CARSON, Calif. (November 26, 2006) – The U.S. Women’s National Team earned a thrilling 2-1 overtime victory against Canada to claim their third CONCACAF Women’s Gold Cup championship on Sunday evening at The Home Depot Center. The USA victory came courtesy of a stoppage time penalty kick from team captain Kristine Lilly in the game’s 120th minute after midfielder Carli Lloyd was fouled in the area by Canadian defender Robyn Gayle.
The USA is now a perfect three-for-three in CONCACAF Women’s Gold Cup championships, beating Canada in overtime by an identical score in 2002 and winning the inaugural tournament in 2000. More importantly, though, the team’s results this week qualify the United States for the 2007 FIFA Women’s World Cup in China and extend the USA’s record unbeaten streak to 32 games dating back the final match of 2004. The U.S. defeated Mexico, 2-0, on Wednesday in Carson to clinch their 2007 WWC berth.
For the United States, the eventual game-winner was well-earned as the team dominated the 30-minute overtime session by out-shooting Canada 10 to 1. For the match, the U.S. out-shot their northern neighbors 25-7.
"If you look at the stats, (like) corner kicks and shots, we had more of the game, but I think Canada played great and they deserve a lot of credit for staying in the game with us for 120 minutes," said U.S. head coach Greg Ryan. "You're always fortunate when a ref makes a decision like that late in the game. That's a tough call for a ref to make…Their 'keeper was playing well, but I thought one of them was going to get in. I'm just happy with the way it ended."
The U.S. benefited from an early goal in just the sixth minute through a 15-yard strike from defensive midfielder Leslie Osborne. On the goal, defender Cat Whitehill sent a free kick into the penalty area that was eventually headed down by Canada’s Martina Franco. Osborne pounced on the loose ball in the right side of the penalty area and shot through traffic and into the net with her left foot. It was the second career goal of Osborne’s young career.
It took most of the first 45 minutes, but Canada was finally able to answer the U.S. goal with a solid strike from Randee Hermus on the stroke of halftime. After a foul by defender Heather Mitts on the right flank, Canada’s Melanie Booth sent a free kick into the area that landed on the head of U.S. defensive midfielder Marci Miller before dropping to the penalty spot for Hermus. The Canadian defender made no mistake in sending her half-volley from nine yards out over leaping U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo, who managed to get a hand on the shot but could not turn it over the goal as it hit the underside of the crossbar and bounced down into the net.
The goal was the first for Canada against the USA since the 2003 FIFA Women’s World Cup third-place match (also played at The Home Depot Center), a span of six matches.
"I'm elated we could come away with a win,” said U.S. forward Abby Wambach. “If it goes to PKs you never know how that is going to turn out. Obviously we had the run of play in overtime, and mostly the whole game we had the better chances. As a forward, we need to do a better job of putting those goals away. This is a championship game and if we want to be a championship team we need to put those goals away."
In an entertaining, but goalless second half, both team attached with energy and created dangerous chances.
For the USA, Miller’s diving header from close range off a cross from second-half substitute Aly Wagner was brilliantly turned away by Canadian goalkeeper Erin McLeod with a sprawling save her right. The save came during a stretch of intense pressure from the United States, and just four minutes before, McLeod was called upon to snuff out a breakaway from Natasha Kai. On that effort, some excellent combination play in the midfield saw Wagner slide a perfect pass into the area for the Hawaiian forward who couldn’t beat McLeod on two scrambling attempts at the top of the penalty area.
Following the 86th minute dismissal of Canadian head coach Even Pellerud by Mexican referee Virginia Tovar, Canada nearly won the game in the 91st minute through captain Christine Sinclair. After U.S. defender Kate Markgraf miss-collected a ball in the penalty area, Canada’s star striker pounced on the loose ball, but blasted her shot into the side netting from a good angle just 12 yards from goal.
In overtime, the USA’s dominance was complete and began with a couple of substitutions. Mitts moved from left back to right back to make way for substitute Stephanie Lopez, who came on for Markgraf. Mitts’ superior fitness level helped contribute to a number of U.S. attacks in the final 30 minutes, as did the extra space created in the midfield by the addition of the fresh legs of Carli Lloyd, who replaced goal-scorer Osborne at the start of overtime.
