U.S. WOMEN ARRIVE IN CHICAGO FOR PRE-TOURNAMENT CAMP: The U.S. Women's National Team arrived in Chicago on Tuesday, Sept. 4, for the first major domestic competition of the WUSA era. With the sting for the players who did not win the WUSA championship dulled a bit by several weeks rest, and the glory just a tiny bit dimmer for Bay Area CyberRays Brandi Chastain, Kelly Lindsey and Lakeysia Beene, the Americans got down to work on Wednesday in preparation for its own tournament that the USA has won seven straight times against some of the best nations in the world. With the players no longer separated by the colors of their WUSA teams, the atmosphere in camp was lively and the comeraderie never higher as the players begin to tighten their focus on a run to the 2003 Women's World Cup to be held in China. The U.S. team is based in the Western suburbs of Chicago and trained on Wednesday and Thursday mornings at the excellent facilities on the campus of Hinsdale Central High School, who proved to be excellent hosts. As is the case wherever the U.S. women gather, so do the young girls in search of autographs, and the Americans obliged the squealing hordes on both days. The U.S. team will train at Soldier Field on Friday morning, Sept. 7, and then back at Hinsdale Central on Friday at 10 a.m. before opening the Nike U.S. Women's Cup on Sunday at Noon CT against Germany at Soldier Field (Live on ESPN).
SATURDAY IS CUT DOWN DAY: U.S. head coach April Heinrichs brought 24 players into her four-day camp and will pick 18 to represent the United States at the 2001 Nike U.S. Women's Cup. She will pick her roster on Saturday.
WOMEN'S WORLD CUP CHAMPS vs. EUROPEAN CHAMPS: The USA-Germany match marks a clash between two long time champions. The USA has won three world championships in its history while Germany has won five European titles and the last three in a row. The two teams met last in July of 2000 at the DFB Jubilee Tournament in Braunschweig, Germany, with the USA winning 1-0 on a goal from Julie Foudy. The match before that was one that made history as the Americans came back from one-goal deficits twice to earn a dramatic 3-2 victory in the quarterfinals of the 1999 Women's World Cup. The match prior to that one was actually at Soldier Field in July of 1998, a 4-2 U.S. victory as the Americans got three goals from Mia Hamm and one from Kristine Lilly, a game that took place three days after a hard-fought 1-1 tie in St. Louis. The teams also met for a two-game series October of 1997 in Germany, splitting games as the Germans dominated the first match, winning 3-1, before the Americans put together one of its best performances of the year, winning the second game 3-0. The Germans were the victims of one of America's greatest victories, a 5-2 win in the semifinals of the 1991 Women's World Cup. The USA lost the next two meetings, but until the loss in October of 1997, had won four straight matches against the European power. Germany has a long history of success in women's soccer, winning five of the six European Women's Championships that have been contested. The Germans also finished 4th at the 1991 Women's World Cup, was the runner-up to Norway at the 1995 Women's World Cup and took a bronze medal at the 200 Olympics. Germany has one of the largest pools of female players from which to choose, over 770,000, and also has a very strong league in the Women's Bundesliga. The German players also have one of the best role models in the world in the Men's Bundesliga, so it's no surprise that the Germans have consistently produced talented female players.
CHASTAIN TO THROW FIRST PITCH AT CUBS GAME: Brandi Chastain will throw out the ceremonial first pitch at Cubs vs. Braves game on Saturday, Sept. 8 at Wrigley Field (3:05 live on WGN or Fox Sports Net), America's ultimate day baseball venue. This will be Chastain's fourth first pitch, having also thrown out a first ball at Yankee Stadium and twice at the Oakland Coliseum before Oakland A's games. Chastain would have thrown out the first ball at Pac Bell Park before a San Francisco Giants game, but a minor knee injury sidelined her and Bay Area CyberRays teammate Tisha Venturini stepped up to mound to take her place.
CHASTAIN AND MILBRETT ENTERTAIN AT NIKETOWN PRESS CONFERENCE: Forward Tiffeny Milbrett and defender Brandi Chastain headlined a press conference at NikeTown Chicago on Michigan Avenue on Wednesday afternoon, treating the media and fans to their views on the upcoming Nike U.S. Women's Cup, the WUSA, the current state of the national team, the influx of younger players and the growth of women's sports in general. Eloquent and accommodating as always, both Chastain, who led the Bay Area CyberRays to the WUSA title, and Milbrett, the league MVP and Offensive Player of the Year, stayed until every question was answered and every autographed signed, and even found some time to do a little shopping before braving the notorious Chicago rush hour traffic on the trip back the Western suburbs.
