U.S. WNT Get Set For Iceland Rematch in Pittsburgh on Wednesday
PITTSBURGH, Pa. (Sept. 28, 2004) - Fresh of the historic and dramatic gold medal run at the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece, the U.S. Women's National Soccer Team is embarking on its 10-game "Fan Appreciation Tour," playing the second game of the tour against Iceland on Wednesday, Sept. 29 at Heinz Field. It will be the first-ever match for the U.S. women in Pittsburgh and the first-ever match in all of Western Pennsylvania. Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m. ET and while the game is not televised, fans can follow the match on www.ussoccer.com's MatchTracker presented by Philips Electronics.
Sep. 28, 2004
Notes from the "2004 Fan Celebration Tour"
"FAN CELEBRATION TOUR" STOPS IN PITTSBURGH: Fresh of the historic and dramatic gold medal run at the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece, the U.S. Women's National Soccer Team is embarking on its 10-game "Fan Appreciation Tour," playing the second game of the tour against Iceland on Wednesday, Sept. 29 at Heinz Field. It will be the first-ever match for the U.S. women in Pittsburgh and the first-ever match in all of Western Pennsylvania. Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m. ET and while the game is not televised, fans can follow the match on www.ussoccer.com's MatchTracker presented by Philips Electronics. The USA is led by 24-year-old rising star Abby Wambach, scorer of the winning goal in the 2004 Olympic gold medal victory over Brazil. She scored two goals and had one assist in the opening match of the "Fan Celebration Tour" last Saturday night in her hometown of Rochester, N.Y., as the USA pulled off a dramatic 4-3 victory with a goal by Heather Mitts in the final minute of stoppage time. Wambach will lead a group of 16 gold medal winners who will participate in the tour, as young stars Lindsay Tarpley and Heather O'Reilly, who scored in the Olympic final and semifinal respectively, have commitments to the nation's number-one ranked college team at the University of North Carolina.
"FAN CELEBRATION TOUR" WILL SEE VETERANS BEGIN TO GIVE WAY TO YOUTH: Wambach, who has a team-leading 20 goals in 2004, has already scored several of the most important goals in U.S. history. The reigning Chevrolet U.S. Soccer Female Player of the Year led the USA in scoring at the 2003 Women's World Cup (three goals) and the 2004 Olympics (four goals), tallying the lone score in the 1-0 quarterfinal win at the 2003 Women's World Cup that knocked Norway out of the tournament and sent the USA to the semifinal. The "Fan Celebration Tour," which will include seven two-time gold medallists in goalkeeper Briana Scurry, defenders Joy Fawcett and Brandi Chastain, midfielders Julie Foudy and Kristine Lilly and forwards Mia Hamm and Cindy Parlow, is serving multiple purposes. First and foremost, the 10-game tour spread across 10 cities in nine states against five different countries in three different time zones, will give the U.S. players a chance to thank the fans which have been tremendous supporters of the team over the years as well as give fans across the nation the opportunity to cheer on the current world champions. The tour will also celebrate the gold medal victory and give the fans a chance to see some of the legends of the women's game for a final time as team captain Julie Foudy, legendary goal scorer Mia Hamm and iron-women defender Joy Fawcett will retire from international play after the tour.
2004 U.S. WNT "Fan Celebration Tour" Schedule
U.S. WOMEN WILL END 2004 HAVING PLAYED 34 MATCHES: With the 10-game "Fan Celebration Tour" tacked onto a highly competitive 2004 schedule and the Olympic Games, the U.S. team will play the second most matches ever in a calendar year by the time the tour ends. The 34 matches are second only to the year 2000, when the team played an amazing 41 games, or one match every nine days. The 34 matches averages a game every 11 days, and the USA team starts the tour having lost just once this year, that to Sweden at the Algarve Cup in Portugal, and currently holds a 21-1-3 record. The USA was 7-1-2 against teams in the Olympics prior to the Games, and with a 5-0-1 record at the Olympics, carries a 12-1-3 mark against Olympic opponents heading into this tour. The "Fan Celebration Tour" will no doubt feature less-pressure packed matches than the first 24 games of 2004, which saw players competing for spots on the Olympic Team, Olympic preparation matches and the Olympic Games themselves, but the players will be no less motivated to end the year the way they started. As many as 35 players trained in Carson, Calif., for a period of three months in the Olympic Residency Camp at the U.S. Soccer National Team Training Center before U.S. head coach April Heinrichs named the 18-player 2004 U.S. Olympic Women's Soccer Team on July 1. The U.S. team started residency on April 5 and trained for almost 60 total days (with numerous "double-day" training session mixed in) in that time at the Home Depot Center, ending on Sunday, July 18, as the team broke camp in Los Angeles. That training period followed a highly successful first three months of the year in which the USA won three major tournaments while spending 58 out of 68 days on the road from January 12 through March 20. The USA won the Four Nations Tournament in China in January, won the CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying Tournament in February/March in Costa Rica, and rolled over Norway in the title game of the Algarve Cup on March 20, winning 4-1 behind three goals from Abby Wambach.
