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U.S. Women Ready for July 15 Domestic Opener vs. Sweden

U.S. WOMEN COME HOME: After playing the first nine matches of the year outside of the United States, the U.S. Women’s National Team comes home to face Sweden in the first domestic match this year. The USA has not played an international match since May 9, a 1-0 win vs. Japan in Osaka, winning on a goal from Natasha Kai. The U.S. team has been in intense training during Residency Training Camp (video) at The Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif., since early April. The six-month camp, which required all the players to move to the Los Angeles area to train full time, will run through the end of September. The USA is 6-0-3 in 2006, with all three draws being 0-0 affairs. The USA and Germany played to a 0-0 tie in the championship game of the 2006 Algarve Cup in Portugal last March, with the USA falling, 4-3, in penalty kicks. The Sweden game starts a run of what could be as many as seven domestic matches for the USA in 2006, leading into qualifying for the 2007 FIFA Women’s World Cup. CONCACAF qualifying this year will take the form of a six-team CONCACAF Women’s Gold Cup, to be staged in the USA in late November with dates and venues to be announced.

SCURRY SCRATCHED: U.S. goalkeeper Briana Scurry, a native of Dayton, Minn., was originally on the roster for the game at the NSC, but was replaced by Nicole Barnhart the day before the USA traveled after the veteran was suffering from lingering effects from a mild concussion that occurred in training last weekend. Although Scurry couldn't be in Minnesota to enjoy the summer heat, she did fill in Center Circle readers with what's hot in Minneapolis if you are here from out of town for the game, or just looking to have some Midwest type fun. Check out the latest Player's Tour

RYAN’S REIGN: The United States is 14-0-4 under head coach Greg Ryan since he took over the women's team at the 2005 Algarve Cup (he would not be hired officially until April of 2005). No other U.S. Women’s National Team head coach has ever gone his first 18 matches unbeaten. Even more impressively, the U.S. women have allowed just three goals over those 18 games – one to Norway, France and Japan – and just one of those goals came from the run of play. The other two came off a penalty kick and a corner kick.

REUNION MATCH: The USA’s meeting with Sweden comes 19 years and one week after the first-ever meeting between the two teams. On July 9, 1987, Sweden defeated the USA, 2-1, in Blaine, Minn., in just the 14th ever match for the U.S. women. Obviously, no U.S. players are left from that first-ever meeting between the two teams, but Kristine Lilly and Mia Hamm would make their Women’s National Team debuts less than a month later. In fact, this match carries a bit of history for Sweden as well. That trip to Minnesota was the first-ever trip outside of Europe for the Swedish Women’s National Team. The Sweden win in 1987 was just one of two losses the USA has suffered in Blaine in 13 matches.

LONG HISTORY IN BLAINE: This will be the 14th match in Blaine, Minn., for the U.S. Women’s National Team, the most games in any U.S. city in the 21-year history of the program. Those numbers are a bit misleading as the U.S. women actually played the first seven domestic matches in U.S. history in Blaine in 1986 and 1987, but then did not play there again until 1990. The USA went 4-3-0 at the Blaine Soccer Complex, but has piled up an undefeated 6-0-0 record at the National Sports Center. In fact, the U.S. has allowed just one goal in those matches, that coming in the most recent match in Blaine, a 3-1 win vs. Australia in July of 2004. In the early years, the U.S. team played in front of crowds in the hundreds, but times have changed and a combined 35,000 fans have watched the U.S. women play in their last three matches in Blaine. In Blaine, the USA has played Canada (five times), Norway (three times), and Sweden, Russia, England, West Germany and Australia once.