NEW "WBFP" MILBRETT JOINS USA AFTER MVP SEASON: Tiffeny Milbrett joins the U.S. National Team for the Nike U.S. Women's Cup with a new and perhaps unfamiliar title: World's Best Female Player. Milbrett was anointed the new WBFP with a dominating season in the WUSA that featured the best forwards, and defenders, in the world. Milbrett torched the league with 16 goals, four more than anyone else, and almost single-handedly led the New York Power into the playoffs with her running downhill, stop-me-if-you-can, turbo-boost dribbling style. A clinical finisher, she scored from all different angles and places on the field, earning league MVP and Offensive Player of the Year honors as well as a place on the WUSA Global 11 First-Team. Milbrett has been terrorizing international defenses for years and ranks fourth on the all-time U.S. list in scoring and sixth in the world. At 28, in her prime and with 85 career goals, Milbrett has a good chance to not only reach 100 career goals, but perhaps even catch Elisabetta Vignotto of Italy (107 career goals) to become the second greatest international scorer in history behind Mia Hamm.
TOURNAMENT RULES: The champion of the 2001 Nike U.S. Women's Cup will be determined on the basis of points: Three points for a win, one for a tie and zero for a loss. In the event that two or more of the teams are tied on points, the following system will break the tie:
- Results of matches between the teams concerned.
- Goal difference.
- Greater number of goals scored.
If the teams are still tied, then co-champions will be named. Teams are permitted five substitutes per match, but all seven reserves are available. If a player gets a yellow card caution in the first two matches of the tournament, she will be automatically suspended for the third match. If a player gets a red card in either the first or second match for her team, she is automatically suspended for her team's next match.
USA RETURNS TO SOLDIER FIELD FOR FIRST TIME SINCE WWC '99: The USA returns to Soldier Field on Sunday for the first time since its second match of the 1999 Women's World Cup on June 24 of that year, a magical night on which the USA fell behind 1-0 to Nigeria before a sold-out crowd, then roared back with seven consecutive goals. Hailed by many as the best atmosphere of any match at the Women's World Cup, the U.S. players are looking forward to returning to the field on which they have gone 3-0-0 lifetime.
FOUDY AND PARLOW HONORED: U.S. Women's National Team captain Julie Foudy and Cindy Parlow will both be honored before the USA-Germany game on Sunday for achieving special milestones. Foudy earned her 200th cap for the United States against Canada on June 30. Currently at 201 caps, Foudy joins teammates Kristine Lilly (227) and Mia Hamm (218) as the only international soccer players, men or women, to have played 200 times for their country. Foudy debuted for the national team at the age of 17 on July 29, 1988 vs. France. Forward Cindy Parlow became the youngest player in U.S. history to earn her 100th cap against Canada on July 3. The 23-year-old Parlow debuted for the USA on Jan. 14, 1996, vs. Russia in a match played in Brazil and has since become the sixth-leading goal scorer in U.S. history with 45 career goals. Parlow was the USA's leading scorer in 2000 with 19 goals and seven assists, including four hat tricks.
WORLD CHAMPIONS MAKE ANOTHER RUN: Although U.S. Women's National Team legends Carla Overbeck and Michelle Akers have retired from international play, all the pre-1999 Women's World Cup and pre-Olympic talk of a mass exodus by the national team veterans has been put to the rest as the five remaining active players from the 1991 Women's World Cup team are poised to make a run at their fourth Women's World Cup. Brandi Chastain (33), Joy Fawcett (33), Julie Foudy (30), Mia Hamm (29) and Kristine Lilly (30) should form the core of the team that will attempt to qualify for the 2003 Women's World Cup to be held in China. Should the U.S. navigate the relatively docile waters of CONCACAF qualifying, those players may have a chance to win a third Women's World Cup in what surely will be their last attempt. Chastain was rejuvenated by the WUSA, leading her team to the championship while Fawcett rejuvenated her WUSA team, the San Diego Spirit, helping them go unbeaten after she returned to the starting lineup following the birth of her third child. Foudy, Hamm and Lilly played on WUSA teams that struggled at times, but showed that they have not lost the spark. Lilly made the WUSA Global 11 First Team and Foudy and Hamm were on the Second Team.
THE YOUNG AND THE RESTLESS: Of the 19 WUSA players called in by Heinrichs, 10 were 2000 Olympic Team veterans. The other nine distinguished themselves in the WUSA this season, earning the invitation to the Nike U.S. Women's Cup training camp. Most of the nine have had some experience with the various U.S. National Team programs, but all are itching to get a shot to prove themselves on the highest level and earn a shot at making the 2003 Women's World Cup Team. Defender Tiffany Roberts, who has 79 career caps and was a member of the '95 and '99 Women's World Cup Teams and the '96 Olympic Team, gets her first-call up since January of 2000. She has not played in a match for the USA since Oct. 10, 1999. With defender Christie Pearce, a starter in all five matches at the Olympics, out for six months after tearing her ACL while playing for the New York Power, Heinrichs will give a long look to three of the brightest young right backs in the WUSA, calling in Kylie Bivens of the Atlanta Beat, Staci Burt of the Carolina Courage and Heather Mitts of the Philadelphia Charge. Bivens also played some midfield for the Beat this season and scored from that line in the WUSA championship game. For Bivens and Burt, this is the their first full national team call-up. Mitts was a member of the USA's U-21 National Team program and has one full national team cap. Lakeysia Beene, the WUSA Global 11 First Team goalkeeper, and defender Kelly Lindsey, a WUSA Global 11 Second Team choice, played key roles in helping the Bay Area CyberRays to the WUSA championship. They both spent time in the U-21 program and Beene played on several U-21 Nordic Cup teams. Both also played on a young U.S. team that won the Australia Cup tournament in January of 2000. Forward Angela Hucles of the Boston Breakers and defender Lindsey Stoecker of the Washington Freedom both played in all 21 matches for their clubs this year. Hucles also spent several years in the U.S. U-21 program. Jaime Pagliarulo of the San Diego Spirit joins Beene and Solo to make up the three goalkeepers on the roster. Of the 19 WUSA players called in, four were from the San Diego Spirit, while the Bay Area CyberRays and Boston Breakers placed three players each. The Philadelphia Charge, Carolina Courage, Atlanta Beat and Washington Freedom have two players on the roster. The New York Power is represented only by Milbrett.
