Monday, January 20, 2003
U.S. Women's National Soccer Team
Notes from Shanghai, China
U.S. WOMEN ARRIVE IN SHANGHAI TO PREPARE FOR FOUR NATIONS TOURNAMENT
The U.S. Women's National Soccer Team arrived in Shanghai, China, on the evening of Friday, January 17, after a 21-hour, 14-minute and 32-second journey, hotel door to hotel door, from San Diego, Calif., where the Americans had faced Japan on Jan. 12. It was an easy trip compared to the USA's trek to China last year for the Four Nations Tournament, which took the team from Charleston, S.C. (where they had faced Mexico) to Washington, D.C., to Hong Kong, to Guangzhou, in more than double the time: 44-hours, one-minute and 31-seconds, driving home the fact that if you are going to China, it's better to depart from San Diego than Charleston, S.C. In fact, this year the USA will go to Charleston AFTER the Four Nations, with its next scheduled game at Blackbaud Stadium on Feb. 16 vs. Iceland (live on ESPN at 6 p.m. ET). The USA arrived in China's second largest city, a teaming modern metropolis of 18 million people, on a misty night, driving from the airport past massive skyscrapers, tightly packed and interspersed with old, decaying dwellings, behemoth futuristic cranes representative of the constant construction, and plenty of huge, flashing neon signs, giving Shanghai the feel of New York City and Las Vegas combined. The USA's hotel is located in the geographic center of Shanghai, giving the U.S. players plenty of options for exploring and shopping.
USA HITS THE GROUND RUNNING
The U.S. team had its first practice in China on the morning of Saturday, January 18, on the grounds of Shenhua FC, a First Division professional team in Shanghai. In cool but comfortable weather, the Americans shook out the weariness in their legs at the sprawling complex with 10 training fields, which by the end of the USA's late morning session were filled with hundreds of identically uniformed young Chinese boys training in Shenhua youth program. The USA was not as fortunate with the weather on Sunday, as the temperature plunged into the mid-30s for an icy training at a privately owned pitch that was perhaps the best the Americans have ever experienced in China. The practice was sharper than the day before, and filled with quality finishing, as the team is becoming acclimated to the 13-hour time change from the East Coast.
FAWCETT AND FAMILY IN THE FAR EAST
As she did last year on the trip to China, and as she often does on U.S. Women's National Team trips due to U.S. Soccer's progressive policy on working mothers, defender Joy Fawcett has brought all three of her daughters, meaning Katie Fawcett is likely the only third-grader in Santa Margarita, Calif., who can do an essay paper on "What I Did In China." Fawcett has brought the entire clan in Katey, Carli and baby Madi, along with dad/nanny Walter providing his usual world class support to the USA's #1 Soccer Mom. Of course, Fawcett has 19 babysitters among the U.S. players, who revel in hotel hallway games with all three kids. The Chinese media were also enamored and intrigued by the Fawcett family, and interviewed Katey and Carli upon the USA's arrival at the airport, but did not get much in the way of sound bites aside from name and age. Said Fawcett of baby Madi, who declined all interview requests: "She needs some media training."
MAKE THAT A TALL WHITE CHOCOLATE MOCHA
The U.S. players, and especially Portland, Oregon, native Tiffeny Milbrett, were more than pleased to find a Starbuck's Coffee shop less than five minutes walking distance from the hotel. The U.S. players have patronized the corner Starbucks liberally, especially with the chilly temperatures in Shanghai, which has been consistently gray and overcast with a dull haze hanging over the city.
