Here are two stories from BigAppleSoccer.com Sept. 10 and 11, 2007, about the early days of the U.S. women’s national team
Sept. 10 story:
By Michael Lewis
In May 1985, the U.S. Soccer Federation announced it was forming a U.S. women’s national team.
According to the June 6, 1985 edition of Soccer America, “women’s soccer in the United States will take a giant leap forward this summer” with the formation of the team.
“This is something that all of us in the United States Soccer Federation have been working toward for a long time,” USSF vice president Chuck Blazer told the national publication. “We’re extremely pleased and excited to see this program come to fruition.”
The story certainly wasn’t hidden in that issue — it was displayed at the top of page 4. Opposite on page 3 there was a story about the U.S. getting eliminated from World Cup qualifying for Mexico ’86.
The story said that a coach would be announced within 10 days and that the National Team would be chosen from player representing the four regions at the National Sports Festival in Baton Rouge, La. July 28-Aug. 4.
Mike Ryan, a 50-year-old native of Ireland, was appointed the first U.S. women’s national coach, according to the June 27, 1985 issue of Soccer America (that article was on the bottom of page 6).
“I’m a little vague about all the details,” Ryan was quoted by Soccer America. “But we’ll start by selecting a team in (the NSF) and go on from there.
“Women’s soccer is just emerging. The quality of play is improving all the team and the skill level among the younger players is just incredible.”
Ryan emigrated to the U.S. in 1957, started the women’s soccer program at the University of Washington in 1975. He also coached the men’s team at the school. An A licensed coach, Ryan also guided F.C. Lowenbrau to Women’s Open Cup championships in 1980, 1981 and 1982, Soccer America reported.
A round-robin tournament, which was supposed to be hosted by FC Seattle, was set for the U.S. and National Teams from England and Germany from Aug. 7-13. But that was later cancelled, the publication said.
Ryan said he was “heartbroken” that the tournament was cancelled.
“But, there’s plenty of competition available,” he told Soccer America. “It is just a matter of making the proper arrangements.”
Ryan also told the then weekly publication that finding sponsorship for the women’s national side wouldn’t be a problem.
“A lot of big corporations are interested in women’s sports and fitness,” he was quoted by Soccer America. “I think the support will be out there when we need it.”
Prophetic words, indeed.
Sept. 11 story:
By Michael Lewis
Only weeks after the U.S. Soccer Federation announced it was going to start a Women’s National Team in 1985, a team was formed and played at what was called the Women’s Mundialito tournament in Italy in August.
The results were not particularly sterling, but then again, the team was just taking its first steps.
The U.S. went 0-3-1 against the likes of Italy, Denmark (twice) and Italy in Jesolo and Caorie, Italy.
Still, coach Mike Ryan told the Sept. 5, 1985 edition of Soccer America that he was “encouraged and excited” by the team’s performance.
“The results are immaterial,” Ryan was quoted by Soccer America. “The fact is we took on three of the strongest sides in Europe and could easily have won three of our four matches.
For the record, the Americans’ very first international came against Italy Aug. 18, 1985, a 1-0 loss. A 2-2 draw with Denmark followed three days later before dropping a 3-1 decision to England on Aug. 23 and a 1-0 result to Denmark on Aug. 24. In that first encounter with Denmark, the U.S. enjoyed a 2-1 lead, but the Danes equalized in the 90th minute.
“Playing against these teams was both a challenge and a learning experience,” Ryan told Soccer America. “Remember, it was the first time a U.S. women’s national team ever played against international competition and I was extremely pleased with the way the players responded.”
Ryan added: “The only team that beat us badly was England [which edged Italy, 3-2, for the championship] and I believe England is the best team in Europe right now.
But Ryan was quite optimistic about the U.S.’s future.
“Given the proper training, cooperation and support, I’m convinced that the United States can play competitively in women’s soccer with any country in the world,” he told Soccer America.
Ryan wasn’t finished, not quite yet.
“We know what we’re up against and we’ll know how to prepare for it.
“I just hope this wasn’t a one-shot type of thing.”
As it turns out, nearly a generation later — 22 years, to be exact — the U.S. dominates the women’s world soccer. Anything but a championship is considered a failure.
These names are familiar
Some of the women who performed for the U.S. back then might be familiar to local soccer fans.
There was goalkeeper Kim Wyant, who went on to backstop the Long Island Lady Riders to W-League titles in 1995 and 1997 and then became their general manager. She started the first game.
Emily Pickering, who played for the Massapequa Soccer Club, was a midfielder on that team and scored in that draw with the Danes.
So did Michelle Akers, who added a second goal in the 3-1 defeat inflicted by England.
As it turned out, the U.S. team would have to wait almost a year until its next international — a home game against Canada in Blaine, Minn. July 7, 1986. The U.S. prevailed, 2-0.
Most importantly, it was a start.