March 22, 2010
By Charles Cuttone
BACK WITH THE USA
Lilly happy about call-up
Later this week, Kristine Lilly will do something she has done perhaps a hundred or more times before. She will join a training camp of the United States Women’s National Team.
|Kristine Lilly is preparing for her first Women’s National Team camp in more than a year, and if she plays in a match in 2010 will have represented the United States in four different decades.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
In and of itself, that may not be unusual, since Lilly has played 342 games for the National Team. But this is her first call in more than a year, and she has not been a regular on the team since taking a year off to have her first child, Sydney Marie, in 2008, missing the Beijing Olympics.
“After a year goes by, I didn’t think it was going to happen,” said Lilly of the call. “I was happy to hear from her,” she said referring to U.S. Women’s National Team coach Pia Sundhage, who, ironically, was Lilly’s coach with the Boston Breakers in the Women’s United Soccer Association.
The camp is in advance of a pair of games against Mexico, taking place March 28 at Torero Stadium on the campus of the University of San Diego and March 31 at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah. Lilly is the world’s second all-time leading scorer for international soccer, having scored 129 goals for the USA, behind only Mia Hamm. If she makes the game roster and gets into one of the Mexico matches, she will have represented the USA in four different decades.
Lilly says she can’t look too far ahead—such as to next year’s Women’s World Cup in Germany.
“It’s just one camp with two games, we’ll see where it goes from there,” although she does admit “The call kind of opened the door again. Not being called last year, it was like, well, who knows, but now with the call, it’s like hmm, interesting.”
The U.S. will play Germany in Cleveland on May 22, then will have to go through a qualifying process for next year’s World Cup. If she makes the team, it would be Lilly’s sixth World Cup.
“But that’s still too far ahead. This is my first camp going in and I’ll take it as it goes,” she said.
After taking a year off to have the baby, her first with husband David, who is a Brookline, Mass. firefighter, Lilly didn’t miss a beat in joining the Breakers for the first season of Women’s Professional Soccer last year.
She was a league all-star and one of the Breakers’ top scorers.
“I am not surprised that Pia brought her back in,” said Breakers’ coach Tony DiCicco, who also coached Lilly with the National Team. “She was one of the best Americans in the league.”
The age of 38 might seem advanced for an international soccer player, but DiCicco says it’s not an issue with Lilly.
“With Kristine, unlike most players, disregard the age, disregard it,” he said. “She has a body that’s different. I knew it when she was a young player, and it’s still the same. She might be a step slower, but she’s also two steps smarter.
“For Pia she’d be a great option if you needed depth on the team or you needed experience in a certain position. Kristine played every minute [for the Breakers] last year. That’s the type of player she is and how well she takes care of herself.”
Lilly is not sure how much longer she will go on. Most of her longtime teammates from the National Team have long since hung up their cleats.
“I feel really good right now,” Lilly said. “I had my first full off season, took some time off and took time to get prepared. Everything is pretty good. I’m feeling good, now, so who knows how long I will last.”
No matter who much further her National team career goes, DiCicco is happy to have her in the Breakers lineup.
“She’s amazing. She was the fittest player in camp,” he said. “She’s competitive, she wants to beat everyone in fitness. She wants to make our team good. She’s a great leader, a great role model.”
Lilly has somewhat started preparing for the inevitable time when she does retire as a player. She has been a corporate endorser and spokesperson for a number of companies and has expanded her Kristine Lilly Soccer Academy from what was a one week camp in her home town of Wilton, Conn, to more sessions and multiple locations.