Leverkusen, Germany – #5 - For your country
What better, more patriotic way to start off the fourth of July weekend than cheering on one of America's favorite teams? Perhaps USA versus England? Let's not get too greedy.
#4 - Lies, damn lies, and North Korean press releases
The Korea DPR coach claims his team lost to the United States on Tuesday because several of his players were struck by lightning in a recent training session . I think we all saw that the only lightning strike the North Korean squad felt was the US's second attack , but that might just be one more area where Kim Jong-Il and I disagree. If North Korea loses to Sweden in the first match of the day, stay tuned during the USA - Columbia game for their next great excuse. My money is on a "rare disease caused by close contact with free societies and the internet."
#3 - The next Marta
Columbian wonder-kid Yoreli Roncon can put on a show. Only 17 years-old and already wearing the captain's arm band for her team, her confidence is unrivaled. She has spoken freely about her similarities to Marta and her dream of one day being considered the best player in the world. Without much of a supporting cast, it is unlikely Rincon will be able to carry her team past the US, but don't be surprised if she still finds a way to create one or two crowd-dazzling moments.
#2 - Incentive to win
The United States will be motivated to come out and win - and win big. Three points put them through to the next round and allows them a little wiggle-room against an always competitive Swedish team in their final group match. It will also give coach Pia Sundhage a chance to rotate more players into the lineup - both resting the starters and giving the substitutes a chance to stay sharp. The earlier the US can guarantee advancement into the quarterfinals, the better.
#1 - A genuinely likeable team
How can you not love this team? They have been all-smiles since notching their first goal of the tournament against Korea DPR.
Lauren Cheney, not even thought of as a starter heading into this tournament, was the player of the match on Tuesday. She created several opportunities before her hard work turned into a 54th minute goal.
Twenty minutes later, central defender Rachel Buehler took advantage of her rare chance to get forward on a corner kick and buried a scrappy goal that all but sealed the victory.
And to top things off, Megan Rapinoe - the player Cheney replaced in the starting lineup - didn't look at all discouraged when she came into the game in the 79th minute, providing a ton of energy. She added an immediate spark to the attack and would have notched a third goal for the US had the referee not made a questionable call against her.
You can tell that there is something special going on with this group of ladies. They are playing with the kind of heart and joy that made past United States Women's National Teams famous.
When they held practice on Thursday morning in front of 450 American troops stationed in Germany and their families, observers couldn't tell who was more moved by the experience - the troops or the players. If that doesn't make you beam with American pride, I don't know what does. Go USA!