Team USA Women Send Coach Off With Win

Team USA Women’s Soccer head coach, Pia Sundhage, coached her final game with the US National Team on Wednesday, September 19th at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, CO.  More on Coach Sundhage later.

September 19, 2012 Commerce City, CO.  USA head coach Pia Sundhage poses with her team one last time prior to the Soccer Match between the USA Women's National Team and the Women's Australian team at Dick's Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, Colorado (Carl Auer/Cal Sport Media)

September 19, 2012 Commerce City, CO. USA head coach Pia Sundhage poses with her team one last time prior to the Soccer Match between the USA Women’s National Team and the Women’s Australian team at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, Colorado (Carl Auer/Cal Sport Media)

This was a very interesting experience.  It was the first soccer game I shot for Cal Sport Media, and totally different experience from shooting MLS.  First of all, the game started at 8pm, instead of the normal 7pm that the Rapids games start.  Second, the shooting areas are limited and once you pick a spot, you are their until the half.  I had to transmit photos at halftime and at the end of the game, and the half was 15 minutes long, and photographers could not leave the pitch until the players had left the field.  This was very stressful, and my 7D focusing issues were starting up again.  I really need to send it into Canon to have it fixed, but I really can not afford to be without it for more than a day…  Catch 22.

September 19, 2012 Commerce City, CO.  USA f Abby Wambach (14) plugs her ears as teammate USA f Alex Morgan (13) is introduced to the screaming fans prior to the Soccer Match between the USA Women's National Team and the Women's Australian team at Dick's Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, Colorado (Carl Auer/Cal Sport Media)

September 19, 2012 Commerce City, CO. USA f Abby Wambach (14) plugs her ears as teammate USA f Alex Morgan (13) is introduced to the screaming fans prior to the Soccer Match between the USA Women’s National Team and the Women’s Australian team at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, Colorado (Carl Auer/Cal Sport Media)

When the teams were announced, it was apparent that this game was going to be like a Justin Bieber concert.  Over 18,000 screaming fans, most of them 12-17 year old girls.  It was the loudest I had ever heard the stadium.  As the starting players were announced for Team USA, it was real loud for UW alumni Hope Solo, even louder for Alex Morgan, but it was deafening when Olympic star Abby Wambach was announced.  After getting 5 seconds to shoot the team photo above, I rushed to the end of the stadium I thought Team USA was going to be attacking, only to find out they were going the other way, so I had seconds to grab all my gear and run to the opposite end line.

September 19, 2012 Commerce City, CO.  USA f Alex Morgan (13) during the Soccer Match between the USA Women's National Team and the Women's Australian team at Dick's Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, Colorado (Carl Auer/Cal Sport Media)

September 19, 2012 Commerce City, CO. USA f Alex Morgan (13) during the Soccer Match between the USA Women’s National Team and the Women’s Australian team at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, Colorado (Carl Auer/Cal Sport Media)

Alex Morgan really put on a show in the first half, but was not the first to find the goal.  On a rebound, midfielder Heather O’Reilly found the back of the net first.  After jumping into Wambach’s arms to celebrate, the entire team performed on the Air Guitar in front of their bench.  The Aussies would tie the game, and take the lead 2-1 in the first half.

September 19, 2012 Commerce City, CO.  USA m Heather O'Reilly (9) jumps into the arms of Abby Wambach (14) after O'Reilly scored the first goal of the Soccer Match between the USA Women's National Team and the Women's Australian team at Dick's Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, Colorado (Carl Auer/Cal Sport Media)

September 19, 2012 Commerce City, CO. USA m Heather O’Reilly (9) jumps into the arms of Abby Wambach (14) after O’Reilly scored the first goal of the Soccer Match between the USA Women’s National Team and the Women’s Australian team at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, Colorado (Carl Auer/Cal Sport Media)

But, after taking the lead, USA would tie the game at 2 all before the half, and as the final seconds of injury time ticked away, I was poised to run up to the top of the stands and get to the elevator to the media room.  With the fans, and waiting for the elevator, I made it to the media room with about 8 minutes left in the half.  I know I was rushed, and needed to get photos downloaded, pick about 15, edit them, caption them and FTP them.  In hindsight, I should have shot more selective, and had my computer on the sideline with me so I could have the whole 15 minutes to edit, caption and transmit.  But I didn’t and I did not have time to closely check my focus, so I am sure some of the photos I sent I should not have.

