With most of the Women's World Cup veterans on a break, U.S. head coach April Heinrichs called up an inexperienced but talented roster to face the Italians, and was rewarded with some inspired play, attractive soccer and quality goals. The majority of the U.S. squad will play for the Under-21 National Team at the Nordic Cup this summer in Germany. Long Island products Whalen, Christie Welsh and Mary-Frances Monroe delighted their hometown crowd as each played a part in the scoring. Defender Christie Pearce joined Whalen as the only two 1999 Women's World Cup veterans to play in the match.
"I was very pleased for this team and with the great result for the young players," said Heinrichs. "We had excellent possession and really created enough chances to score five or six goals. At times, we showed our naiveté, which can come back to hurt us, but the players will grow more sophisticated with more experience. It is difficult and frustrating for young players when they come into the national team environment, but I tell them that their development comes with the youth teams, and I think we saw some of that success tonight."
All of the Italian danger came from striker Rita Guarino, who made sure U.S. goalkeeper Jenni Branam was awake with a quick shot in the 4th minute that was easily saved, and threatened the U.S. net throughout the game. Italy put on some early pressure as Branam fumbled a cross in the 13th minute, but no one was there to take advantage. The U.S. back line of Pearce, Nandi Pryce and captain Michelle French, did a fine job of nullifying Patrizia "The Scorpion" Panico, the leading scorer in the Italian Women's Serie A this past season.
After the early game nerves wore off, the U.S. team, starting four 19-year-olds, two 17-year olds, one 18-year old and one 20-year old, took over. In the 15th minute, Wagner found Christie Welsh in the penalty box with short thread, but Welsh's shot was deflected for a corner kick. Soon after, Wagner chipped a free-kick over the Italian wall to Mary-Frances Monroe. She beat the goalkeeper with her stabbed volley, but as the ball rolled toward the goal line, Luisa Marchio slid to clear it away.
The U.S. finally broke through in the 24th minute as Monroe stole the ball from an Italian defender inside the penalty box, pushed past a defender and toe-poked it to the charging Wagner, who cracked a low, left-footed drive into the left corner for her fifth international goal. Wagner almost struck again three minutes later as her 25-yard dipping volley almost caught Italian goalkeeper Raffaella Piattoli napping.
U.S. goalkeeper Jenni Branam played a solid game in coming off her line to collect through balls as well as launching her usual 60-yard clearances, but she dropped another cross in the 40th minute when she tried to make a catch in busy goal mouth traffic. Guarino pounced on the bouncing ball and whipped off a flying side-volley, but it screamed over the crossbar.
Italy tied the match just two minutes into the second half when Guarino and Branam came together to challenge a through ball at the top of the penalty box. Guarino got the better of the tackle as the ball popped free behind Branam, and she slotted it home into the empty net to tie the score.
The lead and the momentum was short lived as Aleisha Cramer played a pass to Whalen in the left side of the penalty box in the 55th minute. Whalen beat a defender to the inside and hit a blistering drive into the roof of the net from 15 yards to give the USA the lead. It was Whalen's fourth goal in the last five games and 7th for her career.
"This is really a break for a lot us," said Whalen, who will travel to Germany with the U.S. team on July 12. "But to get the chance to come out and play in my hometown was awesome. The crowd was great and everyone played so well. I'm glad we could put on a good show for the fans."
The Americans then ran at Italy and put the game away with two goals in the last 15 minutes. In the 67th minute, Monroe played Welsh through down the right flank. She cut a cross back to Bush who was making near post run, but her sliding shot cracked off the cross bar, bounced down and hit a retreating defender, then rebounded off the right post and out of play.
Bush would not be denied in the 76th minute, when she scored off a cross from French. The ball from the left flank flashed by Welsh at the near post to Bush, who sliced the ball into left corner with the outside of her right foot from six yards out.
"April has invested in the future and she is giving us young players a chance of a lifetime," said Welsh. "It's our job to take advantage of that opportunity and I think everyone did tonight. We scored some great goals."
Defenders Anna Kraus and Catherine Reddick, and forward Caroline Putz, earned their first full national team caps. Putz provided one final highlight, scoring on her second touch of the game after coming on in the 87th minute. In stoppage time, Wagner burst free down the right flank and played a perfect bending ball behind the defense to Putz, who slammed the ball home from five yards out. Putz (Bountiful, Utah) and Reddick (Birmingham, Ala.) became the first products of their states to earn a full national team caps.
The USA will travel to Germany on July 12 for DFB 100-Year Anniversary Tournament, followed by a two-game swing to Norway. It will be the most difficult road trip in U.S. history outside of a world championship event as the Americans will face Norway, China, Germany, Norway and Norway again. The next domestic matches for the USA will be on the "NIKE Road to Glory" tour, which will open on August 13 with a match against Russia at the Navy-Marine Corp Memorial Stadium in Annapolis, Md. (Kickoff 2 p.m. ET -- LIVE on ABC). The USA will then face Canada at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Mo. on Sunday, Aug. 20 (Kickoff 2 p.m. CT -- LIVE on ESPN2) and finish with a match against Brazil on Friday, Sept. 1, 2000, at Spartan Stadium in San Jose, Calif. (5:30 PT LIVE on ESPN2) in its final match before departing for Australia and the 2000 Olympics.
2000 U.S. WOMEN'S NATIONAL TEAM GAME REPORT
|Participants:||U.S. Women's National Team vs. Italy National Team|
|Venue:||EAB Park (Central Islip, N.Y.)|
|Date:||July 7, 2000 - Kickoff 7 p.m. ET|
|Attendance:||6,022 (Sell Out)|
|Weather:||72 degrees - Warm, Breezy|
USA - Aly Wagner, (Mary-Frances Monroe), 24,
ITA - Rita Guarino, (Unassisted), 47,
USA - Sara Whalen, (Aleisha Cramer), 54,
USA - Susan Bush, (Michelle French), 76,
USA - Caroline Putz, (Aly Wagner), 91+.
USA - 24-Jenni Branam, 2-Nandi Pryce, 3-Christie Pearce (9-Anna Kraus, 68th), 11-Michelle French, 7-Sara Whalen (8-Catherine Reddick, 73rd), 6-Mary-Frances Monroe, 17-Aleisha Cramer, 25-Aly Wagner, 12-Alyssa Ramsey (14-Jenna Kluegel, 60th), 23-Susan Bush (5-Carolina Putz, 87th), 22-Christie Welsh (13-Veronica Zepeda, 83rd).
ITA - 1-Raffaella Piattolo (12-Carla Brunozzi, 79th), 2-Damiana Deiana (13-Maria Sorvillo, 65th), 3-Daniela Tavalazzi, 5-Guilia Perelli, 6-Luisa Marchio (4-Lucia Balestri, 86th), 7-Tatiana Zorri (16-Alessandra Pallotti, 61st), 8-Adele Frollani, 10-Margherita Masia, 15-Samantha Ceroni (17-Moira Placchi, 73rd), 11-Rita Guarino, 9-Patrizia Panico (18-Fabiana Colasuonno, 86th).
|Adele Frollani (caution)||65.|