WUHAN, China (January 26, 2003) - The U.S. Women's National Soccer Team ran into a confident and inspired China team on a frigid afternoon at the spectacular Wuhan Sports Center Stadium, falling 2-0 in front of 40,000 satisfied fans at this ultra-modern venue which will host eight matches of the 2003 Women's World Cup.
The USA sits in second place in the Four Nations Tournament and is still in good position to win the competition. The USA needs a win over Germany combined with a tie or loss by China against Norway in the last set of matches on Jan. 29 at Hongkou Stadium in Shanghai. China, which finished fourth in this tournament last year, can clinch the title with a win over Norway.
The U.S. will find temperatures perhaps 50 degrees warmer come September should they be drawn into matches in Wuhan, as the thermometer plunged to the high 30s and the nasty conditions were compounded by a steady wind and rain during the entire second half.
It was the third largest crowd ever to watch the U.S. women outside of the United States and the vocal fans cheered every positive touch by their team while jeering the U.S. attacks. China, playing a 4-4-2 formation with Bai Jie high at forward and Sun Wen withdrawn, dominated possession for much of the match, enjoying a vast majority of the ball, while starting the same 11 that played against Germany in their first game of the Four Nations. U.S. head coach April Heinrichs made four changes to her lineup from the Norway match, a shuffle in part necessitated by the large number of U.S. players who fell ill during the last few days.
The Americans actually coped quite well with the adverse conditions, and quieted the huge crowd for long portions of the match with some tough defending. China did prove difficult to dispossess anywhere on the field, and dazzled at times with their passing and individual skill, but still, it took one set piece and one moment of brilliance from Sun to undue the U.S., which got great composure in the back from Brandi Chastain and captain Joy Fawcett.
China opened the scoring in the 19th minute off a corner kick from the left side as defender Fan Yunjie got a head on Zhao Lihong's cross seven yards from the goal and lobbed a header over U.S. goalkeeper LeKeysia Beene, who was just a few steps off her line. Fan almost got another one in the 45th minute, but sent her header high as two U.S. players crashed into her.
Shannon MacMillan came close to tying the game a minute after Fan's goal, but her long free kick was tipped over the crossbar by Chinese goalkeeper Zhao Yan. China made it 2-0 in the 36th minute on a brilliant, bending 28-yard strike by Sun that stuck into the upper left corner, much to the delight of the Chinese fans.
Heinrichs made three substitutions at halftime, sending on Under-19 World Championship stars Heather O'Reilly and Lindsay Tarpley, and defender Christie Pearce, who was solid in her first appearance for the national team since July 3, 2001, after recovering from ACL surgery.
China almost scored a third just three minutes into the second half, but Beene made a great save, sliding to block Zhao's one-on-one opportunity. Sun latched onto the rebound and shot at the open net from 25 yards out, but the retreating Pearce headed the ball off the goal line. It would be China's only dangerous chances of the second half.
The 18-year-old O'Reilly gave the USA an immediate spark, earning a corner kick right off the opening whistle and then minutes later drew a foul deep in the left corner in the 50th minute. Jena Kluegel's free kick fell to the 19-year-old Tarpley at the far post, but her left-footed volley was saved well by Zhao. O'Reilly stretched the defense the entire second half and came close to breaking in on goal several times, only to be flagged offside. Tarpley, scorer of the winning goal in the U-19 World Championship Final, was playing in just her second match for the full national team. She did well at right midfield, and then up top when the USA pushed Chastain into the midfield and went with three forwards, creating some danger down the right flank.
The USA actually had more of the match in the second half, showing some pluck in taking the game to China, and out-shot them 6-4 after the break. Cindy Parlow sent a header high on corner kick in 59th minute, and Aly Wagner, who entered the game in the 66th minute, immediately got O'Reilly in behind the defense with a chipped pass in the right side of the penalty area. The high school senior pushed through a tackle and shot hard across the 'keeper, but Zhao smothered the shot on the ground.
In the 83rd minute, O'Reilly beat the Chinese 'keeper to a through ball 40 yards from the goal, but Zhao got a toe on the ball to deny her a run at the open net. Amazingly, the USA was called for just two fouls in the game, perhaps an indication of how well China moved the ball.
In the first match of the afternoon, Norway tied Germany, 2-2, first trading header goals from Dagny Mellgren and Martina Muller, before Anita Rapp scored in the middle of the second half, lobbing the German goalkeeper after running onto a through ball at the top of the penalty area to give Norway a 2-1 lead. Germany tied it late in the game when Linda Bresonik converted a penalty kick after Kerstin Garefrekes was taken down in the box.
All four teams will travel to Shanghai tomorrow morning in preparation for the final day of matches on Jan. 29 at Hongkou Stadium, also a Women's World Cup venue.
U.S. WOMEN'S NATIONAL TEAM GAME REPORT
Participants: USA vs. China
Competition: Four Nations Women's Tournament
Venue: Wuhan Sports Center Stadium - Wuhan, China
Date: January 26, 2003; Kickoff - 3:35 p.m. local / 2:35 a.m. ET
Weather: Cold, rainy, windy - 38 degrees
1 2 F
USA 0 0 0
CHN 2 0 2
CHN - Fan Yunjie (Zhao Lihong) 19th minute.
CHN - Sun Wen (Unassisted) 36.
USA: 24-LaKeysia Beene; 20-Thori Bryan, 14-Joy Fawcett - Capt., 6-Brandi Chastain, 17-Jenny Benson (Christie Pearce, 46); 5-Tiffany Roberts, 13-Angela Hucles, 7-Jena Kluegel (10-Aly Wagner, 66), 2-Lorrie Fair (25-Lindsay Tarpley, 46); 12-Cindy Parlow (16-Tiffeny Milbrett, 70), 8-Shannon MacMillan (9-Heather O'Reilly, 46).
Subs not used: 1-Briana Scurry, 11-Devvyn Hawkins, 15-Kate Sobrero, 22-Abby Wambach.
CHN: 18-Zhao Yan - Capt.; 2-Sun Rui, 3-Li Jie, 5-Fan Yunjie (4-Gao Hongxia, 82), 16-Liu Ya Li; 6-Zhao Lihong, 7-Pu Wei, 20-Liu Ying, 27-Zhang Ouying (15-Ren Liping, 62); 9-Bai Jie (23-Han Duan, 87), 10-Sun Wen (21-Teng Wei, 70).
Subs not used: 12-Zhou Xiao Xia, 13-Meng Jun, 14-Bi Yan, 22-Han Wenxia, 25-Qu Feifei.
Statistical Summary: USA / CHN
Shots 9 / 8
Shots on goal 4 / 5
Saves 3 / 4
Corner Kicks 5 / 6
Fouls 2 / 8
Offside 6 / 1
CHN - Ren Liping (caution) 76th minute.
Referee: Rebekka Kirchner (Germany)
Asst. Referee: Fu Hongjue (China)
Asst. Referee: Zhang Dongqing (China)
4th Official: Bente Skogvang (Norway)
Four Nations Tournament Standings
Team GP W L T GF GA GD PTS
China 2 1 0 1 2 0 +2 4
USA 2 1 1 0 3 3 0 3
Germany 2 0 0 2 1 1 0 2
Norway 2 0 1 1 3 5 -2 1
Jan. 23 in Yiwu
USA 3, Norway 1
China 0, Germany 0
Jan. 26 in Wuhan
Norway 2, Germany 2
China 2, USA 0
Jan. 29 in Shanghai
USA vs. Germany
China vs. Norway