September 19, 2012 Commerce City, CO.  USA f Alex Morgan (13) tries to out run Australia d Danielle Brogan (8) during the Soccer Match between the USA Women's National Team and the Women's Australian team at Dick's Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, Colorado (Carl Auer/Cal Sport Media)

September 19, 2012 Commerce City, CO. USA f Alex Morgan (13) tries to out run Australia d Danielle Brogan (8) during the Soccer Match between the USA Women’s National Team and the Women’s Australian team at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, Colorado (Carl Auer/Cal Sport Media)

And of course, as I am riding the elevator back down to the field, I hear Wambach score her only goal of the game.  I snuck in to the other end of the field and got to an open shooting position.  With the US up 3-2 now, I was hoping to get one good goal shot.  Not a lot of balls were heading Solo’s way during the second half, so I was not worried about missing that killer save, but the photographer next to me ruined one great shot for me when instead of tucking his long lens over his shoulder as he shot with a second camera, he held it away from his body just as the US got a goal on a header.  In the next picture, his lens is the white blurry thing coming into the frame at the right.

September 19, 2012 Commerce City, CO.  USA m Carli Lloyd (10) elevates for a header during the Soccer Match between the USA Women's National Team and the Women's Australian team at Dick's Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, Colorado (Carl Auer/Cal Sport Media)

September 19, 2012 Commerce City, CO. USA m Carli Lloyd (10) elevates for a header during the Soccer Match between the USA Women’s National Team and the Women’s Australian team at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, Colorado (Carl Auer/Cal Sport Media)

I was able to get some great shots of Megan Rapinoe making a couple assists on goals, which kind of made up for a lot of issues.  The icing on the cake for me would have been a goal by Wambach.

September 19, 2012 Commerce City, CO.  USA m Megan Rapinoe (15) takes a free kick during the Soccer Match between the USA Women's National Team and the Women's Australian team at Dick's Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, Colorado (Carl Auer/Cal Sport Media)

September 19, 2012 Commerce City, CO. USA m Megan Rapinoe (15) takes a free kick during the Soccer Match between the USA Women’s National Team and the Women’s Australian team at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, Colorado (Carl Auer/Cal Sport Media)

I did get a decent shot of Wambach with the ball…as seen bellow.

September 19, 2012 Commerce City, CO.  USA f Abby Wambach (14) during the Soccer Match between the USA Women's National Team and the Women's Australian team at Dick's Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, Colorado (Carl Auer/Cal Sport Media)

September 19, 2012 Commerce City, CO. USA f Abby Wambach (14) during the Soccer Match between the USA Women’s National Team and the Women’s Australian team at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, Colorado (Carl Auer/Cal Sport Media)

But my favorite shot of the match was actually a throw in.  I do not know why, but for some reason this shot of Heather Mitts just stands out to me.

September 19, 2012 Commerce City, CO.  USA d Heather Mitts (2) takes a throw in during the Soccer Match between the USA Women's National Team and the Women's Australian team at Dick's Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, Colorado (Carl Auer/Cal Sport Media)

September 19, 2012 Commerce City, CO. USA d Heather Mitts (2) takes a throw in during the Soccer Match between the USA Women’s National Team and the Women’s Australian team at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, Colorado (Carl Auer/Cal Sport Media)

Ok, back to Coach Sundhage.  This was her last game at the helm of Team USA.  She is heading home to coach the Swedish national team.  There was a nice tribute to Coach Sundhage after the game, and from the press box I saw her taking a victory lap, waving to the fans.  It was obvious that Coach Sundhage and the players were very emotional about her leaving and this being her final game.  Tears were shed by players, fans, and Coach Sundhage.  She had brought the team back to the World Cup final after a 12 year absence, and and lead them to 2 Olympic gold medals, one from Bejing in 2008 and one this summer in London.  Pia was a great coach and will be hard to replace.

September 19, 2012 Commerce City, CO.  Pia Sundhage takes the field one last time as USA head coach prior the Soccer Match between the USA Women's National Team and the Women's Australian team at Dick's Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, Colorado (Carl Auer/Cal Sport Media)

September 19, 2012 Commerce City, CO. Pia Sundhage takes the field one last time as USA head coach prior the Soccer Match between the USA Women’s National Team and the Women’s Australian team at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, Colorado (Carl Auer/Cal Sport Media)

To see more of my take on the game, head over to my gallery and to purchase media only use photos go to calsportmedia.com

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