September 16, 2011
by Charles Cuttone
NO ROOM FOR ERROR
U.S. Women begin prep for 2012 Olympics
As they head into a pair of friendlies against Canada in what is being billed as a “celebration tour” following their loss in the Finals of the 2011 Women’s World Cup, the U.S. Women’s National Team knows what lies ahead, and there’s no room for error.
|Goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart is part of the U.S. WNT’s “Celebration Tour” of friendly matches against Canada, beginning Saturday at Kansas City’s Livestrong Sporting Park.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
They’ll use these games, and probably a few more later in the year, as preparation for Olympic qualifying, which will be held in Vancouver in January.
“With the Olympics it’s the top two from CONCACAF that will qualify, which is a little different than the World Cup Qualifying,” said goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart, explaining that unlike the World Cup qualifiers, where the U.S. used a playoff match against Italy to gain entry, this time there’s no such option.
They will probably have to battle Canada and Mexico, both World Cup qualifiers, for one of the two spots in the 2012 London games.
“Always in the CONCACAF tournament, you see tough games, regardless of who you play. Obviously, the big names are Canada and Mexico. We pretty much need to go in and really be focused and playing well because there is no room for error this time, cause if you don’t make it to the final game in CONCACAF then you’re not going to be moving on to the Olympics,” said Barnhart, who saw her team lose two championship games in penalty kicks this year, first as the backup on the bench when the U.S. fell at the World Cup, then in net as the Philadelphia Independence fell to the Western New York Flash.
Saturday’s 7 pm ET game against Canada is at Kansas City’s Livestrong Sporting Park. The two-game set wraps up Tuesday at Jeld-Wen Field in Portland.
“Any time we get the opportunity to play in a soccer specific stadium it’s huge, and it’s always been a great experience,” Barnhart said. “And in cities where you have soccer specific stadiums, MLS stadiums, you usually get a decent fan base and people are excited to come out and watch soccer, so I am hoping that’s the case there.”
Following these two matches against Canada, the U.S. players will have about a six-week break before getting back together for a training camp in early November that also might feature an international match, which would be the last one of the year for the squad. The U.S. team also will have a training camp in December. Both camps will feature a larger squad of players as U.S. head coach Pia Sundhage formulates her 20-player roster for CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying that will get started on January 19 in Vancouver, B.C., with the USA getting together in a warmer site (most likely The Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif.) about two weeks before the competition kicks off.