Played in five World Cups
Lilly has shifted to sideline
Kristine Lilly had to turn down a chance to attend today’s United States-Japan Women’s World Cup final in Frankfurt.
“I can’t travel now,’’ Lilly said. “For one thing, I’m eight months pregnant.’’
Lilly helped define the first five World Cups, leading the United States to two titles and three third-place finishes. And the event helped define Lilly - she performed for the US national team from age 16 to 39.
But Lilly has experienced most of this tournament as a television viewer. She joined a White House delegation to attend the US-Colombia match in Sinsheim July 2 and has had similar offers to return.
“That game was hard to watch because of the atmosphere,’’ Lilly said. “Those are the kind of games you love to play. Just the excitement surrounding the game makes you want to go out there. But it has been fun to watch and it’s been great for soccer. I’m not having a hard time at all.’’
Lilly, who turns 40 Friday, has been conducting soccer camps in Connecticut.
“No regrets,’’ Lilly said. “I knew when I retired it was the right decision. I’m in a good place.
“But I’m more nervous watching them play and not having control. When you’re playing you can control things.’’
Lilly played in all 30 of the Americans’ Cup games before this year. She never received one of the event’s official awards but was the only US player named to the all-tournament team in 2007.
She played in the US qualifying campaign last year, but left the team’s fate to other players, such as her former Boston Breakers teammates. Five Breakers (Rachel Buehler, Lauren Cheney, Stephanie Cox, Amy LePeilbet, Kelley O’Hara) are with the US team and another, Aya Sameshima, is playing for Japan.
“They are doing great,’’ Lilly said. “Cheney scored a great goal. Amy had a couple rough games but has been solid since. Buehler was unlucky to be red-carded. Stephanie Cox has gotten some minutes.’’
Lilly disagreed with the ejection of Buehler during the US-Brazil quarterfinal match and said the refereeing raised questions about the quality of officiating.
“When she got the red card, I said this is going to be a tough game,’’ Lilly recalled. “But as I was watching how they were playing, they were attacking and they had momentum. And I said, you know what, they are going to score a goal. By the end you were praying for one, and it happened.
“Before that game I thought the refs were not doing too bad a job, minus the game with Equatorial Guinea, which I didn’t see. Then came the Brazil game. I’m all for ‘women this’ and ‘women that’, but if they can’t get the right quality person, throw a man out there [as referee]. Overall, the refereeing has to be better. It’s unfortunate when there are mistakes, but I’ve never reffed and I never want to.’’
Lilly has contributed to the media coverage during the World Cup and has sent text messages to players such as Lori Lindsey, Christie Rampone, Megan Rapinoe, and Heather O’Reilly.
“I just let them know how much coverage they are getting and how much people are watching them,’’ Lilly said. “But I’m just letting them be, I don’t want to spoil their routines. This team has come together since qualifying, they created their own team chemistry and will together. They have 21 players and they have all made an impact.
“They have a great opportunity right now to win the World Cup. But they still have to get it done.
“I’ve been wrong so far - I thought Germany and Sweden [which defeated France, 2-1, in the consolation game yesterday] would beat Japan. If the US possesses the ball and plays a physical game, that can put Japan on their heels and favor the US. But if Japan possesses the ball they can hurt the US.’’
Frank Dell’Apa can be reached at email@example.com.