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U.S. Women Prepare for Nov. 22 Gold Cup Semifinal Showdown vs. Mexico

United States Women’s National Team
CONCACAF Women’s Gold Cup
Notes from Carson, Calif.
Nov. 21, 2006

U.S. WOMEN READY FOR CRUCIAL MATCH AGAINST MEXICO: Win and they’re in … the 2007 FIFA Women’s World Cup, that is. With a week of training behind them, the U.S. Women’s National Team is primed for its most important match of the year on Wed., Nov. 22, against Mexico (tickets) in the semifinal of the CONCACAF Women’s Gold Cup at The Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif. The kickoff is set for 7 p.m. PT, and the match will be broadcast live on Fox Soccer Channel. Fans can also follow the action live on‘s MatchTracker. Canada will take on Jamaica at 4:30 p.m. PT at The HDC in the other semifinal. The winners of the semifinals will earn this region’s two direct berths to the 2007 FIFA Women’s World Cup in China, while the losers will face off for third place on Sunday afternoon. U.S. head coach Greg Ryan has 20 players on the Women’s Gold Cup roster, but must name 18 players to dress for the match vs. Mexico. Ryan previewed the match during a conference call on Tuesday afternoon (listen | quote sheet).

2006 CONCACAF Women’s Gold Cup Schedule
The Home Depot Center - Carson, Calif.
(All matches on Fox Soccer Channel)

November 22, 2006
Canada vs. Jamaica 4:30 p.m. PT
USA vs. Mexico 7 p.m. PT

November 26, 2006
Third Place (Semifinal losers) 3 p.m. PT
Championship (Semifinal winners) 5:30 p.m. PT

U.S. Roster - 2006 CONCACAF Women’s Gold Cup (Hometown - Caps/Goals)
GOALKEEPERS (2): 1-Briana Scurry (Dayton, Minn. - 158), 18-Hope Solo (Richland, Wash. - 35);
DEFENDERS (7): 17-Lori Chalupny (St. Louis, Mo. - 28/2), 8-Tina Frimpong (Vancouver, Wash. - 17/0), 14-Stephanie Lopez (Elk Grove, Calif. - 8/0), 15-Kate Markgraf (Bloomfield Hills, Mich. - 152/0), 2-Heather Mitts (Cincinnati, Ohio - 61/2), 3-Christie Rampone (Point Pleasant, N.J. - 154/4), 4-Cat Whitehill (Birmingham, Ala. - 96/11);
MIDFIELDERS (5): 16-Angela Hucles (Virginia Beach, Va. - 58/5), 11-Carli Lloyd (Delran, N.J. - 19/1), 7-Marci Miller (St. Charles, Ill. - 12/0), 12-Leslie Osborne (Brookfield, Wis. - 28/1), 10-Aly Wagner (San Jose, Calif. - 107/21);
FORWARDS (6): 6-Natasha Kai (Kahuku, Hawaii - 15/6), 13-Kristine Lilly (Wilton, Conn. - 317/116), 9-Heather O’Reilly (East Brunswick, N.J. - 50/8), 5-Lindsay Tarpley (Kalamazoo, Mich. - 57/13), 20-Abby Wambach (Rochester, N.Y. - 82/64), 19-Danesha Adams (Shaker Heights, Ohio - 1/0).
Head Coach: Greg Ryan

Mexico Roster - 2006 CONCACAF Women’s Gold Cup
GOALKEEPERS (2): 1-Pamela Tajonar, 20-Sophia Perez;
DEFENDERS (6): 2-Elizabeth Gomez, 3-Rubi Sandoval, 5-Maria De Jesus Castillo, 13-Maria De Lourdes Gordillo, 14- Isabel Valdez,15-Luz Saucedo;
MIDFIELDERS (5): 4-Monica Gonzalez, 6-Monica Vergara, 7-Juana Lopez, 8-Fatima Leyva, 11-Patricia Perez;
FORWARDS (6): 9-Maribel Domínguez, 10-Iris Mora, 16-Carmen Padilla, 17-Monica Ocampo, 18-Guadalupe Worbis, 19-Verónica Charlyn Corral.
Head Coach: Leonardo Cuellar

CONCACAF QUALIFYING HISTORY: The USA has participated in the previous four Women’s World Cup tournaments, winning twice, but had to go through qualification just three times - participating in CONCACAF qualifying events in Haiti in 1991, in Canada in 1994 and in the USA in 2002. Even though the 2003 Women’s World Cup was moved to the USA due to the SARS outbreak in China, the USA had already qualified. The U.S. has never lost or tied a Women’s World Cup qualifying match and has a record of 14-0-0 through three CONCACAF Qualifying tournaments. Qualifying History

Overall: 14-0-0
Home: 5-0-0
Away: 2-0-0
Neutral: 7-0-0

U.S. WOMEN ON THE VERGE OF TEAM RECORD: The U.S. Women’s National Team has gone unbeaten in 30 consecutive matches dating back to the final game of 2004 against Mexico on Dec. 8, , which was also the final match for Mia Hamm, Julie Foudy and Joy Fawcett. Who would have thought that the retirement of some of the legends of women’s soccer would be the starting point for a streak that could be historic if the USA can win its semifinal match on Nov. 22? The U.S. team went unbeaten under Tony DiCicco in 30 matches (29-0-1) from February 10, 1996, through Oct. 9, 1997. The 2006 squad tied that record with the win against Canada at the Peace Queen Cup. During the current streak of 30 matches, the USA is 25-0-5. Twenty-nine of those matches have been under current U.S. head coach Greg Ryan.

