Rostedt out for revenge
Striker Jessica Rostedt has every right to be satisfied with her contribution to the USA cause so far.
Against Argentina, in her first start of the competition, she popped up with the Americans' opening goal en route to a 4-1 win .
Not content with that, she came off the bench in the final match against France and capped a battling, match-winning performance with the goal that sealed the points for Tim Schulz's side.
"I had bags of energy and I think that was just what the side needed at that time," explained Rostedt, who also had warm words for fellow substitute Amanda Poach. "Amanda also came on and changed things around in midfield. It was good to get some fresh legs on."
The on-song striker was also more than happy to deflect attention away from her individual exploits and give the team credit for the win: "I felt really good out there, but the team picked up its game a lot. I think we're more than ready for the knockout rounds."
That victory over the French also clinched top place in Group D for the American girls, setting up an enticing quarter-final meeting with defending champions Germany. "It will be a great game," said Rostedt, "and I'm so excited about the prospect of playing. Everyone's really looking forward to facing them.
"We're getting better with every game and I think we'll step up another gear on Sunday," she adds, confident in her team's abilities. "That said, we still need to work on a few areas like putting our passes together better and converting our chances."
For the US, there is more than just a place in the last four at stake. The 3-1 semi-final defeat they suffered at the hands of the Germans at Thailand 2004 still rankles, and tomorrow's encounter represents the perfect opportunity to gain revenge. "It's a great chance to get that monkey off our back," Rostedt admitted. "I really hope we win."
Schulz keen on Russian education
One of six veterans of the Americans' Thailand campaign, Rostedt bagged a brace in her debut against Russia in the group phase in Southeast Asia and followed that up with the only goal of the game against Spain .
The University of Virginia forward enjoyed little luck in the quarter-final with Australia, however, and only came on for the closing minutes of that exciting reverse to Germany in the semis.
Nevertheless, the class of 2006 appears to be made of sterner stuff and the quality of the team at Schulz's disposal is undeniable, something the 20-year-old striker is quick to point out: "The squad is very well-balanced and the coach has a lot of permutations he can use." The fact that Schulz has successfully used each of his three keepers in the group phase underlines American strength in depth.
USA squads are also known for their camaraderie and excellent team-spirit, and this one is no exception.
Quite apart from getting his players in top physical shape for each game, Schulz is also keen to emphasise that their stay in Russia is a chance for them to grow as people. When they are not training, the girls are actively encouraged to sample the customs and culture of the host nation.
It has not all been fun and games, though. As well as touring the capital and enjoying an evening at the ballet, the USA squad also witnessed the harsh reality of life at first hand when they spent a few hours visiting a Moscow orphanage, handing out gifts and playing football with the children.
The Americans have now decamped to St Petersburg, where they will be hoping to continue on their steep learning curve against the free-scoring Germans. Having made steady rather than spectacular progress through the group phase, the time has come for Rostedt and Co to hit the heights and underline their pre-tournament status as one of the title favourites.