Editor’s note: The Women’s World Cup begins Saturday, and the Star Tribune’s Michael Rand asked former Anoka High goalkeeper Briana Scurry, who was also the keeper for the USA team that won the Cup 16 years ago, to assess what it will take for the Americans to win the tournament for the first time since 1999.
The U.S. is always a threat in every World Cup and Olympics, and this time is no exception. But the big thing for this team is that they have so much depth. The 20 field players, all of them could start in my opinion. That’s a huge advantage they have. That’s important with the extra game that’s been added to the tournament.
And this team, from what I’ve seen, is very capable of doing it. The players who are younger and newer, if they can step up and meet expectations, the U.S. has a very good chance of winning it.
The key for this particular World Cup team is they score a lot. The potential to do that in the World Cup is certainly there. The core we had, you weren’t quite sure where the goals were going to come from. This year, there are plenty of options to do that.
I can’t really say outscoring opponents was something we would key on. We were (in 1999) very much a defensive-oriented team. Basically holding the fort and riding it out. We had Mia (Hamm) and Michelle (Akers), and we scored goals, but the U.S. has players on the team now who can score in bunches and score quick. They have a lot of depth there. That’ something that’s different this year.
I felt like when I played we were trying to keep a clean sheet all the time. If you look at the 1999 final, it was 0-0. The semifinal was 2-0, and we got a goal on a penalty kick and a fluke. Goals were hard to come by.
We were a bunch of players trying to win a World Cup. Little did we know all the other things that were going on. I think our team was unique in that even 50- and 60-year-old men could relate to us. You might not have ever watched soccer before, but we were very compelling and interesting to people. Everyone was interested, and suddenly everyone who had never watched women play sports at all was into it.
The USA battle cry came out, and everybody loves a winner. It was a perfect storm, to be honest. It was a perfect time of the year to have it. Many years of organization went into that tournament. And everyone loves drama — we had plenty of that! What else can you ask for? A Hollywood script writer couldn’t have done it any better.
Home field north
I think the U.S. is going to be received very well in Canada. I heard a couple weeks ago that all of the USA games are sold out, and predominantly the tickets were bought by USA fans. It’s essentially a home-field advantage for them, which is a very big thing.
You can’t underestimate the power of that. That is what propelled us in 1999, knowing that everyone in the stands was rooting for us. There’s that energy, that X-factor that you can’t really explain. It’s a very nice stage being set up for them to take advantage of.
Four years to wait
The truth is that having the every four years rhythm magnifies the intensity of the World Cup. With this year’s USA team, several of the players were on that 2011 team in Germany and lost the final on penalty kicks. And although they came right back and won Olympic gold the very next year, it’s a different tournament and a different feel. The World Cup is soccer only, it’s all eyes on you. This team is very hungry to blaze their own identity, and that is a huge factor.
Having to wait all that time to get the bad taste out of their mouths from Germany, if they can really tap into that and use it in a good way, is something that will really propel them forward. I think there are 10 players on the team who are 30 or older (by the time the tournament ends). For all of them, they remember that loss. That’s going to be something going forward. And the young guns on the team don’t know anything about it, but this is their team, too.