For Klingenberg, Olympics a thrill even as alternate

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MANCHESTER, England -- Meghan Klingenberg hopped a fence and sprinted onto the turf at Old Trafford after the United States women's soccer team's emotional 4-3 victory against Canada to join her teammates in celebrating a trip to the Olympic gold medal game.

No, it wasn't what she would have chosen in a perfect world, watching from the stands as an alternate. But Klingenberg, 24, a native of Gibsonia and graduate of Pine-Richland High, was still living and dying with every moment of Monday's overtime semifinal.

"My teammates kind of tease me, they say I don't look any older than 17 or 18," Klingenberg said. "I told them after tonight that I'll probably look my age. I think they aged me about seven years."

Klingenberg was so close to making the Olympic team that she was asked to be an alternate and gladly accepted the chance to experience something she'll never forget.

"It's been a different experience for me because I haven't been on the field," Klingenberg said. "But, it's been incredible so far, and it's really kind of weird to think that we haven't been to London yet."

The Americans will be going this morning, after playing their games in Glasgow, Scotland; Manchester and Newcastle, England. They'll get their first taste of the Olympic Village and play Japan Thursday night in Wembley Stadium.

And Klingenberg would like to think that her ability to compete at practices has been a key part of the journey.

"They're going to be playing against us, so what we want to do is be better than every team that they're going to play against," said Klingenberg, a midfielder. "We'll never take it easy on them. That is something that I've been striving to do, put our team in the best position to win."

Even though Klingenberg won't show up on the stat sheet or register as an official Olympian, she has gotten to enjoy plenty of the perks.

She visited Old Trafford where her favorite team, Manchester United, plays. She also has met some of her famous male contemporaries, like Brazil's soccer prodigy, Neymar, and Manchester United star Rio Ferdinand.

"We got to meet the Brazilian men's team," Klingenberg said. "I got to play pingpong with Neymar and Marcelo Vieira, which is pretty awesome."

Still, not being in London, there has been something missing. She has had to watch all of the events on British television but has picked up enough to know the big story lines.

"We've been watching Michael Phelps win, Missy Franklin, the women's gymnastics team," Klingenberg said. "Once we get there, it's going to be even more fun."

Through it all, Klingenberg said she has been hearing from people in Pittsburgh on Twitter and Facebook.

"They've been great, saying good luck, we're proud of you," she said. "Pittsburgh's a great town. It's good to have that sports town behind you."

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