OLYMPIC TEAM ARRIVES IN MINNESOTA: The U.S. Olympic Women's Soccer Team arrived in Minnesota yesterday afternoon in preparation for Wednesday's clash with Australia at the National Sports Center in Blaine, Minnesota and was greeted at the airport by a gaggle of youth soccer players from the area, who got autographs, took pictures and chatted with their heroes. Those players will get the unique chance to see the U.S. women up close in its second-to-last match before leaving for the 2004 Olympics when the USA kicks off against the Matildas tomorrow night at 6 p.m. CT (Live on ESPN2). The U.S. team went on a short jog and stretch around their hotel yesterday evening in the dripping humidity of Minnesota and will hold its first and only practice today at the stadium at the National Sports Center.
USA ROLLING TOWARDS OLYMPICS: The match against Australia will mark the fifth of six domestic internationals before the Olympics and will be the ninth of 2004 against teams that will participate in the Olympics. The USA is 5-1-2 in those matches so far, losing only to Sweden at the 2004 Algarve Cup in Portugal. Australia qualified for the 2004 Olympics by rolling over the competition in a very weak Ocean Qualifying Tournament and will participate in its second Olympics in Athens.
GOODBYE LA, HELLO ATHENS: The U.S. team broke Olympic Residency Camp last Sunday after spending about three and a half months encamped at the U.S. Soccer National Training Center in Carson, Calif. On July 1, U.S. head coach April Heinrichs named the 18-player 2004 U.S. Olympic Women's Soccer Team from the 35 players who had trained during that period and the Olympic Team come together from July 9-18 for the last training block at the Home Depot Center before leaving for Minnesota.
HAMM SHOOTING FOR GOAL 150: The Minnesota fans could witness a piece of women's soccer history if Mia Hamm can find the net tomorrow, something she has been awfully good at for the past 17 years. Hamm's next goal will be her 150th in a U.S. uniform and will extend her world record for international goal scoring to another amazing plateau.
SCURRY RETURNS TO HOME STATE: U.S. goalkeeper Briana Scurry, a native of Dayton, Minn., will play for the USA in her home state for the second time in her career. Scurry appeared for the USA in Blaine on July 21, 2002, coming on as a substitute in a 4-0 win over Norway in what was her return match to the National Team after a period away from the squad due to lack of fitness and injuries. If Scurry starts against Australia, it will be the first match she has started for the USA in Minnesota. Scurry, who has appeared 138 times for the USA and has racked up an amazing 69 shutouts, has been between the posts for four world championship events -- three Women's World Cup tournaments and the 1996 Olympics, where she helped the U.S. women win the first ever gold medal for women's soccer.
LONG HISTORY IN BLAINE: This will be the 13th match in Blaine, Minnesota, for the U.S. Women's National Team, the most games in any U.S. city in the 20-year history of the program. Those numbers are a bit misleading as the U.S. women actually played the first seven domestic matches in U.S. history in Blaine in 1986 and 1987, but then did not play here again until 1990. The USA went 4-3-0 at the Blaine Soccer Complex, but has piled up an undefeated 5-0-0 record at the National Sports Center, and in fact, has not allowed a goal in those matches, most recently defeating Norway, 4-0, in July of 2002. In the early years, the U.S. team played in front of crowds in the hundreds, but times have changed and a combined 25,000 fans have watched the U.S. women play in their last two trips to Blaine. In Blaine, the USA has played Canada (five times), Norway (three times), Sweden, Russia, England and West Germany, but this will be the first-ever meeting with Australia in the Land of 10,000 Lakes. Minnesota has produced three players of note who have made their mark on the U.S. Women's National Team, lead by Scurry, who holds virtually ever goalkeeping record in U.S. history. Holly Manthei (Burnsville, Minn.), a member of the 1995 Women's World Cup Team, earned 22 caps for the USA, while Jena Kluegel (Mahtomedi, Minn.) played 24 games with the USA.