HEATHER O’REILLY TAKES IT SLOW WHILE MOVING FAST: Young U.S. forward Heather O’Reilly has had a busy year to say the least. While helping UNC go deep into the NCAA Tournament, she switches jerseys for a few days to try and help the USA qualify for the 2007 FIFA Women’s World Cup. Find out how the 21-year-old juggles the myriad of demands on her time and energy.

WHITEHILL CHECKS IN FROM THE WOMEN’S GOLD CUP: If Florida wins the SEC Title (we’re talking college football) and doesn’t go the BCS National Championship Game, you might want to stay away from U.S. defender Cat Whitehill for about a month. You can find out why, as well as hear Cat talk about her goal-scoring prowess, the match against Mexico and much more on this exclusive podcast.

ALY ANSWERS: U.S. midfielder Aly Wagner is sharp with the ball at her feet and with her wit. She takes some time out from CONCACAF Women’s Gold Cup preparations to answer 11 questions for, ranging from her upcoming wedding, to the USA’s mindset heading into the big match against Mexico.

USA vs. MEXICO HISTORY: The USA and Mexico met an amazing five times in 2004, but just once in 2005, that coming in late October in the final match of that year. The teams have met once this year already, a 3-1 U.S. win in Rochester, N.Y. on Sept. 13, which saw hometown hero Abby Wambach score twice with Lindsay Tarpley getting the other goal. Before the match in Rochester, the teams met in Charleston, S.C., on Oct. 23, 2005. The USA got two goals from Abby Wambach and one from Kristine Lilly in the 3-0 win, but the most interesting note from that match may have been the appearance of Mexican prodigy Veronica Corral, then just 14-years-old, who became what is believed to be the youngest player ever to face the full Women’s National Team. Corral turned in a solid performance at the 2006 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Championship in Russia and could see action against the USA again. Mexico’s goal against the USA in Rochester was just the sixth they have scored in the countries’ 17 all-time meetings, and four of them came in a pair of 3-2 wins for the USA, one in 2000 and one at Olympic qualifying. The five games between the teams in 2004 tied a record for second most matches against a single country in a calendar year (the USA played China five times in 1991, Canada five times in 2000 and Norway eight times in 2000). The USA is 17-0-0 all-time vs. Mexico including a 5-0 victory in Los Angeles on Dec. 8, 2004, in what was the final career match for Julie Foudy, Joy Fawcett and Mia Hamm.

CLOSE CALL IN COSTA RICA: While the USA and Mexico certainly do not have the same kind of rivalry that is seen on the men’s side, the passion still runs deep. The USA’s meeting with Mexico in the championship match of the 2004 CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying Tournament was one for the ages. That clash in San Jose, Costa Rica, was perhaps the most exciting game ever between the two countries. The USA went down, 2-0, after just 15 minutes as Maribel Dominguez scored two lightning strikes. Lindsay Tarpley pulled a crucial goal back on a header just before halftime, and then the U.S. came out after the break on a mission, peppering the Mexican goal with shots until Abby Wambach equalized on a brilliant solo effort just 11 minutes from the end of the game. U.S. captain Julie Foudy then dramatically won the match in the 84th minute, striking a rebound through goal-mouth traffic, off the right post and into the net to give the USA the regional title.

MEXICO ON THE RISE: If you look at the state of Mexican women’s soccer in 1998 (when it was practically non-existent), and where it is now almost eight years later, the improvement has been remarkable. Mexico is ranked 25th in the world and has one Women’s World Cup and one Olympic appearance to its credit, as well as several appearances at the FIFA youth world cups. Although there is still much work to be done, Mexico’s growth in women’s soccer has quietly been one of the best stories in women’s sports in the new millennium. Mexico’s most recent high point in its women’s soccer history was qualifying for the 2004 Olympics and advancing to the quarterfinals from a group that included Germany and China. Mexico pulled off two great results in Greece, tying China, 1-1, and losing to Germany, 2-0, to advance, before falling, 5-0, to a very talented Brazil team in the quarterfinals.

