Sandy • Off the plane, onto the bus, quick stop at the hotel and then back out to practice.
The U.S. women’s national soccer team commenced its four-day stay in Utah just that efficiently on Wednesday, when it began final preparations to meet Canada at Rio Tinto Stadium on Saturday in its last game before heading to the London Olympics as a gold-medal favorite.
U.S. vs. CanadaSaturday, noon
TV » NBC
Tickets » USSoccer.com
The U.S. women’s national team will hold an open workout on Friday at Rio Tinto Stadium. The session is free and open to the public, starting at 11 a.m.
"We want to keep building on the things that we’ve been working on for the last 10 months," forward Abby Wambach said after a workout on Real Salt Lake’s practice field. "We want to keep getting the players that are going to make a difference on this team the confidence that they’re going to need over in London."
The Americans are 13-1-1 this year, ranked No. 1 in the world — and didn’t even have to worry about snow, the way they did the last time they visited Utah for a game against Mexico two years ago.
"Maybe it’s too hot" now, coach Pia Sundhage joked.
Perhaps the only other downside to their opening workout was that defender Heather Mitts took a cleat to her leg and had to be carried off the field with a nasty cut down her shin.
Otherwise, the coaches and players were encouraged at the prospect of building their rhythm and confidence and playing their Olympic send-off game in front of a big crowd on home soil. So far, about 16,000 tickets have been sold, according to RSL officials.
"Just having our send-off game and showing America what we’re going over with — the mentality, the attitude, the confidence," midfielder Lauren Cheney said. "It will be a huge confidence-builder to perform well in this game."
The Americans have reason to be confident.
Not only are they two-time defending Olympic gold medalists, but they’re also 5-0-1 in six games since losing 1-0 to Japan in Portugal on March 5 in a rematch of the Women’s World Cup final that the Americans lost last summer.
Since then, they tied Japan 1-1 in Japan, then beat them 4-1 in Sweden earlier this month.
In their last four games, the Americans have outscored opponents 14-3 — including two convincing victories against Women’s World Cup bronze medalist Sweden on its home soil. They also beat Canada 4-0 in their last meeting Jan. 29.
"All of us have done a great job," Sundhage said, "and it’s all about [trying] to peak when you go into the Olympic tournament. It feels good right now. … We get a lot of confidence not only from the results, but also the way we play, as well."
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