U.S. Women's National Team
Fan Celebration Tour
Notes from Cincinnati, Ohio
LILLY, THE NEWEST MEMBER OF "CENTURY CLUB," LEADS U.S. WOMEN INTO CINCINNATI: Fresh of the historic and dramatic gold medal run at the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece, the U.S. Women's National Soccer Team plays its fourth game of the 10-game "Fan Celebration Tour" against New Zealand on Sunday, Oct. 10 at Paul Brown Stadium (Kickoff 4 p.m. ET). Fans can follow all the action on ussoccer.com's MatchTracker, presented by Philips Electronics. It will be the eighth game for U.S. women in Ohio, but just the second in Cincinnati and first in 11 years since the USA defeated Canada, 7-0, at Galbreath Field in 1993. The USA has gone 6-1-0 in the state of Ohio, with the lone loss coming to Canada in Columbus in 2000 at the end of an excruciatingly long 41-game year for the U.S. team. 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" on Sept. 25 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, had a goal and an assist against Iceland on Sept. 29 in the 3-0 win in Pittsburgh, then had a goal and another assist last Sunday against New Zealand in a 5-0 victory. In that game, midfielder Kristine Lilly treated the fans in Portland to a bit of soccer history as she scored the 100th goal of her illustrious career. Wambach leads 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 at their college team at UNC.
WINS RECORD IN SIGHT: The USA comes into its second leg of the New Zealand match with a record of 23-1-3. With 23 wins and seven 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.
MITTS - THE PRIDE OF CINCINNATI: U.S. defender Heather Mitts will play in her hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio, with the U.S. National Team for the first time. Mitts, one of the least experienced players on the 2004 Olympic Team, has just 26 caps, but 2004 was a breakout year for the speedy and feisty defender out of the University of Florida. She has started 14 of the 21 matches she has played this year, seeing time at right back but also in the middle of the defense, and even better, has scored two game-winning goals, her first scores for the national team. Both goals were remarkably similar coming off corner kicks as she pounded in rebounds from inside of two yards. Mitts scored on July 3 against Canada in a 1-0 victory and then notched the game-winner with 45 seconds left in an exciting 4-3 victory over Iceland to start the "Fan Celebration Tour." Mitts, who attended St. Ursula Academy, was First-Team All-State as a junior and senior and helped the Bulldogs to a 70-5-10 record during her high school career, winning the 1993 state title.
USA vs. NEW ZEALAND PREVIEW: Coming off the 5-0 romp over New Zealand last Sunday, the USA and New Zealand have played five times since the first meeting 17 years ago in 1987, but that's no surprise as the geographically isolated Kiwis don't play a heck of a lot of matches. What is a surprise is that first match was a New Zealand victory as the Kiwis downed the USA 1-0 in Taipei, Taiwan. The USA has since avenged the defeat with a 3-0 win in 1993 and a treble of 5-0 victories. New Zealand's entire roster has 149 caps combined, as many or less than seven individual players on the U.S. roster, and the plucky if inexperienced side really did not create any chances in the first match that could be considered dangerous. New Zealand has been training hard during their tour of the USA, but will have to put in a Herculean effort to slow down the U.S. team, even though the game is being played on an artificial surface for the second game in a row, just the fourth ever game for the USA not played on grass. The USA's experience and athleticism will perhaps be a bit too much for the young Kiwis to deal with as they will be playing just their ninth match in the past 18 months. In the last 18 months, the USA has played 40 matches in four different countries and 16 different states. New Zealand's most experienced players are Maia Jackman and Nicky Smith (nicknamed Smooth), both with 25 appearances for their country. Both have been prolific scorers, with Jackman owning 11 career goals and Smith 15, but they will find it difficult to penetrate a U.S. defense that features some of the most athletic backs in the world. Jackman is the only player in the 100-year history of New Zealand soccer to score hat-tricks in three consecutive internationals (Samoa, Cook Islands and Papua New Guinea in the 2003 OFC WWC qualifiers). A physiotherapist by trade, she has a host of nicknames, the best being Maia-mi Vice (recognizing her vice-captaincy role).
A LOOK BACK AT KIKI HISTORY: New Zealand does not currently have a national team head coach, but one will be appointed next year with the Federation looking toward a female coach to take them into qualifying for the Women's World Cup in China 2007 and the Olympics in Beijing in 2008. The current Director of Football, Paul Smalley, is overseeing the team this time around but his technical staff that has been appointed for this tour both have fond memories of a one of the greatest days in their history (perhaps only topped by defeating Australia for a place in the 1991 Women's World Cup). Wendi Henderson was a non-playing substitute on December 15, 1987, when NZ beat the USA with Mia Hamm, Joy Fawcett, Kristine Lilly and April Heinrichs on the pitch in the 1-0 win in Taiwan. The Kiwi goal scorer was Ali Grant, the second member of the technical staff with Henderson.
NEW ZEALAND NOTES: New Zealand captain Rebecca Smith, who plays in Germany for top club Frankfurt, was born in the USA and graduated from Duke University ... Simone Ferrara is one of the best friends of U.S. midfielder Shannon Boxx. The two went to middle school together and high school in Torrance, Calif. Boxx was a bridesmaid in Ferrara's wedding last April and Ferrara will be in Boxx's wedding next April, which should make for some interesting clashes on the field ... Ferrara, a UC Irvine (Calif.) graduate, manages the family bakery, but did not play in the first match due to injury ... Three of the New Zealanders attend Southwest Baptist University in Missouri in Priscilla Duncan, Hayley Moorwood and Pip Meo, who is SWBM's top scorer so far this year ... Rebecca Sowden recently graduated from William & Mary earlier this year ... Adding to New Zealand's inexperience is that the two first-choice goalkeepers are both unavailable - one is pregnant and the other has just scored a job transfer, and is training a replacement before heading to Germany to work for a major soccer apparel company ... Dana Humby, Pam Yates, Anne Ormrod and Kirsty Yallop all made their international debuts against the USA in Portland ... Melissa Ray is nicknamed Spidey ... Rebecca Simpson is postal deliver person ... Jane Simpson is an architect, a trade in which females are few and far between in NZ ... Humby works for Ford NZ in their Parts Department ... Amber Hearn is currently on trial with Arsenal in England ... Zarnia Cogle is currently studying the practical aspects of adventure tourism, and intends working with disabled athletes in the area of outdoor pursuits.
NikeGO FOLLOWS USA ON "FAN CELEBRATION TOUR": Nike has announced that it will continue its grassroots support of soccer in the community through the NikeGO donation program as part of the U.S. Women's National Team's "Fan Celebration Tour."
For each ticket sold on the tour, Nike will donate $1 in sports equipment to designated programs in each of the tour's 10 host cities. The company has already targeted partners in the nine announced locations, which consist largely of local Parks and Recreation programs. The donation of Nike soccer product is designed to support the increase in soccer participation among young girls in each city. Nike has also purchased 50 tickets for each game for youth involved with the recipient organization.