Women's World Cup final: U.S. vs. Japan preview

Jul 15, 2011

Carin Gabarra, a longtime standout for the U.S. women's national soccer team and the current coach of Navy's women's team, will answer your questions on the Women's World Cup, focusing on Sunday's final between the United States and Japan.

Note:The U.S.-Japan match starts at 2:45 p.m. ET Sunday on ESPN

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I am very happy to join the show.  I first want to make sure everyone knows the US v Japan game will be live on ESPN at 2:45 on Sunday. I hope to have a huge fan base at home in the US. As a former USA player,  I am so happy to watch the team's  success so far. The best memories I have of playing with the US are playing in the World Championships, putting on a US jersey and playing for my country, and trying to sell the women's game at all levels. The US Women's National team has a clear identity, and I think it has come through in this World Cup, and carried us to victory in the close matches.  One more win to go!!!  GO USA!!

I think Brazil is the toughest team to beat and I was thinking that Brazil would win this World Cup. What do you think went wrong with them?

Brazil is a very talented team, and has been a top team in the world for many years.  I would not say that anything went wrong. I would say that USA is also one of the best teams in the world. We may not have the same flair and savvy on the ball as they do throughout their country, but we can make up for it with fitness, mentality, and the heart to win the game when it is on the line. As you saw in that game, we will never give up, and we walk on the field assuming that we will win every game. We are talented, as fit as any team in the world, and have the experience to win games under all sorts of pressure. It takes more than one dimension to be a World Champion. 

Why do you think the 1999 victory was so stirring? Why do you think more people don't talk about 1991?

1991 was the first world championship for women's soccer. We were still selling the game to the public, and really had to fight as young girl's to even play sports. Soccer was "new" to the American fans, and there was little media coverage for the Americans to know what we were doing. 1999 was a whole new story.  Everyone who knew sports knew about that tournament, and all of a sudden with a gold medal in the 1996 Olympics, we had icons and athletes who became role models. The pressure to win 1999 and let the entire nation know about the US Women's National Team was enormous.  All the stadiums were packed, and there were more fans at training sessions than at previous games. The victory was so stirring because even with the pressure, they played attractive, technical,  attacking soccer. They stayed and signed autographs for hours. They did clinics the entire. year. AND they won a World Championship in a very dramatic style. They won over fans from across the world. 

In your opinion, what have been the biggest changes in the game of women's soccer since you left the professional/national team circuit?

The biggest change to the game of women's soccer has been the expertise and level of coaching at very young ages. Girls grow up with the ability to play sports at a very young age, and they are able to join clubs and get valuable coaching at early ages. It is accepted in the US for young girls and women to be successful athletes, and to do the necessary training to become elite at their sport. There are opportunities at all levels for kids in the US to play sports, and to excel even at young ages.  There are so many high school and college programs, and we now have the best professional league in the world.  

Lauren Cheney is rated among the best players in the World Cup. Where would you play Cheney, and for how long?

Cheney has had a tremendous World Cup, and has consistently played at a very high level. She is the player on the US who has continually run at defenders 1v1, broken down the opposing defenses, and found a way to create and score goals. She also has been opening space for Wambach in the attack. Cheney has to be on the field, and she should remain the entire 90 minutes if physically able. She has been excellent wide, but also was a game-changer in the middle against France. I would consider Cheney in the middle with Boxx,  and start Rapinoe at wide midfield.  Rapinoe has been an enormous spark off the bench, but this is the World Cup Final, and we need a solid 90 minutes, not a last minute spark. 

I'm a college coach and I was so struck by what Abby Wamback said after beating Brazil: "To be honest," Wambach said, "I can't believe what just happened. These last three hours have been some of the most up-and-down moments of my life." It really resonated with me that she didn't say "my career" but instead "my life." Overall, what can your Navy players learn from Abby Wambach?

Abby Wambach is a role model both on and off the field. She has always been the player to work the hardest at every session, remain positive, and always encourage or get on teammates as warranted.  She also embraces life and lives each day to its fullest, without any regrets. One of my favorite moments of the world cup was her celebration after the goal V Brazil in the 122 minute. She honestly did not know how to react. It was pure joy, brought on by playing for a team and country that means so much to her. She is passionate about "life," and all it encompasses. Her soccer career is part of her life.  I think that my Navy players can relate to her because they come to USNA for the same reasons. They come here to be a part of something bigger than themselves, and to give back to a country that means so much to them. 

I mean, seriously, how awesome is Sonia Bompastor?

Sonia played for the Washington Freedom, and in my opinion, is still one of the most gifted players to ever play. She is not only one of the most technical players, but also is elite in all other facets of the game. She was the player I most wanted to watch at the Freedom games, and she was no different the other day playing for France. 

