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Four Nations Title at Stake as U.S. Prepares for Jan. 30 Clash vs. China

U.S. Women’s National Team
Notes from Guangzhou, China
Monday, January 29, 2007

U.S. WOMEN FACE CHINA WITH FOUR NATIONS TITLE ON THE LINE: The U.S. Women’s National Team will conclude the 2007 Four Nations Tournament on Tuesday, January 30, against host China (4 p.m. local / 3 a.m. ET) in a match that will decide the tournament title. While the USA, China and Germany are still in the running for the championship in the round-robin format, the USA will play the final match of the competition and will already know the England-Germany result before taking the field against the talented Chinese. The USA is coming off two consecutive ties for the first time since 2000, and only the second time in U.S. Women’s National Team history. The U.S. women have never tied three matches in a row in the 21-year history of the program. U.S. head coach Greg Ryan has used 19 of the 20 players on the roster, with 21-year-old defender India Trotter the only player not to see action thus far. A win will give China the championship, so the hosts are sure to be motivated in front of what will be a loud and boisterous crowd. On Monday morning, Jan. 29, the U.S. team conducted its final training in China before returning in late August for the 2007 FIFA Women’s World Cup. On the USA’s second to last day in China, they were treated to amazingly warm temperatures with the mercury climbing into the high 60s as the players enjoyed their first and only sun-bathed training of the trip.

2006 Four Nations Tournament Standings
Team     W    L    T    Pts.    GF    GA    GD
CHN       1     0     1     4       2        0      +2
USA         0     0     2     2      1        1        0
GER        0     0     2      2      0        0        0
ENG        0     1     1     1       1        3       -2

January 26
China 2, England 0
USA 0, Germany 0

January 28
China 0, Germany 0
USA 1, England 1

January 30
Germany vs. England 1:30 p.m. local / 12:30 a.m. ET
USA vs. China 4 p.m. local / 3 a.m. ET

FOUR NATIONS ALL_ACCESS: Unless you took a 14-hour flight to China, or have a NASA-issued satellite dish on your roof that picks up China Central Television Channel 5, you'll have had a hard time following the U.S. Women's National Team at the Four Nations Tournament. But that's why our all_access camera has been rolling in Guangzhou, bringing you highlights and features from the tournament. From exclusive interviews with veterans like goalkeeper Briana Scurry, to a behind-the-scenes tour of Guangdong Olympic Stadium with young Heather O'Reilly, our cameras have been everywhere. Check out the latest installment as we bring you highlights and reaction from the USA's 1-1 draw vs. England (watch).

WHAT’S THE SCENARIO?: The U.S. will not know what result it needs against China to win the tournament until after the England-Germany game, which kicks off at 1:30 p.m. local time. A Germany loss or tie would mean a U.S. win would give them the title. If Germany wins, the USA will have to match or exceed the Germans’ margin of victory to take what would be its fifth Four Nations title. The USA has won four out of the five Four Nations Tournaments it has entered, taking top honors in 1998, 2003, 2004 and 2006.

USA vs. CHINA PREVIEW: The USA and China, long two of the most successful women’s soccer nations, are closely linked in women’s soccer history, having played in front of the biggest crowd in women’s sports history during the 1999 Women’s World Cup Final when more than 90,000 turned out at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif. The teams also played in front of more than 76,000 in the 1996 Olympic gold medal game. The teams have great respect for each other’s players and style, and the USA-China matches are almost always highly entertaining. While both the USA and China had down performances in their last game of this tournament, with the championship on line, both teams should come out with renewed energy and a commitment to the attack.

Last Meeting
The USA and China met three times in 2006, with the USA going 2-0-1. The teams met at the Four Nations Tournament in China in January (2-0 on two Kristine Lilly goals), at the Algarve Cup in March (0-0) and in Bridgeview, Ill., at the new Toyota Park last August (4-1). That first meeting clinched the Four Nations Tournament championship for the USA. In the second match on a bumpy field in Faro, Portugal, the USA took the game to China, whose time-wasting tactics all game were a bit of a surprise from the usually aggressive side, but they were nevertheless effective as it earned them the scoreless draw. The match last August was closer than the score would indicate. The USA went down a goal in the 24th minute, tied it on a somewhat fortunate Cat Whitehill goal in the 30th and took the lead on a Aly Wagner penalty kick in the 59th minute. Two great Lilly goals in the last five minutes accounted for the final margin. The always-technical Chinese have historically had a difficult time breaking down the more athletic U.S. defense. In fact, China has managed two goals against the USA just twice in the last 15 meetings and has not beaten the USA since the Four Nations Tournament in 2003, when a U.S. team that was not nearly at full strength due to numerous players with stomach illness, dropped a 2-0 decision.

Heat is On for Chinese Stars
The Steel Roses are gearing up for the most important tournament in their women’s soccer history this September and the pressure is definitely on the team to perform well in every match, especially those played in China. As always, the Chinese are stocked with nifty and talented midfield players, but veteran Pu Wei, who played in the 1999 Women’s World Cup, has moved to center back. Goalkeeper Han Wenxia, who played a fantastic match against Germany two days ago, basically earned her team a draw as the Germans could have easily won by two or three goals. Han is tall, experienced and extremely composed. China’s Li Jie is one of the best central defenders in the world, and paired with former WUSA player Pu, they form a very solid center defense. The most dangerous player on the Chinese side is forward Han Duan, scorer of one of China’s two goals in this tournament and a crafty runner off the ball. The Americans will have to keep her in front of them in order to find success on Tuesday. China also features Ma Xiaoxu, the MVP and leading scorer of the 2006 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Championship in Russia, despite the fact that her side lost to North Korea, 5-0, in the championship game. Ma has been coming off the bench for China, but presents a big and skillful target for her teammates. The USA-China matches usually see the Chinese possess the ball well, necessitating that the Americans be smart in their defensive play so as not to get fatigued and stretched out chasing the technical Chinese all around the field, especially with both teams playing their third match in five days.