2004 IS BANNER YEAR FOR U.S. WOMEN: The USA won every tournament it entered in 2004, taking four tournament titles culminating with the 2004 Olympics. The U.S. team lost just once this year, that to Sweden, but also beat the Swedes in the first match of the year. The USA's three ties - to China, Japan and Australia - were also coupled with wins over those opponents, meaning the USA defeated every team it played in 2004. With 21 wins and nine matches left to play in 2004, the USA has a chance set the record for wins in a year, which currently stands at 26 in 2000. The record for goals in a year is 124, also set in 2000, when the USA played a record 41, but with increased parity in the world of women's soccer and strong competition this year, the USA's 70 goals so far means that the record is safe.
OLYMPIC RECAP: The U.S. team won a tough Group G at the 2004 Olympics, finishing atop the only group with four teams. The USA started without panache, defeating Greece, 3-0, surviving a tough first half to push past Brazil, 2-0, then tying Australia, 1-1, but those results were good enough to win the group. That feat was rewarded with a quarterfinal match against Japan, perhaps the most underrated team in the tournament, with the USA having just two days rest while Japan had five in the strange 10-team tournament. With four changes made to the lineup from the frustrating 1-1 tie with Australia, as Abby Wambach returned from suspension, Christie Rampone returned to right back after a one-game rest and with Brandi Chastain (left back) and 20-year-old Lindsay Tarpley (attacking midfield) inserted into the lineup, the USA put together its best match of the tournament, winning 2-1. Kristine Lilly scored the first goal and Wambach added the second on a quirky play that saw the USA beat the Japanese offside trap on a free-kick, which freed four U.S. players uncontested at the Japanese goalkeeper, and Wambach tapped in a Shannon Boxx pass for the final margin. That win set up a semifinal dripping with drama, storylines and tension, as the Americans met Germany. The USA put the reigning world champions out of the tournament with an unbelievably exciting match that saw Kristine Lilly tally the first goal (for the third straight match) and the USA hold Germany to just two shots on goal through the entire 90 minutes of regulation and 30 minutes of overtime. Unfortunately, the second shot on goal deflected off the hip of a retreating Joy Fawcett two minutes into stoppage time of the second half and squirted past Briana Scurry to tie the game. The U.S. did not quit despite the deflating equalizer and 19-year-old Heather O'Reilly tallied the winning goal in the 99th minute, making amends for hitting the post with a shot at the open net just five minutes before. The well-deserved win avenged the loss in the semifinals of the 2003 Women's World Cup and sent the USA to the gold medal game against Brazil, which had scored 12 goals over its final group game and quarterfinal match, then dispatched 2003 Women's World Cup runner-up Sweden by a 1-0 score in their semifinal. Despite being outplayed for most of the match, and watching Brazil hit the post twice in the second half, the U.S. team showed tremendous guts and heart, embodied in captain Julie Foudy who played with a badly injured foot (suffered in the semifinal) and got a goal from Tarpley off a pass from Brandi Chastain at the end of the first half, and a thrilling overtime winner by Wambach with just eight minutes left, as Kristine Lilly's corner kick from the left side found her head. The win gave the U.S. veterans an appropriate goodbye in their last world championship event, fittingly, lifted to the top of the podium through goals by two upcoming stars off assists from veterans.
LILLY AND BOXX RETURN FOR PITTSBURGH MATCH: Midfielders Kristine Lilly and Shannon Boxx both missed the first match of the "Fan Celebration Tour" due to previous engagements (both had weddings to attend). Both will rejoin the U.S. team for Wednesday’s match and the fans in Pittsburgh will get a chance to see two of the world's best midfielders.
