U.S. Women End Long Year with 1-1 Draw Against Japan; U.S. Captain Carla Overbeck Plays Final Match with the National Team
"It was an amazing last five years," said Overbeck, whose competitive nature and leadership in part laid the foundation for the dynasty of the U.S. Women. "These players I've played with over my career are just wonderful people and I don't think there will ever be another team like this. I wish my son was a little bit older so he could know what this team has done, but I think I'll enjoy telling him about it."
With the retractable roof open over the state-of-the-art stadium and the desert sun shining in, the U.S. dominated the match but could only manage one goal, a Brandi Chastain header off a Shannon MacMillan corner kick in the 26th minute. The draw broke a 13-match winning streak for the USA against Japan.
The USA out-shot Japan, 12-8, but the real measure of the match was the USA's 18 corner kicks to Japan's one. Still, Japan proved hard to break down, showing its trademark technical skill, some brilliant possession at times and an organized take-no-chances defense that stayed at home the entire match.
Japan actually had the first two chances of the game as captain Ayumi Hara forced a saved from Siri Mullinix on a sharp header after just three minutes and Eriko Arakawa got behind the U.S. defense in the 18th minute, dribbling all the way to the six yard line before cutting her shot wide of the right post.
For the rest of the match, the USA bombarded the Japanese goal with crosses and shots, many of which were blocked, and earned corner kick after corner kick, but goalkeeper Nozomi Yamago proved up the challenge, punching several balls out of danger.
Shannon MacMillan played a dynamic game for the USA at right midfield, consistently beating her defenders down the line and serving crosses. It was MacMillan's cross that led to the U.S. goal as she laced one of her patented laser-beam drives to Chastain just in front of the penalty spot. Chastain bounced a header into the middle of the goal after Yamago had committed to the cross, and while a Japanese defender got a piece of the ball, she couldn't keep it out of the net. It was Chastain's 25th career goal.
In the 31st minute, Tiffeny Milbrett penetrated up the middle on a slashing dribble and tried to hit Mia Hamm in the left side of the penalty box, but the ball hit a Japanese foot and bounced to MacMillan on the other side of the penalty box. MacMillan ran onto the rolling ball, but struck her shot wide left on the ground.
After holding its own in the first part of the match, Japan was on its heels in the middle of the first-half before getting a goal against the run of play in the 35th minute.
Yayoi Kobayashi served a cross from the right side of the penalty box about 30 yards from the net and Japanese star Homare Sawa, who will play this spring for the Atlanta Beat in the WUSA, slashed through and redirected the ball into the net with her chest.
The USA possessed the ball for almost the entire second half, but couldn't punch a whole in the Japanese bunker. In the 67th minute, Julie Foudy played a wall pass with Chastain straight up the middle, returning the ball to Chastain with a back-heel. Chastain burst though the defense, but she let the ball run too far ahead of her and Yamago scooped it up.
"We just weren't sharp out there," said U.S. head coach April Heinrichs. "When you watch this team when we are totally rested, enthused and passionate, you get a sense of amazement of how well we can play. But when we're tired, it's laborious and hard, some extra effort is required and the first touch isn't as sharp as it might be. But we are willful, and the will is always there. Our will was there today, but I don't think our legs were."
The USA had three solid chances to get a winner in the final minutes as Julie Foudy skidded a header wide of the goal in the 88th minute. It was almost a storybook finish for Overbeck, who had two chances in stoppage time, the first when a ball bounced to her in the penalty box after a cross from the right flank, but the ball took a high bounce on her and she skied her volley over the top. She just missed nodding a header home off a MacMillan corner kick in the dying seconds, putting the ball inches outside the right post.
"It would have been the best closing act to a most wonderful play," said Chastain of Overbeck's near misses.
The USA finishes 2000 at 26-6-9, shattering the record for games played in a year, previously at 29. The USA won six tournaments this year before the Olympics and took at silver medal in Australia, setting a record for wins in a year along the way.
"Every motor needs to be turned off and given a rest," said Chastain. "The holidays will be a great time for us to rest and take some time off, but I think overall this was a great year. With the new coaching staff we made great strides, improved in a lot of areas and I think we played some of our best soccer."
Overbeck, who struggled through 2000 after knee surgery and a bout with Graves disease, but made it back to contribute to the Olympic team, is no doubt headed for the National Soccer Hall of Fame.
"I want to say thanks so much to the fans who have supported us over the years," added Overbeck. "Obviously, everyone was a little disappointed with the result in Australia, but these are just the best fans in the world and I'll be joining them in the stands soon."
Overbeck will continue to play professionally with the Carolina Tempest of the Women's United Soccer Association.
"It's going to be sad leaving this team, but I am looking forward to playing against these guys in the WUSA," said Overbeck. "It's over, but it's not over. I'm certainly going to stay in the game. We've had a great run with the national team over the last few years, and I'll miss the camaraderie and closeness of this team."
With the onset of the WUSA, the U.S. women will have a light schedule in 2001, with games perhaps being staged in the summer and definitely the fall after the WUSA season ends.
2000 U.S. WOMEN'S NATIONAL TEAM GAME REPORT
|Participants:||U.S. Women's National Team vs. Japan National Team|
|Venue:||Bank One Ballpark (Phoenix, Arizona)|
|Date:||December 17, 2000 - Kickoff 3:00 p.m. MT|
|Weather:||68 degrees - Sunny, breezy|
USA - Brandi Chastain, (Shannon MacMillan), 26,
JPN - Homare Sawe, (Yayoi Kobayashi), 35.
USA - 26-Siri Mullinix, 3-Christie Pearce (23-Keri Raygor, 59th), 4-Carla Overbeck (Capt.), 15-Kate Sobrero, 6-Brandi Chastain, 13-Kristine Lilly (10-Michelle French, 77th), 11-Julie Foudy, 2-Lorrie Fair, 8-Shannon MacMillan, 16-Tiffeny Milbrett, 9-Mia Hamm (25-Mary-Frances Monroe, 55th).
JPN - 1-Nozomi Yamago, 3-Hiromi Isozaki, 4-Yumi Obe, 5-Tomoe Sakai, 6-Yuka Yamazaki, 7-Yayoi Kobayashi (8-Tomomi Fujimura, 50th), 9-Homare Sawa, 10-Ayumi Hara - Capt., 13-Yoshie Kasajima, 14-Eriko Arakawa (15-Megumi Ogawa, 86th), 16-Mai Nakachi (2-Rie Kimura, 63rd).
|Kate Sobrero (caution)||34,|
|Hiromi Isozaki (caution)||49.|