Top 10 Storylines of Rio 2016 Will Be . . .

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We are finally getting close to the Opening Ceremony of the 2016 Rio Olympics. It didn’t seem like we would ever get here or that the gals would even go (for multiple reasons), but we made it! Bug spray and all, the Gals are in Brazil, ready to defend their gold. Here are some talking points that will be drilled into your head during the course of the tournament.

  1. Mal Pugh, at only 18 years of age, has played well beyond her years. She is showing signs of being the future of this team. When legends like Mia Hamm tweet about how amazing you are, you know you’ve made it. Trust me, you will absolutely hear about how amazing she is, how young she is, how she is the future of this team, and how she may or may not become the next Lindsey Horan. Is it Portland or UCLA, Mal? We’ll see after the U-20 World Cup, because yes, she is still young enough to play on that team as well. Seriously, she’s super young, like still has baby fat and possibly baby teeth.
  1. Lindsey Horan skipped college and went pro out of high school. She was so young when she went pro, she couldn’t tie her shoes and got her shoelace stuck in an escalator, causing a bunch of people to fall over. Apparently, this needs to be mentioned every single time Portland or the USWNT play, even when she’s not there. Literally, every time. I’m pretty sure she could trademark it or something, get paid, and make a substantial side income on how often this is talked about. If you watch the NWSL, or caught a USWNT game this year, you know what I mean.
  1. Megan Rapinoe…how should I put this? Whether or not she should she be in the 18 doesn’t matter, because she is. She is, yet again, not playing or dressing. She hasn’t seen game time since October 2015. We used a roster spot on her when we have a healthy Heather Ann O’Reilly. Jill Ellis will always show her favorites, like a mom who tries to pretend she doesn’t have any, but it’s blatantly obvious. We see you Jill. We don’t get it, but we see you.
  1. The only reason you don’t play Ali Krieger is if she’s on her death bed and you have Lucy Bronze, unless you’re Jill Ellis. Speaking of favorites, Kelley O’Hara is our starting right back. Again, we’re not sure why when you have a healthy Ali Krieger, but we play a wing-back system, so God forbid you play a defensive defender when you could waste the position on someone who is basically another winger. I mean, you could put KO on the left side and move Klingenberg up (she basically sits in the midfield anyhow), and it’s not like Pinoe is dressing. But let’s not bring reason into this.
  1. In case no one knew, Crystal Dunn was one of the last players, if not the last player, cut from the World Cup roster last summer. If you’re new to WoSo (women’s soccer), you probably don’t know this, but she used that cut to have one of the best years of her career in the NWSL and earned her way back to the USWNT. She hasn’t scored a single goal this season for the Washington Spirit, but she is on point with the goal scoring for the USWNT. 5 in one game, in fact, during Olympic Qualifying.
  1. Who could forget Carli Lloyd’s heroics last summer? (I know I can’t.) But did you know she scored the game-winning goals in the last two Olympic finals? If you didn’t, you do now. If you forget after reading this, you are sure to be reminded at least a dozen times throughout the tournament. Lloyd is coming off of an injury (I’m sensing a theme here) and, before the final two sendoff games in July, hadn’t played since April. But she looked good in the last two send-off games. Hopefully Jill Ellis will play her cards right (I doubt it, unless her hand is forced, like it was last summer), and we’ll get to see Carli attempt to extend that scoring record to three consecutive Olympic finals.
  1. Crystal Press and Christen Dunn: They do not play for us, because they don’t exist. The names you are looking for are Crystal Dunn and Christen Press. That’s also Christen with a “C” not a “K” but apparently in the women’s game, this doesn’t really matter. Be on the lookout for mispronunciations and inevitable mix-ups. Then again, why bother learning their names? It’s obviously not that important to get an athlete’s name right when they’ve worked their entire lives to get to this point, right?(I’d like to take this opportunity to point out that there is also a Carli Lloyd on the USA women’s volleyball team. So, if you are watching volleyball, and you hear a familiar name, don’t worry about getting your hearing checked. I’d also wager good money that the commentators for both sports will be bringing this up, so prepare yourself for all of the corny jokes that are sure to be made.)
  1. Meghan Klingenberg, Allie Long, Tobin Heath, Lindsey Horan and Emily Sonnett. The first four are all starters; Sonnett is an alternate. They also have one very big thing in common—they all play for the same club team in NWSL. That’s right, ladies and gents, we sent the Portland Thorns to the Olympics. They’re top of the league, so they must be doing something right. Why not send half of them to represent the US?
    **Side note, be prepared to see yellows cards handed out left and right. Who knows? Maybe Jill will have to make those changes after all. Don’t be shocked if you find yourself yelling “Wrong football, HORAN!” It happens.**
  1. ZIKA!! Look out here come the mosquitos. Have no fear, Hope Solo is well prepared to ward off bugs, just as she wards off goals. This will be talked about on every broadcast. They will be asked about it in every interview, and it will be annoying. It will be even more annoying if one of our beloved Golden Gals comes back and cannot have babies to either help Amy Rodriguez and Sydney Leroux-Dwyer in their efforts to field a proper men’s team or add to the ranks of potential 2nd generation USWNT players. (Hey, I’m not saying that their kids have to play soccer, but Captain America Jr. is going to need a team.)
  1. 2019. That’s in 3 years. So, why should it matter now? Because Jill Ellis, that’s why. You will hear all about the 2019 Women’s World Cup, and how we’re already prepping for it. Why worry about the Olympics? After all, that gold medal is such a lock for us that we don’t need to truly focus on it, right? I mean, Ellis even said, “I’ve got one eye on the podium and one on 2019.” I wish that gave me confidence, but I can’t help but fear a repeat of 2000. It’s cool though, Julie Foudy gets it, “You need to have both eyes on the podium!” #FoudyforPresident

These are going to be the top 10 talking points for Rio, no doubt.

Honorable Mentions:

  • “Equal Play Equal Pay”—both the ongoing battle and how the team almost went on strike.
  • Hope Solo being the G.O.A.T (rightfully so). She just earned her 100th shutout and is on the cusp of her 200th cap.
  • The injection of youth into this team and other additions since last year. (Half of the team are first-time Olympians.)
  • Retirements and pregnancies.

Here’s to it being another Olympic year and, hopefully, another gold for our gals! Nothing like watching them stand on that podium and belt out the Star Spangled Banner! Happy Olympics everyone!