SHENZHEN, China (January 30, 2004) - The U.S. Women's National Team opened the year with a resounding 3-0 win over 2003 Women's World Cup runner-up Sweden in its first match of the 2004 Four Nations Tournament. The USA sits in first place on goal difference, but tied with China on points, after the first of three match days. China defeated Canada, 2-1, in the first game of the day. Midfielder Shannon Boxx scored on a 13th minute header and 20-year-old Lindsay Tarpley scored her first two full international goals in the second half to clinch the game.
"I think you saw during the course of the game that both teams were playing their first game of the year," said U.S. head coach April Heinrichs. "Perhaps the fitness and the first touch weren't as sharp as they could have been. But considering the respect we have for Sweden, it was a great result for us and we are pleased to start our year this way."
Both teams were playing without some key veterans, but numerous young U.S. players stepped up, especially Tarpley, who took five of the USA's 15 shots and finished her two goals superbly.
Boxx's goal off a corner kick was remarkably similar to the one she scored against Sweden in the opening match of the 2003 Women's World Cup, except this one came from the opposite side and instead of Mia Hamm serving the ball, it was Kristine Lilly who drove a cross to the far post. Boxx lost her mark and jumped at the corner of the six-yard box to head the ball back across the goal and over the head of a defender who had vacated the post, dropping it into the right corner to give the USA the early lead. It was Boxx's fifth international goal in just 10 games.
"The team did very well for our first game of the year," said defender Joy Fawcett, who directed the defense in an impressive shutout of Sweden. "We made some mistakes, but it's January. We got a lot of players in and the some young players played very well. Anytime you beat Sweden, it's a good win."
The USA had a good chance to score just two minutes into the match when Shannon MacMillan took a short free kick to Lilly, pushing the ball inside the penalty area from the right flank, but the U.S. midfielder slapped her shot wide right.
Lilly, playing in her world record 264th match, had another great effort in the 13th minute, after running onto a pass from Tarpley in the right side of the penalty area. She sliced off a great cut move back to lose her defender and then drove a shot to the near post, but it was cleared by a sliding defender for the corner kick on which Boxx would tally.
Sweden caught a bit of a rhythm during the latter part of the first half, and had two excellent chances, but could not turn them into goals. In the 19th minute, Anna Sjostrom made slashing run into penalty area and cracked a shot that forced U.S. goalkeeper Briana Scurry to make a fine diving save to her right to snag the ball. Three minutes later, a lightning Sweden counter attack down the right flank got Josefine Oqvist behind the defense, but with just Scurry to beat, she slipped her shot into the side netting outside the right post.
While Sweden looked the aggressor as the halftime whistle blew, it was the USA that took over after the break. Tarpley, who had 24 goals at the U-19 level and who has two for the U-21s, opened her account on the senior level in style. In the 51st minute, captain Julie Foudy sent a long, looping pass into the Swedish penalty area where Abby Wambach held off her defender and then nodded a header back to the onrushing Tarpley. The former captain of the U-19s then drilled a first-time half volley from 21-yards out into the lower left corner with her left foot past stunned Sweden goalkeeper Sofia Lundgren.
"It was just a great feeling to score for the national team and contribute to a big win on this level," said Tarpley, who earned her eighth cap. "Sweden is a very good team, they are physical and have a really good sense of the game. It was a great team effort to score three goals."
It was Boxx that created the chaos in the Swedish defense that led to the third goal, blasting a left-footed volley off the left post from 27 yards out. She hit the ball so hard that it bounced back out to the top of the penalty area, where it was poorly cleared. Foudy regained possession for the USA, then passed to Lilly, who played it to overlapping defender Kate Markgraf on the left flank. Markgraf, who hit two excellent long balls earlier in the match that almost led to goals, beat a defender with a nifty stop-and-go move, then spun a perfect cross to the near post where Tarpley powered the ball into the net with her head from four yards out to seal the game.
"She had a great game for us as a young player stepping in and starting at the attacking center midfield role," said Heinrichs of Tarpley. "She kept possession, changed the point of attack, created a couple of opportunities for herself and obviously finished two. Those are qualities we feel that position has to have, the pass has to be dangerous as well as the player herself."
Although the USA out-shot Sweden 15-8, Scurry came up huge as usual when she was called upon. In the 50th minute, she snagged a tough cross from Victoria Svensson, then made a stellar flying save of the Swedish forward's blistering 30-yard free-kick in the 57th minute, pushing the ball over the cross bar at the upper right corner of the net.
"There were moments when the score was 1-0 and Briana kept us in the game when Sweden was having the run of play," said Heinrichs. "Briana played tremendously today."
