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U.S. Women Open Four Nations Tournament on Friday vs. Germany

U.S. Women’s National Team
Notes from Guangzhou, China
Thursday, January 25, 2007

U.S. TO OPEN FOUR NATIONS TOURNAMENT AGAINST GERMANY: The U.S. Women’s National Team is at the end of a very long eight days in China and could not be more ready to get the 2007 Four Nations Tournament started with a match against Germany on Friday, Jan. 26. The theme of this match will be youth, as both teams have left key players back home with the goal of giving young players a chance to shine on the big stage while strengthening the depth of their teams for the 2007 FIFA Women’s World Cup. The meeting of the world’s top two women’s soccer nations (Germany is ranked first in the FIFA Women’s World Rankings, the USA second) will kickoff at 4 p.m. local time (3 a.m. ET) after China and England get the festivities started at 1:30 p.m. local (2:30 a.m. ET). The U.S. team trained inside Guangdong Olympic Stadium on Thursday (photos), running through a light training that lasted just an hour. The weather, while chilly, is perfect for soccer and the playing surface is in excellent shape. The competition will mark the sixth time the USA has played in the Four Nations Tournament, coming away with tournament championships four times. This will be England’s first trip to play in the Four Nations Tournament. Germany faced the USA in the Four Nations in 2002 (0-0 tie) and 2003 (1-0 U.S. win), but has not been back until this year.

WHITEHILL POISED FOR 100TH CAP: U.S. defender Cat Whitehill, a likely starter against Germany, will earn her 100th career cap for the USA should she play in the Four Nations opener. Whitehill would become the 19th player in U.S. history to play 100 times for her country, but just the fifth pure defender to join the Century Club. At 24 years, 350 days, she would become the fifth youngest player to earn a 100th cap. Only Cindy Parlow, Mia Hamm, Lorrie Fair and Lilly (in that order) would have been younger. This will be the second year in a row that a U.S. player reaches a cap milestone in the first match of the Four Nations. In 2006, Lilly played her historic 300th match in the USA’s Four Nations opener against Norway.

CHINESE FANS SET FOR WOMEN’S WORLD CUP PREVIEW: With all four participating teams having qualified for the 2007 FIFA Women’s World Cup (China as host), this tournament will give the Chinese fans a preview of what to expect come September, when the Women’s World Cup will be held from the 10th through 30th in five Chinese cities. While the USA and Germany will be experimenting with younger players, England has brought almost its entire squad, and China, despite a few injuries, will also field its strongest team. The four-team tournament format will simulate a Women’s World Cup first-round group. At the 16-team 2007 FIFA Women’s World Cup, the top two teams in each of the four groups will advance to the quarterfinals.

2007 Four Nations Tournament - Guangdong Olympic Stadium, Guangzhou, China
January 26
China vs. England   1:30 p.m. local / 12:30 a.m. ET
USA vs. Germany    4 p.m. local / 3 a.m. ET

January 28
China vs. Germany   1:30 p.m. local / 12:30 a.m. ET
USA vs. England       4 p.m. local / 3 a.m. ET

January 30
Germany vs. England    1:30 p.m. local / 12:30 a.m. ET
USA vs. China                 4 p.m. local / 3 a.m. ET

CAPTAIN MARKGRAF PREVIEWS FOUR NATIONS: U.S. WNT veteran and defensive stalwart Kate Markgraf will lead the (very young) troops at the Four Nations Tournament beginning on Friday, Jan. 26. Listen to what Markgraf had to say in this exclusive all_access podcast as she took some time from training to sit down with and discuss the upcoming tournament, as well as all the young players on the squad and the upcoming FIFA Women's World Cup, which will also take place in China. The mother of one also sends a shoutout to her son, Keegan, who didn't make this trip with the team (listen).

USA-GERMANY PREVIEW: One of the greatest rivalries of women’s soccer will be renewed at Guangdong Olympic Stadium as the USA and Germany meet for the 22nd time. While the USA holds a 14-4-3 all-time record against the Germans, the last six matches have all been ultra-tight affairs dating back to a 0-0 draw at this tournament in 2002. The USA won, 1-0, at the Four Nations in January of 2003 before the two teams met in the 2003 FIFA Women’s World Cup semifinal where the Americans tragically fell, 3-0, giving up two goals in stoppage time of the second half. The USA avenged that loss in the 2004 Olympic semifinal, winning, 2-1, in overtime on a goal from then 19-year-old forward Heather O’Reilly, and defeated Germany, 1-0, in the Algarve Cup Final in 2005 despite the Germans producing most of the dangerous chances. That was the first tournament for head coach Greg Ryan, who coached with an “interim” tag before being hired on full-time. Ryan has not lost in regulation time in his 31 games on the bridge, going 26-0-5. Ryan and a handful of U.S. players preview the match vs. Germany in the latest all_access video (watch).

