- U.S. Wins Fourth Four Nations Tournament With Big-Time Performance Before 15,000 Fans
- Lilly Named Best Player, Solo Named Best Goalkeeper, Ryan named Best Coach
- U.S. Women Return to Action in March at 2006 Algarve Cup in Portugal
GUANGZHOU, China (January 22, 2006) – The U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team put together a magnificent performance in its final match of the 2006 Four Nations Tournament, defeating host China, 2-0, in front of a raucous crowd of 15,000 to win the title. China finished second, France third and Norway fourth.
U.S. captain Kristine Lilly, playing in her 302nd career game, was magnificent once again, scoring both U.S. goals in the first half, the first off a penalty kick and the second from an opportunistic and clinical finish.
The match was played in cold conditions, but in an electric atmosphere that featured flag-waving and drum-beating Chinese fans who loudly supported their team throughout the entire match. Fans flowed into Guangdong Olympic Stadium all the way up until halftime.
China needed just a tie to win the tournament, but it was the U.S. team that was the aggressor. The USA played its best match of the tournament, a fact made even more impressive as it was the third game in five days for both teams.
“The mentality of this team is to look at any situation like this and just step out with a determination to win the day, and that’s what they did,” said U.S. head coach Greg Ryan. “I don’t think the crowd affected them, I don’t think the cold affected them. I could see it in their faces and eyes before the game started, there was that additional focus and determination to win this game today. You don’t always get the breaks, but I knew they would do everything they needed to do to win it.”
The dynamic and skillful Chinese had their usual spurts of possession that created danger around the U.S. box, but the U.S. defense never let the crowd really get into the match. China played a 4-4-2 formation with the crafty Han Duan playing high against the U.S. back line, but she could not find a gap like the ones she had exploited in China’s first two matches.
The penalty kick was earned on the USA’s first corner kick of the game in the 23rd minute as Abby Wambach, after years of being mugged in the penalty box on set plays, finally got a whistle in her favor. Norwegian referee Ann Helene Ostervold made a gusty call, ruling that Wambach had been obstructed, held and pulled, as Lilly lofted in the service from the right side.
The Chinese players protested vehemently, but that had no effect on Lilly, who coolly stepped up to drive her spot kick into the lower right corner as goalkeeper Han Wen Xia leaned the wrong way.
The U.S. midfield of Shannon Boxx, Lindsay Tarpley and Aly Wagner enjoyed a bit more space and time than they did against France in the USA’s 0-0 draw, and took full advantage of it, helping create dangerous chances all match long in support of the front line of Lilly, Wambach and Christie Welsh.
The USA got the second goal in the 41st minute as Welsh sent a short chip over the Chinese back line from only 25 yards out. Lilly ran onto the service, held off a defender and skillfully lifted the bouncing ball over the onrushing Chinese goalkeeper and into the right corner from seven yards out.
The goal stunned the large crowd into silence for several minutes.
With two goals, Lilly pushed her international total to 107 and moved into sole possession of second place on the all-time U.S. goal-scoring list behind Mia Hamm (158 goals). The 107 career goals also tie her for second place on the world’s all-time international scoring list for women with Italian legend Elisabetta Vignotto.
U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo played a stellar match, making five saves and coming off her line to strongly secure or punch clear at least a half-dozen Chinese services. In the 29th minute, she denied the Steel Roses’ first dangerous chance of the game by diving to her right to knock down a troublesome header from Han. She then pounced on the loose ball before a Chinese player could get a foot to it. Solo also had to stretch fully to her left in the 81st minute to deny a blistering Chinese drive from distance.
The U.S. came close to adding to the lead on several occasions in the second half. In the 59th minute, defender Amy LePeilbet drew a roar from the crowd when she ran under a falling Chinese clearance and blasted a full volley from outside the box. Her shot toward the left side of the net was blocked and momentarily cleared by a defender. In the ensuing scramble, the ball was played back into the box where Tarpley got a foot to it, spinning it off the left post from 10 yards out.
In the 62nd minute, Wambach got behind the Chinese defense on a counter, but was run down before she could shoot. Seven minutes later, Wagner had a chance on a point blank header, but hit it straight into the hands of Han from the top of the six-yard box.
China pushed hard for a goal in the last 15 as their fans implored them to attack the U.S. net with chants of “Fight On! Fight On!” but the U.S. defense would not break. The U.S. back line played a superb game against the deceptive Chinese, particularly the two center backs, LePeilbet and Tina Frimpong. The USA was without veteran center backs Cat Reddick and Kate Markgraf for this tournament, so Frimpong, a converted forward, was starting just her third game in central defense for the USA, all at the Four Nations Tournament. She combined with LePeilbet to win nearly every fifty-fifty ball that came up the middle. Heather Mitts had another stellar match at right back while veteran Christie Rampone, playing somewhat out of position at left back (and just 114 days after have having a baby), also proved almost unbeatable.