Three U.S. substitutes had chances to add another goal in the final minutes as 19-year-old Heather O'Reilly got in behind the defense, won a tackle against a defender, and rounded the goalkeeper, only to cut her angle too sharp to shoot. Midfielder Leslie Osborne, who along with defender Amy LePeilbet picked up their first career caps with the full National Team, had a header cleared off goal line by a Swedish defender. In stoppage time, Angela Hucles busted behind the defense on a breakaway, but miss-hit her shot.
"It's not a surprise that some of these players can step in and play at this level," said Heinrichs. "I'm just happy for them and for what it means for our team. We all know that Sweden finished in front of us at the World Cup, and for us to get this sort of result early in the year is great. But winning games at the beginning of the year doesn't guarantee that you will win games at the end of the year. We want to build on this success and be on top at the finish."
A new look China, sporting new bright yellow uniforms and featuring a very young team gearing up to host the 2007 Women's World Cup, put together a gorgeous performance in dominating Canada, and only a 90th minute goal from Canadian Veronique Maranda made the score line close. China got a first half goal from Bai Li Li and a second half score from Teng Wei as they controlled possession for the entire match.
U.S. WOMEN'S NATIONAL TEAM GAME REPORT
Match-up: USA vs. Sweden
Competition: 2004 Four Nations Tournament
Venue: Shenzhen Stadium; Shenzhen, China
Date: January 30, 2004; Kickoff - 4:30 p.m. Local (3:30 a.m. ET)
Weather: Warm, hazy, humid - 64 degrees
1 2 F
USA 1 2 3
SWE 0 0 0
USA - Shannon Boxx (Kristine Lilly) 13th minute
USA - Lindsay Tarpley (Abby Wambach) 51.
USA - Lindsay Tarpley (Kate Markgraf) 66.
USA: 1-Briana Scurry; 15-Kate Markgraf, 14-Joy Fawcett, 4-Cat Reddick (29-Amy LePeilbet, 69), 3-Christie Rampone (21-Heather Mitts, 46); 7-Shannon Boxx, 11-Julie Foudy (26-Leslie Osborne, 66), 25-Lindsay Tarpley (19-Angela Hucles, 75), 13-Kristine Lilly, 8-Shannon MacMillan (5-Tiffany Roberts, 46); 20-Abby Wambach (27-Heather O'Reilly, 58).
Subs not used: 2-Kylie Bivens, 18-Siri Mullinix, 23-Lori Chalupny.
Head Coach: April Heinrichs
SWE: 1-Sofia Lundgren; 4-Hanna Marklund (5-Kristin Bengtsson, 31), 3-Jane Törnqvist, 2-Karolina Westberg, 19-Sara Thunebro; 8-Frida Nordin, 15-Therese Sjögran, 17-Anna Sjöström (7-Linda Danlgvist, 78), 18-Frida Östberg (14-Linda Fagerström, 63); 11-Victoria Svensson (16-Salina Olsson, 68), 20-Josefine Öqvist.
Subs not used: 6- Malin Moström, 9-Sofia Eriksson, 10-Elin Elkblom, 12-Hedvig Lindahl, 13-Anna-Maria Eriksson.
Head Coach: Marika Domanski Lyfors
USA / SWE
Shots: 15 / 8
Shots on Goal: 9 / 5
Saves: 5 / 10
Corner Kicks: 8 / 4
Fouls: 7 / 7
Offside: 4 / 4
USA - Shannon Boxx (caution) 56th minute.
Referee: Zhang Dongqing (China)
Referee Asst.: Fu Hongjue (China)
Referee Asst.: Chen Tanxin (China)
4th Official: Jillian Proctor (Canada)
Chevrolet Woman of the Match: Lindsay Tarpley
FOUR NATIONS STANDINGS
Team W L T PTS GF GA GD
USA 1 0 0 3 3 0 +3
CHN 1 0 0 3 2 1 +1
CAN 0 1 0 0 1 2 -1
SWE 0 1 0 0 0 3 -3
FOUR NATIONS GAME SCHEDULE
Friday, Jan. 30
China 2, Canada 1
USA 3, Sweden 0
Sunday, Feb. 1
China vs. USA 2:15 p.m. local (1:15 a.m. ET)
Sweden vs. Canada 4:30 p.m. local (3:30 a.m. ET)
Tuesday, Feb. 3
USA vs. Canada 2:15 p.m. local (1:15 a.m. ET)
China vs. Sweden 4:30 p.m. local (3:30 a.m. ET)
FOUR NATIONS TOP SCORERS
Player (Team) Goals
Lindsay Tarpley (USA) 2
Shannon Boxx (USA) 1
Teng Wei (China) 1
Bai Li Li (China) 1
Veronique Maranda (CAN) 1