Young soccer players inspired by Carli Lloyd, U.S. team’s World Cup run

Local star Carli Lloyd and the U.S. women’s national soccer team find themselves just one win away from becoming the third American team to hoist the World Cup trophy.

In Sunday night’s rematch of the 2011 championship game, they’ll face the defending champions from Japan. With a win, they’ll join the 1991 and 1999 American women’s teams as World Cup champs.

Both teams are coming off dramatic victories in the semifinals; Japan advanced over England courtesy of a last-minute own goal while the U.S. defeated the favorites from Germany 2-0 thanks to a goal and assist from the 32-year-old Lloyd, the Delran, New Jersey, native who has developed into the team’s leader.

While the tournament doesn’t grab the same amount of widespread attention as, say the Super Bowl — or even the men’s World Cup — local soccer fans young and old will tune in for the match, which airs on Fox29 at 6:30 p.m.

Among those fans are several instructors at the Starfinder Foundation‘s youth-soccer summer camp. Speaking with NewsWorks during a break in action Thursday morning at Team Vick Stadium in Hunting Park, they said the U.S. team’s run could help generate more interest in the sport they love.

Halimah O’Daniel, 17, is an instructor at the camp who attends, and plays for, Philadelphia High School for Girls.

She said the USWNT’s successes have helped fellow instructors tailor lessons for the youths who had not yet been exposed to soccer before the camp.

“We’ll ask them questions about the Women’s World Cup and, every day, they watch the games and they come back more excited to play,” said O’Daniel as dozens of young girls and boys participated in drills nearby.  “It pushes them to keep striving and wanting to play soccer.”

O’Daniel and fellow counselors Cydney Pennick (17, Mastery High Pickett Campus), Makihra Brown (16, Prep Charter) and Kemeal Myrie (18, Girls High) agreed that soccer doesn’t capture the attention of many peers.

Some of their classmates won’t participate because they consider it a boys’ sport or a boring endeavor.

“Many girls don’t try out, and don’t want to play, because they think it’s too physical,” Brown said. “It’s more cheerleading and stuff.”

O’Daniel said that aversion starts to wane when classmates are introduced to the sport. Increased exposure, they said, has helped get more youths interested.

From the standpoint of instructors, the footie quartet said Lloyd’s performance — stepping up into a leadership role somewhat ceded by Abby Wambach — has helped them teach campers about teamwork and on-field communication.

They’ve been able to add some elements to their drills from World Cup match highlights, too.

In an overarching sense, they rued the lack of attention that women’s sports receive in comparison to male sports (both from public and broadcast perspectives) and hoped that World Cup runs like the one that culminates this weekend will help change that.

“You really don’t hear about women’s sports in general, so I think it should be more publicized,” said Brown. “This is a big thing for girls who do play soccer, and you want to get more people involved in playing the sport, and loving what you love to play.”

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