Pilots cheer on former teammates

Portland alumnae Rapinoe, Cox played for U.S. women’s team

PORTLAND – Japan’s victory over the United States in the Women’s World Cup final on Sunday certainly didn’t dampen the pride that the University of Portland has for the women’s national team, and particularly former Pilots Megan Rapinoe and Stephanie Cox.

Cox and Rapinoe were both on the Pilots team that won the NCAA championship in 2005.

About 100 people, including young women participating in a soccer camp, joined the Pilots on campus to watch the match, while another booster viewing party was held at a pub in southeast Portland.

Tension marked the back-and-fourth match, which ended with heavy sighs when Japan won on penalty kicks. But then there was appreciative applause among many gathered.

“Even though they lost, I’m so proud of the United States, and I’m so proud of Megan and Stephanie,” said Portland senior midfielder Danielle Foxhoven.

Alex Morgan’s goal off a feed from Rapinoe in the second half put the cheering Pilots on their feet. But the jitters of the scoreless first half returned when Aya Miyama scored the equalizer in the 81st minute.

Abby Wambach’s header in extra time won applause but fans were deflated again by Homare Sawa’s goal to tie it. Some decried the decision when Rapinoe was pulled from the match with 6 minutes left in OT.

When it was over, one fan proclaimed, “Shouldn’t have taken out Rapinoe!”

Rapinoe, a native Californian with bleached blond hair, drew particular attention for her breakout performance in the World Cup matches.

“Megan had such a huge impact on this team, and she has such a personality about her that I think that it makes the chemistry of the U.S. team really good. You could see it on television,” Foxhoven said.

Portland proclaimed itself Soccer City, USA, back in the mid-1970s when it embraced the Portland Timbers’ early success in the North American Soccer League. The city’s support of the game has grown throughout the years with the Pilots’ success, and now with the Timbers’ leap to Major League Soccer.

One of the Timbers’ early players, Clive Charles, took to the city and became coach of the Portland Pilots’ men’s and women’s teams. The University of Portland is a Catholic university of some 3,500 students.

Under Charles, the Portland Pilots won the NCAA women’s soccer championship in 2002. Charles died a year later after a bout with cancer, his legacy extending beyond Portland. Former U.S. national team players Tiffeny Milbrett, Shannon MacMillan and Kasey Keller were among those he coached.

The Pilots won their second title in 2005 under current coach Garrett Smith.

Rapinoe, a former West Coast Conference Player of the Year, had 30 goals and 28 assists during her time with the Pilots, despite several injuries and commitments to the national team. Cox, a defender who played on the U.S. Olympic Team in Beijing, was a three-time All-American.

The Pilots were also represented in the 2011 Women’s World Cup by former players Christine Sinclair and Sophie Schmidt, members of the Canadian national team.

“Just to have four Pilots there, for a school of this size, representing our student body, it’s awesome,” Smith said. “It just shows that great people do come out of the University of Portland.”

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