CHARLESTON, S.C. (Wednesday, February 12, 2002) - Eleven days after returning to the United States from China, where the U.S. Women won the Four Nations Tournament, the team re-grouped in Charleston, S.C. in preparation for the match against Iceland on Sunday, Feb. 16 at Blackbaud Stadium. The match kicks off at 6 p.m. ET and will be broadcast live on ESPN2. Fans can also follow the action on www.ussoccer.com's MatchTracker presented by Philips Electronics. The USA's first training on Tuesday, Feb. 11 at the training facility of the A-League's Charleston Battery on Daniel's Island was bathed in sunshine, a stark contrast to the China trip that featured consistent temperatures in the low 40s. The training started with a fitness test and finished with the always competitive 5 v. 5 tournament, as the 24 players training this week were broken into four teams of five field players and a goalkeeper. The championship game was won on a "golden goal" by 19-year-old Lindsay Tarpley, who was not unfamiliar with the concept, being the scorer of the "golden goal" that won the 2002 FIFA U-19 World Championship for the USA last September. The USA had morning and afternoon sessions today, the only day of the week that will feature two trainings. The USA will train the rest of the week in Charleston and on Saturday U.S. head coach April Heinrichs will name 18 players from the current 24 in camp to face on Iceland.
USA vs. ICELAND HISTORY: While the United States has been playing women's international soccer since 1985, the first meeting between the USA and Iceland did not occur until 1998. Europe's most Western country, which is about the size of the state of Virginia, Iceland competes quite well on the international level considering its small population (just over 280,000) and far smaller number of registered women's soccer players. Iceland competes in the upper tier of European teams and actually finished second in its 2003 Women's World Cup qualifying group, behind Russia and ahead of Italy and Spain. By virtue of its second place finish in Group 3, Iceland faced England in a two-game semifinal playoff series, but had its Women's World Cup dreams dashed with a 1-0 loss in the second leg after tying 2-2 at home in the first leg. Iceland was ahead 2-1 in that first leg on goals by Olga Faerseth and Erla Hendriksdottir, only to give up an 87th minute equalizer. The U.S. women have played Iceland four times in their history, all in the United States. The four matches came in two-game sets in which the USA dominated the first game, but not the second. The USA defeated Iceland 6-0 on May 8, 1998, in Indianapolis, but then two days later scraped out a 1-0 win in Bethlehem, Penn. In 2000, the two teams played twice in North Carolina with the USA winning 8-0 on April 5 in Davidson, N.C., but then tied 0-0 three days later on a freezing cold night in Charlotte, N.C. as Iceland goalkeeper Thora Helgadottir made 11 saves, most of them spectacular, to keep the USA off the board. In those four games, Iceland has failed to score on the USA. Helgadottir has been a three-year starter for Duke University and six Icelandic players have played in the United States.
MILLIE TIES LILLY: With her 96th career goal against Norway at the Four Nations Tournament, Tiffeny Milbrett moved into a tie with Kristine Lilly for second on the U.S. all-time points list at 253. Milbrett, who along with Joy Fawcett, Shannon MacMillan and Lorrie Fair was not called into this camp as Heinrichs continues to rest and rotate her veteran players, has 96 goals and 60 assists while Lilly has 90 goals and 73 assists. Brandi Chastain is one point from tying Heinrichs for 10th on the all-time points list. Chastain has 29 goals and 25 assists while Heinrichs retired with 37 goals and 10 assists, albeit in 47 games, 115 fewer than Chastain has played so far.
BACK AT BLACKBAUD: The Iceland match will be the second-ever U.S. Women's game at Blackbaud Stadium, home of the A-League's Charleston Battery. The USA opened to 2002 campaign on Jan. 12 here in front of a packed and appreciative stadium with a 7-0 trouncing of Mexico as Shannon MacMillan scored a hat trick. The match, played in a driving rainstorm, also featured goals from Julie Foudy, Danielle Fotopoulos, Kristine Lilly and Aly Wagner.
USA vs. ICELAND ON ARMED FORCES TV: The U.S. Women's National Team watched the Super Bowl while in China, courtesy of U.S. Marines stationed at the consulate in Shanghai, and the Armed Forces Network. The U.S. Women will now return the favor, in a sense, as ESPN2's coverage of the USA vs. Iceland match will be broadcast on a delayed basis on the Armed Forces Network Sports channel. The Armed Forces Radio and Television Network distributes U.S. radio and television programming to approximately 800,000 U.S. Armed Forces personnel stationed outside the contiguous United States in 179 countries and territories and aboard U.S. Navy ships-at-sea.
MR. KOALA LOST AND FOUND: U.S. defender Jenny Benson received a stuffed Koala Bear toy for her 1st birthday. She still has it. It has been her constant traveling companion on soccer trips since she started playing and turned 24 in China when Benson celebrated her 25th birthday. The relic from the late 1970s, named "Mr. Koala," is not the most attractive stuffed animal, and courtesy of numerous encounters with a needle and thread to close up tears, it is showing some wear. Still, Mr. Koala is holding up well for a toy almost a quarter of a century old. Perhaps suffering from China jet lag, Benson somehow left Mr. Koala sitting in the terminal in San Francisco after arriving from China and making her connection to Orange County, Calif. As the plane was moving away from the terminal, Benson realized that Mr. Koala was missing. The panicked Benson hailed a flight attendant and explained her plight. The attendant gave her a number to call and she did so immediately upon arrival at the Orange County airport. In a happy ending to the story, someone had found Mr. Koala and turned him into Lost and Found. He was being shipped to Benson's parents home in Huntington Beach, where her mom would then ship him to Charleston, S.C. Mr. Koala is expected to arrive today or tomorrow, keeping his impressive consecutive games streak alive.
OFF THE MARKET: U.S. defender Kate Sobrero, 26, arrived in South Carolina with some extra baggage, a handsomely sized piece of shining jewelry on her left ring finger. Sobero's fiancé - Chris Markgraf - proposed to Sobrero the day after she returned from China, and she accepted. The wedding is slated for next October, ironically, in Charleston, S.C.
STAT OF NOTE: The USA has lost just six matches on home soil in the last 10 years. Of the 14 losses at home in U.S. history, eight have been to Norway. The USA is currently riding a 17-game unbeaten streak on U.S. soil and has put together several long home unbeaten streaks over the years: 21 games from April of 1993 to February of 1996; 50 games from February of 1996 to April of 1999; 18 games from April of 1999 to February of 2000; 14 games from April of 2000 to November of 2000, and then the current 17-game streak.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
"It was amazing to be out there and feel 100 percent mentally and physically for the first time in a very long time. Playing next to Joy and Brandi also made it easier. They just make you comfortable out there with their leadership and composure. Even though I feel that I'm back physically, I know I can keep improving in many ways so that I can continue to get better and more confident out there."
- U.S. defender Christie Pearce, who played 90 minutes against Germany at the Four Nations Tournament in China in her first start for the U.S. National Team since the summer of 2001 after coming back from a serious knee injury.