The young defense did not allow a goal from the run of play in the tournament against teams ranked third (Norway), fifth (France) and ninth (China) in the world, and now has not allowed a goal from the run of play in the last 1,198 minutes dating back to the end of 2004. The U.S. team only allowed 18 total shots over the three games in the tournament, and just 10 on goal.
The win also marked the second tournament championship for Ryan after also winning the 2005 Algarve Cup. The U.S. has yet to lose a game under Ryan, who has compiled a record of 10-0-2 since beginning as head coach in March of 2005.
The U.S. team swept the awards at the 2006 Four Nations Tournament, not only winning the championship, but Lilly was also named Best Player and was the Top Scorer with three goals. Solo was named Best Goalkeeper and Ryan was named Best Coach.
This was the fourth time in five trips to the Four Nations Tournament that the USA has taken top honors, also winning in 1998, 2003 and 2004. The win also marked just the fourth time the USA has defeated China in the 12 matches between the two teams in China.
In the first match of the day, Norway got a late equalizer from Maritha Kaufmann to tie France, 1-1. France tied all three of its matches at this year’s Four Nations.
The next competition for the U.S. Women’s National Team takes place from March 9-15, 2006, at the Algarve Cup in Portugal. The groups, match-ups and U.S. roster will be announced in the near future.
U.S. WOMEN'S NATIONAL TEAM GAME REPORT
Match-up: USA vs. China
Competition: Four Nations Tournament
Venue: Guangdong Olympic Stadium; Guangzhou, China.
Date: January 22, 2006; Kickoff – 4:00 p.m. local / 3:00 a.m. ET
Weather: Cold, hazy – 52 degrees
1 2 F
USA 2 0 2
CHN 0 0 0
USA – Kristine Lilly (Penalty Kick) 24th minute.
USA – Kristine Lilly (Christie Welsh) 41.
USA - 18-Hope Solo; 2-Heather Mitts, 23-Tina Frimpong, 14-Amy LePeilbet, 3-Christie Rampone; 7-Shannon Boxx, 5-Lindsay Tarpley (12-Leslie Osborne, 84), 10-Aly Wagner; 20-Abby Wambach, 19-Christie Welsh (9-Heather O’Reilly, 75), 13-Kristine Lilly – Capt.
Subs not used: 4-Stephanie Lopez, 8-Carli Lloyd, 11-Angie Woznuk, 17-Lori Chalupny 21-Marci Miller, 27-India Trotter, 28-Jenni Branam.
Head Coach: Greg Ryan
CHN - 1-Han Wen Xia, 2-Wang Kun (16-Liu Ya Li, 46), 3-Li Jie – Capt., 7-Bi Yan, 8-Zhang Ying (12-Qu Fei Fei, 46), 9-Han Duan, 11-Bai Li Li, 17-Pan Li Na, 19-Ma Xioa Xu (23-Guo Yue, 73), 20-Liu Hua Na, 26-Yuan Fan (4-Sun Yong Xia, 84).
Subs not used: 6-Shi Meng Yu, 13-Zhao Xioa Mei, 14-Jin Xiao Mei, 18-Xi Ding Ying, 28-Zhang Yan Ru.
Head Coach: Ma Liangxing
USA / CHN
Shots: 14 / 9
Shots on Goal: 6 / 5
Saves: 5 / 3
Corner Kicks: 4 / 5
Fouls: 8 / 3
Offside: 3 / 0
Misconduct Summary: None
Referee: Ann Helene Ostervold (Norway)
AR 1: Li Hong Juan (China)
AR 2: Deng Jun Xia (China)
ussoccer.com Woman of the Match: Kristine Lilly
2006 Four Nations Tournament Final Standings
Team W L T Pts GF GA GD
USA 2 0 1 7 5 1 +4
CHN 1 1 1 4 4 4 0
FRA 0 0 3 3 2 2 0
NOR 0 2 1 1 3 7 -4
First Place: USA
Second Place: China
Third Place: France
Fourth Place: Norway
USA 3, Norway 1
China 1, France 1
USA 0, France 0
China 3, Norway 1
France 1, Norway 1
USA 2, China 0
2006 Four Nations Tournament Awards
Best Coach: Greg Ryan, USA
Best Player: Kristine Lilly, USA
Top Scorer: Kristine Lilly, USA (3 goals)
Best Goalkeeper: Hope Solo, USA