BY GENE NARDI
The United States Women’s National Soccer Team played Russia in an international match at Florida Atlantic University Stadium in Boca Raton on Saturday, Feb. 8. The Americans shut out the Russian team 7-0.
Also tasting a bit of victory was a U-9 Wellington youth soccer team, which had the honor of participating in the opening ceremony escort of the national players prior to the game. The ceremony is a tradition of the game. The girls arrived early and prepared for their moment by practicing before the game. Overwhelmed by the atmosphere inside the stadium, and presence of famous players such as Abby Wambach and Hope Solo, the team glowed with smiles.
“They’re really excited about doing this,” Wellington coach Jennifer White said. “It’s a big deal for them.”
The stadium filled, and the music began to play. The announcer started the dialogue and the girls, dressed in their ceremony soccer uniforms sponsored by McDonalds, held the hands of the national athletes and walked out to the center of the pitch for the national anthems. Smiles were displayed from beginning to end. Their mission was a success, and they were able to enjoy the game.
U.S. Soccer is no stranger to the region and has a strong fan base in South Florida. FAU was the host venue for the national team’s game against China in 2012. Saturday’s match drew in 8,857 fans.
The Americans out-shot Russia 32-3 during the contest and elevated its unbeaten streak to 41 games. The U.S. team exercised patience, and it took a little more than 20 minutes for the Americans to reach pay-dirt with their first goal, but constant pressure on the Russian defense indicated that it would soon break.
Carli Lloyd slalomed through the defense and drove in the first score off a cross form Heather O’Reilly. That was the spark that started an American scoring frenzy. Three minutes later, O’Reilly scored from a misplaced Russian defensive pass. The U.S. would lead at the half 3-0 with one more goal from Lloyd.
Christen Press tallied two goals in the second half, Sydney Leroux and Abby Wambach each scored to put the exclamation as to why the U.S. team is FIFA’s top-ranked team.
Both teams traveled to Atlanta for a rematch in the second leg of their series, but the results were not available by press time.
ABOVE: The Wellington U-9 soccer team at the stadium.