Tuesday, January 23, 2007
U.S. Women’s National Team
Notes from Guangzhou, China
U.S. WOMEN GEAR UP FOR FIRST MATCH OF 2007 AGAINST GERMANY: The U.S. Women’s National Team has been encamped for almost a week (photos) in Guangzhou, China, in preparation for the 2007 Four Nations Tournament and a match against Germany on Jan. 26 (4 p.m. local / 3 a.m. ET) that will be the first game of a very important year, culminating in the 2007 FIFA Women’s World Cup in China. The U.S. women have never before opened a year with a match against the Germans, currently the top team in the FIFA World Rankings, but have had some success in season openers, going 17-3-2 in the 22-year history of the U.S. WNT. The only losses were in 1985 to Italy in the program’s very first game, in 1992 to Norway and in 2001 to China. England joined the USA and China at the team hotel on Monday, Jan. 22, while the Germans rolled into town on Tuesday, Jan. 23. The U.S. team has been practicing hard, running through several double-days of training, but will now taper into the three matches that will be grueling, not only due to the high quality of opponents, but also the compact game schedule. All the teams will play three matches over five days in a tournament that can be a battle of attrition, as well as talent.
2007 Four Nations Tournament - Guangdong Olympic Stadium, Guangzhou, China
China vs. England 1:30 p.m. local / 12:30 a.m. ET
USA vs. Germany 4:00 p.m. local / 3:00 a.m. ET
China vs. Germany 1:30 p.m. local / 12:30 a.m. ET
USA vs. England 4:00 p.m. local / 3:00 a.m. ET
Germany vs. England 1:30 p.m. local / 12:30 a.m. ET
USA vs. China 4:00 p.m. local / 3:00 a.m. ET
GUANGDONG OLYMPIC STADIUM READY TO GO: All the matches of the tournament will be played at the spectacular 80,000-seat Guangdong Olympic Stadium, which opened just six years ago. The field has been lined and the nets have been hung, a process that was observed by many of the U.S. players as the majority of their rooms at the team hotel overlook the field. With the rainy weather, the players have been spending most of the time in their rooms, reading, watching movies, chilling, chatting and snacking. In fact, after two days of moderate temperatures after arriving in China, the skies opened up and dumped three days of cold rain on Guangzhou, only drying up over the last two days. The USA’s 30-minute intra-squad scrimmage on Sunday, Jan. 21, was played in a driving rainstorm. While the rain has stopped, the sun certainly hasn’t come out yet, making for long, gray days in China. In fact, the U.S. team has seen the sun for only about 10 minutes since the first day when it peaked out from behind the clouds momentarily on the afternoon of January 23. The rain may actually make the stadium field a bit more playable, softening up what is usually a hard playing surface.
NO WORLD CUP MATCHES IN GUANGZHOU: While the Guangdong Olympic Stadium is a spectacular venue, there will be no 2007 FIFA Women’s World Cup matches here, giving some insight into the quality of stadia that await the participating teams. The 16-team tournament will be staged at five venues in five cities: Chengdu, Hangzhou, Shanghai, Tianjin and Wuhan. Four of the venues are in the eastern part of China, while Chengdu is in central China. Tianjin is the northern-most venue and is approximately 125 miles southeast of Beijing, host of the 2008 Olympic Games. The Opening Match (Sept. 10) and Women’s World Cup Final (Sept. 30) will both be played in Shanghai at the Shanghai Hongkou Football Stadium. The 2007 FIFA Women’s World Cup Final Draw will be held on April 22 in Chengdu. The U.S. team will not know its travel schedule, opponents or venues for the first round until that time.
2007 FIFA WOMEN’S WORLD CUP VENUES
City Stadium (Number of Matches)
Wuhan: Wuhan Sports Center Stadium (4 first round matches, 2 quarterfinal matches)
Chengdu: Chengdu Sports Center Stadium (6 first round matches)
Shanghai: Shanghai Hongkou Football Stadium (6 first round matches, 3rd Place Match and Championship)
Hangzhou: Zhejiang Dragon Stadium (6 first round matches, 1 semifinal match)
Tianjin: Tianjin Olympic Center Stadium (2 first round matches, 2 quarterfinal matches and 1 semifinal match)
UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL WITH BRIANA SCURRY: The USA’s long-time goalkeeper is making a run for her fourth Women’s World Cup Team in 2007 and adds unprecedented experience to the U.S. goalkeeping corps. While in China, she sat down with ussoccer.com’s all_access video to share some thoughts on her career and longevity.