CUELLAR “DOES THE IMPOSSIBLE”: Mexico shocked many in their home country by qualifying for the 2004 Olympics and creating a huge story back in Mexico, and much credit should be given to head coach Leo Cuellar, a former NASL star and captain of the Mexican National Team who earned 41 caps for his country. Cuellar played for the San Diego Sockers, the San Jose Earthquakes and the Golden Bay Earthquakes in the NASL, scoring 14 goals and picking up 54 assists in a career that spanned 1979-1984, when he played with a now-famous wild “afro” hairstyle. After six years of work, Cuellar put together a team at Olympic qualifying that was fitter and more confident than ever before, with some talented players all over the field. With his qualification for the Olympics, Cuellar in a sense “bought” four more years of support as his squad shoots for the 2007 FIFA Women’s World Cup in China.

A LOOK AT MEXICO: Mexico is one of the most improved women’s soccer countries in the world since becoming the first Spanish-speaking country to qualify for a Women’s World Cup in 1999. (Mexico was also the first Spanish-speaking country to qualify for the Olympic women’s soccer tournament.) Mexico plays an exciting style featuring a unique mixture of Mexican-Americans and homegrown talent. Mexico is at its best when former UCLA star Iris Mora is paired with star forward Maribel Dominguez, who is Mexico’s greatest-ever player in its young history. Dominguez, who was playing her club soccer in Spain with FC Barcelona and missed the last several meetings between the teams, has recovered from a shoulder injury that required surgery and scored Mexico’s third goal in its 3-0 Women’s Gold Cup quarterfinal win over Trinidad & Tobago. Young star Monica Ocampo, who showed very well at the 2006 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Championship in Russia and in the meeting between the teams last year in Charleston, S.C., adds new depth to the Mexican attack. Without their star forwards Dominguez and Mora paired together, Mexico has had trouble putting pressure on the U.S. goal. In fact, Dominguez has scored three of Mexico’s six all-time goals against the USA. Mora has one, Ocampo got the other in Rochester and the leader of Mexico’s defense, former Notre Dame star Monica Gonzalez, has one, coming off a penalty kick. Gonzalez, who has captained Mexico on many occasions, played for the WUSA’s Boston Breakers and will no doubt be on the field for the Tricolores, possibly along-side Mexican-American defenders Elizabeth Gomez and Rubi Sandoval, one of the top players at Cal State Fullerton. Mexico’s midfielders are small, but crafty and quick. Monica Vergara is a veteran at 23-years-old, as is Guadalupe Worbis, who can also play forward. At 26, midfielder Fatima Leyva has been one of Mexico’s most effective players for quite a while now and Patricia Perez, scorer of Mexico’s first goal against T&T, has always played well against the USA. Mexico has two quality goalkeepers in Pamela Tajonar and Sophia Perez (who played at San Diego State), but Perez got the nod against T&T and against the USA in Rochester, and should be between the pipes on Wednesday night.

NEVER MET IN MEXICO: While the USA and Mexico have met 17 times on the women’s side, the teams have never played in Mexico, a match which would likely draw a massive crowd. Mexico’s 2003 FIFA Women’s World Cup admission-free play-off qualifier vs. Japan at Azteca Stadium drew about 80,000 fans. The USA has played Mexico 13 times in the United States and four times on neutral soil. Still, Mexico has certainly come a long way from the first-ever meeting between the two teams, a 12-0 thumping at CONCACAF qualifying in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, in 1991.

COLLEGE KIDS GET THE CALL: U.S. head coach Greg Ryan has named three college players to the roster for the CONCACAF Women’s Gold Cup. All three joined the U.S. camp after their third-round matches last weekend in the NCAA Tournament. Danesha Adams and her UCLA Bruins defeated the University of Florida, 3-2, last Friday night in Westwood, while Heather O’Reilly’s UNC Tar Heels pounded the Tennessee Volunteers, 6-2, on Saturday night in Chapel Hill and Stephanie Lopez’s Portland Pilots picked up a big win on the road over Texas by a 2-0 score at a Sunday afternoon game in Austin. O’Reilly is the veteran of the group, having won a gold medal at the 2004 Olympics, while scoring the winning goal in overtime of the semifinal match against Germany. She has 50 caps for the USA. Lopez and Adams, who were both a part of the USA’s fourth-place team at the 2006 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Championship, are just breaking into the national team. Lopez has eight caps while Adams, who won the Bronze Ball as the third best player at the World Championship, has just one, earned against Chinese Taipei on Oct. 1 of this year. All three will return to their college teams this weekend for their NCAA quarterfinal matches, although Adams and Lopez will not have to travel far. Conveniently for the players and Ryan, UCLA takes on Portland on Friday night in Westwood, just 18 miles from The Home Depot Center.

Stat of Note
Should the American women qualify for the 2007 FIFA Women’s World Cup on the Wednesday evening, they would become the 12th nation to do so, joining host China, Australia and North Korea from Asia, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Germany and England from Europe, Nigeria and Ghana from Africa and the winner of the Canada-Jamaica game from CONCACAF, that takes place at The Home Depot Center before the USA faces Mexico.

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