The bigger story, however, was Canada registering what might be the greatest result in its women's soccer history when it tied China, 2-2, in regulation, held the Women's World Cup runners-up scoreless for 20 minutes of sudden death overtime and then won the penalty kick shootout, 5-3. Canada's win blew open a path to the tournament championship for the USA as a win for the Americans on Sunday against host Australia will give them the title of the inaugural Pacific Cup, a trophy seemingly out of reach after the opening 1-0 loss to China.
The USA-Japan match started 35 minutes late due to the overtime and shootout in the China-Canada game as well as a power outage that rendered Breakers Stadium dark for 10 minutes at the end of the second overtime. The USA then struggled to find its rhythm against an inspired and scrappy Japanese team that featured just four players from its 1999 Women's World Cup Team. The U.S. didn't get off a shot until 13th minute when Tiffeny Milbrett skimmed a volley just past the left post. One minute later, Lorrie Fair's drive was deflected off the left post by Cindy Parlow, and then two minutes after that the USA broke through with a bit of deception.
A Japanese handball earned the Americans a free-kick 27 yards out in front of the net. Brandi Chastain ran over the ball, then continued her run as Shannon MacMillan played her through in the right side of the penalty box. Chastain caught up the ball at the end line and played a perfect pass in the slot to Parlow for her to finish from three yards out. It was Parlow's tournament-leading seventh goal and 37th of her international career.
"The Japanese played very, very hard this evening," said U.S. head coach April Heinrichs. "In the first 30, the Japanese initiated the speed of play and the physical presence. I was quite pleased with that, because with that sort of pressure, we have to respond and that makes us better."
Japan took just four shots in the game, but Yumi Obe's equalizer was world class. In the 22nd minute, she had the gumption to pull the trigger from 40 yards and hit a cannon shot that sailed over the fully extended Jenni Branam and perfectly into the upper right corner.
It was Japan's last dangerous chance of the game, but the 1-1 halftime score marked a dramatic improvement from the two pre-Women's World Cup matches between the teams, which saw Japan lose by an aggregate 16-0 score.
"I was impressed with Japan," said MacMillan. "But we started off a little shaky and after they tied it up, we could have had a let down, but as a team we knew we just had to keep going at them and we would get chances."
The USA went ahead in the 55th when Chastain crossed into the middle from the left flank and the ball was knocked down to the turf as several players challenged. MacMillan was the quickest to the loose ball as she slide to knock a rocket into the roof of the net from 10 yards out.
Chastain made it 3-1 in the 62nd minute when she scored the USA's first goal off a direct free-kick since the 1995 NIKE U.S. Women's Cup when Mia Hamm scored one in each of the three games. Chastain stroked her 20-yard left-footed shot from the right side of the penalty box into the upper right corner, giving Japanese goalkeeper Nozomi Yamago no chance. Hamm was given the night off to rest a minor leg injury.
"You always think so much about making it perfect, but I was thinking, just hit it on goal," said Chastain of her drought-breaking strike. "I think the couple of free-kicks before that set up the goal because they were expecting someone to run over the ball, so I caught the goalkeeper standing."
Heinrichs made all five of her allowed substitutes in the 64th minute and three of them combined for the last goal. Sara Whalen, who got a rare run at striker, played Christie Welsh through down the left flank. Welsh cut the ball back against the grain, freezing two defenders, and sent a cross on the ground into the middle. The cutting Aly Wagner touched it under Yamago from four yards out for her fourth international goal.
"All 11 players were working very hard at every moment and when the substitutes came in, there was no let down," added Heinrichs. "It was a high energy game, but the field was slick and cold and at times our service was difficult to handle. In the second half, we started wear them down and it was a great collective win. There were many, many players who played very, very well."
The win gave the USA nine points from four matches in the Pacific Cup, the same as for China and Canada, but the Americans are plus-15 in the first tie-breaker -- goal difference -- which is far and away the best in the tournament. Although the USA lost to China, 1-0, in its first match, head-to-head results are not a tie-breaker in this tournament, and therefore a win over Australia would give the USA the inaugural Pacific Cup title.
