The 2015 soccer Women’s World Cup begins on Saturday, June 6 in Canada. The United States team is one of a handful of favorites to win the tournament and they’ve got a great story. Despite decades of excellent play, the team has not won a World Cup championship since 1999. That’s a whole generation of dreams denied and all the reason anyone should need to root for the team this year. To help prepare you to root for team and country, we’re going to run a short profile of every player on the 23-person roster. When female athletes take their turn in the spotlight, they often receive coverage that is slanted toward non-game aspects of their stories — marriage, children, sexual preference, perceived lack-of or bountiful sexiness, social media activity, etc. In the hope of balancing things out, just a tiny bit, these previews will strive to stay on the field, with only a little bit of non-gendered personal interest when possible.
National team experience: 305 appearances, this will be her fifth World Cup, and she has four international goals.
What to expect from Christie Rampone: After almost a decade and a half of being the heart and soul of the U.S. Women’s National Team, Rampone will finally be passing the torch and taking a firm seat on the bench. Even as recently as the start of this year, the smart money was on Rampone starting for the team at her normal central defensive position. Then a back injury in January forced her out of the lineup and gave Julie Johnston a shot. Johnston has played so well that it’s impossible to imagine Rampone fighting her way past her and into the starting lineup in this year’s World Cup. That doesn’t mean Rampone isn’t still important to the team. She is the sole remaining link to the 1999 World Cup Championship team and therefore the only person on the team with the experience of having won the Cup. I can’t write about the internal dynamics of the team, but from what I can tell from listening to interviews and reading about the team, it seems like Rampone’s leadership is much appreciated by the younger players. None of this is intended to suggest that Rampone is an honorary member of the team — she’s not. Now that her back injury has healed, she’s still fully capable of playing 90 minutes of hard-nosed, lightning quick defense. If there were an injury to a defender, fans should feel completely secure in seeing Rampone slotted back onto the defensive line.
Video: Four goals in 305 appearances for the U.S. team basically tells you all you need to know about Rampone’s style. She’s one of the fastest players out there and despite being only 5’6″, she’s a physical, no-nonsense defender.
Non-gendered personal interest item: Rampone has reached the point in her career when most of the personal interest stories written about her are about her age. Juliet Macur wrote the best article in that milieu for the New York Times. In it, she points out the technological novelty of Rampone having been originally invited to play on the national team by fax and uses Rampone as an example of the insidious shift in our culture away from raising children to be multi-sport athletes who play sports primarily for fun.