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U.S. Women Ready for Ireland Clash on Sunday, July 23, Live on ESPN2 at 1 p.m. PT

U.S. WOMEN TAKE THE 405 TO THE 5: The U.S. Women's National Team faces Ireland on Sunday, July 23, at 1 p.m. PT live on ESPN2 from Torero Stadium on the campus of the University of San Diego. To get to this match, there were no airports involved. The U.S. just hopped on a charter bus to San Diego from its base at The Home Depot Center, where the 2004 Olympic champs have been holding Residency Training Camp since the first week of April. After playing the first nine matches of the year outside of the United States, the U.S. Women’s National Team came home to face Sweden in the first domestic match of year last weekend and came away with a dramatic 3-2 win in boiling temperatures. The match saw three goals in the last four minutes, including two in stoppage time, the final tally from Kristine Lilly who rifled her shot under the crossbar with seconds left after Abby Wambach had flicked a header into the box off a throw-in. Before the Sweden game, the USA had not played an international match since May 9, a 1-0 win over Japan in Osaka, winning on a goal from Natasha Kai. The U.S. team has been in intense training during Residency Training Camp for three and half months. The six-month camp, which required all the players to move to the Los Angeles area to train full time, will run through the end of September. The USA is 7-0-3 in 2006, with all three draws being 0-0 affairs. The USA and Germany played to a 0-0 tie in the championship game of the 2006 Algarve Cup in Portugal last March, with the USA falling in penalty kicks, 4-3. The Ireland game is the second of what could be as many as seven domestic matches for the USA in 2006, leading into qualifying for the 2007 FIFA Women’s World Cup. CONCACAF qualifying this year will take the form of a six-team CONCACAF Women’s Gold Cup, to be staged in the USA in late November with dates and venues TBA.

RYAN’S REIGN: The U.S. team is 15-0-4 under head coach Greg Ryan since he took over the team at the 2005 Algarve Cup (he would not be hired officially until April of 2005). No other U.S. Women’s National Team head coach has ever gone his first 19 matches unbeaten. Even more impressively, the U.S. women have allowed just five goals over those 18 games – one to Norway, one to France, one to Japan and two to Sweden last week, the first time a team had scored twice on the USA under Ryan. Just two of those goals came from the run of play, with one coming off a penalty kick, one off a corner kick and one off a free kick.

USA LOOKING FOR FIRST GOAL AT TORERO: The U.S. Women’s National Team has played just one match in San Diego in its history, that coming on January 12, 2003, in the first match of that year. The USA tied Japan, 0-0, and will be looking for its first-ever goal in San Diego and at Torero. Midfielder Lindsay Tarpley earned her first-ever cap in that match and now has 48 games under her belt.

SAN DIEGO’S FINEST: San Diego has produced several U.S. Women’s National Team players, most notably Escondido’s Shannon MacMillan who scored 60 goals for the USA from 1993-2004 and played on two Women’s World Cup and two Olympic teams. Midfielder Jen Lalor from Chula Vista was a member of the USA’s 1995 Women’s World Cup squad, playing 21 matches from 1992-1995, and another two in 2001. Midfielder Nikki Serlenga of San Diego played 30 matches for the USA in 2000 and 2001, and was a member of the 2000 Olympic Team. More recently, midfielder Angie Woznuk from El Cajon has been a star on the U.S. Youth National Teams and earned her first cap for the senior team in 2005. She just played for the U.S. U-21s at the Nordic Cup in Norway. Defender Carrie Dew from Encinitas should be a key player on the USA’s 2006 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Championship team that will compete in Russia this fall.

SCURRY BACK: U.S. goalkeeper Briana Scurry, a native of Dayton, Minn., was originally on the roster for the game in Minnesota last weekend, but was replaced by Nicole Barnhart the day before the USA traveled after the veteran suffered some lingering effects from a mild concussion that occurred in training. She has recovered, is fit and has been playing very well in training. Scurry, who has appeared 155 times for the USA and has racked up an amazing 71 shutouts, has been between the posts for five world championship events -- three Women’s World Cup tournaments and the 1996 and 2004 Olympics, where she helped the U.S. women win two gold medals.

