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U.S. defender Rampone inspires World Cup teammates

Second in a series of previews for the Women's World Cup. Nobody on the U.S. Women's World Cup team symbolizes the soccer mom better than Christie Rampone. And there isn't a player who has commanded more respect than the graduate of Point Pleasant Boro High School and Monmouth University.

Christie Rampone is the lone member of this year's U.S. team who was on the 1999 squad. (Charles Rex Arbogast/AP file photo)
Christie Rampone is the lone member of this year's U.S. team who was on the 1999 squad. (Charles Rex Arbogast/AP file photo)Read more

Second in a series of previews for the Women's World Cup.

 Nobody on the U.S. Women's World Cup team symbolizes the soccer mom better than Christie Rampone. And there isn't a player who has commanded more respect than the graduate of Point Pleasant Boro High School and Monmouth University.

Rampone turns 36 on Friday, and in soccer years that's getting up there. But this old-timer has more than kept up with her young teammates.

When the U.S. team begins World Cup play on Tuesday against North Korea in Germany, Rampone will be appearing in her fourth such tournament.

She is the lone member of the team who was on the squad the last time the United States was victorious, in 1999. She has 235 career caps. Her next closest teammate in that regard is Abby Wambach, with 157 caps.

Watching Rampone play one can easily see a coach on the field. From her central defender position she is constantly directing traffic from the back line.

What makes Rampone stand out is that she has had to interrupt her career twice for the birth of her two daughters. Her first daughter, Rylie, was born Sept. 29, 2005, and Rampone returned to play at the Four Nations Tournament in China in 112 days.

Her second daughter, Reece, was born March 6, 2010. Rampone returned to action after that birth on July 17, coming off the bench against Sweden in a game in East Hartford, Conn.

She has made bouncing back from both births appear seamless, although Rampone disputes that suggestion.

"The first time around I thought it was pretty easy coming back," Rampone said. "The second time around it was definitely tough because the weight didn't come off as easily, and I took a long time to get my fitness back. But I was pushing because I knew the World Cup was near."

The fitness eventually came back. In the team's final tuneup, a 1-0 win over Mexico in an international friendly on June 5 at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, N.J., Rampone was tireless, beating much faster players to the ball, using an impeccable sense of positing and providing her usual field generalship.

"She is the best captain I ever had," U.S. coach Pia Sundhage said. "She leads by example."

Defender Heather Mitts calls Rampone her hero.

"I think of all the injuries I have to recover from, and then I think of Christie and what she has done with having kids, and I could never do what she has done," Mitts said.

It seems so long ago, but Rampone, whose maiden name is Pearce, began playing the game scoring goals instead of preventing them. In 80 career games at Monmouth, she scored 79 goals.

Since then, she has turned her energies toward playing defense, something she also does for magicJack, the Florida-based Women's Professional Soccer team.

The 5-foot-6 Rampone, who was a basketball and soccer player at Monmouth, said that having her two daughters has provided great balance in her life.

"No matter how I play or the team plays, I come home to two smiling daughters who just want to see their mom," said Rampone, who missed the 2002 season with the U.S. national team while recovering from anterior cruiciate ligament knee surgery. "For me, this is a great balance because I get to play the sport at the highest level and be a mom."