By Griffin O’Hara
SOFIA, Bulgaria—The U.S. Women’s Soccer Team kicked off the Sofia Deaflympics with gold-medal expectations, and the women played like it in their first game against Greece, which it won 11-0.
The team got off to a rocky start, though, nearly forfeiting when players didn’t get their identification badges in time. U.S. Team operations specialist Brianne Burger did some quick leg work and saved the day, handing the badges to an irate official.
The game then started, but both teams were tense because they were uncertain what to expect from each other – the entire Greek team is new to the Deaflympics and in its first match of the Games faced a tough American squad that returns five players from its gold-medal 2009 team and that won Worlds last year.
“This was a tough first game,” head coach Yon Strubel said. “The team wanted to score more because of adrenaline, but they didn’t want to demoralize (Greece).”
Compounding matters for Greece, it quickly lost one of its starters to an injury.
The Americans gained momentum and used its comparatively deep international experience to shoot to an eight-point lead in the first half. As the half proceeded, though, both teams began to flag in the heat so badly that spectators took pity on the players and threw them bottled water.
In the second half, the U.S. subbed in several players, yet managed to remain on the offensive against a frustrated and injury-ridden Greece, which lost two more players to injuries.
Felicia Schroder led the Americans in scoring with three goals as they maintained a dominant offense throughout the game. However, their defense was largely untested and goalie Meghan Maiwald had little to do as the U.S. took advantage of a listless Greek offense to keep the ball far away from its own goal.
Barbara Previ and Jules Nelson each scored two goals and Stacy Messner, Kate Ward, Liza Offreda, and Heather Kennedy chipped in one apiece.
The match was a “good warm-up for us,” Offreda said. “But we can’t expect the next game to be like this.”
The U.S. next faces Poland at 9:30 a.m. Sunday.
Struble expects Poland to be more physical, with a couple highly talented players to watch.
For more photos of the game, visit our Facebook page to view the album, Women’s Football: U.S. vs. Greece.