THE CREAM OF THE COLLEGE RANKS: All five of the college players on the Nike U.S. Women's Cup roster played major roles in the U.S. Under-21 National Team's triumph at this summer's Nordic Cup in Norway. Goalkeeper Hope Solo from the University of Washington, and defender's Cat Reddick and Jena Kluegel from UNC, anchored a defense that allowed just two goals in four matches. Midfielder Aleisha Cramer, a first-team All-American at BYU as a freshman last season, scored two goals and had two assists in the historic 6-1 victory over Sweden in the Nordic Cup championship game. Forward Abby Wambach from Florida dominated opposing defenses in Norway, scoring three goals in the tournament, but missed the final game due to suspension for yellow cards. Wambach has no full national team caps, but the other four have been slowly weaned in the international arena. Solo has seven appearances for the full national team and played a solid if not spectacular game in front of 30,000 fans in a 1-1 tie with China in Hangzhou last January. Cramer, the third youngest player ever to play for the full national team, has amassed 15 caps since debuting on Dec. 16, 1998 against Ukraine at 16 years, 141 days. She has played for the USA on the U-16, U-18, U-21 and full national team levels. Like Solo and Cramer, Kluegel was a member of the USA's Olympic Residency Camp, but was hampered by a hip injury that negated any chance at making the final roster. She has 12 caps for the USA and is the leader in minutes played for the national team this year. A midfielder in college, she is showing tremendous potential as a world-class attacking left back. Reddick, who started only one game for UNC as a freshman last season (which happened to be the NCAA Championship Game) burst onto the scene by starting both of the USA's Independence Day Series games against Canada, playing 90 minutes in both. She captained the USA's U-21 Nordic Cup championship team and has nine caps and one goal, that coming against Olympic champion Norway at the Algarve Cup last March. Kluegel and Wambach, both seniors, and Cramer and Solo, both sophomores, have all been nominated for the Hermann Trophy, awarded to college soccer's top player.
BREAKING NEW GROUND: If the youngsters in the U.S. National Team program are going to have a shot at making the 2003 Women's World Cup Team, the time is now to get them valuable experience. Previously, the only college players to play for the U.S. National Team during their college seasons were Cindy Parlow, Kristine Lilly, Julie Foudy and Danielle Slaton. Parlow played just 22 minutes against Sweden on November 1, 1997, in Chattanooga, Tenn., as she had to face Virginia in UNC's final ACC match of that season the next day. Both Foudy and Lilly played their college seasons in 1991 before leaving for the Women's World Cup, missing the NCAA playoffs. Slaton, a member of the 2000 Olympic Team, played the first match of her college season before going to Australia with the Olympic Team. She missed the first part of her season before returning after the Olympics to help the Broncos finish out the year.
THREE 'KEEPERS: While the three goalkeepers called into the U.S. National Team camp are certainly among the most talented in the USA and have world-class potential, they do not bring much international experience to the roster, with a combined 13 total full national team caps among them. In fact, 20-year-old Hope Solo has more caps (7), than WUSA pros Lakeysia Beene (3) and Jaime Pagliarulo (3) combined. Still, the future is bright in goal for the USA as all three bring some wonderful qualities to the position in addition to their youth. Beene is just 23. Pagliarulo is 25. None are super tall (Solo is 5-9, Beene is 5-8 and Pagliarulo is 5-7), but all are tremendously brave, have great hands and athletic ability and have the ability to make the big save. Solo has a world-class kicking game that rivals any female goalkeeper in the world. All three do have one thing in common: They have all started for the U.S. Under-21 Nordic Cup Team. Beene helped the USA to a Nordic Cup title in 1997. Solo was in goal this summer as the USA won the Nordic Cup. Pagliarulo played on one Nordic Cup team.
STAT OF NOTE: Of the 19 WUSA players called in for the Nike U.S. Women's Cup training camp, only Staci Burt of the Carolina Courage played every minute of every match this season.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
"Oh God...I could be her mother."
- Veteran U.S. midfielder and team captain Julie Foudy upon realizing that fellow midfielder Aleisha Cramer was five years old when Foudy started playing for the U.S. Women's National Team.