Canada took a shocking 2-0 lead on China with two first half goals from 16-year old Christine Sinclair, albeit both against the run of play. Sun Wen pulled a goal back in the 66th, but China got a scare in the 70th minute when the 1999 Women's World Cup MVP was injured in a goal mouth scramble and had to be carried off. Preliminary reports indicated a stretched knee ligament.
China laid siege to the Canadian net in the second half, but goalkeeper Nicci Wright, who gave up nine goals to the USA in this tournament, was solid if not spectacular in holding them at bay. Still, she could not stop the equalizer as Bai Jie dribbled through the Canadian defense to tie the game in the 81st minute.
Mary Beth Bowie was first up in the shootout for Canada and buried her shot. Zhang Ouying then saw her shot tipped outside the right post on a spectacular save by Wright. Each team made their next three kicks before Isabelle Harvey stepped up to take the Canadians fifth and potential winning penalty. Chinese goalkeeper Han Wenxia saved it with her legs, but referee Tammy Ogston ruled that she have moved off her line early, and ordered the kick retaken. Harvey seized the second chance and tucked her shot into the left corner to give Canada the win. Ogston had correctly disallowed a Chinese goal in the first half as Wen struck an indirect free-kick directly into the net.
2000 U.S. WOMEN'S NATIONAL TEAM GAME REPORT
|Participants:||U.S. Women's National Team vs. Japan National Team|
|Competition:||2000 Pacific Cup|
|Venue:||Breakers Stadium (Newcastle, Australia)|
|Date:||June 8, 2000 - Kickoff 6:30 p.m. local/4:30 a.m. ET|
|Weather:||45 degrees - Clear, Cold|
USA - Cindy Parlow, (Brandi Chastain), 16,
JPN - Yumi Obe (Unassisted), 22,
USA - Shannon MacMillan (Unassisted), 55,
USA - Brandi Chastain (Unassisted), 62,
USA - Aly Wagner, (Christie Welsh), 88.
USA - 24-Jen Branam, 3-Christie Pearce, 14-Joy Fawcett, 20-Kate Sobrero, 6-Brandi Chastain (19-Danielle Slaton, 64th), 13-Kristine Lilly (5-Nikki Serlenga, 64th), 2-Lorrie Fair, 11-Julie Foudy - Capt. (25-Aly Wanger, 64th), 8-Shannon MacMillan, 12-Cindy Parlow (7-Sara Whalen, 64th), 16-Tiffeny Milbrett (22-Christie Welsh, 64th).
JPN - 1-Nozimi Yamago, 2-Rie Kimura, 3-Hiromi Isozaki, 4-Yumi Obe, 5-Yasuyo Yamagashi (17-Mio Otani, 85th), 6-Kae Nishina (12-Harue Sato, 89th), 8-Tomomi Fujimura, 10-Ayumi Hara -Capt., 11-Mito Isaka (9-Kozue Ando, 86th), 13-Yoshie Kasajima, 16-Yuka Yamazaki.
|2000 Pacific Cup Standings|
|USA||4||3||1||0||18||3||9 (+15 GD)|
|China||4||3||1||0||6||3||9 (+3 GD)|
|Canada||4||3||1||0||7||12||9 (-5 GD)|
|Australia||4||2||2||0||6||3||6 (+3 GD)|
|Japan||4||1||3||0||3||8||3 (-5 GD)|
|New Zealand||4||0||4||0||2||13||0 (-11 GD)|
|Pacific Cup Leading Goal Scorers|
|Amanda Crawford||New Zealand||2|
Canada 2, New Zealand 1
China 1, USA 0
Australia 1, Japan 0
Japan 2, New Zealand 1 (OT)
USA 9, Canada 1
China 2, Australia 1 (China wins in PKs 5-4)
China 2, Japan 0
USA 5, New Zealand 0
Canada 2, Australia 0
Australia 4, New Zealand 0
China 2, Canada 2 (Canada wins in PKs 5-3)
USA 4, Japan 1
Canada vs. Japan
China vs. New Zealand
USA vs. Australia