The U.S. defense was dominant for the majority of the match, doing well to keep Sinclair away from dangerous areas, but Canada did have its chances. When the Canadians threatened, Solo played a stellar game in the U.S. net, catching several tough crosses and coming out of her goal twice to snuff chances at the feet of Canadian attackers.
In the 105th minute, Wagner played yet another excellent ball into space for a streaking Kai behind the Canadian defense, but despite taking an excellent touch toward goal, the forward’s left-footed shot slid just wide of the right post from 16 yards out.
In the opening minute of the second overtime period, Wambach made a fantastic run to the end line on the left side and turned the corner around a Canadian defender, but then just missed setting up Kristine Lilly at the top of the six-yard box as the ball was poked clear for one of the USA’s seven corner kicks of the evening.
Lilly had two more good chances in the final 10 minutes, firing high from 25 yards out in the 111th minute, and almost produced a moment of magic in the left side of the penalty area with a number of jukes and cutbacks only to stab her eight-yard attempt just high in the 118th minute.
Lilly would eventually get the winner though, sending McLeod the wrong way on her professionally taken penalty kick into the lower right corner of the goal in stoppage time of the second overtime period. The penalty was set-up by a long U.S. throw-in from Reddick into the penalty area. With Lloyd crashing the net, Gayle tried to gain inside position on her, but instead crashed into her from behind and was whistled for the foul by Tovar.
The exhausted U.S. team ended the tournament on another high-note with Lilly earning Tournament MVP honors, the USA winning the Fair Play Trophy and Wambach sharing the award for the tournament’s high scorer with two goals. Lilly’s goal in the championship game was the 117th of her legendary career.
"(Kristine Lilly) just played fantastic out there,” said Ryan. “She has a big heart and she never gives up. She has so much confidence to take players on and she's a great finisher. When she stepped up there I had no doubt."
The victory against Canada was the third of the year for the United States (and the third in the last four months) as the team improved their all-time record in the series to 32-3-3. Under head coach Greg Ryan, the USA remains undefeated in regulation time over the past two years and closes out 2006 with an 18-0-4 record. Following the victory, the USA now has the rest of the year off and will not come together again until mid-January to start its 2007 schedule leading up to the FIFA Women’s World Cup.
In the third-place match on Sunday night, Mexico scored three goals in the first half and cruised to a 3-0 victory over Jamaica, earning a spot in a two-game playoff against Japan for the final Women’s World Cup berth. With Argentina and Brazil qualifying this week, there are only two berths still available for China, the winner of the Mexico-Japan playoff and the winner of the Oceania qualification tournament to be held in June. Those teams will join host China, Australia and North Korea from Asia; Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Germany and England from Europe; Nigeria and Ghana from Africa; the USA and Canada from CONCACAF; and Brazil and Argentina from South America. The 2007 FIFA Women’s World Cup will be stage from Sept. 10-30 in Shanghai, Hangzhou, Wuhan, Chengdu and Tianjin.
Match-up: USA vs. Canada
Competition: 2006 CONCACAF Women’s Gold Cup – Championship Game
Venue: Home Depot Center; Carson, California
Date: November 26, 2006; Kickoff – 5:30 p.m. PT
Weather: Cool, clear – 60 degrees
1 2 OT1 OT2 F
USA 1 0 0 1 2
CAN 1 0 0 0 1
USA – Leslie Osborne (unassisted) 6th minute.
CAN – Randee Hermus (unassisted) 44.
USA – Kristine Lilly (penalty kick) 120.
USA – 18-Hope Solo; 3-Christie Rampone, -Cat Whitehill, 15-Kate Markgraf (14-Stephanie Lopez, 91), 2-Heather Mitts; 7-Marci Miller, 12-Leslie Osborne (11-Carli Lloyd, 91), 16-Angela Hucles (10-Aly Wagner, 58), 6-Natasha Kai, 20-Abby Wambach, 13-Kristine Lilly – Capt.