Last Meeting
The most recent match between the USA and Germany was on March 15, 2006, in the 2006 Algarve Cup championship game. Despite having more of the match, the USA could not find a way past German über-goalkeeper Silke Rottenberg, who made several spectacular saves and was also bailed out twice by the crossbar. Despite out-shooting Germany, 19-9, and earning 13 corner kicks to Germany’s three, the match went to overtime and then penalty kicks, where the USA fell, 4-3. The match goes down officially as a tie, but the American team will be highly motivated to find the net this time around.

Both Teams Leave Veterans at Home
This match will feature some different personnel from the 2006 Algarve Cup Final as the USA is without five key players and Germany has left at least six important players behind, including three-time FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year Birgit Prinz and her 101 career goals. Defensive leaders Steffi Jones and Sandra Minnert and midfielders Kerstin Garefrekes and Renate Lingor, who finished third in the FIFA voting this year, also did not make the trip. The USA will be without leading scorers Kristine Lilly and Abby Wambach, as well as defender Christie Rampone and attacking midfielder Aly Wagner, all left at home to rest while allowing the slew of young American talent a chance to get some quality minutes against big-time teams. The USA is also without defensive midfielder Shannon Boxx, who has been out for nine months while she rehabilitates from ACL surgery. She is expected back in training in February.

Opportunities Beckon for Young U.S. Players
This tournament will be exciting and challenging for the young U.S. team and numerous players will get the chance to test themselves against World Cup-like competition. With Lilly and Wambach back in the United States, forwards Lindsay Tarpley, Heather O’Reilly and Natasha Kai will be called upon to supply scoring chances and goals. Uncapped forwards Lauren Cheney and Casey Nogueira, both members of the U.S. team at the 2006 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Championship, may also get the chance to test themselves in their first major competition for the senior side. From the midfield, Ryan has asked for more goal-scoring, and may give Lori Chalupny a chance in the attacking midfield role. The former collegiate and youth national team midfielder has played outside back almost exclusively over the past year, but will likely get the chance to play a midfield role, albeit as a central player, after playing on the flank for most of her college career. The tournament will also give opportunities to Carli Lloyd, Angela Hucles and the uncapped Yael Averbuch in the attacking midfield spot while Joanna Lohman and Marci Miller will try to show they can give cover to Leslie Osborne, and eventually Boxx, both of whom have distinguished themselves as elite defensive midfielders. The versatile Lohman could also see time in the attacking midfield slot. Hucles is one of the most capped players on the roster with 59 games to her credit, but no other midfielder has played more than 30 times for the USA, and that stat belongs to Osborne, who started almost all the matches in 2006. The defense is the most experienced line on the U.S. roster with Olympic gold medalists Kate Markgraf, Cat Whitehill and Heather Mitts, but Stephanie Lopez, India Trotter and Tina Frimpong could also see some quality minutes.

Germans Mix Experience and Youth
While Germany has brought numerous young players – four were members of the 2004 FIFA U-19 Women’s World Championship winners and three were on the 2006 U-20 team that lost to the USA in the World Championship in Russia – the perennial European champions still have veterans in key spots, especially in goal with Silke Rottenberg. Long one of the top ‘keepers in the world, she is an intimidating presence in goal, has world class athleticism and, with 122 games for Germany, tremendous experience. In the back, Kerstin Stegemann has played 150 times for Germany while smooth defender Ariane Hingst (122 caps) can play centrally or on the outside. While the midfield is relatively inexperienced, only one of the five forwards on the German roster has played less than 50 games, and Anja Mittag’s 28 caps at age 21 show why she won Bronze Ball in Thailand as the FIFA U-19 tournament’s third best player. Sandra Smiske leads the way for the German attackers with 111 caps and 27 goals, but the sneaky Conny Pohlers (who played in the WUSA) and the powerful Martina Muller both have 24 goals for their country.

United States Women’s National Team Roster – Four Nations Tournament -- Guangzhou, China
GOALKEEPERS: 1-Briana Scurry, 18-Hope Solo;
DEFENDERS: 17-Lori Chalupny, 8-Tina Frimpong, 14-Stephanie Lopez, 15-Kate Markgraf, 2-Heather Mitts, 27-India Trotter, 4-Cat Whitehill;
MIDFIELDERS: 20-Yael Averbuch, 16-Angela Hucles, 11-Carli Lloyd, 23-Joanna Lohman, 7-Marci Miller, 12-Leslie Osborne;
FORWARDS: 25-Lauren Cheney, 6-Natasha Kai, 26-Casey Nogueira, 9-Heather O’Reilly, 5-Lindsay Tarpley.