USA vs. SWEDEN HISTORY: The USA and Sweden last met at the 2004 Algarve Cup, a 3-1 Sweden win, one of just two losses for the USA since the beginning of 2004. Surprisingly, the loss did not cost the USA a place in the Algarve Cup Final (they advanced on goal difference), which the Americans went on to win, 4-1, against Norway. The teams had actually met earlier that year, a 3-0 U.S. victory in Shenzhen, China, at the Four Nations Tournament that saw 20-year-old Lindsay Tarpley score her first two international goals. One of Sweden’s budding stars, then 20-year-old Josefine Oqvist, scored two goals for Sweden in the win at the Algarve Cup. The USA is 13-2-5 overall in the history between the two teams, with the Sweden win 2004 their first over the USA since 1987. Sweden had its best-ever showing in a world championship in 2003, reaching the FIFA Women's World Cup Final where they fell to Germany in sudden death overtime in one of the best women's international matches ever played. The USA had a streak of nine straight victories vs. Sweden from 1991-1998, but the last nine meetings between the teams since 1999 have produced a 3-2-4 record in favor of the USA. Sweden is ranked fifth in the world in the latest FIFA rankings, while the USA sits in the second spot behind Germany.

SVENSSON LEADS THE WAY FOR SWEDEN: Sweden has several of the world's top players, including goalkeeper Caroline Jonsson, midfielder Malin Mostrom, who is Sweden's captain and wore the captain’s armband at the 2003 WWC, and forward Victoria Svensson. Svensson has gained some "Hamm-like" notoriety in Sweden after a tremendous 2003 Women's World Cup performance in which she won the Silver Ball as the second best player. Sweden will be without its emotional leader Mostrom (family commitment) and without its top striker, Hanna Ljungberg, who is recovering from a hamstring injury after taking some time to recover from a horrible concussion suffered against France in the Algarve Cup last March. With Mostrom and Ljungberg (no relation to Sweden and Arsenal star, Freddie), Svensson and young star Lotta Schelin will be counted on to pick up the offensive slack. Like the USA, Sweden has a growing contingent of talented young players led by forward Josefine Oqvist, who scored the winning goal against Canada in the 2003 Women's World Cup semifinals. Sweden is most experienced in the back with veterans Jane Torqvist, Karolina Westberg and Hanna Marklund having combined for 322 career caps, with each totaling over 100 individually. They are back-stopped by Jonsson, who at her peak was one of the best in the word, but who has been pushed hard by Hedvig Lindahl and Sofia Lundgren of late. Any of the three could start against the USA. Other Swedish veterans include powerful flank midfielders Therese Sjogran and Anna Sjöström and young star Carolina Seger, who is considered the “next big thing” in Swedish soccer. The “current big thing” is Schelin, a former teammate of U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo, who has scored seven goals in her 29 appearances and has size, speed and shifty dribbling moves. While the USA did score three goals vs. Sweden in the opening match of the 2003 FIFA Women's World Cup, and in January of 2004 in China, Sweden has always proven a tough team defensively. Prior to the 2003 Women's World Cup match, the USA had not scored more than one goal on Sweden going back six matches to 1999.

USA vs. SWEDEN PREVIEW: These two teams match up fairly well, as witnessed by the four ties in the last nine games. Both teams have excellent goalkeepers, rugged defenders and dangerous forwards, but the Americans should have the edge in midfield, especially with the emergence of Carli Lloyd to join Lindsay Tarpley and Aly Wagner as creative midfielders who can also score. With Shannon Boxx out, Leslie Osborne should get the nod in her place, and it will be a big match for the youngster who has started just six games in her career. A viscous tackler, with the ball skills befitting a player who spent a lot of time at forward in college, Osborne should do quite well against the Swedes, who without Malin Mostrom, will be hard-pressed to create in the midfield. Usually a pretty direct team (and why not with two of the world’s best forwards in Hanna Ljungberg and Victoria Svensson?), Sweden may launch balls at the U.S. back line, but the Americans have rarely been outplayed in that facet of the game of late. While Sweden can match the USA physically, and are for sure the bigger side, the USA usually has the speed advantage. The Sweden back line will have to stay especially organized to keep the USA’s three forwards in check, but Sweden is known for their organization and ball-winning abilities.

