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Brandi Chaser

Against her will, an Olympic soccer hero loses her spot on Team USA

Brandi Chastain may be a step slower than she was in her prime, her footwork less nimble, but the resolve that served her so well over 13 years with the U.S. women's soccer team is undiminished. "No," was Chastain's answer when she was asked on June 22 if she was retired from international competition. Never mind that earlier that day, coach Greg Ryan said he had cut the 36-year-old from the national team. Ryan, who took over as coach two months ago, added, "What I'm looking for in future defenders are qualities that she doesn't possess at this point."

Unlike former teammates Mia Hamm, Julie Foudy and Joy Fawcett, all of whom gracefully stepped aside after the U.S.'s gold medal performance at the 2004 Olympics, Chastain has no desire to retire. But the end of her storied career--three Olympics, three World Cups, one famous shirtless celebration--has been in sight for a while. She briefly lost her starting job to Cat Reddick, 23, in Athens and hasn't played for the national team since last December. Meanwhile Ryan has overhauled half the roster since the conclusion of last year's Olympics. Still, Chastain, who plays for the California Storm of the Women's Premier Soccer League, refused to close the door on her international career. "Giving up is the easiest way," she told the San Francisco Chronicle. "But I don't want the easy way."




Chastain wants to keep playing, but her coach thinks the U.S. needs younger talent.