CHARLESTON, S.C. TO GUANGZHOU, CHINA IN 43 HOURS: After a highly productive seven-day training camp in Charleston, S.C., which included a 7-0 win over Mexico on January 12, the U.S. Women's National Team departed Charleston on Tuesday, January 15 for a trek across the world, arriving in Guangzhou, China on the evening of Thursday, January 17. The total elapsed time hotel to hotel: 43 hours, one minute, 31 seconds. After enjoying a week of tremendous hospitality at the team hotel in Charleston, the USA trained on the morning of January 15 and departed at approximately 4:30 p.m. in the afternoon to catch a flight to Washington D.C. Unfortunately, the USA's flight was delayed two hours and the team did not get to their Dulles Airport hotel until about 11:30 p.m. that night, then had to be ready to leave the hotel at 4:30 a.m. to catch an early morning flight to San Francisco. The cross-country flight was smooth and before the U.S. team had to board their 15-hour flight to Hong Kong, they had time to grab a quick bite to eat, say hello to Brandi Chastain's mom and Aly Wagner's father, mother and sister (both players are San Jose, Calif. residents), and even ran into Chastain's husband, Jerry Smith, coach of the 2001 NCAA Champion Santa Clara Broncos, who was on his way to the NSCAA Convention in Philadelphia. The Americans arrived groggy at the new, ultra-modern Hong Kong Airport and boarded two busses for the four-hour drive through the night to Guangzhou, disembarking the busses twice to present passports on the way out of Hong Kong and then again before entering mainland China. The U.S. has set up home base in Guangzhou, a bustling industrial city in the Southwest part of the country, about 120 miles inland from the South China Sea. All the matches of the Four Nations Tournament will be played in the Guangdong Province, in and around Guangzhou.
ON THE ROAD AGAIN: As the U.S. players, veteran and rookies alike, all are experienced travelers, the Americans crashed after the almost two days of travel, but were up and ready to go the next day for a 1 p.m. training. The U.S. players were pleased at the selection of English-language TV stations at their hotel, with HBO, CNN, CNBC and ESPN International to choose from. At Saturday's training, the U.S. ended practice with a boisterous session of "Chip & Head," a crossing a finishing game. The players were divided into a "25-and-under" and "26-and-older groups." The youngsters won the game by one goal, bolstered by several quality saves from 'keeper Jaime Pagliarulo, and hold China "Chip & Head" bragging rights, at least for the time being.
JOY FAWCETT IN "CHINA VACATION": As often is the case on U.S. Women's National Team trips, and thanks to U.S. Soccer's progressive policy on working mothers, defender Joy Fawcett brings her daughters along. But this trip to China is a first as the entire Fawcett clan is in tow with daughters Katey, Carli and baby Madi, along with dad/nanny Walter providing his usual support to the USA's Super Soccer Mom. Of course, Fawcett has 18 babysitters among the U.S. players, who at times have had to be disciplined by Momma Joy for mild indiscretions such as setting up an impromptu bowling session (featuring plastic bottles for pins and a can for a bowling ball) with the almost five-year-old Carli in the hotel hallway. The Chinese media were also enamored with the Fawcett Family and interviewed her, with Carli and Madi on her lap, for a feature on a national soccer show.
SNACKS WHERE ART THOU? To the U.S. players, the only piece of baggage that did not make it to China was perhaps the most important. No, all the soccer balls, uniforms and medical supplies made it through with no problems. It was a trunk stocked full of crackers, pretzels, cookies and a various assortment of other delicious snacks that mysteriously did not show up in China, much to the chagrin of the U.S. players, who immensely enjoy a taste of home while on the road so far from the USA. The trunk is currently being tracked and will hopefully show up at the U.S. hotel in time for the onset of the tournament.
