The Door Quietly Shuts for the Last 99er

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For the first time since 2000 it looks as if there will be no member of the 1999 World Cup winning team representing the United States at the Olympics.

Christie Rampone ruled herself out of the latest USWNT camp, and with her the door moves ever closer to being shut on the famed team that found World Cup glory on American soil.

Rampone’s statement via US Soccer:

“I really appreciate Jill inviting me in, but at this time, I don’t feel one hundred percent healthy enough to train and compete at that level. I’ve been able to manage myself and contribute to Sky Blue this season, which I will continue to do, but I also have an understanding of the level of fitness and health needed to push for an Olympic roster spot and I know I’m not there right now. It’s not the right choice for myself or the team to put myself in that environment.”

The 99er’s were, for a very long time, the team that every other USWNT was compared to. Rampone served as the bridge between the 99ers and the 15ers, and she will surely be remembered as one of the very best defenders and captains the team has ever known. But with Rio all but out of the question, it looks as if Rampone is stepping through the door with the 99ers and shutting it softly behind her.

Rampone, then Christie Pearce, first trained with the United States women’s national team during her final year at Monmouth college. It was then she made the switch from goal-scoring forward to goal-stopping center back. On February 28, 1997 against Australia, Rampone entered her first international game. Unless she is called up post Rio, her last game for the USWNT will have been played on September 20, 2015.

Rampone is one of, if not, the most successful women’s soccer players in both US and international history. She is one of only eight Americans with two World Cup titles (all seven others won in 1991 and 1999). She has more Olympic medals than any other women’s soccer player in history, with a sliver in 2000 and golds in 2004, 2008, and 2012. Rampone was named USWNT captain in 2008 and remained captain until 2016 when Carli Lloyd and Becky Sauerbrunn jointly took over the post.

Famously, she led Sky Blue FC to a WPS championship as player/coach in 2009. Finishing the season with a coaching record of 4-1-0 in 5 games. Sky Blue will benefit from her leadership and play for the remainder of the season without call ups preventing her from staying with the team. And we will be treated to at least a dozen or so more games with her leading her team into battle.

There will never be another player quite like Christie Rampone. Her number 3 will never quite look the same on someone else’s back as it did on hers. She might never have reached the level of name recognition that Mia Hamm or Alex Morgan have. She was never as publicly outspoken as Abby Wambach. But Rampone was the heartbeat of the United States women’s national team for over half of its life. She was a leader—a force to be reckoned with on defense and a guiding force to players young and old. Stepping away on her own terms must be commended even if the taste left in many people’s mouths is bittersweet.