The USA and Canada drew, 1-1, last Aug. 20, in Kansas City, Mo., in their most recent meeting before tonight. This was the fifth meeting between the two teams this year alone and the USA is now 22-2-1 against their Northern neighbors. The loss moves the U.S. to 25-6-8 on the year.
In a wacky match that was full of twists and turns, Canada scored on its first two shots, saw the ejection of its head coach Even Pellerud in the second half, benefited from a spectacular game from goalkeeper Nicci Wright, weathered numerous close calls on U.S. shots and knocked Brandi Chastain out of the game with a gash over her right eye that required eight stitches and left her looking like a heavyweight fighter on the wrong end of a TKO.
The USA was playing its first match since losing to Norway in the Olympic gold medal match on Sept. 28, and while the effort was certainly not lacking, the polish was. Shannon MacMillan had two early chances, but skied one over the top and then topped the next shot, bouncing the ball to the diving Wright.
Canada then struck for two quick goals just two minutes apart in the 19th and 21st minutes. The first came when Canadian star forward Charmaine Hooper, who will play for the Atlanta Beat in the WUSA this spring, penetrated up the middle on a solo run. U.S. defender Kate Sobrero did well to delay her, forcing her inside, but she slipped a nifty pass to 17-year-old Christine Sinclair just inside the penalty box. With her back to the goal, Sinclair took a touch to the left and turned to crack a brilliant shot into the upper left corner from 20 yards.
Two minutes after Sinclair's rocket, Christie Pearce tried to clear a ball from the top of the penalty box, but the ball hit Joy Fawcett and bounced back towards the U.S. goal. Hooper, who was the catalyst to all of Canada's dangerous chances, scooped up the gift, dribbled in on goalkeeper Siri Mullinix and rolled her shot into the lower left corner to make it 2-0. After letting in three scores on just three shots on goal in the Olympic final, Canada's two scores made for five consecutive shots on goal that had found the U.S. net.
"I think you can declare the gap between the USA and the rest of the teams in the world officially closed," said U.S. head coach April Heinrichs. "We saw it in the Olympics and we've seen it throughout the year, and we saw what a team like Canada can do if we don't play our best, don't finish our chances and don't come totally committed. Having none of our players playing 90 minutes of outdoor soccer for the last six weeks definitely was a factor in us struggling tonight."
The Americans finally awoke from their stupor, shook off the rust and spent the rest of the half inside Canada's defensive third. Lorrie Fair put Tiffeny Milbrett through inside the penalty box in the 30th minute, but Wright was quicker to the skidding ball and came out to make a sliding save. One minute later, Wright made a point blank save off a shot that Kristine Lilly tried to redirect.
Canada ran hard the entire match, playing organized defense and putting pressure on the U.S. team all over the field, but that didn't stop the Americans from out-shooting them 29-9, including 15-4 in shots on goal.
In the 32nd minute, Fair ran onto a chipped pass from a Mia Hamm free kick, but with only Wright to beat, popped the ball over the goal. The U.S. pressure finally paid off in the 34th minute when Hamm, who was named "Chevrolet Woman of the Match," ran at Sharolta Nonen in the left side of the penalty box. Hamm cut in, then out, beating Nonen to the outside before the Canadian defender hit her high and slammed her to the ground. Milbrett stepped up to take the ensuing penalty kick and coolly rolled her shot into the left corner for her 83rd career goal, tying German legend Heidi Mohr for sixth on the all-time women's world scoring list.
The USA peppered the Canadian goal after going down 2-0, taking 12 shots to Canada's two as players and soccer balls flashed through the Canadian penalty box for the last 25 minutes of the first half.
Just before halftime, a great series of one-touch passes got MacMillan free 16 yards straight in front of goal, but she spun her shot over the top. Just seconds later, MacMillan launched a cross from the right flank as Hamm slashed through the middle, but she put her header over the top.
The USA took 14 shots in the second half, putting eight on goal, but could not find a way around Wright, who was definitely in the "zone" while making spectacular save after save on her way to 14 total stops.
"You think about it a bit that we've lost so many games to the U.S.," said Wright, who was at the receiving end of a 9-1 thrashing last June at Pacific Cup in Australia. "But we felt after getting a good result in Kansas City that it was something to build on, and that maybe winning a game was possible."
Just after the 50th minute, Chastain knocked heads with a Canadian player, blood flowed, and she was forced to leave the game for Cindy Parlow.
In the 68th minute, Milbrett put Hamm behind the defense in a footrace with Canada's Marie-Claude Dion, but her contested shot was saved by Wright. In the 70th minute, Hamm burst free down the right flank and crossed back to Milbrett, who collected, then spun around a defender, but slammed her shot right at Wright. One minute later, Hamm worked herself loose from several defenders inside the penalty box and drilled a shot at the front post from a stiff angle, but Wright was there once again to push the ball away for a corner-kick.
In the 63rd minute, Pellerud was ejected after running onto the field of play to protest a foul call on one of his players. It turned out that Canada didn't need him, getting a clinching goal in the 82nd minute through Silvana Burtini. Canada's Kristina Kiss took a free kick from the right side of the field that flew over the U.S. restraining line to the far post. Burtini snuck in behind her defender as the ball bounced up off the turf and sent a header back across the goal, tucking it into the lower right corner to clinch the game.
The USA did not quit, creating four good chances in the last seven minutes, but in the dying moments when Milbrett drove a shot high from eight yards out, Hamm had a goal disallowed for offside, and Wright made a flying save on a Parlow shot, it was clear that the day belonged to Canada.
"I told my team back in May that I thought we could beat the United States, but I didn't think it would be tonight," said Pellerud, who led Norway to the 1995 Women's World Cup title. "I thought it could be anywhere from a 0-0 tie to a 7-0 loss, but it was an unbelievable performance and a wonderful result."
The USA will regroup to take on Mexico on Dec. 10, 2000, at Robertson Stadium on the campus of the University of Houston. The game kicks off at 6 p.m. CT and will be broadcast live on ESPN2.
2000 U.S. WOMEN'S NATIONAL TEAM GAME REPORT
|Participants:||U.S. Women's National Team vs. Canada National Team|
|Venue:||Columbus Crew Stadium (Columbus, Ohio)|
|Date:||November 11, 2000 - Kickoff 4:00 p.m. ET|
|Weather:||45 degrees - Cold|
CAN - Christine Sinclair, (Charmaine Hooper), 19,
CAN - Charmaine Hooper (Unassisted), 21,
USA - Tiffeny Milbrett (Penalty Kick), 35,
CAN - Silvana Burtini, (Kristina Kiss), 82.
USA - 18-Siri Mullinix, 3-Christie Pearce, 14-Joy Fawcett, 15-Kate Sobrero (4-Carla Overbeck, 75th), 6-Brandi Chastain (12-Cindy Parlow, 56th), 13-Kristine Lilly, 11-Julie Foudy, 2-Lorrie Fair (5-Nikki Serlenga, 66th), 8-Shannon MacMillan (7-Sara Whalen, 85th), 16-Tiffeny Milbrett, 9-Mia Hamm.
CAN - 1-Nicci Wright, 2-Kristina Kiss, 6-Sharolta Nonen, 7-Isabelle Morneau, 8-Marie-Claude Dion, 5-Andrea Neil (11-Kim Warner, 73rd), 13-Amy Walsh, 14-Katie Lee (4-Clare Rustad, 9th), 12-Christine Sinclair (Katherine Warman, 89th), 17-Silvana Burtini, 10-Charmaine Hooper.
|Charmaine Hooper (caution)||63.|