Germany Women’s National Team Roster -- Four Nations Tournament -- Guangzhou, China
GOALKEEPERS: 1-Silke Rottenberg, 12-Stephanie Ullrich;
DEFENDERS: Kerstin Stegemann, 17-Ariane Hingst, 3-Sonja Fuss, 5-Annike Krahn, 13-Bianca Rech, 20-Jennifer Zietz, 4-Babett Peter;
MIDFIELDERS: 19-Navina Omilade, 6-Britta Carlson, 7-Melanie Behringer, 14-Celia Okoyino de Mbabi, 10-Linda Bresonik, 18-Fatmire Bajramaj;
FORWARDS: 8-Sandra Smisek, 15-Petra Wimbersky, 16-Conny Pohlers, 9-Martina Muller, 11-Anja Mittag.

U.S. head coach Greg Ryan on what is he is looking for in the U.S team at the Four Nations:
“All of the players right now are competing for positions, not only for making the squad, but starting spots in a variety of different positions. If you look at some of our keys from the last two years, we need to establish a third goal-scoring striker to go alongside Abby (Wambach) and (Kristine) Lilly. I think that’s critical for us if we want to be successful in September because teams are going to find a way to shut them down on a given day and we have to have a third option up front that we can consistently count on to score goals. We got very little goal scoring production out of our midfield in 2006, and again, that’s just something we’ve got to get done this year. We’ve moved Lori Chalupny into the midfield to have a look at her there this tournament and she’s done very, very well so far. We’ll continue to look for the right combination, but we’ve got to find attacking midfielders that can put the ball into the back of the net.”

Ryan on the Germans:
“Beside the fact that they are very organized and skillful, they are so technical that they don’t need many chances to score. But the thing that makes them so tough is that you can outplay them, and (goalkeeper Silke) Rottenberg can keep them in the game. They have an exceptional level of team confidence, individually and collectively. We out-played them badly in the last Algave Cup…the clear chances to score were all ours. They never got rattled. A lot of teams get rattled. Germany never gets rattled.”

Ryan on the stadium and training field being a part of the hotel complex:
“This is ideal. When you can walk down from your room, get on the elevator and walk 100 steps to the field, it doesn’t get much better than that. The field is beautiful, I walked it last night. Everything has been first class from the organizing committee.”

TOURNAMENT FORMAT: The 2007 Four Nations will be played in the standard round-robin format where teams get three points for a win, one for a tie and zero for a loss. The first tie-breaker is goal difference, followed by goals scored and then the head-to-head result. In an interesting twist, if, after regulation time in the final match of the tournament between the USA and China, those two teams are tied for first place and tied on all tie-breakers, they will play 30 minutes of overtime, and then penalty kicks if necessary. Each team will be allowed five substitutes for each match. All nine subs from the 20-player rosters are eligible. The USA will wear white jerseys, blue shorts and white socks for all three matches.

HARDWARE TO BE HAD: Five awards will be given out at the end the Four Nations Tournament: Best Player, Best Scorer, Best Goalkeeper, Best Coach and Fair Play Award.

CASEY AT THE BAG: Sometimes when you least expect it, good things happen. Casey Nogueira had all but given up on her lost bag, having gone the first week in China without it when it didn’t show up after the team touched down on Jan. 17. Then, some good news. No, great news. Casey’s favorite tie-die shirt and UNC basketball shorts were back. Due to some diligent detective work from U.S. General Manager Nils Krumins, the bag was located in Beijing and shipped ASAP to Guangzhou, where it reunited with the beaming 17-year-old. Said Nogueira: “After wearing the same clothes for seven days…well, I think that says enough. I was going to get around $800 for the bag, which would have been cool, but I’ll take the clothes instead.”

Germany has won four consecutive European Women’s Championships and six of the last seven. The last time they weren’t reigning European champions was in 1994.

Quote of the Day:

Defender Cat Whitehill, who will earn her 100th cap against Germany at the Four Nations Tournament:

“Growing up in Alabama, I would have never thought I would get to play for the National Team, never mind get 100 caps. I’m 24, married, one of the most capped players on this roster and we are playing the World Cup champions. Sometimes life just moves really fast.”

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