With the resounding victory, the Americans equaled their goal total from the three games they played in Japan in May of 1998, when they scored nine goals and allowed one in matches in Tokyo, Kobe and Yokohama. The USA was coming off a disappointing 2-1 loss to China last Sunday and made Japan pay for its frustration, earning 19 corner kicks and denying Japan a shot on goal.
"We always talk about effort and what we put in the game," said Hamm, who failed to score in her 8th straight game, but terrorized the Japanese defense all night and created three goals. "We felt a few steps behind China last week, but as a team, we vowed to play harder tonight and let the effort determine the outcome."
The match was played in wind-chill that dropped below 40 degrees as sheets of rain fell steadily from the opening whistle, making the flat surface of Ericsson slick and fast, and the USA took advantage, attacking Japan in waves. The Americans used the width of the field well, tearing holes in the Japanese defense through quick combinations and devastating individual dribbling. Still, the first two goals came off corner kicks starting in the 15th minute.
Hamm's long cross flew past the goal and found Cindy Parlow at the far post. The 5-foot-11 forward spun the ball back into the middle with the outside of her right foot and Michelle Akers out-jumped Japanese goalkeeper Nozomi Yamago to head the ball home from six yards out. It was Akers' 102nd international goal and she now trails Hamm by just two goals as both shoot for the world scoring record of 107, held long-retired Italian superstar Elisabetta Vignotto.
Kristine Lilly added the second goal in the 23rd minute, flicking a Hamm corner-kick into the lower right corner with her head for her 70th international goal and team-leading ninth of the year. The USA didn't score again until the just before halftime when Milbrett's cross from the left flank was deflected off the foot of a Japanese defender, throwing Yamago off balance as she dived for the cross and missed, leaving Parlow with an easy tap in from five yards out. It was 20-year-old Parlow's 19th international goal in her 50th appearance.
The second half was the Milbrett show and she got it started quickly, scoring after just 45 seconds. Halftime substitute Danielle Fotopoulos crossed from the right side to Hamm, who flicked the ball with her heel, freeing Milbrett in the middle of the penalty box to bury her shot from 10 yards out.
"I felt we really got into the match in the second half," said Milbrett. "We found our legs, space opened up and my teammates found me. It was an exciting night and the fans that braved this weather were awesome. We can definitely feel the excitement building towards the World Cup."
Eighteen year-old Aly Wagner, playing in just her fifth international game, made it 5-0 in the 51st minute with her first international goal. Wagner took a short thread pass from Sara Whalen in the right side of the penalty box, wheeled toward the goal and drove a brilliant left-footed strike under the crossbar from 16 yards out.
Milbrett made it 6-0, taking a beautifully weighted through pass from Fotopoulos and lifting it over the sliding Yamago from 12 yards out, bouncing the ball into the lower left corner. Milbrett set up Tisha Venturini for her 40th international goal in the 85th minute, chipping a short pass in the penalty box for Venturini to re-direct into the net with her head from seven yards out.
Milbrett then scored twice in the final two minutes, the first when she took a pass from Fotopoulos down the left flank. Her driven cross was misplayed by Yamago, who let the ball slip through her legs and could only watch in horror as it rolled over the goal line. Goal number four was more impressive, as Milbrett took a pass from Lorrie Fair on the left side of the penalty box, drove toward goal and buried her shot into the left corner.
The four scores upped Milbrett's international goal total to 55, moving her past Carin Gabarra into fourth place on the U.S. all-time goal scoring list.
"Japan is a better team than the score indicates, and that's one of the reasons it was a great win," said U.S. Head Coach Tony DiCicco. "We showed power and flare and a commitment to the game, which is the U.S. team at its best. The challenge now is to duplicate this every match."
The two teams continue the NIKE Road to Pasadena when they meet again on Sunday in Atlanta at Dekalb Memorial Stadium (2 p.m. ET Live on espn2). The USA will then take a week break before regrouping in Milwaukee, Wisc., for games vs. Holland on May 13 at Uihlein Soccer Park and May 16 at Solider Field in Chicago.
1999 U.S. WOMEN'S NATIONAL TEAM GAME REPORT
|Participants:||United States National Team vs. Japan National Team|
|Competition:||NIKE Road to Pasadena / International Friendly|
|Venue:||Ericsson Stadium (Charlotte, N.C.)|
|Date:||April 29, 1999; Kickoff 7:00 p.m. ET|
|Weather:||Steady, drizzling rain - 48 degrees|
USA - Michelle Akers, (Cindy Parlow), 15,
USA - Kristine Lilly, (Mia Hamm), 23,
USA - Cindy Parlow, (Tiffeny Milbrett), 45,
USA - Tiffeny Milbrett, (Mia Hamm), 46,
USA - Aly Wagner, (Sara Whalen), 51,
USA - Tiffeny Milbrett, (Danielle Fotopoulos), 55,
USA - Tisha Venturini, (Tiffeny Milbrett), 85,
USA - Tiffeny Milbrett, (Danielle Fotopolous), 90,
USA - Tiffeny Milbrett, (Lorrie Fair), 91+.
USA - 24-Tracy Ducar, 4-Carla Overbeck (2-Lorrie Fair, 46th), 14-Joy Fawcett, 20-Kate Sobrero, 6-Brandi Chastain, 10-Michelle Akers (Sara Whalen, 46th), 11-Julie Foudy (25-Aly Wagner, 46th), 13-Kristine Lilly (15-Tisha Venturini, 60th), 12-Cindy Parlow (22-Danielle Fotopoulos, 46th), 16-Tiffeny Milbrett, 9-Mia Hamm.
JPN - 18-Nozomi Yamago, 5-Tomoe Sakai, 4-Mai Nakachi, 12-Hiromi Isozaki, 22-Kaoru Nagatome, 13-Miyuki Yanagita (20-Yayoi Kobayashi, 75th), 14-Tomomi Mitsui, 10-Homare Sawa, 15-Mito Isaka, 11-Nami Otake, 9-Tamaki Uchiyama.