The Mexicans came into the match having never scored on the USA in five previous losses, and not only did that change, but the Tri-Colores came within 21 minutes of pulling off one of the greatest upsets in women's soccer history. The USA came into the match with a 41-0 goal difference in the five matches between the two teams and had defeated Mexico, 8-0, during the last meeting in May of 2000. The USA created enough chances to put up a similar number, but some rusty finishing and several spectacular saves from Mexican goalkeeper Linnea Quinones kept it close.
Tiffeny Milbrett, Kristine Lilly and Mia Hamm all got behind the Mexican defense early, but couldn't connect with a teammate for a shot. Captain Carla Overbeck, playing in her second-to-last match for the U.S. National Team, hit the right post in the 22nd minute, the first of at least four shots off the woodwork on the night for the USA.
The USA finally broke through in the 37th minute when Hamm burst up the middle and then played Lilly on the left flank, isolating her with Ana Del Bosque, who plays at the University of Portland. Lilly gave her a stutter step at the top of the penalty box, touched the ball to her left and lashed her shot into the lower right corner past the fully extended Quinones for the 1-0 lead.
The USA almost extended its lead several times before halftime as Hamm slammed a header off the crossbar in 41st and then combined with Milbrett on several nifty give-and-goes up the middle, but the Mexican defense snuffed the shot.
"It was an entertaining and fast paced game," said Hamm. "You saw a lot of good things on both sides. Mexico is a young team and they have this youthful enthusiasm about them. They're fearless and they're fun to play against. We had some opportunities that we didn't put away, and internationally, if you don't do that, you get in trouble. We made some mistakes, but people came off the bench and played really well for us. The thing for us tonight was to make sure Carla Overbeck went out on a winning note in one of her last games."
While Mexico made the U.S. defense scramble at the top of their own penalty box several times, it failed to launch a dangerous shot in the first half. That changed in the second stanza when Mexico scored on both of its shots in the half, both on spectacular goals.
Quinones kept her team in the game with a world-class save just five minutes into the second half when she flew to tip a ripped volley from Brandi Chastain, pushing the ball just over the crossbar.
The USA started to pepper the Mexican net with shots, but they withstood the barrage and, amazingly, came back to equalize. Mexico, always committed and skillful, showed fitness, organization and finishing in this match, led by forwards Iris Mora and Maribel Dominguez.
In the 57th minute, the USA turned the ball over in midfield and Mora struck a first-time through ball to Dominguez, who outran the U.S. defense to slot the ball under the sliding Hope Solo, who had come into the game at halftime for starting goalkeeper Siri Mullinix.
"Every since the summer of '99, women's soccer has really taken off around the world and you can see that in Mexico's improvement," said Lilly. "Now with the professional league starting, it will be continue to be an exciting story and one the fans will want to come out and watch."
A poor clearance by Solo and a moment of inspiration by Mora combined to put Mexico in the lead. Solo, in just her third appearance for the full national team, came far out of her goal to clear a through-ball, but miss-hit the ball and it fell once again to Mora, who smacked a first-time, 50-yard shot that bounced several times before rolling into the goal. The retreating Solo, caught far out of the net, could only give chase.
Down a goal with 25 minutes left, the U.S. team did not panic, and roared back to get an equalizer and the winner, both from substitute Cindy Parlow, who came on for Shannon MacMillan at halftime.
The USA foreshadowed its two-goals-in-six-minutes spurt as Milbrett got free down the right flank, cut towards the goal, but skimmed her shot just wide of the left post. Parlow then slammed a header off the underside of the crossbar in the 67th minute and Mexico was on its heels, clearing every ball it could and scrambling to thwart the relentless U.S. attack, which out-shot Mexico, 29-6.
In the 70th minute, Serlenga won a head ball in the midfield and the ball bounced to Parlow, who drove towards the penalty box on the dribble. Mexican defender Gina Oceguera closed quickly on her, but not before Parlow pulled the trigger, hitting a skipping blast that Quinones got her hands on, but couldn't turn away, and the ball slipped into the lower left corner.
In the 72nd minute, Milbrett once again ran down a ball deep in the corner before sending a perfect cross from the left side that flew over the Mexican defense to Hamm, who collected beautifully and then slammed her shot off the crossbar.
Milbrett created the winner in a similar fashion, crossing a ball from the left side into the mixer. Hamm was knocked down as she jumped for the ball and then got locked up on the ground with a defender. The ball popped loose to Parlow who was standing at the top of the penalty box and she unleashed a blistering shot from 25 yards out that gave Quinones no chance, flying into the upper right corner.
The fight went out of Mexico for the last 15 minutes and the USA salted the game away with some ball-winning and quality possession.
"With 20 minutes left, I thought we would be alright because I felt that it was plenty of time for us to win," said U.S. head coach April Heinrichs. "We'd created plenty of chances in just a five-minute period. We've got a lot of leadership out on the field, and I knew as long as we were pursing excellence and kept our wits about us, we'd be okay. We saw two great goals by Cindy Parlow and composure from the whole team."
The USA will regroup in Phoenix, Arizona for its 41st and final match of 2000 next Sunday, Dec. 17, to take on Japan at Bank One Ballpark. The game kicks off at 3 p.m. MT and will be broadcast live on ESPN. It will be the final international appearance for U.S. captain and legend Carla Overbeck.
2000 U.S. WOMEN'S NATIONAL TEAM GAME REPORT
|Participants:||U.S. Women's National Team vs. Mexico National Team|
|Venue:||Robertson Stadium (Houston, Texas)|
|Date:||December 10, 2000 - Kickoff 6:00 p.m. CT|
|Weather:||67 degrees - Warm, breezy|
USA - Kristine Lilly, (Mia Hamm), 37,
MEX - Maribel Dominguez, (Iris Mora), 57,
MEX - Iris Mora (Unassisted), 65,
USA - Cindy Parlow, (Nikki Serlenga), 70,
USA - Cindy Parlow (Unassisted), 75.
USA - 26-Siri Mullinix (18-Hope Solo, 46th), 3-Christie Pearce (14-Danielle Borgman, 66th) 4-Carla Overbeck (Capt.), 15-Kate Sobrero, 6-Brandi Chastain (10-Michelle French, 76th), 13-Kristine Lilly, 11-Julie Foudy (5-Nikki Serlenga, 56th), 2-Lorrie Fair, 8-Shannon MacMillan (12-Cindy Parlow, 46th), 16-Tiffeny Milbrett, 9-Mia Hamm (7-Sara Whalen, 80th).
MEX - 1-Linnea Quinones, 2-Ana Del Bosque, 3-Lisa Nanez, 4-Gina Oceguera, 6-Monica Gonzalez, 7-Monica Vergara, 8-Fatima Leyva, 9-Maribel Dominguez (Capt.), 10-Iris Mora, Patricia Perez, 19-Michelle Rico (16-Dioselina Valderrama, 53rd, Ana Galindo, 88th).