HEREDIA, Costa Rica (March 5, 2004) - Fresh off the biggest win in its history over Canada to qualify for the 2004 Olympics, Mexico almost pulled off another monster upset, roaring to a 2-0 lead over the USA before the Americans battled back with a goal at the end of the first half and then tied the match in the 79th minute. U.S. captain Julie Foudy then scored the game-winner six minutes from the end to give the USA a dramatic, 3-2, win in front of festive crowd.
With both teams already having booked passage to the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece, the match was still worthy of a championship game, packed with excitement, entertaining soccer and drama right up until the end. Mexico actually took the game to the USA in the first 30 minutes with a combination of great ball possession and two world-class finishes from star striker Maribel Dominguez, and found themselves in the unusual position of being up 2-0 after just 15 minutes.
Mexico scored in the 9th minute as a ball was launched over the U.S. defense into the penalty area on the right side. Dominguez battled Kate Markgraf for the ball, then won it as Markgraff slipped to the ground and hit a clinical half volley into the left corner from 12 yards out.
The goal broke a streak of 687 consecutive minutes in which the USA had not allowed a goal and ended a seven-game shutout streak in 2004.
Dominguez struck again in the 15th minute, running onto another long ball just over the U.S. restraining line. She beat two U.S. defenders to the ball at the left elbow of the penalty area and struck a brilliant finish, lifting the ball with her left foot over U.S. goalkeeper Siri Mullinix, who was caught out of the goal, and spun it just inside the left post.
The USA finally took its first shot of the game in the 29th minute as Heather Mitts crossed from the right flank to Cindy Parlow, who caught the ball on her chest, and let it drop to the ground, but she didn't get enough on her volley and it bounced to Mexican goalkeeper Pamela Tajonar.
From then on, the game belonged to the USA, which switched from a 4-4-2 to a 4-3-3 formation by pushing Lindsay Tarpley into the front line, and attacked relentlessly for the final 60 minutes of the match, broken up only by a few dangerous counter-attacks that saw Dominguez scheming inside the U.S. defensive third.
The U.S. pressure finally off just one minute before halftime as Mitts, who played a great match all game long with her attacks down the right flank, crossed from the right side. Cindy Parlow cut in front of Tajonar and flicked the ball ever so slightly with her head. The ball skimmed over Tajonar to the crashing Tarpley, who headed the ball into the net from close range. It was the fifth goal of her young career and a vitally important score for the U.S. heading into halftime.
The USA came out of the break on fire as Heinrichs made two substitutions, insert Cat Reddick for Joy Fawcett, who was suffering from a slight calf injury and putting in Abby Wambach for Shannon MacMillan. The USA peppered the Mexican goal with crosses in the first five minutes, and after Mullinix punched away a dangerous Mexican cross in 59th minute, the rest of the match consisted of wave after wave of U.S. attacks, led by Lilly and the three-front of Parlow, Wambach, Mia Hamm, who came off the bench for Tarpley in the 60th minute.
The USA had a goal called back in the 60th minute after Parlow got free in the left side of the penalty area after a quick combination of passes. Her cross was met by Mitts, who pounded a header off the ground, over Tajonar, and into the net, only to see the assistant referee raise her flag to call Wambach, who flashed in front of the 'keeper, offside.
The USA was destroying Mexico down the flanks, but the Mexicans were game inside the penalty area, clearing cross after cross as the U.S. struggled to find space among the mass of green jerseys. In the 73rd minute, Hamm took a quick throw-in from the right sideline to Lilly, who threaded a brilliant pass to Foudy inside the penalty area. Foudy touched the ball back to Wambach and she had open shot from 14 yards out, but hit it wide left.
Wambach made amends in the 79th minute on a brilliant solo effort down the right wing to tie the match. Defender Amy LePeilbet played great long ball over the defense to Wambach who powered her way into the penalty area and took a hard touch almost to the end line. Just as it seemed the ball might roll out of bounds, Wambach drilled a blistering shot-cross that caught Tajonar leaning into the field, hit off the glove of her left hand and bounced into the net. It was Wambach's 19th international goal.
With overtime looming, the USA got the winner in the 84th minute on a goal that involved four players. Wambach once again burst free in the right side of the penalty area, dribbled almost to the near post and cut a short pass back to Hamm in the slot. The U.S. forward slightly overran the ball, and couldn't get a solid foot on it, spinning it back to the far post. Lilly latched onto the ball on the edge of the six-yard box, and played a short pass back to Foudy, whose first-time shot hit Hamm. The ball then somehow rebounded back to Foudy, who struck a left-footed shot from 17 yards out that bounced oh-so-slowly through traffic before kissing the right post and rolling over the goal line.
