U.S. WOMEN GET SET FOR SEMIFINAL VS. COSTA RICA
Only Costa Rica stands between the U.S. Women’s National Team and a berth in the 2004 Athens Olympics as the two teams will meet tomorrow in the second semifinal of the CONCACAF Final Round Women’s Olympic Qualifying Tournament. The match will not be available on American TV, but fans can follow the action on ussoccer.com’s MatchTracker presented by Philips Electronics starting at 3:30 p.m. ET/12:30 p.m. PT. Mexico and Canada meet in a grudge match at Noon. After defeating Mexico, 2-0, in the USA’s final Group B match last Sunday, U.S. head coach April Heinrichs gave the team Monday off to rest and recover. A group of players used the morning to finish up some souvenir shopping, mostly purchasing items in the vast array of beautiful wood products available in Costa Rica, from coasters to mirrors to masks to animal figurines – but Angela Hucles and Kate Markgraf went one better, buying traditional Costa Rican dresses, which they both wore to the USA’s afternoon excursion to the U.S. Embassy in San Jose. John Danilovich, the U.S. Ambassador to Costa Rica, as well as former U.S. National Team and current Costa Rica National Team head coach Steve Sampson, greeted the U.S. team at the embassy, where the players had a mixer of sorts. The players signed autographs for tons of American kids whose parents are stationed in Costa Rica, U.S. Marines grilled hamburgers and the players posed for numerous photos. Ambassador Danilovich and U.S. head coach April Heinrichs both gave shorts speeches, with the Ambassador telling Heinrichs that there has not been an event in Costa Rica that has brought so many Americans together in one place like the U.S. games, except for a recent Luciano Pavarotti concert. After the embassy visit, the U.S. team headed out for a team meal at Tony Roma’s, where much meat was consumed and players’ stomachs satisfied. The USA held what will likely be its last training at the Dos Pinos dairy factory on Tuesday morning, running through a short practice where high winds once again made the end-of-training finishing drill just a bit more exciting.
USA vs. COSTA RICA PREVIEW
Shannon Boxx 3
Cindy Parlow 3
Abby Wambach 3
Mia Hamm 2
Kristine Lilly 1
Aly Wagner 1
Shannon MacMillan 1
Lindsay Tarpley 1
Own Goals 2
Megan Chavez 3
Shirley Cruz 2
Ana Gabriel Campos 1
Gabriela Trujillo 1
Cindy Rodriguez 1
Following are selected quotes from U.S. head coach April Heinrichs on Costa Rica:
On Costa Rican head coach Ricardo Rodriguez:
“I think Ricardo has done a great job for the Costa Rican team. They play for him and they play very hard. They have some very nice players and I think Costa Rica is really getting better every time I see them play.”
On Costa Rica’s improvement since Women’s World Cup qualifying at the end of 2002:
“Costa Rica has really improved in the last 15 months since I saw them at World Cup qualifying. They have a good possession style, they like to combine and every player is competent on the ball. They may not be as big or athletic as other countries like the USA or Canada, but when they have the ball it’s tough to get it from them. We are hoping to have a good deal of the possession ourselves.”
On having offensive success against the scrappy Costa Ricans:
“Their back line plays sort of a rotating sweeper and it’s difficult to break down and get behind as they always have cover. Their central defenders (captain Gabriela Trujillo and Karol Segura Arguedas) held their own against Canada and despite their diminutive size, really battled in the air. We are just hoping to put our best two halves of the tournament together.”
CANADA vs. COSTA RICA TURNS INTO A SUPER CLASSICO
TRAINING ROOM/INTERNET CAFÉ
U.S. athletic trainer Cody Malley has had numerous visitors to the training room in the hotel this week, but most not because of injuries. It seems that the wireless Internet at the hotel works in two places…in the hotel lobby and, for some strange reason, in the training room. Yesterday afternoon, there were no less than six players spread around the room, on the floor, under tables and on medical trunks typing away on their lap tops as Malley was attempting to identify who needed treatment and who was busy Instant Messaging with their boyfriends and husbands. The traffic got so heavy that Malley put up a sign on the front door, with hourly rates for training room Internet access. There is no word if any of the players have paid up, but Malley was offering free Gatorade and snacks to the training room denizens.
WOM-BATCH, CAN WE HAVE YOUR AUTOGRAPH?
Such is the nature of CONCACAF that the U.S. players have become icons of a sort to the players of the developing women’s soccer nations, who read, watch and hear about the professional players in the USA with endorsement contracts, shoe deals and matches on national TV. There was no better example of that than on the night after the USA’s win over Mexico when several players from Trinidad & Tobago came to the U.S. hotel looking for autographs. Finding only Abby Wambach doing some e-mail in the hotel lobby, the U.S. forward obliged their request to sign and chatted up the Trinidadians (who called her “WOM-BATCH”) for a few minutes before several more players returned from a nightly jaunt to TCBY. Leslie Osborne and Heather O’Reilly, who have fond memories of T&T after playing there during qualifying for the 2002 U-19 Women’s World Championship, also signed for the islanders.
She Said It:
La Nacion, one of the major newspapers in Costa Rica, perhaps leaning a bit toward hyperbole, had this line in a story after the Ticas lost to Canada:
Translated: “The result condemned Costa Rica to a game in the semifinals against the best female players on the planet.”