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U.S. Women's National Team Downs Canada in Penalty Kick Shootout to Win 2008 CONCACAF Women's Olympic Qualifying


CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico (April 12, 2008) – The U.S. Women’s National Team got a dramatic overtime free-kick goal from Carli Lloyd before Canada tied the game three minutes from the end, sending the match into a penalty kick shootout where the Americans prevailed 6-5 to win the 2008 CONCACAF Women’s Olympic Qualifying tournament.

Both teams had already secured their berths to the 2008 Beijing Olympics with semifinal victories, but the U.S. triumph moved its record in CONCACAF competitions to 27-0-1 and marked the eighth overall confederation title for the USA. It also marked the third straight tournament championship under head coach Pia Sundhage after winning the Four Nations in China in January and the Algarve Cup in March.

“It was an exciting game, you could hear it in the crowd’s reaction,” said Sundhage. “The way we played in the second half was very good and we created a lot of chances. This is the environment that really matters when you have the word “final” attached to it and being pushed to penalty kicks it’s one of the best things that could happen to the U.S. team in this tournament. You can’t match the feeling in practice of taking penalty kicks in a game like this, and it could happen in the Olympics. But I am very happy for the team as there were so many good things out there tonight.”

The USA out-shot Canada 24-10 during the match but ran into a red-hot goalkeeper in Erin McLeod, who played a Herculean game for her country. She made 10 total saves, including at least a half-dozen spectacular goal-saving stops

But in the end, it was U.S. goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart who ended up being the hero, diving to her left to push away Brittany Timko’s penalty kick on Canada’s seventh attempt of the shootout.

U.S. head coach Pia Sundhage left two of her top attackers on the bench to start the game, giving some rest to Abby Wambach and Heather O’Reilly as Amy Rodriguez got the start up top and Kacey White played at right midfield. Leslie Osborne also got her first start of the tournament, playing an excellent 120 minutes at defensive midfield.

When the USA had the ball, Canada played four defenders across the back with midfielder Diane Matheson sitting right in front of them, and four players across the midfield with Melissa Tancredi as the lone striker. Organized and tough in the their defensive tactics, the Canadians proved difficult to penetrate for the U.S. team in the first half. As their opponents tired in the second half, the Americans launched attacked after attack only to find McLeod up for the challenge.

In the 107th minute of the first overtime period, Canadian forward Kara Lang chopped down Lloyd on a hard tackle from behind about 28 yards from the net just left of the penalty arc, earning a yellow card for the challenge. Stung by the tackle, Lloyd stayed on the turf for a few moments before rising and pulling off a moment of brilliance.

Lloyd sent her hard, dipping shot over the wall and into the lower left corner on a bounce, finally finding a way past McLeod, then celebrated with a sprint to the bench area where she was engulfed by her teammates.

It seemed the goal would be enough to seal the win, but Canada got an improbable equalizer just three minutes from the end of overtime. The Canadians earned a corner kick which was floated in from the left side to Tancredi, who jumped in a pack of players and nodded the ball home from close range. It was Canada’s only shot on goal in the whole second half and overtime, but good enough to send the game to penalties.

Lloyd started the USA off in what was a series of extremely well taken kicks by both teams with a blast into the lower left corner. Then, Canadian captain Christine Sinclair converted her spot kick, as Barnhart got her whole hand on the ball but couldn’t turn it away. Substitute Angela Hucles scored the USA’s second kick before Canadian defender Martina Franko pinged her shot off the left post.

The USA could have taken the lead, but McLeod dove to her left to push away Lori Chalupny’s chance and Tancredi then converted to tie the shootout at 2-2 after three kicks.

Rampone, the U.S. captain, stepped up to coolly finish her kick before Clare Rustad did the same. On the USA’s fifth kick, Wambach came up big, blasting her shot home, and forcing Canada to convert to send the game into sudden death. Lang was up to the task and powered her shot into the left corner.

Osborne then blasted her spot kick home before Rhian Wilkinson matched the effort to make it 5-5 after six kicks each. O’Reilly then slotted her chance into the net, setting the stage for Barnhart’s heroics. Timko hit her shot solid, but too close to Barnhart, who slapped the ball away, setting off a wild celebration from the U.S. players.

“I had got my full hand on Sinclair’s shot, but wasn’t able to deflect it over the goal as I was going right and she hit it straight up the middle,” said Barnhart. “I read a few of them wrong and went the wrong way, but on Timko’s I had a feeling she was going left and kind of read her. She didn’t hit it that well so I was able to make the save.”

Barnhart had also made two excellent saves early in the game, diving to save a sliding shot from Sinclair in the seventh minute and then tipping a driven effort from Jonelle Filigno over the crossbar in the 16th minute.

The first half saw much of the same pattern as the USA would win the ball and maintain some good possession trying to find a way through or around Canada, but when the Canadians won it, they would look long for the powerful duo of Sinclair and Tancredi. Canada hit a steady stream of long balls at the U.S. backs, most of which were cleared by Osborne, Rampone and Kate Markgraf, but one got through in the 29th minute as Barnhart came out to smother the ball at the feet of Sinclair.

The U.S. back line did extremely well to hold up against Canada’s barrage of long balls and Rampone had several magnificent recovery runs during the game to defuse dangerous Canadian attacks.

Young U.S. forward Amy Rodriguez played all 120 minutes and had numerous good chances on the night, including one in stoppage time of the first half as Natasha Kai cut a pass back to her after penetrating into the penalty area on the right, but she fired it wide.

