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Pre-Game Notes: U.S. WNT vs. Mexico - Oct. 21, 2005

U.S. TEAM TUNES UP, TAPERS DOWN FOR MEXICO: The U.S. Women’s National Team held its second-to-last training in Charleston on Friday afternoon at 1 p.m., simulating the possible game time temperature, and it was the hottest and most humid training of the trip so far. But the afternoon cooled towards the end of training as scattered raindrops started to fall. It could be wet Sunday for the U.S. team as the outskirts of Hurricane Wilma may graze Charleston, but as of Friday afternoon, there was just a 10 percent chance of rain during the match. The U.S. team played 11 v. 11 for 20 minutes on a shortened, 75-yard long field, making for some tight space and combative play from the U.S. team. With two weeks of training behind them, the U.S. will be a bit more physically prepared for the match against Mexico (tickets), which kicks off at Blackbaud Stadium on Sunday, Oct. 23, at 1 p.m. ET (Live on ESPN2 and Telemundo). Of course, fans can also follow on’s MatchTracker, presented by Philips Electronics.

LILLY ON THE BRINK: The match against Mexico should mark cap number 299 for the legendary Kristine Lilly as she continues her run to the unimaginable 300th cap. With 104 career goals in her 18 years on the Women’s National Team, she also just needs one more to tie Michelle Akers for second on the all-time U.S. goals chart behind Mia Hamm.

A YEAR OF SHUTOUTS?: If the U.S. Women’s National Team does not allow a goal against Mexico, it will be the first time the U.S. team has gone through an entire calendar year without allowing a goal since 1989, when the team played just one match. Aside from the aberration of 1989, the fewest goals the U.S. women have allowed in a calendar year was three, coming in 1990 when the team played six games. The USA is 7-0-1 on the year and have not allowed a goal in nine straight matches dating back to the final game of 2004, which came against Mexico when the current shutout streak started. The total shutout streak now stands at 838 minutes.

RYAN PICKS 18: U.S. head coach Greg Ryan has chosen 18 players from the 24 in training camp to suit up for the match against the Mexico. Ryan named four players to the 18 who were not on the USA’s game roster for the match against Australia last weekend. Suiting up for the USA will be goalkeeper Jenni Branam (25 years old), midfielders Carli Lloyd (23) and Leslie Osborne (22) and forward Heather O’Reilly (20). The average age of the U.S. game roster is 25.8.

U.S. Roster:
1-Jenni Branam, 18-Hope Solo; DEFENDERS (5): 23-Tina Frimpong, 14-Amy LePeilbet, 15-Kate Markgraf, 2-Heather Mitts, 4-Cat Reddick; MIDFIELDERS (5): 7-Shannon Boxx, 13-Kristine Lilly, 5-Carli Lloyd, 12-Leslie Osborne, 10-Aly Wagner; FORWARDS (6): 6-Danielle Fotopoulos, 8-Shannon MacMillan, 16-Tiffeny Milbrett, 9-Heather O’Reilly, 20-Abby Wambach, 19-Christie Welsh.

Mexico Roster:
GOALKEEPERS (3): 1-Pamela Tajonar, 12-Sophia Perez, 21-Erika Gonzalez; DEFENDERS (7): 2-Elizabeth Gomez, 3-Rubi Sandoval, 4-Monica Gonzales, 5-Jessica Romero, 11-Luz Saucedo, 13- Nancy Gutierrez, 14-Isabel Mendoza; MIDFIELDERS (5): 6-Monica Vergara, 7-Evelyn Lopez, 8-Rebecca Juarez, 16-Connie Villapando, 19-Tania Morales; FORWARDS (4): 9-Guadalupe Worbis, 15-Lulu Gordillo, 18-Veronica Corral, 20-Monica Medina.    

