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Women's Little Trip to Italy Was Start of Something Big

Soccer: First U.S. national team was a patchwork bunch in 1985.

July 10, 1999|GRAHAME L. JONES | TIMES STAFF WRITER

"They had a big ceremony in the city center, with a band and so on," Ryan said. "We were absolutely exhausted. We got to bed about 11 o'clock and we'd been up for well over 30 hours. We were in no shape to play the next night, which we did."

That first game, in Jesolo, resulted in a 1-0 loss to Italy. Ryan said the Americans were in "an absolute panic" in the first half, but settled into the game.

"The Italian girls just knocked the hell out of them in the first half," Ryan said. "They were sitting on the ground saying, 'Did you get the number of that bus?'

"I was screaming a lot, and some of the kids got a little upset. They scored during the confusion. In the second half, we got a penalty, but we [Sharon McMurty] missed it or we would have got a tie."

The second match ended in a 2-2 tie with Denmark and, much as he admires Akers, Ryan had to explode another myth. Akers, he said, did not score the first U.S. goal.

"She didn't really," he said. "It was a girl named Emily Pickering. She got the first goal on a free kick and just put it right in the corner. The Danes were flabbergasted."

In the final game, England scored a 3-2 victory.

But the results were not as important as the fact that the U.S. women had taken their first tentative step into the international arena they soon would dominate.

Ryan, a Dublin-born Irishman, talks fondly of side trips to Venice, of sing-alongs around a piano on the hotel veranda, and of Italian waiters.

"All the waiters were all in love with the [American] girls," he said. "When we'd go to the games at night, they would be on one side of the field and they would chant 'USA, USA. Hey, Hey, USA.'

"After the last game that we played, the players all signed T-shirts and threw them over the fence to the waiters."

*

Ah, the stories they tell.

If you visit Ryan in his Seattle home now, he can show you the ball signed by the original team. He can show you the detailed notebook he kept. He can point to a photograph of his team on the wall.

What he can't show you is a word of thanks or recognition from the USSF. After that first tour, he was dropped as national coach and North Carolina's Anson Dorrance took over.

The rest, as they say, is history. But, to be fair and accurate, history has to go back to the very beginning.

Ryan won't be in the Rose Bowl today. He will be watching on TV from his home. And that, he said, is fine.

"I'd love to be down there," he said, "but you just feel like you're invading. This is their time."

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

The Originals

The U.S. women's national team was founded in 1985 and played its first game in Jesolo, Italy, on Aug. 18 that year. Here is the original team:

Michelle Akers *

Denise Bender

Denise Boyer-Murdoch

Tara Buckley

Laurie Bylin

Pam Baughman

Stacey Enos

Linda Gancitano

Cindy Gordon

Tuca Healey

Lori Henry *

Ann Orrison

Emily Pickering

Sharon McMurty

Kathy Ridgewell

Ruth Harker

Kim Wyant

* 1991 world champion

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