contend with the most dominant goalkeeper in the history of the women’s game. This team could easily record four or five shutouts in the six games it will take to reach the final.
Each of the four forwards — Alex Morgan, Christen Press, Crystal Dunn, and Mallory Pugh — could start for any other team on the planet. So could five of the six midfielders, if Megan Rapinoe were completely healthy. (Allie Long is the one I’m not so sure about.) A majority of the 16 field players are capable of playing more than one position. Ellis has at her disposal an array of options to counter any challenge that an opponent throws her way.
But for all that, upsets happen. Sports sometimes produce strange, unexpected results. Ask the Golden State Warriors.
Ask Lionel Messi.
Nonetheless, I will be stunned if the Red, White and Blue aren’t atop the winners’ platform in Rio de Janeiro on Aug. 19.
Here are five oddities, curiosities, or (possibly) interesting facts about the U.S. team and its members:
The 18 U.S. players on the roster have a combined 53 appearances in Olympic matches.
Three players account for all 12 Olympic goals scored by members of the roster. Carli lloyd has six, Alex Morgan has four, and Megan Rapinoe has two.
Heather O’Reilly scored the earliest goal in Olympic history when she put one in the net 42 seconds into a 2008 match against New Zealand. (O’Reilly didn’t make Ellis’ 2016 Olympic roster, but will accompany the team to Brazil as al alternate.)
Alex Morgan scored the the latest goal in Olympic history (also the latest in U.S. history) with her game-winning header after 122 minutes and 22 seconds against Canada in 2012.
Thirteen of the 18 Americans played in a youth-level World Cup.