USA vs. MEXICO PREVIEW: The USA and Mexico met an amazing five times in 2004, but this will be the first (and only) meeting this year. The five games last year tied a record for second most matches against a single country in a calendar year (the USA played China five times in 1991, Canada five times in 2000 and Norway eight times in 2000). The USA is 15-0-0 all-time vs. Mexico, including the five wins in 2005, with the most recent meeting a 5-0 victory in Los Angeles on Dec. 8, in what was the final career match for Julie Foudy and Mia Hamm. The USA’s meeting with Mexico in the championship match of the 2004 CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying Tournament was one for the ages. That clash in San Jose, Costa Rica, was perhaps the most exciting game ever between the two countries. The USA went down 2-0 after just 15 minutes as Maribel Dominguez scored two lighting strikes. Midfielder Lindsay Tarpley pulled a crucial goal back on a header just before halftime and then the U.S. came out after the break on a mission, peppering the Mexican goal with shots until Abby Wambach equalized on a brilliant solo effort just 11 minutes from the end of the game. U.S. captain Julie Foudy dramatically won the match in the 84th minute, striking a rebound through goalmouth traffic, off the right post and into the net to give the USA the regional title.

Competition:   International Friendly – “Fan Celebration Tour”
Venue:            Home Depot Center; Carson, Calif.
Date: Dec. 8, 2004; Kickoff – 8 p.m. PT
Attendance:   15,549
Weather: 57 degrees, clear

Scoring Summary:  
             1     2  F
USA     4    1   5
MEX     0    0  0

USA – Aly Wagner (Mia Hamm) 8th minute.
USA – Abby Wambach (Mia Hamm) 17.
USA – Abby Wambach (Shannon Boxx) 24.
USA – Shannon Boxx (unassisted) 44.
USA – Aly Wagner (Kristine Lilly)  66.

USA: 1-Briana Scurry (18-Kristin Luckenbill, 82); 3-Christie Rampone, 15-Kate Markgraf, 4-Cat Reddick, 6-Brandi Chastain (2-Heather Mitts, 69); 7-Shannon Boxx, 11-Julie Foudy (Capt.; 5-Lindsay Tarpley, 84), 10-Aly Wagner (8-Angela Hucles, 75), 13-Kristine Lilly (12-Cindy Parlow, 72); 9-Mia Hamm (17-Heather O’Reilly, 81), 16-Abby Wambach.
Subs not used: 14-Joy Fawcett.
Head Coach: April Heinrichs.

MEX: 1-Pamela Tajonar; 2-Elizabeth Gomez, 3-Marlene Sandoval, 4-Monica Gonzales (Capt.; 17-Nancy Gutierrez, 74), 5-Maria Castillo, 13-Jessica Romero; 6-Monica Vergara (18-Leslie Munoz, 82), 7-Dioselina Valderrama (14-Christine Nieva, 90), 8-Rebecca Juarez (16-Rebecca Mendoza, 75), 10-Evelyn Lopez (11-Carmen Padilla, 46); 9-Guadalupe Worbis (15-Lulu Gordillo, 87).
Subs Not Used: 12-Elizabeth Sanchez.
Head Coach: Leonardo Cuellar.

Statistical Summary:       
Shots: 25 / 7
Shots on Goal: 12 / 4
Saves: 4 / 7 
Corner Kicks: 8 / 1
Fouls: 3 / 10
Offside: 0 / 1

MEXICO ON THE RISE: Mexico is experiencing a high point in its women’s soccer history having qualified for the 2004 Olympics and advancing to the quarterfinals from a group that included Germany and China. Mexico pulled off two great results, tying China 1-1 and losing to Germany, 2-0, to advance, before falling 5-0 to a very talented Brazil team in the quarterfinals. While several of Mexico’s stars are not on the roster, including Maribel Dominguez and UCLA forward Iris Mora, who is having a great senior season for the Bruins, the young Mexicans will have to show some pluck to stay with the powerful U.S. team. Head coach Leo Cuellar has once again chosen to call in a young group that promises to play a competitive match as the growth Mexico has made since the 1999 Women’s World Cup has been inspirational in women’s sports. 

