Former Rutgers women's soccer coach Glenn Crooks is a student of the women's game and has been a supporter and promoter since, well, since before the Women's National Team won its first World Cup in 1991. And that was followed by the 1999 World Cup - you remember, the one with Brandy Chastain hitting the winning goal and sliding on the grass of the Rose Bowl. But that was the last World Cup won by the women, and Crooks knows how significant it is to win now. ""You couldn't put enough verys for the fact that they are very, very aware they haven't won a World Cup in 16 years."
The women took a step towards correcting that with a 3-1 win over Australia yesterday in Winnipeg. Following a 1-1 first half, with Megan Rapinoe scoring the first goal of the match, the women scored twice in the second half. Christen Press scored the go ahead goal in the 61st minute and Rapinoe adding her second goal in the 78th to close out the scoring.
Of course, for us, this is all about Rutgers. And that means the United States' Carli Lloyd and Canada's Jonelle Filigno.
Lloyd has become one of the stars of this squad, a cover girl if you will, as she and three teammates have been featured on five different covers of last week's Sports Illustrated.
There is no shortage of stories about players in the run up to the tournament, including a "morality" tale of Lloyd's self doubts and her redoubling of her efforts to be a better, stronger, and tougher player. And toughness is what you get when you play a Jersey girl.
Meanwhile, up in the north country, Jonelle Filigno and Canada opened play with a 1-0 victory over China on Saturday. The Canadians next play in Edmonton on Thursday, June 11 at 7 pm against New Zealand in Group A.
From a broader standpoint, New Jersey is pretty well represented in Canada. I'm personally excited about East Brunswick's Heather O'Reilly (North Carolina), a veteran of World Cup and Olympic competition. And she's a high school classmate of my youngest daughter. Yes, I shook Heather's hand when I met her while picking up my daughter from taking the SATs.
Point Pleasant's Christie Rampone (Monmouth) and Montclair's Tobin Heath (also UNC) round out the Jersey contingent on the USWNT.
And we'll wrap up our Rutgers at the World Cup opener with one more Rutgers connection. New Fox Sports analyst Alexi Lalas is seen in "studio" segments. Lalas, the three time All American, led the Knights to the NCAA Final Four in 1989 and the National Championship game against UCLA in 1990.