BACOLET, Tobago (Friday, May 10, 2002) - After defeating Suriname and Haiti by a combined 20-0 margin over the first two Group B games of the CONCACAF Under-19 Women's Qualifying Tournament, it all comes down to this: Win or tie against Costa Rica tomorrow, May 11, at Dwight Yorke Stadium and the U.S. U-19 women are headed to Canada for the first-ever FIFA Under-19 Women's World Championship, being played from August 17 to September 1, 2002.
Both the USA and Costa Rica are tied in points with six each, meaning the victor qualifies for Canada as the group winner, but as the USA carries a +20 goal difference and Costa Rica has a +7, a tie would be good enough to qualify the Americans. Costa Rica will be attempting to become the first Central American nation to qualify for a FIFA women's world championship.
FOLLOW THE U.S. U-19s LIVE ON ussoccer.com's MATCHTRACKER, PRESENTED BY PHILIPS ELECTRONICS: Kickoff on Saturday, May 11 against Costa Rica is at 7:30 p.m. ET and fans can follow the action as it happens on ussoccer.com's MatchTracker, presented by Philips Electronics. Eleven years ago almost to the month, another U.S. Women's National Team made history by qualifying in the Caribbean for the first-ever FIFA Women's World Cup. That group, led by current U.S. Women's National Team head coach April Heinrichs and featuring dynamic midfielder Tracey Bates, now Tracey Leone, head coach of the U-19s, won five matches in Haiti to earn their place in China for the 1991 Women's World Cup.
COSTA RICA SCOUTING REPORT: The Costa Ricans have won both their games in convincing fashion, defeating Haiti 4-0 and Suriname, 4-1, and scored some beautiful goals in the process. Megan Chavez leads the Ticas with three goals while Shirley Cruz has scored twice. A skillful and tough team, the Costa Ricans also feature something sorely lacking in many of the teams in this competition, a solid goalkeeper. In pre-qualifying to get to this tournament, Costa Rica hammered Guatemala (9-1) and Nicaragua (10-0) and edged Panama (2-0). When the U.S. and Costa Rican U-19 teams last met on March 2, 2002, in Pachuca, Mexico, the Americans won 4-0 on goals from Lindsay Gusick, Annie Schefter, Lindsay Tarpley and Keeley Dowling. Gusick and Dowling are not on the qualifying squad, but defender Jill Oakes missed the trip to Mexico due to school commitments while forwards Heather O'Reilly and Kelly Wilson missed the trip as they were with the full National Team in Portugal at the Algarve Cup. Midfielders Manya Makoski and Sarah Huffman also did not play against Costa Rica.
MEXICO AND T&T SQUARE OFF FOR GROUP A TITLE AND TRIP TO CANADA: The final day match-up in Group A, being played at Larry Gomes Stadium on the island of Trinidad, are even more intriguing than the USA's group. Both Mexico and host Trinidad & Tobago tied their opening matches, and then won their second matches, setting up a one-game battle for the berth to Canada. T&T earned the right to play for a spot in the World Championship courtesy of Aveann Douglas, whose 89th minute winner in the 2-1 victory over Jamaica sparked a field invasion by jubilant fans and the players were mobbed on their way to the team bus after the game. T&T will try to become the first Caribbean nation to qualify for a FIFA women's world championship while Mexico will be trying to continue the momentum gained in 1999 when the TriColores became the first Spanish-speaking nation to qualify for a FIFA women's event. Mexico carries a superior goal difference into the game and thus needs just a tie to win the group.
AND THEN THERE WERE TWO... Ten of the 12 spots in 2002 FIFA Under-19 Women's World Championship have been filled after Denmark, France, England and Germany made the semifinals of the UEFA U-19 Qualifying Tournament being held right now in Sweden. Those four join host Canada, Nigeria, Brazil, Australia, Japan and Chinese Taipei, with only the two CONCACAF entrants to be decided on Saturday night.
OSBORNE OUT OF COSTA RICA MATCH: U.S. midfielder Leslie Osborne has been ruled out of the Costa Rica match after suffering a mild concussion against Haiti when she took an elbow to the head early in the game. Osborne was woozy after the match, but was fine soon after and is experiencing no complications.
BRING IT! A reception for all four teams the night before the matches began on Tobago featured a live DJ, singing Caribbean tunes and spinning popular records. Halfway through the reception, held on a large deck overlooking the ocean, an impromptu dance party/competition broke out among the four teams, who made a big circle, challenging each other to copy and match dance moves in the middle of pack. While U.S. defender Jill Oakes, a talented hip-hop dancer and high school cheerleader and goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris (who does a mean Michael Jackson impression), represented the U.S. well, the consensus was that the Haiti team "brought it" and won the competition. Said one U.S. player: "Those girls could really shake it."
"SUPER" MAN: The USA's liaison for their stay on Tobago has been a 73-year-old lifelong Tobagonian named Claude Superville, known around the island as simply "Super". The laid back Superville, who seems to know everyone but seven people on the island (shouts of "Hey Super!" ring out whenever he is leading the U.S. delegation around the island), doesn't look a day over 50 and has won the hearts of the U.S. team and staff with tremendous hospitality and infectious love for his home island, making the USA's stay on Tobago simply super.
THE HARDWARE: CONCACAF will hand out four awards at the end of the competition - three individual awards and one team award - giving out the MVP of the tournament, the Top Scorer, the Best Goalkeeper and the FIFA Fair Play Award. U.S. forwards Kelly Wilson (six goals) and Lindsay Tarpley (five goals) are in the lead to take home Top Scorer honors and most likely MVP honors as well. Heather O'Reilly has three goals along with Panamanian Amerelis Demera and Costa Rican Megan Chavez. U.S. goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris is a long shot for the Best Goalkeeper award as she has yet to make a save.
STAT OF NOTE: The USA has out-shot its first two opponents in the 2002 U-19 CONCACAF Qualifying Tournament by an 85-0 margin, an average of almost one shot for every two minutes of game action.
QUOTES OF THE WEEK:
Behind one wall of Dwight Yorke Stadium is a thick pasture that is the home to three very large cows. While not soccer fans, the cows did make themselves heard during the USA's first match against Suriname...
U.S. players, in all seriousness and with sad faces, to U.S. team administrator Heather Walles after the match: "Heather, why were the fans booing us at the beginning of the game?"
Walles: "They weren't booing, they were mooing and they weren't fans - they were cows."
U.S. midfielder Annie Schefter as the USA prepares to face Costa Rica in its crucial final game of the CONCACAF Qualifying Tournament:
"Playing in one game for your country to get to a World Cup? Wow - How fun is that!?!"