A LOOK AT MEXICO: Mexico, ranked 26th in the latest FIFA Women’s World Rankings, is one of the most improved women’s soccer countries in the world since becoming the first Spanish-speaking country to qualify for a Women’s World Cup in 1999. (Mexico was also the first Spanish-speaking country to qualify for the Olympic women’s soccer tournament). Mexico plays an exciting style featuring an extremely united mixture of Mexican-Americans and homegrown talent. Mexico is without its top two goal scorers and will have trouble finding the net minus star forward Dominguez, who put her team on her back and led them to an Olympic berth with an amazing nine goals in qualifying, and Mora, who adds some feistiness to the attack.  Mexico’s top goalkeeper Jennifer Molina is also not on the roster, but Pamela Tajonar, who played well against the USA in Kansas City in October of 2004, should fill in well for her. Mexico’s captain is former Notre Dame and Boston Breakers player Monica Gonzalez, who will be Mexico’s most experienced player on the pitch, although the diminutive but skillful Monica Vergara has more caps. With such a young team, as Cuellar has brought mostly U-21 aged players, the match may serve as valuable experience for a team that has eight players who would be eligible to play in the 2006 FIFA U-20 World Championship in Russia next September. Mexico has always struggled with the USA athletically, and while they have improved, the young Tricolores will be hard-pressed to slow the U.S. attack. Mexico lost to Australia, 2-0, last Wednesday in El Paso, Texas, on 86th and 90th minute goals from Sarah Walsh and Sally Shipard, respectively.

WITH OLYMPICS BEHIND THEM, CUELLAR LEADS TEAM TOWARDS 2007: Mexico shocked many in their home country by qualifying for the 2004 Olympics and creating a huge story back in Mexico, and much credit should be given to head coach Leo Cuellar, a former NASL star and captain of the Mexico Men’s National Team who earned 41 caps for his country. Cuellar played for the San Diego Sockers, San Jose Earthquakes and Golden Bay Earthquakes in the NASL, scoring 14 goals and picking up 54 assists in a career that spanned six years, from 1979-1984, when he played with a now-famous wild “afro” hairstyle. After six years of work, Cuellar put together a team that was fitter and more confident than ever before, with some talented players all over the field. With his qualification for the Olympics, Cuellar in a sense “bought” four more years of support as his squad shoots for the 2007 Women’s World Cup in China.

BIVENS BRUISED: Defender Kylie Bivens trained just once this week in Charleston after suffering a bruise deep in her left ankle, ruling her out of contention for the game roster. Bivens, a member of the 2003 Women’s World Cup Team, started three matches for the USA in that tournament.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO TIFF AND PELE: Tiffeny Milbrett has scored over 100 international goals, Pele scored more than 1,000 in his club and international career. Hmmmm? There must be something in the alignment of the planets on Oct. 23 that causes great goal scorers to be born that day. Milbrett got an early present when her #1 ranked Univeristy of Portland Pilots won their huge West Coast Conference match-up against rival Santa Clara, 3-1, on Friday night. On Sunday, she'll try to celebrate with a goal against Mexico, against whom she has scored just twice. The final game of the year for the U.S. women also marks the 65th birthday of the great Pele. The Brazilian legend and three-time World Cup winner is known to be a fan of the U.S. Women’s National Team and attended the championship game at the 1991 FIFA Women’s World Cup. From all the players on the U.S. squad, Happy Birthday and Feliz Aniversario (in Portugese!).

The members U.S. WNT each received a sweet-looking red Nike WNT cap this trip. Stitched on the side is the year “1913,” causing several of the younger players to wonder what it stood for…”That’s when Kristine Lilly started playing for the National Team,” said team jokester and noted Lilly teaser Danielle Fotopoulos. It’s actually the year the U.S. Soccer Federation was established.

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