Commerce City, Colo. - A few thousand fans turned out for the U.S. Women's National Team's open training session Tuesday afternoon at Dick's Sporting Goods, giving a hint of the energy that is expected Wednesday night when the USA host Australia at in front of a standing-room only crowd (8 pm MT, ESPN2, TICKETS).
"It's pretty crazy," midfielder Megan Rapinoe (above) said after the practice of the fans. "We're a couple months from the Olympics now, and sort of winding down a little bit, but everywhere we go it's sold out...And that's incredible. That hasn't really sunk in yet. It's something we're proud of and think is pretty special."
Fans stood behind the field board and occupied large portions of the east stands throughout the hour-long session, taking photos and often chanting different players names. Afterwards, the players spread across the stadium signing autographs for over 30 minutes.
Pregame Notes: USA vs AUSRALIA
"I was definitely one of those girls in the stands 10-15 years ago," said Alex Morgan, who received some of the loudest cheers of the day. "I was probably screaming for Kristine Lilly, which is the big reason I wear number 13, and then Abby Wambach, who I play with up top now."
Morgan, who scored the game-winning goal against Canada in the Olympic semifinals in the 122', leads the U.S. with 22 goals in 23 games played this year. The 23-year-old recalled her aspirations when asked what advice she would give the thousands of boys and girls in attendance.
"I definitely had this dream of becoming a professional soccer player," she said. "I actually wrote a note to my mom when I was 7 or 8 years old - that she still has - that said, 'I want to become a professional athlete when I grow up.'
"I had this dream and I followed it. It was a little bit of talent but it was mostly hard work and support from my family, my sisters, (and) my friends...It was not only what I put out on the field, but also the people I surrounded myself with."
The players recognize the significance of the Fan Tribute Tour, which celebrates of the team’s third straight gold medal.
"The bottom line is that we want to have fun," Morgan of Wednesday's match. "We want to show Pia (Sundhage) a good last game and send her off well. And, give back to all the fans that supported us throughout the Olympics. For us, winning is always on the front of our minds, but we want to have fun and we want to smile during the game."
"For some people, it's the first time they get to kind of share (the gold medal) with us," Rapinoe said. "It brings everything back and allows us to drag this on as long as possible, and that's what we're looking forward to."
(Alex Morgan, left, and Heather Mitts, right, sign autographs after training. Photo: Bart Young/Colorado Rapids) CLICK HERE FOR MORE PHOTOS