HAMM LEAVES HER MARK: While Mia Hamm's impact on the game of soccer will be felt far beyond the stats page, as she has inspired countless young girls throughout her career and played a major role in promoting women's sports in so many ways in so many places, she will leave behind some startling numbers as well. Currently at 267 caps, Hamm is the second most-capped player in the history of soccer, men or women. She is U.S. Soccer's all-time leading scorer with 154 goals and 137 career assists (by far a team record) for 445 points. Hamm's 154 goals are so far ahead of the next best scorer (Elisabetta Vignotto with 107), that it is the equivalent of Hank Aaron being more than 225 home runs ahead of the next best slugger.
STATS OF NOTE: The USA has scored 70 goals in its 25 matches so far this year, while allowing just 18, but have benefited from two own goals. Abby Wambach leads the team in scoring with 20 goals and nine assists. Young Lindsay Tarpley scored eight goals with three assists, the third best scoring performance for a 20-year-old in U.S. history, but just one point behind a 20-year-old Julie Foudy and nine points behind a 20-year-old Kristine Lilly. Mia Hamm has 10 goals and a team leading 14 assists, the fifth highest yearly assist total in her career, while Shannon Boxx has found the net seven times with four assists from her defensive midfielder position. The U.S. defense has been stellar so far this year, allowing just over half a goal a game on average. In 16 matches against teams participating in the 2004 Olympics, the USA has scored 36 goals and allowed 13, or just under a goal a game. Defender Kate Markgraf has started all 24 games she has played and 24 of the USA's 25 games so far to lead the team. Until the Australia match before the Olympics, Boxx had started all 24 games in which she had played since starting national team career in 2003. She now has started 31 of 32 games she has played. She came off the bench at halftime against Australia. Abby Wambach is the only U.S. player to have played in all 25 matches so far this year, which speaks to the value of the powerful striker. Tarpley's had played in every game until the match last Saturday in Rochester as she is in school at UNC during her junior season.
USA vs. ICELAND PREVIEW: The USA and Iceland have met six times in their history, with the USA holding a 5-0-1 edge in the series, but last Saturday's game produced some shocking results, as Iceland scored its first-ever goals on the USA, all in a six-minute span. The USA has allowed three or more goals in a game just 13 times over the last 20 years and 334 games, but never has the USA allowed three goals in such a short span. But the Iceland-USA series is no stranger to strangeness. The two teams played one of the most unusual two-game series' in U.S. history in April of 2000 as the USA downed Iceland, 8-0, on April 5 with a team of mostly young players, then tied 0-0 three days later with a team of mostly veteran players as Iceland goalkeeper Thora Helgadottir, a Duke graduate, played a brilliant match. Of the first five matches, they have either been blowouts (6-0 an 8-0) or close games (two 1-0 wins and a 0-0 tie). The results have been positive for such a small soccer country, which features about 300,000 people and a very small number of registered female players, as well as a national stadium in the capital of Reykjavík that seats just 14,000. The U.S. players are coming off some of the most emotional matches of their careers and the match last Saturday was the first for all the players in a month, meaning the U.S. team must find their legs quickly against what surely will be an inspired Iceland squad, whose confidence is bolstered by the last-second loss, and is excited to get another crack at the world champions.
A LOOK AT ICELAND: The two friendly matches will serve as a key part of the Icelandic preparations for two upcoming Euro 2005 qualifiers, against Hungary (May 29 away) and France (June 2 home). Iceland is currently in second place in its qualifying group, but all three remaining games will be a tough test, and the team ahead of them (France) and right behind them (Russia), both have two games in hand. Iceland needs to win the group to automatically qualify for the 2005 European Championships being held in England, but the odds of overcoming the French are minute. Iceland's most experienced player and playmaker, team captain Asthildur Helgadottir, who plays for top club Malmo in Sweden, will not play on the tour due to injury, which will leave a gap in midfield that will be hard to fill. At the same time, it will give some young players the chance to test themselves against some of the world best players. Iceland has several active forwards in Olga Faerseth (14 career goals) rising star 18-year-old star Margret Vidarsdóttir, who has scored 10 times in 11 matches with the senior team. Captain Erla Hendriksdóttir will have her work cut out in the midfield as Iceland will be hard pressed to deal with the USA's athleticism. While Iceland has put forth some great performances against the USA in the past, Helgadottir will likely have to play a great match in goal once again to keep her team in the game. Erla Arnarsdottir, Edda Gardarsdottir and Laufey Olfasdottir all scored their first-career international goals against the USA in Rochester.
Quote of the Week:
Every girl 16-years and under in Rochester, N.Y. last Saturday night:
"We love you Abby!"