A STICKY SITUATION: Ice is not as plentiful or as popular in the Far East as it is in the West. After training on Friday, U.S. trainer Cody Malley requested ice for some post-practice aches and pains, setting off a mad scramble from the Chinese hosts who are always eager to please despite the language barrier. After about five minutes, Malley was handed three orange Popsicles. No players iced their muscles, but several enjoyed a tasty treat, and all got ice back at the team hotel.
FOUR NATIONS WOMENS TOURNAMENT PREVIEW: Aside from the grueling schedule of three games in 120 hours, the U.S. women will face difficult, yet unique challenges in each of their three matches in China. Against Norway on Jan. 23, the USA faces the only country in the world that holds a winning record against them. The USA is 13-16-2 all time against Norway, and in the most recent meeting at the Algarve Cup last March, a young U.S. team staked a 3-1 lead over the Olympic champions before giving up three goals in the last 17 minutes to lose 4-3. While the USA holds an 11-7-9 all-time record against China, they have failed to beat them in regulation time in the last seven meetings. The USA's last victory over China came on April 22, 1999, in a match before the Women's World Cup, and the team escaped with a victory only after a last-minute winner from Tisha Venturini. In Germany, the Americans face a team likely still smarting from a 4-1 thrashing at the feet of the U.S. women at the 2001 Nike U.S. Women's Cup, just a month after the German women conquered Europe and won their third consecutive continental championship. The USA is 11-4-1 all-time against Germany. None of the other three teams have named their official squad lists yet, as China is still in training camp, while Norway arrived in country on Saturday and Germany is scheduled to arrive on Monday.
FOUR NATIONS TOURNAMENT RULES TO KNOW: The USA has won every tournament it has played under April Heinrichs at least once, except the Olympics where the U.S. took the silver medal in 2000. At the Four Nations Women's Tournament, the final standings of this round-robin tourney will be determined by the usual point system, three points for a win, one for a draw and zero for a loss. If two teams are tied on points, those ties will broken by 1) Goal difference, 2) Goals scored, 3) Result of matches between teams concerned, i.e. head-to-head.
If two or more teams are still tied, and match concerned is still on the field, and the result is a draw after 90 minutes of regulation time, GOLDEN GOAL shall be played for 2 X 15 minutes, followed by penalty kicks, if necessary. The teams will be allowed only three substitutes per match with all seven players on the bench eligible. The tournament will also give out awards for 1) MVP for each match, 2) Best Player in Tournament, 3) Top Scorer, 4) Best Goalkeeper, 5) Best Coach and 6) Best Referee.
WOMEN'S WORLD CUP PREVIEW: This is the third trip for the U.S. Women's National Team to China in the last four years, also having played here in January of 1998 and in January of 2001. In 1998, the USA played three matches at Tianhe Stadium in Guangzhou, site of the 1991 Women's World Cup Final, and won the tournament with a 3-0 win over Sweden, a 0-0 tie with China and a 3-0 win over Norway. Last January, the USA lost 1-0 to China in Panyu and tied China, 1-1, in Hangzhou in front of 30,000 fans. With the 2003 FIFA Women's World Cup scheduled to be played in four Chinese cities - Shanghai, Hangzhou, Wuhan and Chengdu - from September 28 to October 16, 2003, the U.S. team is gaining valuable preparation and may be back in China before the Women's World Cup. The USA women are still awaiting final word on when their regional qualification tournament will be held.
STAT OF NOTE: Shannon MacMillan's three goals against Mexico on Jan. 12 gave her 38 for her career, tying her for 8th all-time with Julie Foudy and moving her ahead of her coach, April Heinrichs, who scored 37 in her national team career, albeit in just 47 matches.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: A male flight attendant on the USA's flight from Charleston, S.C. to Washington, D.C., after noticing U.S. captain Julie Foudy, who has 203 caps, open her laptop computer and begin pounding away at the keys, showing that he was not one of the 40 million people who watched the 1999 Women's World Cup Final.
Flight attendant to Foudy: "So are you the team manager or something?"