Team USA in town and loving Portland

Team USA in town and loving Portland »Play Video
Megan Rapinoe kicks a ball during the U.S. women's national team's practice Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2011, in Portland, Ore. The team is scheduled to play Canada on Thursday in an international friendly soccer match. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Megan Rapinoe was thinking a little homage to Major League Soccer's Portland Timbers might be in order if she scores when the U.S. women's national team plays Canada on Thursday.

"I want to go saw one of those pieces of wood off," she joked, nodding to the log that mascot Timber Joey carves into each time the Timbers score at Jeld-Wen Field. "I'd probably get a red card for that."

Rapinoe, who played in college for the Portland Pilots, returned to the city this week with the national team for a post-World Cup friendly.

The U.S. women played Japan in the thrilling World Cup final, but ultimately lost on penalty kicks. As a thank you to American fans for their support during soccer's premier event, the two-match Celebration Series with Canada opened in Kansas City on Saturday. That match ended in a 1-all draw.

After Thursday night's game in Portland, the U.S. women's team will have some time off until they begin training for Olympic qualification. The World Cup squad was intact for the exhibition series, during which U.S. coach Pia Sundhage has been experimenting with a one-forward system.

At a practice Wednesday that was open to the public, much of the focus was on the stars of the team, including Rapinoe, with her shock of bleached blond hair, veteran forward Abby Wambach, and goal keeper Hope Solo, who had just returned from an appearance on the television show "Dancing with the Stars."

During a lull in the workout, a little girl's voice rang out: "Abby Wambach, you rock!"

"It's strange," Rapinoe said of all the attention the team gets. "Hope's on Dancing with the Stars. We get recognized wherever we go. It's strange, weird, flattering, amazing."

On Saturday night in Kansas City, Wambach converted an early penalty kick to give the United States the lead until Melissa Tancredi equalized it late in the first half. The result ended Canada's seven-match losing streak to the U.S. women.

Rapinoe is joined on the team by fellow Pilot Stephanie Cox.

A former West Coast Conference Player of the Year, Rapinoe 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.

She was happy to be back in soccer-crazy Portland. Members of the Timbers Army supporters group even serenaded her at Wednesday's open practice.

Portland proclaimed itself Soccer City, USA, back in the mid-1970s when it embraced the 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 currently with the Timbers' leap to Major League Soccer this season.

The Portland Pilots women's team won NCAA titles in 2002 and 2005.

Former Pilot Sophie Schmidt is a member of the Canadian team, which did not fare well in the World Cup and is now breaking in new coach Jon Herdmann. The sixth-ranked Canadians lost to Germany, France and Nigeria in the World Cup and exited after the first round.

Schmidt said the tournament was painful but the Canadian women are determined not to let it define them going into Olympic qualification. The top two teams from the CONCACAF qualifying tournament, scheduled for Jan. 19-29 in Vancouver, British Columbia, advance to the London Games. The U.S. will compete along with Canada, Mexico, three teams from the Caribbean and two teams from Central America.

"We don't think we're the team that showed up at the World Cup," Schmidt said. "We're working at getting that Canadian fighting spirit back."