WAGNER CLOSES IN ON 100: U.S. midfielder Aly Wagner, a 2004 Olympic gold medallist, is sitting on 98 career caps and could become the next U.S. player to hit 100 career appearances if she plays in the next two July games. Wagner would become the 18th U.S. player to play 100 times for her country. The San Jose, Calif., native battled knee injuries early in her career, and was in the Residency Training Camps for the 1999 Women’s World Cup and 2000 Olympics, but didn’t make either team, before making her first World Championship roster for the 2003 FIFA Women’s World Cup.

BOXX GOES DOWN: U.S. Women’s National Team midfielder Shannon Boxx tore the anterior cruciate ligament and the medial collateral ligament in her right knee during training on July 16 and will be out six-to-eight months. The injury occurred on a collision during a scrimmage. Boxx quickly rose to prominence for the U.S. National Team after making the 2003 FIFA Women’s World Cup squad without ever previously having earned a cap, and then set a U.S. record by scoring in her first three career matches. The veteran defensive midfielder has since started 58 of the 59 matches she has played for the USA and finished third in the voting for FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year in 2005. At the time of the knee injury, Boxx was just coming back from hip surgery that she underwent in mid-may and likely would have been ready for this match. Boxx’ injury was a bit more serious than a standard ACL tear due to the complications that arose from the medial collateral ligament tear. Boxx will have to undergo two separate surgeries, the first this week to repair the MCL, which tore away from the bone, and second approximately six weeks later to repair the ACL. Due to the double surgeries, Boxx’ recovery time will be a bit longer than what is typically expected for an ACL rehabilitation and should extend anywhere from six to eight months. Boxx will of course miss qualifying for the 2007 FIFA Women’s World Cup to be held in late November of this year, but should the USA qualify, will be playing well in advance of the tournament, which will be staged Sept. 10-30, 2007, in five Chinese cities.

RAPINOE MAKES IT TO “THE SHOW”: The only uncapped player on the U.S. roster for the Sweden match is forward Megan Rapinoe. The rising sophomore at the University of Portland, who scored 15 goals with 13 assists as a freshman last year to help the Pilots to an undefeated season and the NCAA title, was one of the stars on the U.S. team that finished third at the 2004 FIFA U-19 Women’s World Championship in Thailand. Rapinoe only came into Residency Training Camp in mid-May, but made enough of an impression on the coaching staff to make her first WNT roster. She had an excellent tournament in Thailand, scoring three goals, tied for the team lead, including one in the third-place match victory over Brazil.

USA vs. IRELAND HISTORY: The USA has played Ireland four times in its history -- once in 1999, once in 2003 and twice in 2004 -- and scored five goals in the each of those matches, the most recent being a memorable five-goal performance by Abby Wambach on the “Fan Celebration Tour” after the Olympics in 2004. All five of her goals came in the second half of the match played in Houston, Texas, tying a U.S. record for goals in a game jointly held by Michelle Akers, Brandi Chastain and Tiffeny Milbrett. The meeting with Ireland on June 14, 2003, in Salt Lake City, Utah, was memorable as well, as young forward Heather O’Reilly, who is of course of Irish decent, made her first-ever start for the USA, and within 74 seconds had scored the first goal of the game and broken her leg in a collision with Ireland goalkeeper Emma Byrne on the same play. The injury eventually cost O’Reilly a place on the 2003 Women’s World Cup Team. Ireland’s lone goal in the series came in a 5-1 loss in Chicago in the first of two matches between the teams on the 2004 Fan Celebration Tour after the 2004 Olympics.