Foudy took off on a dead run and leapt into the arms of her teammates on the U.S. bench. It was Foudy's 43rd international goal. The USA also had another goal called back in the waning minutes for offside.
The win marked the second time the USA had come from behind to defeat Mexico, also winning 3-2 in December of 2000 in Houston, Texas. Dominguez ended as the tournament's leading scorer with nine goals. With the victory, the U.S. women clinched their fifth CONCACAF regional title. The U.S. team will return to the United States tomorrow, then depart for Portugal and the 2004 Algarve Cup on March 10, opening the tournament against France on March 14. In the match for Third Place, Canada defeated Costa Rica, 4-0.
With the victory, the U.S. maintains their perfect record in every inaugural FIFA & CONCACAF tournament, which includes victories in the 1991 WWC qualifying tournament, the 1991 Women's World Cup, the 1996 Olympics, the 2000 CONCACAF Gold Cup, the 2002 U-19 FIFA Women's World Championship and now the 2004 CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying Tournament.
U.S. WOMEN'S NATIONAL TEAM GAME REPORT
Match-up: USA vs. Mexico
Competition: CONCACAF Final Round Women's Olympic Qualifying - Championship Game
Venue: Estadio Eladio Rosabal Cordero; Heredia, Costa Rica
Date: March 5, 2004; Kickoff - 8:00 p.m. CT
Weather: Cool, clear - 68 degrees
1 2 F
USA 1 2 3
MEX 2 0 2
MEX - Maribel Dominguez (n/a) 9th minute.
MEX - Maribel Dominguez (n/a) 15.
USA - Lindsay Tarpley (Cindy Parlow) 45.
USA - Abby Wambach (Amy LePeilbet) 79.
USA - Julie Foudy (Unassisted) 84.
USA: 18-Siri Mullinix; 2-Heather Mitts, 14-Joy Fawcett (4-Cat Reddick, 46), 6-Amy LePeilbet, 15-Kate Markgraf; 11-Julie Foudy - C, 5-Leslie Osborne, 16-Lindsay Tarpley (9-Mia Hamm, 60), 13-Kristine Lilly; 8-Shannon MacMillan (20-Abby Wambach, 46), 12-Cindy Parlow.
Subs not used: 1-Briana Scurry, 3-Christie Rampone, 7-Shannon Boxx, 10-Aly Wagner, 17-Heather O'Reilly, 19-Angela Hucles.
Head Coach: April Heinrichs
MEX: 12-Pamela Tajonar; 2-Elizabeth Gomez, 3-Rubi Sandoval (4-Monica Gonzalez, 46), 5-Maria Castillo; 6-Monica Vergara, 15-Luz Saucedo, 14-Jenny Ruiz, 8-Fatima Leyva; 9-Maribel Dominguez, 18-Teresa Worbis, 10-Iris Mora (11-Patricia Perez, 46, 19-Alma Martinez, 60).
Subs not used: 1-Jennifer Molina, 7-Juana Lopez, 13-Laura Maravillas, 16-Nadia Hernandez, 17-Rebecca Bazan, 20-Alba Garcia.
Head Coach: Leonardo Cuellar
Shots on Goal: 8/4
Corner Kicks: 6/0
Referee: Jill Proctor (Canada)
Assistant Referee: Paulette Riley (Jamaica)
Assistant Referee: Malena Lopez (Costa Rica)
4th Official: Dianne Ferriera-James (Guyana)
WOMEN'S OLYMPIC QUALIFYING FINAL SCORERS
Maribel Dominguez (MEX) 9
Aysha Jamani (CAN) 7
Patricia Perez (MEX) 5
Christine Sinclair (CAN) 5
Abby Wambach (USA) 5
Shannon Boxx (USA) 4
Cindy Parlow (USA) 3
Christine Latham (CAN) 3
Natalie Des Vignes (TRI) 3
Megen Chavez (CRC) 3
Mia Hamm (USA) 2
Shirley Cruz (CRC) 2
Kristine Lilly (USA) 2
Aly Wagner (USA) 2
Charmaine Hooper (CAN) 2
Lindsay Tarpley (USA) 2
Shannon MacMillan (USA) 1
Julie Foudy (USA) 1
Carmelina Moscato (CAN) 1
Andrea Neil (CAN) 1
Ana Gabriel Campos (CRC) 1
Gabriela Trujillo (CRC) 1
Cindy Rodriguez (CRC) 1
Maritzenia Bedoya (PAN) 1
Iris Mora (MEX) 1
Jauna Lopez (MEX) 1
Alma Martinez (MEX) 1
Tasha St. Louis (TRI) 1
Leslie Ann James (TRI) 1
Maylee Attin-Johnson (TRI) 1
Fernande Hilaire (TRI) 1
Sehrline Ridore (HAI) 1
Raeann Elder (HAI) 1
Own Goal 2
USA vs. Mexico Quote Sheet:
U.S. midfielder Julie Foudy on her winning shot, a relatively slow roller through goalmouth traffic:
"I was blowing on that thing to go in."
