U.S. women say they’ll be up for Ford Field match

Terry Foster
The Detroit News

Detroit — There is no such thing as a friendly in soccer.

Not if you’re the defending World Cup champions who have an eye toward Olympic qualifying in February for next year’s Rio Games.

And not if you’re one of those playing for Kansas City or Seattle in the National Women’s League championship.

And not for Sydney Leroux, who is getting married in two weeks.

That’s why Thursday night’s match between the Americans and Haiti — the original opponent was Australia, which had to back out because of a labor dispute — is important. It doesn’t matter if Haiti’s Olympic goals aren’t as realistic as Australia’s — Haiti never has been to the Olympics, Australia has been to the Games twice.

“We like to play the best,” American centerback Becky Sauerbrunn said. “But we are not disappointed in playing Haiti. ... Haiti is an up-and-coming nation and they will be a good test for us.

“When you play for the United States you are not allowed to take any days off. We have a huge target on our back. We are taking Haiti seriously.”

The women’s team has done a good job of remaining grounded despite its success.

Winning the World Cup set off a national celebration, which included a ticker-tape parade in New York and mini-celebrations everywhere they go.

On Wednesday, Leroux, Carli Lloyd and Heather O’Reilly were part of a rally at the Renaissance Center Wintergarden, where about 300 fans showed up for question-and-answer and autograph sessions.

That was followed by a public practice at Ford Field.

“When we went to the parade (in New York) ... to see all those people in the streets and in the windows there to see us,” Lloyd said. “It was that moment where I said, ‘Wow, they came to see us! We won the World Cup!’ It was pretty cool. It is something I will cherish forever.”

The United States is 15-1-3 this season, 5-0-1 on American soil, and has not lost since a 2-0 setback in France.

This is the third stop of the 10-city victory tour that continues Sunday in Birmingham. Ala.