USA vs. IRELAND PREVIEW: Ireland’s most important player in the match is likely to be goalkeeper Emma Byrne. The starting ‘keeper for Arsenal Ladies in England’s top division, Bryne is tall and athletic and kept the score of the 2003 meeting between these two teams respectable with numerous spectacular saves. Ireland features two huge defenders in 6-foot Delores Deasley and 6-foot-1 Sharon Boyle, as well as talented midfielder Ciara Grant, who also plays for Arsenal. Veteran midfielder Claire Scanlan will once again be counted on as the engine in the Irish midfield, but at 34, she will be hard pressed to keep up with the young U.S. middies. Ireland should be more familiar with the USA than vice-versa. Eight players on the Irish roster currently play in the USA and various colleges, for USL W-League Teams and amateur teams. The USA will be without two key players in captain Kristine Lilly and defensive midfielder Shannon Boxx, but Ireland will run into a slew of young players trying to prove themselves to head coach Greg Ryan and the pace should be much quicker than last week when the Americans played in 100-degree temps in Minnesota. The USA certainly has an edge in athleticism and experience over the Irish, who will find scoring chances scarce, but the Americans will also be challenged to break down what surely will be a packed and committed Irish defense back by one of Europe’s top net minders.

IRELAND IN WOMEN’S WORLD CUP QUALIFYING: Ireland will not be going to the 2007 FIFA Women’s World Cup, but just making it to the top flight of European women’s soccer has been victory enough for the Irish, who had the chance to go up against several elite teams during the this Women’s World Cup qualifying process. Ireland was drawn into a very difficult Group 4 in European qualifying that include defending Women’s World Cup champions Germany and rising power Russia, and has won just one out of its seven qualifiers with just one match left to play against Germany on Aug. 26. Ireland has gathered four points from its seven games, tying Scotland and defeating Switzerland for its lone win. Ciara Grant and Olivia O’Toole scored their county’s goals in the 2-0 win over the Swiss. Ireland’s other goal in qualifying was scored by Michelle O’Brien, a late scratch for this match, in a 5-1 loss to Russia.

U.S. WNT Quick Hits:

  • With her hat trick against Japan on May 7, giving her 54 career goals (she now has 55), Abby Wambach passed National Soccer Hall of Fame member Carin Gabarra to move into 7th place on the all-time U.S. goal scoring chart. Next up for Wambach…Shannon MacMillan, who has 60 career goals.
  • Heather Mitts earned her 50th cap against Japan on May 9, making her the 29th U.S. woman to reach that mark.
  • With her assist against Japan on May 7, central defender Cat Whitehill equaled her yearly total of the last five years: one. Her next assist in 2006 will mark a yearly career high. Her goal against Sweden last week on an improbably 70-yard blast was her seventh career score, tying her for third place on the USA’s all-time scoring list for defenders behind Joy Fawcett and Brandi Chastain and knotted with Carla Overbeck.
  • If goalkeeper Briana Scurry plays against Ireland, it will be her first game for the USA since Dec. 8, 2004. She is still by far the most capped goalkeeper in U.S. history with 155 games.
  • The USA has never lost a game in which Kristine Lilly has started the match wearing the captain’s band, but in the absence of Lilly and Boxx, look for Abby Wambach to captain the USA for the first time.
  • All of the USA’s 10 games this year have been against teams ranked in the top-13 in the world.
  • Eights players have scored the USA’s 21 goals so far this year with 17 of the 21 goals coming from forwards.
  • Midfielder Aly Wagner is just two games away from 100 caps. Barring injury, if Wagner plays in all of the USA’s upcoming July games, she will get her 100th cap in Cary, N.C. against Canada on July 30. Amazingly, she would be the 18th player to earn 100 or more caps for the U.S. Women’s National Team.
  • U.S. head coach Greg Ryan has made at least five substitutions in six of the USA’s 10 games so far this year.
  • Abby Wambach leads the USA in minutes played this year with 878 out of a possible 940. Kristine Lilly is right behind her at 875.

