Then and now: Comparing the USWNT’s Olympic squads, pt. I

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2008 ushered in a new era for the USWNT complete with a new coach and a Gold Medal. How does this year’s squad stack up?

Goalkeeper – Hope Solo is arguably the most recognizable player on the USWNT squad, if not in the women’s game itself. This time four years ago Solo was better known for her extemporanous outburst over being dropped for the team’s Semi-finals match at the 2007 World Cup. The 2008 Olympics was Solo’s last stop on the road to redemption. Her vital saves in Beijing cemented her place in Pia Sundhage’s new-look squad, and helped the team to its Gold Medal win.

Solo’s fame has since launched into a new stratosphere. The word ‘celebrity’ is not often used in reference to women’s soccer players, but few have appeared on Dancing With the Stars before landing the cover of Vogue and Newsweek.

Solo went into the 2008 Games knowing she had everything to prove. She enters the 2012 Olympics with a load that brings a new kind of pressure: star power.

(MORE: Part II, examining the U.S. midfield and forwards, is here)

Defense – 2008 would mark the final major tournament for a couple key defenders. Veteran and current color commentator Kate Markgraf called time on her career two years after securing her third Olympic Medal. Lori Chalupny would also unofficially bow out of the national team set-up soon after, due to concussions.

The same could happen this summer as right back Heather Mitts has already declared this would be her final act before retirement. Captain (and mother of two) Christie Rampone won’t decide on her future until January.

Defense has been the U.S.’s defining weakness all year. Miscommunication, faulty decision-making and poor clearances have been prevalent in pre-Olympic friendlies (and the World Cup final last summer). Four years ago the American defense coughed up a total of five goals before putting forth a sterling performance in the Gold Medal game. Will 2012 follow the same script?

Friday night festivities await, I know. Part II will be up in a bit.