FOUR NATIONS WOMENS TOURNAMENT PREVIEW
After spending four days in Shanghai, the U.S. women will travel about four hours South to Yiwu on the afternoon of Tuesday, January 21st, and then will face Norway to open the tournament on Thursday, January 23, at the Meihu Sports Center. Playing three matches in seven days against three 2003 Women's World Cup favorites offers difficult, yet unique challenges. Against Norway, the USA faces the only country in the world that holds a winning record against them. The USA is 14-18-2 all-time against Norway, but in the most recent meeting in Blaine, Minn. on July 21, 2002, came away with a convincing 4-0 win. The USA holds a 12-7-9 all-time record against China, including a 2-0 win in this tournament last year, getting goals from Shannon MacMillan and Tiffeny Milbrett. Women's World Cup host China will be under great pressure to have a good performance in this tournament after finishing last in 2002, a result that contributed to the former coach losing his job. In Germany, the Americans face a team against which they have found success in the past, going 11-4-2 all-time. Germany won the tournament last year, tying the USA 0-0 in a match the Americans could have easily won. The U.S. women have played 23 matches inside China since first playing here 1987, going 12-4-7 in those games. Against China in China, the USA is a more than respectable 3-2-4. The USA is 5-2-3 against European teams in matches played on Chinese soil. China, Norway and Germany will all feature numerous players who are currently or have played in the WUSA. After facing Norway, the USA travels to Wuhan in Central China to the hosts, then returns to Shanghai to finish the competition against Germany. Wuhan, site of the Final Draw on May 23, and Shanghai are both 2003 Women's World Cup venues. Following is the tournament schedule:
2003 FOUR NATIONS WOMEN'S TOURNAMENT SCHEDULE
Thursday, Jan. 23
Meihu Sports Center - Yiwu, China
USA vs. Norway 5:30 p.m. Local / 4:30 a.m. ET
China vs. Germany 7:30 p.m. Local / 6:30 a.m. ET
Sunday, January 26
Wuhan Sports Center - Wuhan, China
Germany vs. Norway 1:35 p.m. Local/12:35 a.m. ET
USA vs. China 3:35 p.m. Local/2:35 a.m. ET
Wednesday, January 29
Hongkou Stadium - Shanghai, China
USA vs. Germany 1:55 p.m. Local / 12:55 a.m. ET
Norway vs. China 3:55 p.m. Local / 2:55 a.m. ET
FOUR NATIONS TOURNAMENT RULES TO KNOW
At the Four Nations Women's Tournament, the final standings of this round-robin tourney will be determined by the usual point system, three points for a win, one for a draw and zero for a loss. If two teams are tied on points, those ties will broken by 1) Goal difference, 2) Goals scored, 3) Result of matches between teams concerned, i.e. head-to-head.
If two or more teams are still tied, and match concerned is still on the field, and the result is a draw after 90 minutes of regulation time, "golden goal" will be played for two 15-minute periods, followed by penalty kicks if necessary. The teams will be allowed only three substitutes per match with all seven players on the bench eligible. The tournament will also give out awards for 1) MVP for each match, 2) Best Player in Tournament, 3) Top Scorer, 4) Best Goalkeeper, 5) Best Coach 6) Best Referee 7) and a Team Fair Play Award.
HOMEWORK A LONG WAY FROM HOME
Forwards Lindsay Tarpley, a UNC freshman, and Heather O'Reilly, a East Brunswick (N.J.) High School senior, both member of the USA's U-19 World Championship team, and Santa Clara University senior midfielder Devvyn Hawkins, are the only players on the 20-player roster still in school, and thus, have been hitting the books in China. Thanks goes out to the flexible professors, teachers and administrators who have allowed the trio to do their work from the road, as well as O'Reilly's roommate Lorrie Fair, who has tutored her on her pre-calculus.
FIVE NOT AT FOUR NATIONS
The USA will be without five key players for the Four Nations tournament as forward Mia Hamm, midfielders Julie Foudy and Kristine Lilly, and defenders Danielle Slaton and Cat Reddick did not make the trip. Hamm, Foudy and Lilly are taking January off to rest, while Slaton is recovering from minor knee surgery and Reddick suffered a foot injury on the last day of training before the USA left for China. The absence of the quintet gives numerous players a golden opportunity to show April Heinrichs that they deserve spots on the 2003 Women's World Cup Team.
STAT OF NOTE
U.S. striker Tiffeny Milbrett comes into the Four Nations Tournament with 95 career international goals and is just five away from becoming the fifth player in history to hit the magical 100 mark. Milbrett is 10 goals behind Michelle Akers and Italian Carolina Morace, who are tied for 3rd on the all-time list.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
Tiffeny Milbrett on the similarities between Shanghai and her Northwest hometown.
"My (hotel) room is great, the Internet works fine, my cell phone works, it's overcast all the time, and there's a Starbucks on the corner. If it wasn't for all these Chinese people walking around, I could be in Portland."