A monthly feature about a U.S. Men's, Women's or Youth National Team player from the U.S. Soccer Communications Department.
This month, we turn the already bright spotlight on veteran U.S. Women's National Team midfielder / forward Shannon MacMillan, who at age 27 and after eight years representing the USA is in peak form. Though best remembered for her heroics in the 1996 Olympics (leading the team with three goals in five matches) on the way to the first ever women's soccer gold medal, the Escondido, Calif., native has become the team's "go to" player in 2002 as the reigning world champs get ready to defend their title in 2003 in China.
"Hot, Hot, Hot"
Shannon MacMillan is hot. She's Brazilian rain forest hot. She's molten lava shooting out of a volcano hot. She can't walk into a candy store without melting the chocolate truffles. She can't eat a Popsicle fast enough before it dissolves into a sticky mess. When she walks into a room, the temperature rises 10 degrees.
Coming off an electric WUSA campaign in which she scored 12 goals and had six assists for the San Diego Spirit to finish second in the league, MacMillan caught fire for the U.S. Women's National Team during the first part of 2002. But it was not the number of goals she's scored that was unprecedented, it was the percentage.
Of the 17 goals the U.S. women's have scored this year, MacMillan has 11. No one else has more than one. She scored the first hat trick of her career against Mexico in the team's first match of the year, went scoreless in the first two games of the Four Nations Tournament in China, but since then has scored in five straight matches, including seven of the USA's eight goals at the Algarve Cup in Portugal.
"I'm finding myself playing forward more often for the National Team and that means more chances in front of the goal," said MacMillan, who has earned a good majority of her 135 caps at outside midfield." I worked hard last year with the Spirit, and then tried to be really disciplined in my training during the off-season, and it really paid off at the Algarve Cup."
Possessing a rare combination of strength, speed and guile that all great forwards have, MacMillan has been scoring goals since her days as a youth player in Escondido, Calif., just north of San Diego. She kept scoring them at the University of Portland where she won both the MAC Award and the Hermann Trophy as a senior, and certainly didn't stop when she got to the U.S. National Team.
MacMillan's scoring spree has upped her international goal total to 46, good for sixth (tied with Cindy Parlow) on the USA's all-time scoring list with only goal-scoring machines Carin Gabarra, Tiffeny Milbrett, Kristine Lilly, Michelle Akers and Mia Hamm in front of her.
MacMillan attributes part of her scoring output over the past year to a veteran savvy that comes only with many matches under one's belt, and part to the confidence that comes with the experience.
"I still have a lot to learn about the game," admitted MacMillan, who with one more goal for the USA will tie her career high for a year, set in 2000. "But I think I am starting to gain a better understanding. You have the natural will to go to goal, but I've learned when and were to run, how to take the half chances, and I definitely have the confidence to find a way to score."
While MacMillan is perhaps one of the trickiest shooters on the U.S. team, carrying a vast array of chips, spins and angled shots in her repertoire, there is nothing like good old-fashioned power. MacMillan is widely regarded as having one of the hardest shots in the world. While never clocked, it is certainly guaranteed to leave a mark, should it hit a brave (or is it foolish?) defender who chooses to jump in front of one of her rockets.
"I can't say that I enjoy being on the other end of Mac's shots," said Spirit and sometimes National Team goalkeeper Jaime Pagliarulo. "But facing the variety of shots that she hits is great training for a goalkeeper. She can hit driven shots, knucklers, bending balls and little dinks that make you look stupid. Just when you think you know where she is going to shoot, she does just the opposite."
With MacMillan playing some of the best soccer of her life, Tiffeny Milbrett coming off two of the greatest years of her career, Cindy Parlow finding her niche, not to mention a girl named Mia, the USA has some devastating attacking options up front as it gears up for 2003 Women's World Cup qualifying to be held in October or November of 2002.
But first up is the 2002 WUSA season, where MacMillan will be hard pressed to repeat her exploits from last year, as opposing defenses will no doubt track her every move.
"I think we learned a lot last year and hopefully those lessons will carry to this season," said MacMillan.
Table of Contents
1) Armchair Midfielder (Tuning Up for the Cup)
2) Word Association (w/ MNT defender Tony Sanneh)
3) What I Did on My Spring Break (w/ U-21 WNT midfielder Joanna Lohman)
4) Queries and Anecdotes (w/ WNT defender Jena Kluegel)
5) Superstar!!! (w/ WNT midfielder/forward Shannon MacMillan)
6) Mark That Calendar (MNT vs. Ireland -- April 17)
7) Point-Counterpoint (w/ journalists Michael Lewis and Grahame Jones)
8) "You Don't Know Jack (Marshall)" (General MLS trivia)
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