Today marks the opening rounds of the women’s soccer tournament of the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio, and five players on the Washington Spirit, women’s professional soccer team will play pivotal roles in their teams’ run for an Olympic Gold Medal.
The five Washington Spirit players participating in the Rio Olympics are; forward Crystal Dunn and defender Ali Krieger, who will represent the U.S. Women’s National Team , while midfielder Diana Matheson, defender Shelina Zadorsky and goalkeeper Stephanie Labbé will play for the Canadian Women’s National Team.
Both teams will make their 2016 Rio Olympic debut a few days prior to Friday’s Opening Ceremonies. The Canadian National Team will begin play today at 2:00 pm as they take on Australia in the Group Stage of the tournament. While the U.S. Women’s National Team will play tonight, (August 3) at 6:00 pm, in a match against New Zealand. Both games will be televised on NBCSN.
Spirit forward Crystal Dunn will not only be making her Olympic debut, but will take part in a major international tournament for the first time in her career. She was a crucial part of qualifying for Rio, winning the Confederation of North and Central American and Caribbean Associations of Football (CONCACAF) Women’s Olympic Qualifying Tournament Golden Boot with six goals. Dunn has a total of 13 goals in 34 appearances for the United States Women’s National Team. The forward had an impressive 2015 campaign in the National Women’s Soccer League, winning the Most Valuable Player and Golden Boot awards after leading the league with 15 goals. She currently sits in second place in the NWSL with four assists in 2016.
“I am more than excited about going to Rio,” said Dunn. “Making this roster means so many things to me. I have worked very hard to be exactly where I am today. I feel like everything I’ve gone through has made me better. I am excited to represent my country in Rio.”
Krieger will also be making her Olympic debut, but the defender from Dumfries, Va, is a USWNT veteran. She was a member of the 2015 Women’s World Cup winning team in Canada and was a runner-up at the 2011 Women’s World Cup in Germany. Krieger played along the back line for the vast majority of the 2015 WWC, a unit that recorded five shutouts in seven games. She has 90 caps for the USWNT. An integral part of the Washington defense, Krieger has played every minute that she was available for the Spirit this season and is the captain of the side.
“I’m so honored to be part of Team USA and represent my country in Rio,” said Krieger. “I’ve been waiting for this moment for my entire life. I want to thank my Washington Spirit teammates, staff, and fans for their support. I will carry a piece of each of you with me.”
As for the Canadian’s, Matheson is the most experienced Olympian on the Spirit, with Rio marking her third appearance in an Olympic tournament. She scored one of the biggest goals of her career in London in 2012, netting the winning goal in stoppage time to give Canada a 1-0 victory over France in the bronze medal game. It was the first medal of any kind for Canada in the women’s soccer competition. She started all four matches for Canada in Beijing in 2008 when the Canadians made the quarterfinals. In addition to her Olympic experience, Matheson has played in four Women’s World Cups, including a third place finish in 2003. The central midfielder has collected 17 goals in 183 caps for Canada. She has played with the Spirit for all four seasons of the NWSL, scoring 23 goals in 61 appearances.
“It’s always an honor to be named to any tournament team,” Matheson said. “The Olympics are always special, and I’m excited for my third one. I’m looking forward to seeing what this Games is like. Every tournament we’ve been to is so different, so I’m looking forward to seeing the vibe and then getting down to business.”
The Spirit’s starting goalkeeper, Stephanie Labbé is appearing in her first Olympics, but has appeared in 30 matches for Canada, starting 24 of them, while notching 14 clean sheets. She appeared twice in the Olympic qualifying campaign, including a 10-0 shutout of Guatemala. Labbé has started eight games for the Spirit this season, making 24 saves for a goals against average of 0.88. Her five clean sheets are tied for the most in the NWSL.
“It’s a big honor to be chosen to represent your country, and I’m excited for my first Olympics,” said Canada’s likely starting goalkeeper. “The Olympics are special because it’s not just soccer. There are so many other sports and high-profile athletes, so just being in that environment and seeing all the inspiration around me will be amazing.”
Zadorsky is also making her Olympic debut for Canada. A relatively new member of the Canadian national side, the defender has made 15 appearances with one goal. Her lone international tally came in a 2-1 win over Brazil in the Algarve Cup. She featured heavily in Olympic qualifying for Canada, playing in all five games on a back line that conceded just three goals. Zadorsky has also played every minute that she was available for the Spirit during the 2016 NWSL season.
“It’s very exciting to be named to my first Olympics,” Zadorsky said. “It’s been a surreal year being with the national team and now to prepare for Rio, which is right around the corner. I’m looking forward to playing with this team and this family we have created.”
In the five iterations of women’s soccer at the Olympics, the United States has won four gold medals and one silver. The U.S. team will play in Group G with Colombia, France and New Zealand. Canada has now qualified for their third consecutive Olympics and will play in Group F with Australia, Germany and Zimbabwe.
Top: The Washington Spirit’s Crystal Dunn, one of five Olympians on the Spirit, looks to make a big splash in the Rio Summer Olympics, the USWNT begins play in the Group Stage tonight, August 3 at 6:00 pm.
Next: Diana Matheson is an Olympic veteran, she is making her third Olympic appearance with the Canadian Women’s National Team.
Next: The Spirit’s starting goalkeeper, Stephanie Labbé is expected to be the Canadian starting goalkeeper for the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Next: Ali Kreiger is hoping to win back-to-back Women’s World Cup and Olympic Gold Medals as she makes her Olympic debut.
Photos by Germantown Pulse.