SANDY — There was a common sentiment among U.S. Women's National Team players after they held their first training session in Utah on Wednesday in preparation for Saturday's Olympic send-off match at Rio Tinto Stadium.
"We're in a good place."
They weren't paying homage to the pioneers either, but rather referring to the mental state of the squad with the Olympics in London less than a month away.
Since falling to Japan in the Women's World Cup final last summer, it's taken the U.S. women quite some time to fully regain their confidence. Heading into Saturday's 12 p.m. kickoff against Canada, there's no question it's back.
Earlier this month, the U.S. traveled to Sweden and defeated both Sweden and Japan in Olympic tune-up matches, the latter a 4-1 victory over Japan.
"We have a lot of confidence. We came off two great games in Sweden. We played great soccer against Japan and Sweden. We're in a good place," said midfielder Lauren Cheney.
The victory over Japan was the first in three tries against Japan since the World Cup final, and Cheney said it was important the team got over that mental hump.
The United States has won four straight since earning a tie in Japan back in January, and coach Pia Sundhage said a big part of that has been the defensive effort by all 11 players on the field. She said it's important the players maintain that rhythm in the final game before departing for London on July 10.
"We want to give them a good show and we want to give them a taste of what they're going to get in the Olympics. We bring it every game and I'm excited for them to witness that," said Cheney.
The United States' first game of group play is against France on July 25. Its record in 2012 thus far is 13-1-1.
ELDER STATESPERSON: Christie Rampone turned 37 on earlier this week, but that hasn't slowed the U.S. defender down one bit.
One of the anchors of the backline, Rampone is the first U.S. player to be named to four Olympic teams. She's tied with four former players with 16 Olympic matches played, a record she'll call her own next month.
Rampone has appeared in 259 matches for the United States, fourth on the all-time list. It's unlikely she'll play long enough to catch Kristine Lilly, who retired with 352 matches played, but Mia Hamm (275) and Julie Foudy (272) are within striking distance.
Rampone said her desire to compete, particularly in training, has been one of the secrets of her longevity.
"Training is just as competitive as games. I just continue to try to get better," said Rampone. "Now I'm just loving the game more than ever."
SCRAPED UP: U.S. defender Heather Mitts only made it through about 45 minutes of Wednesday's nearly two-hour long practice at America First Field after she was cleated in the shin by one of her teammates.
Mitts' battle wounds from the collision were two lengthy cuts down her shin about four to five inches long and about a quarter inch wide.
She iced her left leg and kept it elevated for the final hour of practice. Her status for Saturday's match isn't known.
PUBLIC PRACTICE: The U.S. Women's National Team will hold a public training session this Friday at Rio Tinto Stadium from 11:30 to 12:30 p.m. Doors will open at 11 a.m. and admission is free.Comment on this story
A U.S. Soccer spokesperson said public practices are often very well attended, with several thousands often attending.
Ticket sales for Saturday's 12 p.m. match with Canada are moving very well, upwards of 14,000 according to a Real Salt Lake team official.
"It's always more fun to play in front of your own fans instead of a small crowd. If it's a big crowd it's almost like a 12th player, we've seen that before. It's a fantastic atmosphere to have that," said Sundhage.
U.S. vs. Canada
Rio Tinto Stadium