U.S. TEAM GROWS BY ONE: The U.S. Women’s National Team would like to announce the birth of Keegan Jamison Markgraf on July 18 at 1:31 a.m. to veteran U.S. defender Kate Markgraf, a Women’s World Cup and Olympic champion. The future quarterback for the Green Bay Packers came into the world at 7 pounds even and at a lengthy 19 inches. Mother and husband Chris are doing well and resting comfortably, while mom is tempted to defy doctor’s orders and begin her comeback this week. Markgraf, formerly Kate Sobrero, has 146 caps for the USA and could be ready for Women’s Word Cup qualifying in late November. Markgraf joins the growing list of soccer moms on the U.S. team who have had babies and continued playing, which in the past included Joy Fawcett and Carla Overbeck, and currently includes Christie Rampone, Danielle Fotopoulos and Tina Frimpong.

WAMBACH SECOND FASTEST TO 50: Abby Wambach’s goal in the 3-1 win over Norway on Jan. 18 in the USA’s 2006 Four Nations opener was the 50th of her international career. The goal in just her 64th game marked the second fastest a player had scored 50 goals in U.S. history. Michelle Akers scored her 50th goal in her 48th game, one of five against Taiwan at the 1991 Women’s World Cup. It took Mia Hamm 94 games to score 50, getting goals 50 and 51 on July 30, 1995, against Chinese Taipei. Kristine Lilly scored her 50th goal in her 164th match. Tiffeny Milbrett scored her 50th in her 107th match and Cindy Parlow did her one game better, scoring her 50th in her 106th match. After scoring last weekend against Sweden, Wambach now has 55 career goals.

LILLY PASSES ALL BUT HAMM: With her goal against Denmark at the Algarve Cup on March 11, 2006, Kristine Lilly passed Italian legend Elisabetta Vignotto on the world’s all-time scoring list for women, putting her behind only Mia Hamm. The goal was the 108th of her legendary career (she has since scored two more), and now trails only Hamm, who scored 158 career goals in her historic career. While it is unlikely that Lilly could ever catch Hamm, two players behind her -- Birgit Prinz of Germany and Julie Fleeting of Scotland -- seem to be two who may catch Lilly at some time in the future. With Sun Wen now “un-retired” the Chinese star may also have a chance to catch the U.S. captain. Like Fleeting, French star Marinette Pichon has 80 goals, but she is on the downside of her international career.

Rank Player Goals Country as of July 22 2006 ® Retired
1 Mia Hamm® 158 USA
2 Kristine Lilly 110 USA
3 Elisabetta Vignotto® 107 Italy
4 Carolina Morace® 105 Italy
Michelle Akers® 105 USA
6 Tiffeny Milbrett 100 USA
7 Sun Wen 94 China
8 Birgit Prinz 92 Germany
9 Heidi Mohr® 83 Germany
10 Julie Fleeting 80 Scotland
      Marinette Pichon 80 France
12 Cindy Parlow® 75 USA
13 Charmaine Hooper 71 Canada
      Lena Videkull® 71 Sweden
      Pia Sundhage® 71 Sweden

MITTS SIDELINED: No, the USA’s speedy right back is not injured, but she’s been spending some time outside the lines working for ESPN as sideline reporter for college football and Major League Soccer. Mitts, who had more than a little TV experience heading into this newest challenge, having worked as a host on a Philadelphia morning show and done some color for college soccer broadcasts, worked 13 football games last fall. She was on the sidelines for Clemson vs. Maryland, Army vs. Baylor, New Mexico State vs. Cal and Cincinnati vs. Miami of Ohio among others. Mitts also did a few MLS games for ESPN this year.

RYAN IN CHARGE: Greg Ryan is a long-time Division I women’s college head coach who served on April Heinrich’s staff during the highly successful run to the 2004 Olympic gold medal. Ryan began his coaching career in 1983 as an assistant with the Colorado College men’s team in between North American Soccer League (NASL) indoor and outdoor seasons. Following the completion of his professional career in 1985, Ryan began his head coaching career with Wisconsin, where he lead the Badgers to a 108-32-12 record and five trips to the NCAA tournament, almost all when just 12 teams made the tournament. Ryan led UW to two appearances in the NCAA Final Four (1988 and 1991) and one trip to NCAA Championship Game in 1991, where the Badgers fell to UNC, 3-1. As a player, Ryan was a First-Team All-American at SMU in 1978, after which he went on to play six seasons in the NASL from 1979-1984. Ryan started his pro career with the Tulsa Roughnecks before being traded to the New York Cosmos in 1979, where he played with Franz Beckenbauer, Carlos Alberto and Georgio Chinaglia. Ryan then was traded to the Chicago Sting, where he played his final five pro seasons. Ryan won an NASL title with the Sting, coming off the bench in Soccer Bowl ’81 as Chicago won the championship in a shootout over the New York Cosmos after tying 0-0 in regulation.