USA vs. Sweden
National Sports Center – Blaine, Minn.
July 15, 2006

No. Player Pos. Ht. DOB Hometown College Caps/Goals
2 Mitts, Heather D 5-5  06/09/78  Cincinnati, Ohio Florida   50/2
3 Rampone, Christie D 5-6  06/24/75  Point Pleasant, N.J. Monmouth  144/4
4 Whitehill, Cat D 5-5   02/10/82    Birmingham, Ala. UNC   89/6
5 Tarpley, Lindsay M 5-6  09/22/83  Kalamazoo, Mich. UNC   47/9
6 Kai, Natasha F 5-8  05/22/83  Kahuku, Hawaii  Hawaii    5/3
8 Frimpong, Tina D 5-9  05/20/82  Vancouver, Wash. Washington  10/0
9 O’Reilly, Heather F 5-5   01/02/85  East Brunswick, N.J. UNC   46/7 
10 Wagner, Aly M 5-5   08/10/80    San Jose, Calif. Santa Clara 97/20
11 Lloyd, Carli M 5-8  07/16/82  Delran, N.J. Rutgers   9/0
12 Osborne, Leslie M 5-8  05/27/83  Brookfield, Wis. Santa Clara 18/0
13 Lilly, Kristine  F 5-4  07/22/71  Wilton, Conn. UNC   308/109
14 LePeilbet, Amy D 5-7  03/12/82  Reno, Nev. Arizona State 18/0
15 Miller, Marci M 5-7  12/04/75  St. Charles, Ill. SMU   5/0
16 Rapinoe, Megan F 5-7  07/05/85  Redding, Calif.  Portland  0/0
17 Chalupny, Lori D 5-4  01/29/84  St. Louis, Mo. UNC   17/2
18 Solo, Hope GK 5-9  07/30/81  Richland, Wash. Washington  27
20 Wambach, Abby F 5-11  06/02/80  Rochester, N.Y.  Florida   72/54
24 Barnhart, Nicole * GK 5-10 10/10/81 Pottstown, Pa. Stanford 3
* Replaced GK Briana Scurry (injury) on July 12

U.S. Roster (Hometown – caps/goals):
GOALKEEPERS (2): 24-Nicole Barnhart (Gilbertsville, Pa. - 3), 18-Hope Solo (Richland, Wash - 27);
DEFENDERS (6): 17-Lori Chalupny (St. Louis, Mo. – 17/2), 8-Tina Frimpong (Vancouver, Wash. – 10/0), 14-Amy LePeilbet (Reno, Nev. – 18/0), 2-Heather Mitts (Cincinnati, Ohio – 50/2), 3-Christie Rampone (Point Pleasant, N.J. – 144/4), 4-Cat Whitehill (Birmingham, Ala. – 89/6);
MIDFIELDERS (5): 11-Carli Lloyd (Delran, N.J. - 9/0), 15-Marci Miller (St. Charles, Ill. – 5/0), 12-Leslie Osborne (Brookfield, Wis. – 18/0), 5-Lindsay Tarpley (Kalamazoo, Mich. – 49/9), 10-Aly Wagner (San Jose, Calif. – 97/20);
FORWARDS (5): 6-Natasha Kai (Kahuku, Hawaii – 5/3), 13-Kristine Lilly (Wilton, Conn. – 308/109), 9-Heather O’Reilly (East Brunswick, N.J. – 46/7), 16-Megan Rapinoe (Redding, Calif. – 0/0), 20-Abby Wambach (Rochester, N.Y. – 72/54)

