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U.S. WNT Settles in Costa Rica Prior to Olympic Qualifying

U.S. Women’s National Team
Olympic Qualifying Notes from San Jose, Costa Rica
Monday, Feb. 16, 2004

U.S. WOMEN ARRIVE IN WARM AND WELCOMING COSTA RICA: The U.S. Women’s National Team arrived in San Jose, Costa Rica, during the wee hours of Saturday morning after taking a late Friday night flight from Miami, where the team came together after their domestic legs. After spending 11 days in a gray and often chilly China at the end of January and beginning of February, the U.S. players were more than pleased to be engulfed by the warm Costa Rican humidity as soon as they exited the plane. The U.S. team, featuring 17 players who were on the roster for the Four Nations Tournament in China, left for Costa Rica just 10 days after returning from the Far East, and most had only recently recovered from the brutal Asian jet lag. Several players made, or will make, late arrivals to Costa Rica. U.S. midfielder Angela Hucles’ flight from Boston was delayed and she did not make the connection for the team flight to Costa Rica. She had to spend the night in Miami before joining her teammates on Sunday morning. Forward Mia Hamm will join the team Sunday while goalkeeper Briana Scurry is scheduled to arrive on Wednesday, both due to previously schedule engagements.   

GOT LECHE?: The U.S. team trained Saturday and Sunday at the Dos Pinos milk products factory that has a soccer field set among the big production buildings and hundreds of delivery trucks that take ice cream, milk, yogurt and numerous other dairy products all over San Jose and its suburbs.  While the field was certainly harder and dustier than the players would have liked, the weather has been phenomenal, requiring heavy applications of sunscreen and the gulping of gallons and water and Gatorade during training. On Sunday, U.S. head coach April Heinrichs put the team through a highly competitive small-sided tournament that featured four teams playing six matches of six minutes each, most with different sized goals, different rules and different restrictions.  The team of Kristine Lilly, Lindsay Tarpley, Kate Markgraf, Shannon MacMillan and Christie Rampone took the tournament title, winning the championship game, 4-3, on a first-time full volley by MacMillan (who scored three of her team’s goals) and despite a “questionable” non-call on a potential offside from a member of the U.S. support staff that led to a controversial Abby Wambach goal.  No word if the winning team was rewarded with ice cream cones from the Dos Pinos factory, but numerous factory workers and security guards did watch the training with half bemused/half impressed expressions, having no doubt never seen women play soccer at the level of the U.S. team.

FROM TURKEYS TO LEATHER: After training on Sunday, several U.S. players took advantage of the warm weather to get some quality time by the pool, while others took a short bus ride to engage in perhaps the favorite pastime of the U.S. Women’s National Team: shopping.  While the players originally planned a trip to a merchants street market in downtown San Jose that the locals promised offered everything from “turkeys to leather,” the players had to change their plans after finding out that the market was not open on Sunday.  Instead, several players went to a quaint shopping area that featured quality local goods.  While a bit “touristy,” the shops did offer some very nice Costa Rican arts and crafts.  What they didn’t offer, as the players quickly found out, was the heated bartering so common at Chinese markets, which became clear after world-class haggler Julie Foudy was only able to talk the shopkeeper down one dollar on a beautiful 20-dollar wooden bowl.

COSTA RICAN FAUNA: The U.S. players are looking forward to perhaps seeing some of the vast and varied animals species that call Costa Rica their home, if the team gets the chance to take an afternoon excursion to a rain forest (Costa Rica has some of the most beautiful and diverse rain forests in the world), where many exotic animals live, including bundles of monkeys, anteaters, kinkajous, white-nose coatis and hundreds of species of birds. So far, the list of animals, all spotted on the way to training, has not been that impressive. They include:

Donkey, Cow, Horse, Pigeon, Goat, Rooster, Cat , Dog (There was an alleged llama sighting, but the bus was traveling to fast for it to be confirmed.)

YOU MUST BE JOKING ME: As the U.S. flight to Costa Rica was boarding, U.S. captain Julie Foudy arrived at her seat, an exit row aisle seat in fact, to find a college-aged man sitting there. The naïve young lad then proceeded to explain to Foudy, who has plied her trade in more than 25 countries around the world, that he was traveling with his buddy, and would it be possible for her to switch seats with him? Thinking the guy also had an aisle seat, the kind-hearted Foudy considered the request and asked where his seat was. The college kid proceeded to point to a middle seat near the back of the plane smack dab between two, shall we say, “stout” gentlemen. Said Foudy, as she burst into laughter: “You must be joking me, right?  You want me to give up an exit row aisle for a middle row in the back of the plane near the bathroom?”  Needless to say, Foudy was able to stretch her legs for the entire flight.

“TINY T” GETS THE CALL-UP: Tracey Leone, who led the U.S. U-19s to the first-ever FIFA world championship for youth women in 2002, is on her first trip as a full-time assistant coach for the U.S. Women’s National Team after leaving her position with the U-19s in the able hands of former Philadelphia Charge head coach Mark Krikorian. Known as the “Tiny Terminator” during her playing career, the 5-foot Leone was on the 1991 U.S. Women’s World Cup championship team along with current U.S. head coach April Heinrichs, who captained the side, and now gives the Americans two former world champions on the bench. Leone has coached in the U.S. Women’s National Team programs at the Under-16, Under-19 and Under-21 levels, and three of the players on the U.S. roster for 2004 Olympic Qualifying played for her historic 2002 U-19 World Championship Team in Heather O’Reilly, Lindsay Tarpley and Leslie Osborne.

QUALIFYING STARTS WITH TRINIDAD & TOBAGO: The U.S. does not start the CONCACAF Final Round Olympic Women’s Qualifying Tournament until Feb. 25, after which it will endure five matches in 10 days, and arrived in-country long before the rest of the teams as Heinrichs will put the team through an 11-day mini-camp before the tournament begins.  The USA’s first match is against Trinidad & Tobago, the same team the Americans opened 2003 Women’s World Cup against back in October of 2002, a 3-0 U.S. win on goals from Aly Wagner, Cindy Parlow and Shannon MacMillan, all of whom are on the roster for this tournament.  None of the USA’s matches will be televised in the United States, but fans can follow all the action on’s MatchTracker presented by Philips Electronics.

*The USA must finish in first or second place in their group to make the semifinal round.  The winners of the semifinal matches qualify for the Athens Olympics.

U.S. midfielder Julie Foudy, who tried and failed to order a cup of decaffeinated coffee in China after struggling for several minutes to explain the word “decaffeinated” to the Chinese waiter, tried again in Costa Rica using her elementary Spanish.

Foudy to the waiter: “Senor…Café sin ‘caffeine,’ por favor?”
Costa Rican waiter: “You mean decaffeinated?  Sure. No problem.”