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PREVIEW: USWNT Victory Tour Begins With Pittsburgh Homecoming For Klingenberg

USWNT training session at Heinz Field on Saturday was the first time the team came together on the field since their World Cup triumph.

USWNT training session at Heinz Field on Saturday was the first time the team came together on the field since their World Cup triumph. (Pittsburgh Soccer Report photo)

USA vs Costa Rica (International Friendly) 
Kickoff – 1:30 p.m. (Fox Sports 1)
Heinz Field – Pittsburgh, PA
This is the first match between the two regional rivals in 2015.  It is the first game for both teams since the World Cup — and for the U.S. since clinching their record third Cup victory with a dominating 5-2 win over Japan in Canada on July 5th.
Following its historic run to the championship of the 2015 Women’s World Cup in Canada, the U.S. Women’s National Team embarks on a 10-game Victory Tour across the country that will serve the dual purpose of celebrating the USA’s third Women’s World Cup title with the fans, while also preparing the team for the 2016 CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament that will take place in early February of next year.
Meghan Klingenberg and her USWNT World Cup winning teammates will all be on hand for this Sunday's friendly at Heinz Field.

Meghan Klingenberg and her USWNT World Cup winning teammates will all be on hand for this Sunday’s friendly at Heinz Field.

The match in Pittsburgh will be a homecoming for U.S. defender Meghan Klingenberg, who grew up in Gibsonia, about 17 miles north of Heinz Field. Klingenberg graduated from Pine-Richland High School in 2007 where she was the captain of her high school team and led the Rams to the 2005 Pennsylvania state high school championship. She was an NSCAA All-America selection and a Parade High School All-American before heading to the University of North Carolina, where she won two NCAA titles.
Of course, Klingenberg views this match as an important one — not just because she’s playing at home — but because she feels that she still has a lot to prove as they begin the process of preparing for Olympic qualifying.

“To me, this is an opportunity to make a statement,” Klingenberg said.
“It’s a statement game. They’re one of the best teams in our region and we’re going to have to face them in (Olympic qualifying) and to me, it’s an opportunity to show the world and show CONCACAF we’re not taking this lightly. We want to go after gold in the Olympics and that’s what we’re going to do.”

The U.S. team has lost just one match this year, that being its first game of 2015 against France in Lorient, a 2-0 defeat in early February that the USA flipped one month later when the teams met in the championship game of the 2015 Algarve Cup in Portugal. The USA is 13-1-3 this year, including a record of 3-0-1 on home soil.

On Saturday, of the 23 members from the World Cup run that are on the roster for the next two U.S. matches, 22 took part in the training session before a nice crowd at Heinz Field.  Only Sydney Leroux sat out.   Abby Wambach was listed as “inactive” earlier in the week, while Hope Solo was listed as questionable.
WNT LOOKS TO EXTEND HOME UNBEATEN STREAK: The USA’s current 96-game unbeaten streak at home (84-0-12 since Nov. 6, 2004) is a team record. The next-highest streak is 50 games (48-0-2) from Feb. 10, 1996, through April 22, 1999. The USA tied the record on May 14, 2011 (2-0 win against Japan at Columbus Crew Stadium) and broke the record with the 51st game on May 18, 2011 (another 2-0 win against Japan at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, North Carolina).
For head coach Jill Ellis, the World Cup title came along with a multi-year contract extension from U.S. Soccer, but she feels that things haven’t changed from her perspective.

“I’ve always said I don’t have a rear view mirror,” she said. “I was just talking to (the team) on the bus. It’s like the World Cup is already on the back burner. It’s always about what’s in front of you.
“It hasn’t changed for me personally. There’s still a drive and responsibility to have this team continue to get better and find players and continue to develop. It was nice to win the World Cup and I think that’s given me the opportunity to continue in this role, but there’s the same focus and the same accountability on my part.”

The buzz from the U.S. run in the World Cup, and strong crowds that followed them in Canada has certainly carried over to home soil, as the USA will play in front of more than 40,000 fans at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, setting a record not only for a soccer match in Pittsburgh, but also for the largest crowd ever for a stand-alone domestic friendly for the USWNT. The previous record was set earlier this year when 35,817 turned out to see the USA defeat New Zealand 4-0 at in St. Louis. The all-time record for any friendly match for the U.S. Women is 46,037 for a double-header with the U.S. WNT in Washington, D.C. on May 30, 1998, a 5-0 win vs. New Zealand. The Aug. 19 match in Chattanooga sold out its 20,000 available tickets in a few hours and tickets sold for both of the September matches vs. Australia in Detroit and Birmingham are already over 21,000.
HISTORY AT HEINZ: The WNT’s match in Pittsburgh marks the team’s second visit to Heinz Field, home of the NFL’s Pittsburgh Steelers. The USA defeated Iceland there by a 3-0 score in 2004 following the Olympic gold medal run in Greece.  The USA has played 15 matches in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, but this will be just the second in Pittsburgh.
If you’re headed to the game, here’s some information that you might find helpful:

U.S. Women’s National Team Roster By Position:
GOALKEEPERS (3): 18-Ashlyn Harris (Washington Spirit), 21-Alyssa Naeher (Boston Breakers), 1-Hope Solo (Seattle Reign FC)
DEFENDERS (8): 16-Lori Chalupny (Chicago Red Stars), 6-Whitney Engen (Western NY Flash), 19-Julie Johnston (Chicago Red Stars), 22-Meghan Klingenberg (Houston Dash), 11-Ali Krieger(Washington Spirit), 5-Kelley O’Hara (Sky Blue FC), 3-Christie Rampone (Sky Blue FC), 4-Becky Sauerbrunn (FC Kansas City)
MIDFIELDERS (7): 7-Shannon Boxx (Chicago Red Stars), 14-Morgan Brian (Houston Dash), 17-Tobin Heath (Portland Thorns FC), 12-Lauren Holiday (FC Kansas City), 10-Carli Lloyd (Houston Dash), 9-Heather O’Reilly (FC Kansas City), 15-Megan Rapinoe (Seattle Reign FC)
FORWARDS (5): 2-Sydney Leroux (Western NY Flash), 13-Alex Morgan (Portland Thorns FC), 23-Christen Press (Chicago Red Stars), 8-Amy Rodriguez (FC Kansas City), 20-Abby Wambach(unattached)
Costa Rica (Las Ticas) At A Glance: 
Current FIFA World Ranking: 34
Women’s World Cup Final Appearances:   2015
Record vs U.S.A. 0-10-0
Head Coach:  Amelia Valverde
Key Players:  Dinnia Diaz
Most recent meeting between the two teams came in the title game of the CONCACAF Women’s Championship after both teams had qualified for the 2015 World Cup.   The U.S. prevailed 6-0 as Abby Wambach scored four times.

John Krysinsky has covered soccer and other sports for many years for various publications and media outlets. He is also author of 'Miracle on the Mon' -- a book about the Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC, which chronicles the club, particularly the early years of Highmark Stadium with the narrative leading up to and centered around a remarkable match that helped provide a spark for the franchise. John has covered sports for Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, DK Pittsburgh Sports, Pittsburgh Sports Report, has served as color commentator on Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC broadcasts, and worked with OPTA Stats and broadcast teams for US Open Cup and International Champions Cup matches held in the US. Krysinsky also served as the Head Men’s Soccer Coach at his alma mater, Point Park University, where he led the Pioneers to the first-ever winning seasons and playoff berths (1996-98); head coach of North Catholic boys (2007-08), associate head coach of Shady Side Academy boys (2009-2014).

Riverhounds MF Danny Griffin

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