Former Pilots Rapinoe, Cox, Schmidt savor chance to perform for 'crazy' crowd


As easily could have been predicted, U.S. striker Abby Wambach and goalkeeper Hope Solo received loud applause when they were introduced before Thursday's U.S.-Canada match at Jeld-Wen Field.

But it was former University of Portland stars Megan Rapinoe and Stephanie Cox of the U.S. and Sophie Schmidt of Canada who earned the loudest cheers.

'It's fantastic,' Schmidt said. 'The cheers at the beginning of the game when they announced my name, it was just welcoming. Even though they weren't cheering for my team, this is my second home.'

Cox, who played at UP under her maiden name of Lopez, completely agreed with Schmidt on a night when the Americans triumphed 3-0.

'It was an incredible feeling being back, playing in front of these fans,' Cox said. 'They're unbelievable. I was just glad we were finally able to score. The crowd went crazy, and that was the best feeling.'

Fittingly, all three players walked off the pitch with something to be proud of in the finale of the U.S. post-World Cup exhibition tour.

As a defender, Schmidt looked at the clean sheet the Canadians put up in the first half as something her team can build on going into to the 2012 London Olympics qualifiers.

'They were in our end, in our box the whole game, and we were resilient," Schmidt said. "We didn't break in that first half or let them get that first goal. We did our best to try to go at them and give them a game. But they just have such phenomenal players, that sometimes they have a little bit of magic.'

Cox has struggled to earn playing time since her days as a regular in the 2007 World Cup. On Thursday night, she played the entire match and helped the U.S. keep Canada from putting a ball in the back of the net.

'It always feels good to keep a clean sheet,' she said. 'Especially as we're going forward and exposing ourselves a little bit (while trying to score). But we were able to stifle their attack and get some goals and get the win.

'The key was just to stay focused. They were playing a lot of balls in behind, counter attacking, so (we were) just recovering because we had such an attacking shape and were making it difficult for them.'

Rapinoe played an outstanding match in the midfield. She was very unfortunate not to come away with two goals, as she banged the ball off of the crossbar in the 34th minute and 39th minutes.

Rapinoe could not contain her frustration after the second ball bounced away. She coverered her face with her hands.

How badly did Rapinoe want to score in front of the Portland crowd?

'Is it selfish to say SO bad?' Rapinoe asked.

It did make her feel better, though, knowing that the U.S. eventually came up with three goals.

'We were creating chances, and it was fun,' she said. 'We got the three in the end. That's all that matters.'

After they were done giving interviews on the pitch after the match, Rapinoe, Cox and Schmidt wrapped their arms around one another's shoulders and posed for a picture.

The large number of people still in the stands cheered and called out their names.

'Look at this,' Rapinoe said. 'I love football. This is why I play. I love interacting with the fans. I love a crazy crowd. To have this kind of support and this kind of energy, it just totally changes the game for me. It makes it that much more special.'