U.S. Womens Soccer Team Gets an Early Start in Olympics

updated 7/25/2012 

Tobin Heath '10
    Tobin Heath ’10 AP Photo

U.S. Women’s Soccer Team Comes Back to Beat France

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The U.S. women’s soccer team rallied from two goals down in the first 14 minutes to defeat France in the first match of the Olympics today.

The USA’s Carli Lloyd banged a long one in for the go ahead goal in the second half. But it wasn’t wrapped up until the 66th minute when former Tar Heel Tobin Heath ’10 took a pass in open space and advanced the ball to the left side of the goal, passing it along the grass in front of the goal to an open Alex Morgan on the far side to make it 4-2.

The goal dampened France’s spirits and chances of coming back.

Heath had a strong game, showing good ball-possession skills and defense that forced France into errors.

Heath’s increased playing time came at the expense of fellow Tar Heel Heather O’Reilly ’09, who has been a starter for the national team and is going for her third gold medal at the Olympics. Coach Pia Sundhage had been giving Heath more time in Olympic warm-up wins over Canada and Japan. She must have liked what she saw because Heath’s starting at left midfield instead of the veteran O’Reilly is definitely a new wrinkle for the U.S. lineup.

While one veteran observer speculated that O’Reilly may be in the coach’s doghouse, it also simply could be that Heath is playing better right now. Still, it was strange not to see O’Reilly, one of the most visible members of the team, on the field at all.

After the game, O’Reilly was celebrating the victory and didn’t appear to be brooding.

The USA plays Colombia Saturday afternoon.


 posted 7/24/2012

U.S. Women’s Soccer Team Gets an Early Start in Olympics

The U.S. women’s soccer team, featuring former Tar Heel Heather O’Reilly ’09, opens play even before the Olympics officially begin with a game Wednesday at noon (EDT) on NBC. The opening ceremonies aren’t until Friday.

The opening game is a quality matchup for the favored U.S. team as it takes on France in Glasgow. While the U.S. might be favored to win the whole tournament, some prognosticators say this game will end in a tie.

“We will not be able to attend the opening ceremonies because we are so far away from London and to travel in between matches would be too taxing,” O’Reilly said. “Early on, we won’t be able to meet many other athletes or see them compete in their events. Although it is a little bit disappointing to miss out on these things, we know in our hearts that it is good for our team. It will be easier to stay focused with limited distractions. And we have a very important and serious job to do over these next few weeks.”

There are only 12 teams in the tournament, with eight of them qualifying for the quarterfinals. While homestanding Britain is good and has a chance to medal, the favorites are the U.S., Japan, Brazil and France.

The U.S. would like nothing better than to get a chance to defeat Japan for some redemption after losing to them in the World Cup last year. The Americans had a lead but Japan caught up to tie and then win in penalty kicks.

While the Tar Heel nation is still well represented on the team with O’Reilly, Tobin Heath ’10 and alternate Meghan Klingenberg ’11, it is the fewest Tar Heels on the team since women’s soccer became an Olympic sport in 1996. Read about the situation in “Team USA women’s soccer: Red, white but a little less Carolina blue.”

The team members have as much fun as anybody, and it shows in this video they put together lip-syncing Party in the USA. O’Reilly can be seen holding her nose in a bathroom, while I believe it’s Heath behind those Foster Grants.

You can find predictions about everything these days. One website predicts the U.S. will roll over France in the first game of the Olympics in a high-scoring affair with O’Reilly providing two assists.

O’Reilly is writing a blog for The New York Times about her experiences in London.


Add Another Tar Heel to the Olympic Lineup

We’ve discovered another Tar Heel who will be competing in the Olympics. (It would be easier if there were a central clearinghouse that cross-referenced Tar Heels and Olympics.)

Ola Sesay ’01 has been named to the Sierra Leone Olympic team as a long jumper. She is one of only two members of the Sierra Leone Olympic team.

Sesay trained in the U.S. and flew to London recently. She and fellow Sierra Leone team member Ibrahim Turay, a sprinter, have been staying in East Sussex as guests of the Hastings Sierra Leone Friendship Link, which was started a decade ago as a way of helping the civil-war-torn nation.

Sesay and Turay, whose travel and participation in the Games are being funded by the Olympic organization, will move into the London Olympic Village after torch celebrations.

Sierra Leone made its Olympic debut in 1968 and has never won a medal. The country’s 5 million citizens undoubtedly will be watching Sesay and Turay closely. Of all the Tar Heels in the Olympics, Sesay might feel the most pressure to succeed for her native country.

Sesay, 33, was quoted in an article about the 2012 Games being the first real social-media dominated Games. “Definitely, definitely,” she said. “We were just in the mall trying to get a laptop or iPad so that [Turay] can use his Facebook.”

She said this is her way of keeping in touch with those at home during the Olympics. “I use Facebook a lot, mostly just to communicate with my family and give them updates on how I’m going and how my training’s going,” she said.

— Clifton Barnes ’82