SEATTLE, Wash. (Wednesday, November 6, 2002) - The U.S. Women's National Team became the sixth team to qualify for the 2003 FIFA Women's World Cup by virtue of its 7-0 victory over Costa Rica in the first semifinal of the 2002 CONCACAF Women's Gold Cup. Forward Cindy Parlow led the way for the USA, scoring a pure hat trick, two on acrobatic headers.
The top two finishers in the Women's Gold Cup qualify from this region for the 4th Women's World Cup, being held in China from Sept. 24-Oct. 11, 2003, and by advancing to the championship game, the USA has earned one of those berths. The USA will now face the winner of the Mexico-Canada semifinal - the second half of tonight's doubleheader - on Saturday, Nov. 9, at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif., for the championship of this region. Kickoff for that match is 7 p.m. PT and it will be broadcast live on Fox Sports World. It will be the second championship final for the U.S. women at the Rose Bowl, the first being the 1999 Women's World Cup Final.
"It is wonderful for our team" said Heinrichs, who captained the U.S. team to the 1991 Women's World Cup title in China. "The best part about today was our players' response to winning. They were absolutely, genuinely elated that we earned the right to go back to the World Cup."
A steady rain fell on Seattle during the entire day, but it no effect on the pitch. The Safeco Field roof was closed for the match and the cool, crisp night was perfect for soccer as the USA notched its fourth consecutive shutout in the tournament.
"We still have a very important game left," said U.S. forward Mia Hamm. "Our first goal was to qualify for the World Cup, and we did that, so now our goal is to win the Gold Cup."
An extremely young Costa Rican team came out in a highly defensive formation that at times featured five backs plus a sweeper, and packed the back, making it difficult for the U.S. team to find space in the attacking third. Costa Rica's best offensive weapon was the booming goal kicks of team captain Gabriela Trujillo, but the U.S. backs won almost every air ball. U.S. goalkeeper Briana Scurry was not bothered during the match, touching the ball a handful of times with her feet and made just one save.
Despite the multitude of white Costa Rican jerseys inside the penalty area, the U.S. chances came often and it was only a matter of time until the Americans got a goal. In the 6th minute, Shannon MacMillan struck a shot off the right post. Joy Fawcett skimmed a header off the crossbar in the 8th minute and Aly Wagner's driven header was pushed off the underside of the crossbar by Costa Rica goalkeeper Marie Claire Herra in the 40th. In between, Herra, made a handful of outstanding staves, denying a point blank blast from Parlow early in the game and pushing a Cat Reddick shot around the post that had started as a cross, but skidded off the damp turf dangerously close to the right corner.
The goal finally came in the 30th minute as a deft flick from Wagner flick Julie Foudy behind the defense in right side of the penalty area. The U.S. captain drilled a cross that darted through goal mouth traffic to Parlow at the far post, who tapped the ball in with the outside of her right shin to give the USA the lead.
After pushing hard for goals in the first half, the U.S. broke the game open after the break, scoring six times in the second half. Just four minutes into the second half, Parlow got her second goal as Reddick hit a beautiful cross from deep on the right flank into the middle. Parlow destroyed her defender, going over her to nod the ball into the lower left corner. Herra got her hands on the ball, but couldn't turn it outside the post.
"The service I received tonight was the best I've received all year with the national team," said Parlow, who upped her international goal total to 57 with her fifth career hat trick. "I was talking with Cat Reddick at halftime and I was telling her that the early service behind the defense was on, and five minutes into the second half, she puts it right on my head."
Parlow completed her hat trick three minutes later, her third goal inside of 22 minutes, rising above her defender to head a Kristine Lilly corner kick into the lower left corner.
"We were pleased with way our team started off and the way we pursued goals," added Heinrichs. "We talked at halftime about being patient and confident, and if someone could please knock that glass shield off the goal so that we can put in a few in the second half. And that person was Cindy Parlow."
Second half substitute Angela Hucles added the fourth goal in the 65th minute, the first of her international career, after she ran onto a Parlow cross that had been flicked on by the head of MacMillan. Hucles stabbed at the bouncing ball with the bottom of her cleat and re-directed it with class past Herra into the lower left corner.