USA vs. CHINA HISTORY: The U.S. win in the Chicago suburbs last August moved the series to 16-8-11 in favor of the American women. The U.S. team is coming off two ties, and no team has tied the USA more than the Chinese. In fact, the 11 ties are six more than the next closest country (Sweden with five). The USA’s record against China in China is actually an even 4-4-4. The USA played China in the eighth game in the program’s history and since then, the two countries have met in numerous important matches, including three times in Women’s World Cups and three times in Olympic competition. The two teams met in the championship game of the 1996 Olympics in Athens, Ga., and at the famous 1999 Women’s World Cup Final. In fact, China has never defeated the USA in world championship competition. China was also the opponent on Aug. 3, 1986 – the second-ever meeting between the two sides – when Mia Hamm and Kristine Lilly debuted for the USA. China has not had much international success since the turn of the century and the moving of the 2003 Women’s World Cup due to the SARS outbreak was a big blow for the program. But while the Chinese media and fans may be skeptical of the team’s chances this fall, high expectations still remain for the Steel Roses.

United States Women’s National Team Roster – Four Nations Tournament -- Guangzhou, China
GOALKEEPERS: 1-Briana Scurry, 18-Hope Solo;
DEFENDERS: 17-Lori Chalupny, 8-Tina Frimpong, 14-Stephanie Lopez, 15-Kate Markgraf, 2-Heather Mitts, 27-India Trotter, 4-Cat Whitehill;
MIDFIELDERS: 20-Yael Averbuch, 16-Angela Hucles, 11-Carli Lloyd, 23-Joanna Lohman, 7-Marci Miller, 12-Leslie Osborne;
FORWARDS: 25-Lauren Cheney, 6-Natasha Kai, 26-Casey Nogueira, 9-Heather O’Reilly, 5-Lindsay Tarpley.
China Women’s National Team Roster -- Four Nations Tournament -- Guangzhou, China
1-Han Wenxia, 2-Liu Huana, 3-Li Ji, Weng Xinzhi, 5-Pu Wei, 6-Zhang Ying, 7-Bi Yan, 8-Yue Min, 9-Han Duan, 10-Ma Xiaoxu, 12-Zhang Tong, 14-Wang Kun, 15-Zhou Gaoping, 13-Li DongLing, 18-Zhang Yanru, 19-Qu Feifei, 20-Liu Sa, 21-Lou Xiaoxu, 23-Li Dongna, 24-Chen Xiaoxia.

U.S. head coach Greg Ryan on China:
“We’re not quite sure what we will get when we play China. In their first game, I thought they played very, very well against England. Then Germany had their way with China. Likewise with my team, we’re playing a lot of young players, so you are not sure what you are going to get either. But I know we will get a great effort from our team in the third game. It’s our last game here so we’re going to go out and go after it.”

On his lineup against China:
“We’ll put out a very strong team. It won’t be mixed and matched as much (as in the two previous games). We’ll try to put out as close to the best side as we can get, barring injured players and players that are tired from having to play so much in the first two games.”

U.S. WNT Quick Hits:

• At the Four Nations, Heather O’Reilly has moved past Shannon Higgins on the all-time caps list and into the top-30, playing her 53rd career match on Sunday (Jan. 28) against England.
• With her start against England, goalkeeper Briana Scurry moved past Cindy Parlow and into ninth place on the all-time caps list with 159 games played.
• The USA is still undefeated under Greg Ryan at 26-0-7.
• Fourteen of the 20 U.S. players came into the tournament aged 24 or under.
• Natasha Kai’s assist against England was the third of her career.
• O’Reilly’s goal was the ninth of her national team career. With one more, she will become the 20th U.S. player to hit double-figures in career goals.
• Hope Solo’s shutout of Germany in the first game of the tournament was the 20th of her career, moving her to within one shutout of second-place on the all-time shutout list. Briana Scurry is first with 74, Siri Mullinix second with 21.

SOLO TOP-10: Speaking of Solo, she doesn't like to be bored. As there is a lot of downtime for the U.S. players at the Four Nations Tournament in China, she has figured out numerous ways to have fun when not on the training field. Center Circle presents the Top-10 things Solo does in China to pass the time.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY CHALUPS!: U.S. defender/midfielder Lori Chalupny, affectionately, and pretty much exclusively, known as “Chalupa” or “Chalups” to her teammates, turned 23 on January 29, the day after earning her 31st career cap against England. The U.S. team celebrated at dinner with tiramisu and Italian take-out. The St. Louis product is the best-ever female player from the state of Missouri and was a member of the U.S. team that won the 2002 FIFA U-19 Women’s World Championship. Chalupny saw her first major action for the USA in 2006 and is looking earn a spot on her first Women’s World Cup team.

U.S. head coach Greg Ryan has given 17 players their first caps since taking over the USA in March of 2005, including three at the Four Nations: Lauren Cheney, Casey Nogueira and Yael Averbuch.

Quote of the Day:

Lori Chalupny on celebrating her 23rd birthday in China:

“It’s been a good birthday. I got candy bars from Natasha Kai, microwavable noodles from Lindsay Tarpley and this morning my roommate Casey Nogueira got up early and drew me a birthday card. Plus, the sun came out for the first time.”