In the 50th minute, Tarpley sent a great cross from the left wing that was headed down by Wambach, who was a halftime substitute, but this time Rodriguez sent her shot just wide left. In the 75th minute, O'Reilly crossed from the right and Rodriguez hit a hard volley on net, only to see McLeod dive to snag it with one hand. McLeod later saved a Rodriguez break-away as well.

Canada had a chance to win the game six minutes from the end of regulation after Matheson won a tackle from Chalupny in the right side of the box, got up and played a ball back to Lang. But, with an open shot, Lang hit her chance just wide left of the post.

The USA then had a chance to end it with just one minute left in regulation as Lloyd hit a screaming roller-coaster of a shot from 35 yards out that thundered off the crossbar at the upper left corner. Wambach was in on goal for the rebound, but couldn’t control the hard bounce and did not get off a shot before Canada was able to clear it way.

McLeod made a brilliant kick-save on Wambach in the 105th minute and then in the 108th somehow got a hand to Wambach’s flick header off a bending free-kick from Lloyd, pushing it off the left post. Soon after, McLeod made another kick-save on Wambach as she dribbled all the way to the goal on the left side and tried to stuff her shot into the near post.

A rare sight happened in the 116th minute as Markgraf scored during a goal mouth scramble after a corner kick, but the ball had hit her hand before she finished. It would have been Markgraf’s first career goal in 176 caps.

The goal allowed by Barnhart was actually the first she’s let past her in eight career caps. Along with Barnhart, Sundhage started three other relatively inexperienced players in the championship game, giving Rodriguez her 15th cap, defender Rachel Buehler, who played extremely well at right back, her sixth, and White her fourth.

The U.S. team, which has been on the road for 25 days, will now go on a much-deserved break before regrouping on April 22 in Cary, N.C., to prepare for its first domestic matches of the year against Australia on April 27 at WakeMed Park (7 p.m. ET) and on May 3 at Legion Field in Birmingham, Ala. (5 p.m. ET / 4 p.m. local). The match in Birmingham will be televised live on Fox Soccer Channel.

For the match in Birmingham, tickets start at $18 and can be purchased through ussoccer.com, by calling 205-715-6000, and at all Birmingham-area Ticketmaster ticket centers (including Publix and FYE stores).

For the game in Cary, tickets start at $18 and can be purchased through ussoccer.com, by phone at 919-834-4000, and at all Raleigh-Durham area Ticketmaster ticket centers (including Macy’s and FYE stores).

- U.S. WOMEN'S NATIONAL TEAM GAME REPORT -

Match-up: USA vs. Canada
Competition: 2008 CONCACAF Women’s Olympic Qualifying Championship
Venue: Estadio Olimpico Benito Juarez; Juarez, Mexico
Date: April 12, 2008; Kickoff – 7:30 p.m. MT
Attendance: 4,151
Weather: Clear, light breeze – 63 degrees

Scoring Summary:   1   2  1OT 2OT   F   PK
USA                              0   0    0       1     1    6
CAN                              0   0    0       1     1    5

USA – Carli Lloyd (unassisted)     107 minute.
CAN – Melissa Tancredi (n/a)                      116.

Penalty Kicks
USA                          CAN
Lloyd GOAL             Sinclair GOAL
Hucles GOAL          Franko Left Post
Chalupyny Saved   Tancredi GOAL
Rampone GOAL     Rustad GOAL
Wambach GOAL     Lang GOAL
Osborne GOAL       Wilkinson GOAL
O’Reilly GOAL         Timko Saved

Lineups:
USA: 24-Nicole Barnhart; 2-Rachel Buehler, 3-Christie Rampone – Capt., 15-Kate Markgraf, 17-Lori Chalupny; 12-Leslie Osborne, 11-Carli Lloyd, 5-Lindsay Tarpley (9-Heather O’Reilly, 62), 10-Kacey White (16-Angela Hucles, 76); 6-Natasha Kai (20-Abby Wambach, 46), 19-Amy Rodriguez.
Subs not used: 4-Cat Whitehill, 8-Lauren Cheney, 14-Stephanie Cox, 18-Hope Solo.
Not Eligible: 7-Shannon Boxx, 13-Tobin Heath.

Head Coach: Pia Sundhage

CAN: 18-Erin McLeod; 9-Candace Chapman, 10-Martina Franko, 11-Randee Hermus (5-Robyn Gayle, 46), 4-Clare Rustad, 8-Diana Matheson (19-Alexandra Marton, 100), 16-Jonelle Filigno (17-Brittany Timko, 70), 7-Rhian Wilkinson, 12-Christine Sinclair, 14-Melissa Tancredi, 15-Kara Lang.
Subs not used: 1-Karina LeBlanc, 2-Kristina Kiss, 6-Sophie Schmidt, 13-Amy Walsh.
Not Eligible: 3-Melanie Booth, 21-Jodi Ann Robinson.

Head Coach: Even Pellerud

Statistical Summary: USA / CAN
Shots:                                24 / 10
Shots on Goal:                 12 / 5
Saves:                                  4 / 10
Corner Kicks:                    10 / 3
Fouls:                                 14 / 10
Offside:                                 3 / 7

Misconduct Summary:
CAN – Kara Lang (caution) 107th minute.

Officials
Referee: Erika Vargas (CRC)
Asst. Referee: Cynette Jeffrey (GUY)
Asst. Referee: Cindy Mohammed (TRI)
4th Official: Monique Ras (ARU)

Sierra Mist Woman of the Match: Carli Lloyd

Third-place Game
Mexico 1, Costa Rica 0

Championship
USA 1, Canada 1 (USA wins 6-5 in penalty kicks)

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