U.S. Women Arrive to Fanfare in Alabama
TEAM ARRIVES FOR FIRST-EVER U.S. WOMEN'S MATCH IN ALABAMA: The U.S. Women's National Team arrived in Birmingham, Alabama, on Monday evening and held their first training on Tuesday morning at the SportFirst '96 Fields, home to three youth soccer clubs, including the Alabama Attack, the youth team of U.S. defender Cat Reddick. The U.S. Women's National Team received a "Women's World Cup-like" reception in Birmingham, magnified by a huge helping of Southern hospitality, including banners welcoming the team to the hotel, and a massive electronic road sign on Highway 280 on the way to the training fields flashing the message: "Welcome to the U.S. Women's Soccer Team!" The USA also had a police escort to training, and was greeted by more than 100 autograph-seeking fans. The training field was world class and in excellent shape after some last minute scrambling by grounds crews to dry out the pitch after recent heavy rains. The field was surrounded by at least 50 American flags fastened to the fences and an army of efficient and polite ball girls from the local clubs made sure the practice was always well stocked with soccer balls. The field also featured a banner with the words: "Welcome to the '96 Fields - Home of Cat Reddick." Today, the USA will train in the afternoon and a large crowd, possibly 1,000 or more, is expected to be at practice.
USA vs. ENGLAND ON ESPN:The USA vs. England match will be broadcast live on ESPN on Saturday, May 17 (Noon CT / 1 p.m. ET) in what serves as important Women's World Cup preparation for the U.S. women, who have just five matches and a handful of training sessions remaining before the 2003 Women's World Cup, the site and dates of which are, at this time, still being decided by FIFA after the tournament was moved from China on May 3. J.P. Dellacamera and Wendy Gebauer will call the action on ESPN. Fans can also follow the game on usoccer.com's MatchTracker presented by Philips Electronics.
U.S. WOMEN IN FINE FORM: The USA has won two important tournaments in the first part of the year, taking the 2003 Algarve Cup in Portugal (only the second ever Algarve Cup won by the USA) by beating China in the championship game, 2-0, on March 20. The USA also won the Four Nations Tournament in China in January, winning the four-team competition that featured the top four teams in the world - the USA, China, Norway and Germany. The USA is 6-1-3 in 2003, two-thirds of the way through their preparation matches for the Women's World Cup. The USA will play one game a month - in (delete April) May, June and July - and then play two matches in September before the Women's World Cup. The USA's lone loss this year came to China at the Four Nations Tournament, a setback that was avenged in Portugal.
REDDICK GETS A HAMM-LIKE MEDIA RECEPTION: Cat Reddick, the only player in the history of the U.S. Women's National team reared in Alabama to earn a cap for the U.S. women, received a rousing media reception following practice from the Birmingham media in a community that reveres its local heroes. Reddick, who attended Briarwood Christian High School about 10 minutes from the team hotel, calls it a dream-come true to get the chance to play at Legion Field. If chosen to the roster of 18 for the match, it will be the first time Reddick, who has 31 appearances for the USA, would be able to represent her country in her hometown.
FAWCETT NAMED CO-CAPTAIN: Julie Foudy has served as the sole captain of the U.S. National Team since Carla Overbeck retired in 2000. Before that, Foudy and Overbeck had been co-captains since 1995, with Overbeck wearing the captain's armband. Now, U.S. head coach April Heinrichs has named Joy Fawcett as a co-captain with Foudy. Fawcett has been the USA's most consistent player over the past 15 years, starting in every world championship ever played by the U.S. women, and was the team's unofficial MVP in the Four Nations and Algarve Cup tournaments this year. Foudy will still wear the band when both are on the field. Fawcett captained the USA at the Four Nations in China when Foudy was not on the roster.
USA vs. ENGLAND HISTORY:This will be the eighth meeting between the two countries, the most recent of which came at the 2002 Algarve Cup, a 2-0 U.S. victory on goals from Shannon MacMillan and rising Texas junior Kelly Wilson. The USA is 5-2-0 against England all-time, but has won the last five meetings after losing the first two matches, one in 1985 and one in 1988. In fact, England has not scored a goal on the USA since 1991. The Americans have won the last three games by a 13-0 margin. This will be the fourth match between the USA and England in the United States and none of the four outside the USA were in England, as the teams met twice in Italy, once in France and once in Portugal.
A LOOK AT ENGLAND: England's Women's World Cup qualifying campaign ended in heartbreak as they dropped a two-game playoff series to France, losing both legs 1-0, for the fifth and final European berth. England did not have star forward Kelly Smith for those games as she was recovering from ACL knee surgery, and will not have her for this match as Smith was dealt another harsh blow, injuring her meniscus playing for the Philadelphia Charge and will be out four-to-six weeks. While the Brits will be without the "Mia Hamm of English soccer," they do bring some talented players to this match. England has called up veteran goalkeeper Pauline Cope (Charlton Athletic) as well as gritty midfielder Samantha Britton (Everton). Arsenal's Ellen Maggs, a whippet quick striker who was the star of England's U-19 team at last year's FIFA U-19 World Championship, will look to get her first cap with the full team. England will also feature Sue Smith of Leeds United who was England's representative at the 1999 FIFA Women's World All-Star Match that was played in conjunction with the 1999 Women's World Cup Final Draw, and veteran striker Karen Walker of Arsenal, who has 81 caps and 40 goals in her international career. England's roster will also include six players from the 2003 Women's F.A. Cup winners Fulham, including the speedy midfielder Rachel Yankey, defender Mary Phillip and midfielder Rachel Unitt.
STAT OF NOTE
Tiffeny Milbrett has 96 career goals and with four more, will become just the fifth player in the history of international soccer to score 100 goals. Mia Hamm (138), Italy's Elisabetta Vignotto (107), Italy's Carolina Morace (105) and Michelle Akers (105) are the only four to have accomplished the feat.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
U.S. defender and Birmingham native Cat Reddick, after being surrounded by the local media, and their numerous microphones, reporters' pads and cameras:
"For the first and possibly last time in my life, I felt like Mia Hamm."