Foudy on the comeback:
"It was awesome mentality. We dug ourselves a bit of a hole, but Maribel is such a world-class finisher and she finished two great goals. When we switched systems, we played much better. We were a little more condensed, we were holding the ball and getting in. When Mia and Abby came in they gave us a great spark up top. It's a great when you go down two goals to have the confidence and mentality to comeback. It was a big win."
Foudy on the talk at halftime:
"We said at halftime that is was just one goal. In the second part of the first half, we had them on their heels so we said and just to keep going at them, to get our backs going forward and play the flanks. It was crowded in the middle so we just needed to keep creating chances."
U.S. head coach April Heinrichs on the early part of the match:
"I didn't think we were flat, but we made a couple of mistakes in the back early, partly because we hadn't been under a lot of pressure in this tournament, and partly because of Joy's calf injury."
Heinrichs on Mexico:
"You've got to credit Mexico because they beat Canada, and they came out and played well against us. They had three good chances against us and stuffed two of them. There is something to be learned as far as evaluating the particular mistakes."
Heinrichs on her team's comeback:
"All in all I was very pleased because one of the things we talked about at halftime was having composure in front of the goal and playing the flanks. We created our chances and finished them. During the World Cup, we were never behind a goal until the semifinals. It's important as a team that if we get behind, that we know we can come back. I think we took a big step in that direction knowing that we won't be rattled if we fall behind. We can adjust tactically, but we have to just keeping believing in ourselves and that's what we saw tonight."
Heinrichs on the lessons of the game:
"The best thing that could have happened to the U.S. team is that we got challenged in this final. I'm thankful to Mexico in that regard, because they challenge us and now our team comes off the field and feels good about winning the CONCACAF qualifying tournament. We feel good about what we learned about ourselves coming back from two goals and I think we also understand having watched Canada the other night that you can't take things for granted."
Heinrichs on the improvement in the second half:
"If you are down, you have to play smart. We really pecked away and pecked away and I had a sense that it was only a matter of time. It's a tribute to the players that were out on the field. We started a young team tonight and in general we had too many players that didn't play well…but in the second half, all the players that were struggling in the first half, got a little bit better and that's always a good sign of a team."
Heinrichs on second half subs Reddick, Wambach and Hamm:
"The substitutions that came in made a huge impact. Cat Reddick came in and was outstanding at the back. She sets play well, is a good heading presence and was steadying influence. Mia and Abby gave us some life in a three-front and really put pressure on Mexico. The minute we shifted to a three-front, it changed the game. We stretched Mexico from east to west and from north to south."
Heinrichs on the entertaining match:
"Tonight's game may have drawn some more people from Costa Rica into the women's game. They saw Costa Rica play well against Canada, they saw Mexico beat Canada and then a barn-burner tonight. I think both teams tonight won more fans for the women's game."
U.S. midfielder Kristine Lilly on the comeback:
"We went down, but the whole time when I was looking into my teammates eyes I could see we were in the game. When things are rough, or when we get in big games, those are things that this team thrives on. Everyone who came off the bench gave us a lift and we just held strong."
Lilly on Foudy's goal:
"I saw her take the second shot and just get a foot on it. I just saw it rolling and I saw it hit the post, and I was like, "please go in!" It was fitting that she would get the winning goal. She's played great all tournament and it was only right for our captain to get the winning goal."
Defender Heather Mitts on the second half:
"Obviously being down, your whole mentality changes. We came out in the second half and went after them. That shows a lot of character about this team. Everyone stepped up big time."
U.S. forward Mia Hamm on Mexico:
"They've always been a talented team and they earned a spot the Olympics. They came out with the same enthusiasm and excitement that you saw against Canada. They came after us and put us under a lot of pressure in the back and Maribel scored two amazing goals. Credit goes to them, they played extremely hard, but I am proud of how our team didn't give up. At the same time, they have to be going into their Olympic preparations with a lot of confidence and rightly so."
U.S. midfielder Leslie Osborne:
"That…was a crazy game."