Sweden Roster (Club – caps/goals):
GOALKEEPERS (3): 1-Caroline Johnsson (Malmo FF - 70), 12-Hedvig Lindahl (Linkopings FC - 19), 21-Sofia Lundgren (Umea IK - 14);
DEFENDERS (7): 7-Sara Larsson (Linköpings FC - 67/6), 4-Hanna Marklund (Sunnanå SK - 101/5), 8-Stina Segerström (KIF/Örebro DFF - 7/0), 20-Marlene Sjöberg (Kopparbergs/Göteborg FC - 0/0), 16-Sara Thunebro (Djurgården/Älvsjö - 9/1), 3-Jane Törnqvist (Djurgården/Älvsjö -108/11), 2-Karolina Westberg (Umeå IK - 113/0)
MIDFIELDERS (6): 6-Elin Ekblom (Djurgården/Älvsjö - 2/0), 18-Nilla Fischer (Malmö FF - 7/0), 14-Frida Nordin (Malmö FF - 24/2), 5-Caroline Seger (Linköpings FC - 18/2), 15-Therese Sjögran (Malmö FF - 99/7), 17-Anna Sjöström (Umeå IK - 64/6);
FORWARDS (4): 10-Maria Aronsson (Linköpings FC - 4/1), 9-Therese Lundin (Malmö FF DFF - 36/6), 19-Josefine Öqvist (Linköpings FC - 30/6), 3-Lotta Schelin (Kopparbergs/Göteborg FC - 29/7), 11-Victoria Svensson (Djurgården/Älvsjö - 123/46).

SWEDEN IN WOMEN’S WORLD CUP QUALIFYING: Sweden is all but through to the 2007 FIFA Women’s World Cup, needing just one point from its last two qualifying matches in Group 2 of European qualifying, although a slip-up in the first match against Iceland (a 2-2 tie) most likely caused a brief nervous spell throughout Sweden.

SOLO KNOWS SWEDEN: U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo will be very familiar with the Swedish players, having played in the Swedish First Division in 2004 with Kopparbergs/Göteborg FC, home club to two of the players on the Swedish roster for this match. Solo played with or against almost all of the Swedish stars and had a great experience living and playing in Europe. Center Circle recently caught up with the U.S. goalkeeper in the latest In 3’s.

U.S. WNT Quick Hits:

• With her hat trick against Japan on May 7, giving her 54 career goals, Abby Wambach passed National Soccer Hall of Fame member Carin Gabarra to move into 7th place on the all-time U.S. goal scoring chart. Next up for Wambach…Shannon MacMillan, who has 60 career goals
• Heather Mitts earned her 50th cap against Japan on May 9, making her the 29th U.S. women’s player to reach that milestone
• The USA has still allowed just one goal from the run of play since Greg Ryan took over as head coach, and three total. One came on a penalty kick against Norway at the 2006 Four Nations Tournament in China and Japan scored off a corner kick in the first match of this tour. The only team to score in the run of play was France, at the 2006 Algarve Cup, in a 4-1 U.S. win
• With her assist against Japan on May 7, central defender Cat Whitehill equaled her yearly total of the last five years: one. Her next assist in 2006 will mark a new career high for a single year
• The USA has never lost a game in which Kristine Lilly has started the match wearing the captain’s band
• All of the USA’s nine games this year have been against teams ranked in the top-13 in the world
• Seven players have scored the USA’s 18 goals so far this year with 15 of the 18 goals coming from forwards
• Midfielder Aly Wagner is just three games away from 100 caps. Barring injury, if Wagner plays in all of the USA’s upcoming July games, she will earn her 100th cap in Cary, N.C. against Canada on July 30 (tickets). Amazingly, she would be the 18th player to earn 100 or more caps for the U.S. Women’s National Team
• U.S. head coach Greg Ryan has made at least five substitutions in six of the USA’s nine games so far this year
• Shannon Boxx leads the USA in minutes played in 2006 with 793 out of a possible 840. Abby Wambach is right behind her at 788 and Kristine Lilly has played 785 minutes
• The USA is scoring just under two goals a game in 2006 while allowing just 0.32 goals per game