USA vs. AUSTRALIA PREVIEW: The USA has had some great success against Australia since the first meeting between the two teams in 1987. The USA has run up 14 straight wins, including an historic meeting at the 1995 Women's World Cup, when after falling behind, 1-0, the Americans rallied to win 4-1. Australia has managed more than one goal in just one of those 14 matches, a 4-2 U.S. win in 1995. This match carries some extra intrigue as it will preview the Aug. 17 meeting at the Olympics that pits these two countries together in the final match of Group G opening round play in Thessaloniki. Australia has participated in three Women's World Cup tournaments and this will be the second Olympic Games for the perennial Oceania champions. The most recent match between these two sides was at the 2002 Nike U.S. Women's Cup, a 4-0 win in Cary, N.C., as Brandi Chastain, Shannon MacMillan and Cindy Parlow (two scores) accounted for the goals. While the USA has been the dominant team over the years, the Aussies have put together a string of fantastic results of late, defeating China 2-0 (in a 60-minute match) and then drew 1-1 on a recent trip to China. Australia also spilt games with Mexico recently, winning 2-1 and losing 2-0, in Mexico in front of large crowds at Azteca Stadium. Australia has a core of very experienced players, but while they are known as a scrappy team that goes in to win every tackle, the USA's speed and athleticism will be tough to contain. Australia's goalkeepers Cassandra Kell and Melissa Barbieri have just 15 caps each, and facing the powerful U.S. attack will be a great test for the young netminders. The Australians are famed for their heart and fighting spirit and coming off two wins over teams in the Olympics, will no doubt present a great test for the U.S. squad heading to Greece.
A LOOK AT AUSTRALIA: Like the USA, Australia also brings its Olympic Team to Minnesota, and while it is a young squad with 12 players 24 years old or under, including 16-year-old Sally Shipard from Wagga Wagga, the Matildas do have some experience with three former WUSA players on the roster. Defender Dianne Alagich was a member of the San Jose CyberRays and defender Cheryl Salisbury played for the New York Power, as did midfielder Joanne Peters. The six-foot Salisbury is by far Australia most capped player, and has played in the midfield and at forward for her country, scoring 28 times for the Matildas. Peters, a hard-shooting midfielder, is the main offensive threat from the midfield, as she has pumped in 15 goals in her career. Australia head coach Adrian Santrac has chosen to the 2004 Olympic Team just 12 member of his 20-player 2003 Women's World Cup Team that drew once and lost twice in the opening round of the tournament, failing to advance to the quarterfinals. Like the USA, Australia is represented by several members of the team that participated in the 2002 FIFA U-19 World Championship as defenders Karla Rueter and Thea Slatyer and forward Selin Kuralay played for the young Matildas in Canada in 2002. The U.S. U-19 team, led by Heather O'Reilly and Lindsay Tarpley, defeated Australia 4-0 in group play in a match that was a lot closer than the scored indicated. O'Reilly in fact beat Slatyer to score one of the goals in that match.
TEAM ROSTERS (Both are the 2004 Olympic Teams for their countries):
GOALKEEPERS (2): 24-Kristin Luckenbill, 1-Briana Scurry; DEFENDERS (6): 6-Brandi Chastain, 14-Joy Fawcett, 15-Kate Markgraf, 21-Heather Mitts, 3-Christie Rampone, 4-Cat Reddick; MIDFIELDERS (6): 7-Shannon Boxx, 11-Julie Foudy, 19-Angela Hucles, 13-Kristine Lilly, 16-Lindsay Tarpley, 10-Aly Wagner; FORWARDS (4): 9-Mia Hamm, 27-Heather O'Reilly, 12-Cindy Parlow, 20-Abby Wambach.
GOALKEEPERS (2): 18-Melissa Barbieri, 1-Cassandra Kell; DEFENDERS (6): 4-Dianne Dianne, 2-Rhian Davies, 12-Karla Reuter, 5-Cheryl Salisbury, 13-Theo Slatyer, 3-Sacha Wainright; MIDFIELEDERS (7): 14-Gillian Foster, 8-Heather Garriock, 15-Tal Karp, 9-Kylie Ledbrook, 10-Joanne Peters, 6-Sally Shipard, 17-Danielle Small; FORWARDS (3): 11-Lisa De Vanna, 16-Selin Kuralay, 7-Sarah Walsh.
STAT OF NOTE
Defensive midfielder Shannon Boxx has started all 24 games she has played for the USA since debuting right before the 2003 Women's World Cup. She has sat out just two games during that time, resting for a game in the 2003 Women's World Cup and in the 2004 CONCACAF Olympic Women's Qualifying Tournament in Costa Rica.