Subs not used: 1-Briana Scurry, 5-Lindsay Tarpley, 8-Tina Frimpong, 19-Danesha Adams
Head Coach: Greg Ryan
CAN – 22-Erin McLeod; 7-Isabelle Morneau (17-Brittany Timko, 55), 9-Candace Chapman (5-Andrea Neil, 79), 11-Randee Hermus, 18-Robin Gayle; 8-Diana Matheson, 13-Amy Walsh (2-Kristina Kiss, 118), 10-Martina Franko; 3-Melanie Booth, 16-Rhian Wilkinson, 12-Christine Sinclair – Capt.
Subs not used: 1-Leisha Alcia, 4-Sasha Andrews, 6-Sophie Schmidt, 15-Jodi-Ann Robinson.
Head Coach: Even Pellerud
USA / CAN
Shots: 25 / 7
Shots on Goal: 7 / 3
Saves: 2 / 5
Corner Kicks: 7 / 4
Fouls: 13 / 22
Offside: 9 / 0
CAN – Rhian Wilkinson (caution) 71st minute.
CAN – Melanie Booth (caution) 102.
CAN – Randee Hermus (caution) 102.
Referee: Virginia Tovar (MEX)
Asst. Referee: Jacqueline Saez (PAN)
Asst. Referee: Milena Lopez (CRC)
4th Official: Maria Ortega (SLV)
Sierra Mist Woman of the Match: Kristine Lilly
U.S. head coach GREG RYAN:
On the game:
“If you look at the stats, (like) corner kicks and shots, we had more of the game, but I think Canada played great and they deserve a lot of credit for staying in the game with us for 120 minutes. You’re always fortunate when a ref makes a decision like that late in the game. That’s a tough call for a ref to make.”
“I think as the game went on, we got stronger. Canada made the game very difficult for us. The pressured us, they went after us, and we just continued to try and play our style of soccer.”
On Kristine Lilly:
“(Kristine Lilly ) just played fantastic out there. She has a big heart and she never gives up. She has so much confidence to take players on and she’s a great finisher. When she stepped up there I had no doubt.”
On the USA’s dominance in the overtime:
“Their ‘keeper was playing well, but I thought one of them was going to get in. I’m just happy with the way it ended.”
On whether this is his sweetest win as the team’s head coach:
“It was a great win, but I have to tell you that beating Mexico to get into the World Cup is probably the sweetest.
U.S. Midfielder CARLI LLOYD
On the foul that created the winning penalty kick:
“It was a throw-in and Abby got the ball. She kind of crossed it in and I saw an opportunity to run through. I tried to get the ball on goal, and I almost had my foot on it and the girl just came in and fouled me. I was totally surprised the ref called it, but it was good for us.”
U.S. Forward ABBY WAMBACH
On the victory:
“I’m elated we could come away with a win. If it goes to PKs you never know how that is going to turn out. Obviously we had the run of play in overtime, and mostly the whole game we had the better chances. As a forward, we need to do a better job of putting those goals away. This is a championship game and if we want to be a championship team we need to put those goals away.”
On Kristine Lilly and her winning penalty kick:
“I’m really exhausted. I think every muscle in my body is fatigued to the max. What this game shows is that Kristine Lilly is our savior. She is our legend. She is the person we turn to in the fleeting moments of a game. I was overconfident in that situation (with Lilly’s penalty kick). I was even thinking to myself, ‘Well, this is practice. If she misses, she’ll have had a good practice for the next few minutes when we have to go to PKs.’”
U.S. Midfielder KRISTINE LILLY
On the penalty call that won the game:
“I didn’t see it. I saw the ball go across and I heard the whistle.”
On what the game might mean for CONCACAF:
“I thought it was great. For us and our region, CONCACAF, you have two strong teams battling each other and going to the Women’s World Cup. I think it is great for our region. We hope Mexico gets in from their playoff against Japan, too.”
“We play them a lot. They are destructive and make it difficult for us to play. They are great for us to play because they make us work on things to try and beat them and other teams that might try and do that.”