September 9, 2002

Osborne Keeps Climbing Ladder

Sept. 2, 2002

By Charles F. Gardner
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

First, a national championship, gained in her freshman season at Santa Clara University.

Then, a world championship, earned on Sunday in Edmonton, Alberta, in front of nearly 50,000 fans cheering for Canada and against her U.S. Under-19 women's team.

It indeed has been a whirlwind 12 months for midfielder-defender Leslie Osborne, the former Catholic Memorial star and all-state performer. She appears to be on a fast track toward a full national team berth in the next few years, but for now Osborne is relishing the role she played in the first U-19 Women's World Championship.

Osborne played all 109 minutes in the U.S. team's 1-0, overtime victory over Canada, and again she showed her versatility by moving from the central midfield to the left back position early in the match.

After defender Rachel Buehler suffered a serious knee injury in the 13th minute, U.S. coach Tracy Leone shuffled her lineup, with Osborne going to the back line and Kendall Fletcher taking a defensive midfield role.

"It wasn't one of the best games we played," Osborne said. "Canada played nine people behind the ball and looked to counter, and our forwards had no room to move. It was the worst soccer game ever."

Osborne actually started the winning play, sending a ball from the left flank to substitute Megan Kakadelas, who curved in a ball on the ground to forward Lindsay Tarpley. The first shot attempt by Tarpley was blocked, but the ball squirted back to her and the U.S. captain converted on a second attempt from inside the 6-yard box.

"We've been working for this for two years," Osborne said. "To play in a World Cup at 19 years old is something not a lot of people can say.

"I'm glad I played in the Final Four (last fall). It helped me play in a big game with a big crowd, with people cheering against us."

Osborne played at the left midfield position early in the tourney after North Carolina midfielder Amy Steadman suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament. But against Germany in the semifinals, after the U.S. conceded an early goal, Osborne moved into the central midfield.

She helped the U.S. rally for four goals and a 4-1 victory.

"I played holding mid (in a 4-3-3 formation)," Osborne said. "I really like that better. I get the ball a lot more, and I can change the point of attack and win everything in the air."

Osborne also is a strong left-sided player, however, and her versatility is recognized by the coaches in the national team program.

U.S. women's national team coach April Heinrichs was in Canada during the tournament and got a close look at all the players. Heinrichs actually served as Osborne's coach a few years ago with the U-16 national team.

"I played with her for a year," Osborne said. "She was here the last three weeks and helped us a lot with technical and tactical things, and also with other things, like handling the media."

She was on a plane from Edmonton to Seattle on Monday, and from there it was back to school in California. Osborne and her Santa Clara teammates will play at Notre Dame on Friday night.

"I will play, for sure," said Osborne, who was one of three Santa Clara players (along with Jessica Ballweg and Kakadelas) on the U-19 team. "Some of us might need a break a little bit.

"We know it's going to be a rough early season, but all that matters is the (NCAA) tournament."