RESIDENCY CAMP ROLLS ON: U.S. head coach Greg Ryan has had up to 30 players in Residency Training Camp at The Home Depot Center this summer, with several players coming in and out and he gives looks to young players trying to break into the upper tier. Ryan has used 22 players in game action so far in 2006 as the core of the players he will use in Women’s World Cup qualification takes shape. Ryan sent several of the USA’s young stars to the U.S. U-20s through the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Championship being held Aug. 17-Sept. 3, as forwards Amy Rodriguez and Lauren Cheney and defender Stephanie Lopez will try to bring back a world title. Ryan also sent Residency Camp players midfielder Angie Woznuk and defender India Trotter to the U-21s to play in the Nordic Cup, which ended on July 22. In short, Residency Training Camp has given Ryan the chance to test numerous players in the national team environment as the pool continues to be a deep one, even with the absence of a professional league.

2006 MATCHES ABROAD RECAP: Before last weekend’s win over Sweden, the USA played its first nine games outside the USA. The team started out the year by winning the 2006 Four Nations Tournament in Guangzhou, China, opening with a convincing 3-1 win over Norway that was also the 300th appearance for captain Kristine Lilly, who also scored a world-class free-kick in that match. The USA tied a very defensive-minded French team 0-0 in the second match, but with the tournament title on the line in the final game against host China, accomplished a tremendous feat, beating China 2-0, as Lilly scored both goals. The USA then had a highly successful Algarve Cup in Portugal, where it got better in each match. After a frustrating 0-0 tie to open the tournament, the USA defeated Denmark 5-0 and France, 4-1, before meeting Germany in the title game. The USA would fall on PKs to Germany, but out-shot the European champions, 16-9. The USA’s most recent matches were a pair of wins, 3-1 and 1-0, over Japan in Japan in early May. Abby Wambach notched her fourth career hat track in the first game while Natasha Kai provided the winning goal in the second leg.

Caps for Megan Rapinoe, the only uncapped player on the roster for the Sweden match
0.36  Goals allowed per game by the USA in 2006
2.03  Average goals per game for the USA in 2006
3       Decades in which Kristine Lilly has appeared for the National Team
5       Numbers of players in the USA’s top-20 on the all-time caps list to get a cap this year.
6       Field players on the U.S. roster looking for their first international goal
8       Number of players on the U.S. roster with 20 caps or less
8       Number of players on the U.S. roster with 46 or more caps
22     Number of U.S. players to earn a cap in 2006
54     Career goals by Abby Wambach, putting her 7th on the all-time list at the age of 25
92     Number of minutes that Abby Wambach averages a goal every…
164   Players who have earned a cap for the U.S. Women’s National Team since the program’s inception in 1985
309   World record for caps of Kristine Lilly

EYE ON CONCACAF QUALIFYING: The U.S. team will enter CONCACAF qualifying for the 2007 FIFA Women’s World Cup in late November of this year and U.S. head coach Greg Ryan will use these upcoming domestic games to formulate a team that will attempt to qualify for the 5th FIFA Women’s World Cup. The 2006 CONCACAF Women’s Gold Cup will serve as Women’s World Cup qualifying this year and the six-team tournament will be played in the United States in late November. The USA and Canada were granted byes into the semifinals while Mexico and Panama qualified through to the final tournament. Two more teams from the Caribbean will join those four. Mexico, Panama and the two Caribbean teams (with match-ups to be determined) will square off in first-round games to see who earns the right to face the USA and Canada in the semifinals with Women’s World Cup berths on the line.