As captain, Rampone keeps the U.S. women's soccer team going

Posted: August 11, 2012

LONDON - Christie Rampone had the ball, then she didn't.

The captain of the U.S. women's soccer team, the veteran leader who steadies the defense, never saw the Japanese player who stole the ball from her. With a one-goal lead and seven minutes remaining to protect it, all she knew was that the ball was gone.

"My life flashed in front of me," said Rampone, who is from Point Pleasant, N.J.

Instead of disaster, though, the play turned into one of the highlights of the U.S. team's 2-1, gold-medal-clinching victory. Goalkeeper Hope Solo faced down Japan's Mana Iwabuchi. When Iwabuchi fired a shot, Solo stretched out and knocked it away.

"Hope just made a great play behind me," Rampone said. "Tremendous save, and it motivated us to finish that last five minutes."

Rampone made a few of her own earlier in the game. In the first half, after fellow Jersey Girl Carli Lloyd had given the U.S. team a 1-0 lead, Solo was down after making one save. The ball came sailing back in and Rampone, on the goal line, stopped it cold.

"It was a moment like, 'OK, we're in this,' " Rampone said. "It was an all-around great effort, a lot of great play all around. What do you have to lose at this point? You're playing a great team, you're in the final - just go for it."

If it was her last game with the national team - after four Olympics, three gold medals, and four appearances in the World Cup - it surely was an unforgettable one. Rampone played on the 1999 team - Mia Hamm, Julie Foudy, Brandi Chastain - that won the World Cup. She has been the constant as a new generation - including Lloyd, Solo, Alex Morgan, and Abby Wambach - has raised the game to new levels.

In her role as captain, Rampone had to help this group weather the disappointment of a crushing loss - on penalty kicks, of all things - to Japan in the World Cup final last year. The team had to bounce back from that, stay together, and keep its focus through this tournament.

"We have a lot of great personalities and a lot of flair on the team," Rampone said. "We've just been committed to each other. The loss in the World Cup, which was very emotional for us, it made us stronger. There's something in this team that never gives up. There's no stress. It's just fun."

As a little girl kicking a ball around in New Jersey, it would have been impossible for Rampone or anyone to imagine this night: 80,000 fans in Wembley Stadium roaring with every break, every run, every tackle of a women's soccer match.

"It's amazing to have so many fans support women's soccer," Rampone said. "A lot of people understood the game out there. You could hear the cheers for some great plays. It definitely was an exciting time. You really can't top this. We can play some great soccer, but tonight we had the whole package."


Contact Phil Sheridan at 215-854-2844 or psheridan@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @Sheridanscribe. Read his blog, "Philabuster," at www.philly.com/philabuster. Read his columns at www.philly.com/philsheridan

 

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