US match vs Brazil has been "watercooler" conversation all week. Match vs Japan promises to be a major event throughout the nation. Compare this to the level of attention focused on the 1991 team.

There is no comparison.  the fan base we had for 1991 consisted of family and friends, and a few assorted soccer nuts.  Today, US Women's Soccer is known throughout America, and not just to soccer fans. I am so proud to see how far we have come as a team, and as a nation. 

What formation does Japan play? Given the style they play (possession with lots of passes), won't the U.S. midfield get overrun?

Also, who should start on the back line between Buehler & Sauebraun? I'm assuming Buehler, right? Still worried about LePeilbet.

I would start LePeilbet and Buehler, and give LePeilbet the credit for her play the last two games. She should have the mentality to play the way she has as of late.  I also really like Sauebraun. She is a great 1v1 defender, and keeps possession. I would consider moving her up to center midfield for Boxx to give us a more defensive mentality, and to keep more possession for the US.  The good news is that we now have options. 

Given the number of major goalie errors in the last two rounds, are you surprised that otherwise elite teams seem to have mediocre at best goaltending ?

We have always had the best goalkeeping in the world, on both the women's and men's sides.  Solo has been outstanding, and has given the team a calming presence with her behind them. My opinion is that we have the best athletes in the US, and goalkeeping requires a huge amount of confidence and athleticism. Solo certainly possesses both. 

Carin, Which teams in the World Cup have impressed you the most for their technical skill, particularly in tight space? I thought the difference between France and the U.S. was dramatic. Can/should the U.S. do better, especially at the youth level? - Rand-al-Thor

The teams currently having great success technically, are also the teams who have been using resources and putting time into technical development. US Soccer is fully committed to putting an enormous amount of resources into the technical development at all levels in the United States girl's and women's side.  We are still #1 in the World, but we do, as a country, recognize we need to improve technically as the game progresses. 

Do you have a prediction for Sunday, who scores and assists, who will make big plays? Will the match be decided on PKs? Thank you.

I will always predict victory for the US Women's National Team.  I think that all who have ever put on a jersey for the US, and played for the US, still feel a part and a connection to this team. This is our team, collectively, and we will always support them.  We have the skill, passion, and heart to win again. 

I assume training camp has begun for your team since the season is only a month away or so. Are your players as enthralled with this tournament as the rest of the country seems to be?

Navy players know how I feel about this team, and I try to tell stories all the time of all the athletes who play or played for the US.  They are a bit ahead of the average fans, as they know the players, and they know the team's success. I want all soccer players in the US to feel connected and want the US players as their role models. After I finished Navy Camp a few weeks ago, two of my upcoming seniors flew to Germany, and have been spotted on ESPN at the games. I have received a few emails, and they are having the time of their lives. This is very important to me. This is America's Team!!!

Tell us about the Japanese team. Beating Germany and Sweden on the way to the final would make me think of them as favorites. Given how we were outplayed by France much of the last game, do we really rate as favorites in the final?

It is a World Cup Final, and the better team, on THAT day, will  win the game.  Japan has been fantastic. Japan has been fairly flawless. Japan has put an enormous amount of time and resources into player technical development.  The US team wants to play the best teams. They want the best game. We are usually the favorite because of a few decades of success that Japan has not experienced, but nothing should be taken away from Japan at this time. They have been playing tremendous soccer and have every right to be in the World Cup Final. 

To follow up on the Navy question, are any of the former Navy team members still playing soccer? Where are they now?

I have quite a few alumni currently in Brazil for the World Military Games. These happen every 4 years. I also get many emails from former players who have started teams and leagues in places all over the world. Sports are universal, and they have the ability to bring people of different cultures and backgrounds together with a common goal.  I am proud of all they do, on a daily basis.  

I have to run now, but sure do appreciate you having me today! I am very passionate about the US Team, and also very grateful for the outpouring of support. 


GO USA!!!!

In This Chat
Carin Gabarra
Carin Gabarra led the U.S. women's soccer team to the 1991 Women's World Cup championship, winning the Golden Ball award as the tournament's outstanding player. She also played on the 1996 U.S. national team, which won the gold medal at the Atlanta Olympics. In all, she made 117 international appearances for the U.S. between 1987 and 1996, scoring 53 goals. She was named to the National Soccer Hall of Fame in 2000.

Gabarra currently coaches the women's soccer team at the U.S. Naval Academy, where her teams have compiled a 224-106-30 record over 18 seasons. She took over the team -- then club-level squad -- in 1993 and has guided it to at least a share of the Patriot league title six times and three NCAA tournament berths.

She and her husband, Jim Gabarra -- coach of Sky Blue FC in the WPS and former coach of the Washington Freedom in the WUSA and WPS -- live in Arnold, Md., with their son Tyler (14), and daughters, Abigail (12) and Talia (10).
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