The USA benefited from an own goal in the 79th minute, but credit must go to Lorrie Fair, who sent in a dangerous cross from the left side, and Lilly, whose pressure caused the ball to bounce off Cinthia Lopez' shoulder and into the net.
The USA ended the match with two crackers, as MacMillan ran onto loose ball in the right side of the penalty area and drove her shot across the 'keeper into the upper left corner in the 86th minute. Lilly added a goal in the 90th minute, ironically, her 90th career international goal, as Wagner touched a pass back to her 25 yards from the net she volleyed the bouncing ball, ripping a dipping shot into the net just under the cross bar at the right corner.
"(Costa Rica) was relying on the bunker and counter, and taking their time by being patient, but I have to give credit to our team," said Hamm. "We didn't get frustrated like we had in prior games when we had out-shot teams. The team stayed focused and extremely positive, and that allowed us when we came out in the second half to get some goals. And once Cindy got the first two, it opened up the field for us."
The USA played without forward Tiffeny Milbrett, who scored five times in the last match against Panama, as she got the night off to rest a minor knock suffered in that match. Hamm came off the bench, replacing Parlow, and played the last 19 minutes of the game.
The USA now joins host China, Germany, Sweden, Norway and Russia as the six teams who have already earned berths to the 2003 Women's World Cup, which will be played in five Chinese cities.
"It's a tremendous honor to play in a World Cup for your country," added Hamm, who has three on her resume. "It will be for the new players that will get the their first chance and it will be for the players who are playing in their fourth tournament."
U.S. WOMEN'S NATIONAL TEAM GAME REPORT
Participants: United States Women's National Team vs. Costa Rica
Competition: 2002 CONCACAF Women's Gold Cup Semifinal
Venue: Safeco Field (Seattle, Washington)
Date: November 6, 2002; Kickoff - 7:00 p.m. (PT)
Weather: Cool, dry, roof closed - 45 degrees
Scoring Summary: 1 - 2 - F
United States 1 - 6 - 7
Costa Rica 0 - 0 - 0
USA - Cindy Parlow (Julie Foudy), 30.
USA - Cindy Parlow (Cat Reddick), 49.
USA - Cindy Parlow (Kristine Lilly), 52.
USA - Angela Hucles (Shannon MacMillan), 65.
USA - Own Goal (Cinthia Lopez), 79.
USA - Shannon MacMillan (unassisted), 86.
USA - Kristine Lilly (Aly Wagner), 90.
USA - 1-Briana Scurry; 4-Cat Reddick, 6-Brandi Chastain, 14-Joy Fawcett, 17-Jenny Benson (2-Lorrie Fair, 46); 5-Tiffany Roberts (3-Angela Hucles, 46), 10-Aly Wagner, 11-Julie Foudy; 8-Shannon MacMillan, 12-Cindy Parlow (9-Mia Hamm, 71), 13-Kristine Lilly.
Subs not used: 7-Heather O'Reilly, 15-Kate Sobrero, 16-Tiffeny Milbrett, 18-LaKeysia Beene.
CRC - 23-Marie Claire Herra; 3-Gabriela Trujillo, 4-Karol Segura, 5-Monica Salazar, 15-Cinthia Lopez, 6-Xiomara Briceno, 13-Maricela Rojas, 16-Cindy Rodriguez (19-Heilyn Barrantes, 82), 10-Shirley Cruz, 9-Ericka Castro (17-Jackeline Alvarez, 46), 11-Megan Chavez (8-Ana Gabriela Campos, 74).
Subs not used: 1-Alejandra Alvarez, 2-Emilia Solano, 7-Martha Chavez, 12-Laura Sanchez.
Statistical Summary: USA / CRC
Shots: 37 / 1
Saves: 1 / 11
Corner Kicks: 17 / 0
Fouls: 11 / 9
Offside: 2 / 1
Referee: Sonia Denoncourt (CAN)
Asst. Referee: Isabel Tovar (MEX)
Asst. Referee: Jackeline Sawz (PAN)