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Originally published July 24, 2012 at 8:02 PM | Page modified July 25, 2012 at 11:40 AM

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London Olympics: Hope Solo leads USA's Seattle women's soccer quartet

Four U.S. women's Olympians — Hope Solo, Megan Rapinoe, Alex Morgan and Sydney Leroux — played this season for the Sounders Women in the W-League.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Hope Solo file

Event: Women's soccer, U.S. goalkeeper

Washington tie: Grew up in Richland, attended UW

Key dates: Competition starts July 25, finals Aug. 9

Why we care: Trying to repeat as Olympic gold medalists after losing to Japan in World Cup final

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The U.S. women's soccer team made its memorable run to the Women's World Cup final a year ago in Germany. It included a thrilling quarterfinal victory over Brazil on penalty kicks, before losing to Japan in the final.

The U.S. women are back in the international spotlight at the London Olympics, this time with a stronger Seattle flavor and in a summer event they've dominated.

Four U.S. Olympians — Hope Solo, Megan Rapinoe, Alex Morgan and Sydney Leroux — play this season for the Sounders Women in the W-League. Of the four, only Solo was a part of the 2008 U.S. Olympic squad. She collected a shutout in the 1-0 win over Brazil in the gold-medal game.

Team USA will open group play against France on Wednesday at Hampden Park in Glasgow, Scotland. Its final game in Group G will be Tuesday at historic Old Trafford in Manchester, England.

Solo, the Washington alum, entered the 2008 Olympics playing in memory of her father, who passed away. During the World Cup, she attempted to prove doubters wrong following shoulder surgery by showing she could still play at a high level.

Now, at 30, Solo said she has never felt better since her shoulder surgery. She's not one to predict whether this will be her last Olympics, or even international competition, but Solo is reflecting on the accumulation of her life's work as she prepares for London.

"I play for more than the game alone," Solo said. "It's the investment my family has put into it. It's the hardships I've been through. It's that there's no guarantee after this. I play with a lot of emotion when I'm out on the field."

Morgan, Rapinoe and Leroux account for three of the six newcomers on the roster who will make their Olympic debut in London. Morgan's rise to fame will likely continue after the closing ceremony. With what she's accomplished in an expanded role on the team, Team USA now has two lethal scoring threats with Morgan and Abby Wambach.

Morgan, 23, has 27 goals in 42 appearances. She became the first U.S. player to score and record an assist in the World Cup final. She leads the national team with 17 goals this year. She's also second in assists with eight.

"You need to have that pressure upon yourself and have others hold you accountable that you're going to score," Morgan said. "That's your job as a forward. That's a front we need to put on whether we're confident or not at the time. You need to display that to your team and your opponents."

Rapinoe, 27, missed out on the 2008 Olympics recovering from two ACL injuries in two years, but the self-proclaimed "Olympic nut" looks forward to representing her country once again. It's what you would expect from someone who famously celebrated a goal against Columbia during the World Cup by singing "Born In The USA" into an on-field microphone.

"The World Cup was just us — all eyes on us — but to be a part of an entire country's team is pretty cool," Rapinoe said.

Rapinoe thought the team felt rejuvenated during its trip to Sweden in June. The first five months of the year featured a rough schedule of two-a-day training and constant traveling all over the world, which bogged down their play at times.

The squad's practice schedule eased up during the trip that featured two exhibitions against Sweden and Japan. USA routed Sweden 3-1 and Japan 4-1.

"It's nice to actually go into a game and feel fresh, be sharp and buzz around," Rapinoe said. "We always complain and moan in the moment, but it's like I guess your plan is working."

Leroux, 22, is the only player on the team that was not on the World Cup roster. The forward from UCLA has the fewest international appearances on the team with 14, but has scored seven goals in 13 games this year.

"Whether that's coming on with 10 minutes left and going crazy or what other role comes to me, I'm ready for whatever," Leroux said.

Solo said last month the team was an eight on a 10 scale, but things are coming together as the women are peaking at the right time heading into their match against France.

"Once we touch base in London, we'll automatically be at a 10 because you'll feel the shift in mentality and shift in focus," Solo said before leaving Seattle. "But right now physically we're right where we need to be."

Master Tesfatsion: 206-464-2275 or mtesfatsion@seattletimes.com

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