U.S. WOMEN ARE FIRST TEAM TO TOUR NIKE FACTORY
The U.S. players and staff had the rare opportunity to be the first American team to tour a factory that produces NIKE shoes, and found pristine work conditions, a dedicated work force and lots and lots of shoes and sandals. The U.S. players enjoyed an extremely educational experience as they toured the assembly lines and saw each step in the process that goes into making shoes, from the cutting, to gluing and sewing, all the way to the finished product. The factory was one of 17 in China that produces NIKE shoes and approximately 160,000 people are employed in China making NIKE products. The players witnessed several presentations from the NIKE Asia staff, toured the on-site medical facilities and dorms that form a community for the workers and came away extremely impressed with the entire process and organization, making sure that a trip to NIKETOWN will never be the same again.
The U.S. team had a unique experience while exiting Yingdong Stadium after losing 1-0 to China last Thursday. As the Americans left the locker room after their inspired performance against a brilliant Chinese team, about 200 uniformed policemen and women formed a gauntlet for the players to walk through on the way to the bus. As the player approached, the police broke into applause that kept up until every player was on the bus and even as the bus pulled away. Tiffeny Milbrett added her own unique twist to the proceedings, running up and down the line of about 30 police while high-fiving each officer to the delight and certainly the surprise of the security force. As Milbrett finally made her way onto the bus, the police cheered even louder for the diminutive striker.
PAGLIARULO STRIKES A HARD BARGAIN, SHE THOUGHT...
As anyone who has been to China knows, bargaining is a way of life at street markets and in the shops. No listed price is final and no transaction is complete without some sort of haggling. While shopping in Panyu, U.S. goalkeeper Jaime Pagliarulo thought she had done well with a glass globe, hand-painted from the inside with Chinese landscapes. Pagliarulo had talked the shopkeeper down, but apparently had started too high. She returned to find that several U.S. players had bought almost identical items for $45 less at the hotel.
MR. KOALA UPDATE
The 21-year-old stuffed Koala Bear toy that midfielder Jenny Benson brings with her on every soccer trip got some much needed maintenance during some down time in Panyu as Benson stitched up three holes that were starting to leak stuffing. "Mr. Koala" is now ready for the long trip home on Monday.
Two U.S. players had the distinction of earning their first caps on Feb. 11 against the living soccer video game that is the China team, a tough environment for any young player to step into for the first time. Jenny Benson and Stephanie Rigamat played their first games for the full national team, Rigamat without ever representing the USA on any national team level. Meredith Florance and Jaime Pagliarulo were playing just their second games while Mary-Frances Monroe and Jena Kluegel earned their fourth caps. Several U.S. veterans played their first match against China, with Joy Fawcett, Mia Hamm and Kristine Lilly all debuting on Aug. 3, 1987, vs. China.
PERFECT ATTENDANCE RECORD SNAPPED
U.S. midfielder Kristine Lilly is the world's all-time leader in international appearances with a staggering 225 games played. The two-game tour of China is the first trip Lilly has missed since she debuted as a 16-year old in 1987, almost 14 years ago.
BOWLING FOR WASHCLOTHS
To kill some time in Panyu, about a dozen U.S. players went bowling at the alley located in the team hotel. The smallest player on the team came up with the biggest score, as Mary-Frances Monroe rolled a career-best 162, which included five strikes in a row. Michelle French, Jaime Pagliarulo and Jennifer Lalor had a side-bet going in their group. Apparently, there were no washcloths in the rooms at the Panyu Hotel, so the players decided that the losers would go in search of washcloths for the winner. After a heated competition, Lalor came out on top, followed by washcloth buyers French and Pagliarulo.
A VISIT TO WEST LAKE
On Saturday in Hangzhou, the U.S. team trained at a local stadium that looked like a relic from the 1940s, with dilapidated concrete bleachers and a playing surface of mud and patchy gray, dry grass, whose bumps, ruts and unevenness gives insight into reasons for the individual technical brilliance of the Chinese players. The USA finished with a spirited finishing session that drew raves and applause from a group of male Chinese track athletes preparing for their workout who were extremely entertained by the Americans ability to strike volleys and shots. In the afternoon, a handful of players took a brief excursion to Hangzhou's famous West Lake, a massive body of water on which the city was built around. While there are 36 "West Lakes" in China, this is by far the most famous, and features a number of arched bridges under which small boats can pass. The picturesque lake served as inspiration for ancient poets and scholars that came to this area.
CHRISTENING THE DRAGON SPORTS CENTRE
While the USA has not had the pleasure of playing on top-quality fields thus far on the trip, Sunday's game will more than make up for it as the Americans and Chinese women's national teams will have the honor of playing the first-ever game at the brand-new Dragon Sports Centre, a massive sports complex whose anchor is the 60,000 seat stadium which perhaps will be one of the venues for the 2003 Women's World Cup. Ground was broken for the Dragon Sports Centre in June of 1997 and the complete project is a multifunctional venue integrating sports competition, literature and art performances, as well as restaurants, hotels, business meetings and shopping. The uniquely shaped state-of-the-art stadium features two towers which anchor massive cables that hold a reticulated shell roof structure that covers all 60,000 seats. Two giant video screens add a multi-media dimension to the facility, which is extremely aesthetic as well as versatile and functional.
Both the U.S. and Chinese teams, as well as their delegations, local organizers and media attended an official dinner on Saturday night at the team hotel which featured a sumptuous feast complete with various seafood delicacies. U.S. head of delegation Donna de Varona, the former chair of the 1999 Women's World Cup, took the opportunity to thank the Chinese team for their invaluable contribution to the success of the tournament and for their inspiring and attractive play throughout the competition.
All U.S. players are healthy and ready to play.
LITTLE KNOWN FACT
U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo played forward for her high school and scored 109 goals in her career.
STAT OF NOTE
The USA has not beaten China in regulation time in the last six matches between the teams, going 0-3-3. The USA is 11-7-8 against China all-time.