A Penn State Fan’s Guide To The 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup
In certain writers’ opinions, what is the greatest spectacle in sports is almost upon us. At 4 p.m. on Saturday, host team Canada will take on China to kick off the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup. That match will also feature two former Penn State players, both on the Canadian side. Three other Nittany Lions will be representing their countries in the tournament — one for Costa Rica, and two for the United States. Here’s what you need to know about the former Penn State players in the World Cup.
The Canadians are coming off a disappointing 2011 World Cup, in which their underperformance led to three losses and an unceremonious end to its tournament. In those mere three games, Team Canada scored one goal and allowed seven. They didn’t make it out of the group stage. The next year, at the 2012 Olympics, Canada showed the world what it was capable of, winning the bronze medal after accepting defeat to Team USA in the semifinals.
In net for Team Canada in both of those tournaments was Erin McLeod, from Penn State’s Class of 2005. The goalkeeper started her collegiate career at Southern Methodist University, but transferred to Happy Valley after her sophomore year. McLeod’s two seasons at Penn State were nothing short of spectacular, as she was twice named an NSCAA All-American and earned First Team All-Big Ten honors. Her .064 goals-against average is the best in Penn State’s program history. After proving her worth in college soccer, her country added her to its roster . The rest is history. McLeod has made more than 100 appearances for the Red and White, including being her team’s starter for the 2007 World Cup, 2008 Beijing Olympics, 2011 World Cup, 2012 London Olympics (where she won a bronze medal), and now the 2015 World Cup.
Also from the Class of ’05 is Canadian defender Carmelina Moscato. Hailing from Mississauga, Ontario, Moscato was a quality youth soccer player before coming to Penn State from 2002 to 2005. Penn State won four regular-season Big Ten titles during her tenure, and she tallied 40 career points. Moscato has played for Team Canada in every World Cup since 2003, and also won a bronze medal with the team at the 2012 Olympics. Though she doesn’t project to start for Team Canada at this year’s World Cup, she’ll provide depth on the back-end for a country that expects a deep run in the tournament.
Canada will play in Group A, and will kick off the tournament against China on Saturday at 4 p.m. Then, they will play two night games against New Zealand and the Netherlands on June 11 and 15 respectively.
Team Costa Rica
Raquel Rodriguez, the only current Penn State student-athlete in the tournament, will be one of Costa Rica’s key players in its first-ever World Cup appearance. Rodriguez scored three goals in four matches at the 2014 CONCACAF Women’s World Championship. Costa Rica’s second-place finish at the tournament made it the first Central American team to ever qualify for the FIFA World Cup, and it will look to carry that momentum into the show. Unfortunately, Rodriguez’ team will be part of a stacked Group E, and has its work cut out to escape the group stage.
Rodriguez was honored as a NSCAA Scholar All-American, named to the Big Ten First Team, and named the Big Ten Midfielder of the Year this past season. She was also named to the Big Ten Second Team and All-Freshman Team in 2012. She will be one of Penn State’s three captains next season as the Nittany Lions try to win their 18th Big Ten title in 19 years.
Costa Rica will start its tournament on June 9 against Spain, then will take on South Korea and Brazil on June 13 and 17.
Abby Wamback, Alex Morgan, and Hope Solo became household names after Team USA’s last few international appearances. Who knows, the States’ constantly growing fanbase could propel former Penn State players Ali Krieger and Alyssa Naeher to that same stardom.
Team USA’s showing at the 2011 World Cup ended in disappointment when Japan upset the Americans in penalty kicks in the finals. Before the second-place finish, Team USA won two out of three games in the group stage before taking on Brazil in the knockout stage. A stoppage-time Wambach goal tied the game at two, then the Americans won in penalty kicks — with defender Ali Krieger scoring the game-winner. The momentum carried over into a 3-1 win over France before meeting up with Japan in the final. One of Team USA’s key players during the run was Krieger, who was one of four Americans to play every minute of the 2011 World Cup. Relive Krieger’s historic goal against Brazil with the video below:
Krieger played at Penn State from 2003 to 2006 and quickly became one of the most decorated players in program history. In addition to winning four consecutive Big Ten titles, Krieger was named the Big Ten Freshman of the Year, was a two-time All-American, and was a semifinalist for the Hermann Trophy (read: soccer’s Heisman). She was a midfielder for her first three years as a Nittany Lion, then switched to defense for her senior campaign and was subsequently named the Big Ten Defender of the Year.
Krieger’s clear talent and importance to the U.S. team are unmistakable, but her hard-fought path to national prominence might be the most impressive part of her story. Three days before the NCAA College Cup during her junior year, she broke her leg and had to sit on the sidelines while Penn State played without one of its best players. The following winter, Krieger began experiencing shortness of breath. Doctors then discovered blood clots in her lungs, resulting in several small heart attacks and kept her off of the soccer pitch for six months. Her future soccer career appeared to be in jeopardy, but she made a speedy recovery and returned to play for the Nittany Lions that fall. A few years later, after having established herself as a mainstay on the American team, Krieger tore her ACL and was unable to compete in the 2012 Olympics. She’s spent the last three years fighting again to lock down the Stars and Stripes’ starting right-back position.
Joining Krieger on Team USA will be goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher. A four-year starter at Penn State, Naeher posted a solid career from 2006-09. She was a three-time All-American during her tenure in the Blue and White, and in 2008, she played for Team USA in the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup in Chile. Naeher started every game except one, and was awarded the tournament’s Golden Glove as she led the Americans to the tournament win. Though her short international career has been outstanding thus far, Naeher might not see too much time in net as long as Hope Solo is at the top of her game.
Team USA will be in a very dangerous Group D at the 2015 World Cup. On June 8 at 7:30, the Americans and Australians will kick off in Winnipeg, then on June 12 Team USA will take on Sweden — the only team to beat the Americans in the group stage at the 2011 World Cup. The group stage will conclude on June 16 as Team USA plays Nigeria in Vancouver.