AVERBUCH SPEAKS: U.S. WNT rookie and University of North Carolina sophomore Yael Averbuch is on her first trip with the full U.S. Women's National Team after representing the U.S. at various youth levels. Averbuch made it to her first U.S. WNT roster after a stellar season at UNC, which culminated in an NCAA championship and included a record-setting four-second goal against Yale. Learn more about Averbuch's road to the full WNT and the Four Nations Tournament, including a "takraw" match against Marta as a U-19 player and what she really wants to gain from this trip, besides a cap, of course.
CHINA HEAD COACH FALLS ILL: The head coach of the Chinese National Team, Ma Liangxing, will not coach his team in the tournament after falling ill and being hospitalized. Ma, who is in his second stint at the helm of the Chinese Women’s National Team (he coached the team in 2002 and returned in December of 2005), had a problem with his heart – it may have been a heart attack – and has returned to Shanghai to rest. The U.S. Women’s National Team and U.S. Soccer wishes him a quick and healthy recovery. In his absence, Wang Haiming, who was head coach of China during its second-place finish at the 2004 FIFA U-19 Women’s World Championship in Thailand, will take over the team.
NO BAG, NO PROBLEM: When the U.S. team touched down in Beijing, China, all of the team’s personal bags came through except one. Poor Casey Nogueira. On her first trip with the National Team, the 17-year-old has been without her bag the entire trip as the airline has been unable to locate it. The UNC freshman, however, gets high marks for patience and adaptability. Yeah, she has worn the same sweat top and sweat pants every day. And yeah, her teammates have donated clothes and other sundries. And yeah, she anxiously waits outside the equipment room for clean laundry every day. But otherwise, happy-go-lucky Nogueira seems unaffected by her travel misfortune. “I think it’s gone for good,” said the soft-spoken forward while shrugging her shoulders. “I’m bummed about losing my favorite sweatshirt and my favorite tie-dye shirt and some other stuff, but what can you do?” Earlier in the week, there was brief hope that the airline could have located her bag in San Francisco. She got on the phone with the airline representative, who checked the contents of the bag by asking, “Was there a blue dress, heels and a pants suit in your bag?” Said the teenager, “umm…no.” At least she’ll have a good story to tell about her first National Team trip.
SECRET SANTA, IN JANUARY: Being one of the elder-stateswomen of the team, and a Division I head coach at Northern Illinois, midfielder Marci Miller decided that a good way to pass the time in China would be to institute a Secret Santa program, whereby teammates would anonymously leave small gifts, inspirational notes and hand-made works of art for each other for the rest of the trip. The Secret Santas would only be revealed at the end of the tournament. While it seemed like a good idea at the time, the exchanging of gifts quickly escalated with players competing for best Secret Santa gifts and others feeling stressed by the “arms race” to give good gifts. With the U.S. team having taken just one shopping trip so far, and that coming before the Secret Santa started, the players have been forced to give each other common hotel room items, prized snacks hoarded from the team snack trunk and other knick-knacks culled from what little is available on the team floor of the hotel. (One person got a gas mask, which are apparently in every closest in case of fire, and the mini-shampoos in the bathrooms have been popular). While Secret Santa did not go exactly as planned, Miller has declared it a success due to the numerous inspirational notes, creative drawings left on doors and kind words the players have shared with each other.
CAN YOU DRUM SOMEWHERE ELSE?: There are many things that can cause a hotel guest to lose sleep. Hard beds, the wedding party downstairs and broken air conditioning commonly make the list. But not often is one awakened by huge drums. The Guangdong Olympic Training Center is so large, that it also serves as sort of a community center, and on numerous mornings, players have been awakened far too early (sometimes at 6:20 a.m.) by men beating huge drums, women dancing with huge streamers and all sorts of singing. At least the players don’t have to worry about missing their wake-up call.
MEET THE PRESS: In advance of the 2007 FIFA Women’s World Cup, about a dozen U.S. players and head coach Greg Ryan sat down for interviews with CCTV Channel 5, the ESPN of China. As the Chinese host broadcaster for the Women’s World Cup, CCTV wanted to know about the U.S. team as players, as well as their personalities, ensuring that the fans in China will be somewhat familiar with the U.S. team when they arrive next September for the greatest spectacle in women’s international soccer.
STAT OF NOTE
When U.S. goalkeeper Briana Scurry played her first match for the U.S. Women’s National Team in 1993, her current teammate Casey Nogueira was just four years old. It would still be a year before she would debut for her first-ever soccer team, the Missiles.
Quote of the Week:
U.S. defender Cat Whitehill after receiving a gas mask from her Secret Santa, and perhaps ensuring that the future gifts might not get much better:
“My Secret Santa sucks.”