PANYU, China (Friday, January 25, 2002) - For the second straight match, the U.S. Women's National Soccer Team dominated an opponent only to have its goal scoring go dormant, as the Americans drew 0-0 with a rigidly organized Germany team at the Four Nations Women's Tournament. Due to the tie, and Norway's somewhat surprising 3-0 trouncing of host China, the USA was eliminated from contention for the title. The U.S. will finish the tournament against China on Sunday at Tianhe Stadium in Guangzhou.
"The USA looks at a tie as a loss and the players are as disappointed as they were two days ago (after a 1-0 loss to Norway)," said U.S. head coach April Heinrichs. "We don't sit back and wait for ties, we always go forward to win. The Germans played with grit, they played hard and they played smart, and I commend their defense. But the fact is that they played almost the entire game in their own half and were under pressure the whole time."
The USA created a handful of quality shots from relentless pressure and quick ball possession, but German goalkeeper Silke Rottenberg was stellar in the nets and kept her country in the game with clutch saves and a strong command of her penalty area.
"Scoring goals is the most difficult part of the game," added Heinrichs. "You must have players who have great focus and great commitment to do it. You can't take two months off and expect that scoring touch to be there. It's something that has to be worked on and from that work and repetition, scoring confidence will come."
It was a match lacking in great scoring chances for both teams as the USA took just nine shots while Germany fired just three, but the USA produced opportunities from the beginning of the game until the end. Tiffeny Milbrett played an inspired match for the U.S., running at the German defense for 90 minutes while also dishing dangerous passes to her teammates.
Milbrett put Shannon MacMillan behind the defense in the right side of the penalty area with a sharp diagonal pass just three minutes into the game, but her cross found only German feet. One minute later, Brandi Chastain fired a free kick wide left of the goal from 21 yards away. A minute after that, MacMillan got the best chance of the flurry, smacking a hard shot on the ground across the goal that was tipped by the diving Rottenberg. Her touch redirected ball just enough that Cindy Parlow overran the rebound.
Mammoth German midfielder Birgit Prinz gave the USA some trouble coming down the left flank, but she and lone forward Sandra Smisek were effectively nullified by a U.S. defense that got superb performances from Joy Fawcett and Danielle Slaton.
U.S. 'keeper LaKeysia Beene made two saves to earn the shutout and was excellent when she needed to be, handling a tough cross early and making a big stop at the end of the first half after a German free kick dropped inside the mass of bodies in the penalty area. The ball took an awkward bounce and skidded toward the goal, forcing Beene to push it over the crossbar. Her distribution was also top rate as she started numerous U.S. attacks.
Heinrichs made three substitutions at halftime, inserting Lorrie Fair for 19-year-old Aleisha Cramer, who was given the starting nod, and changed two backs, bringing on Cat Reddick and Jena Kluegel. The German attack had no more success against the youngsters, but the U.S. could not find the net either against a German team much more focused on not allowing a goal than scoring one themselves.
The second half was all USA, especially the last 30 minutes, as Germany clearly played for the tie, hoping to sneak a goal on the counterattack. But the German back line, fronted by defensive midfielder Navina Omilade, refused to make a fatal mistake, and when the Americans did break through, Rottenberg was a wall.
In the 60th minute, Julie Foudy chipped a pass to Kristine Lilly in left side of penalty area, but a defender blocked her volley and Rottenberg grabbed the deflection.
Kluegel did have a few dangerous forays down flanks as she attacked from her outside back position, but her crosses were not of quality. Fair did her part, winning balls with intensity in the midfield as she, Foudy and 67th minute substitute Aly Wagner tried to shake loose the U.S. forwards with probing passes.
Perhaps the USA's best chance came in the 62nd minute as MacMillan slipped the unmarked Lilly a nifty pass inside of penalty area, Lilly turned and drove her shot at the goal from eight yards out, but Rottenberg was right there to make the save.
The USA almost gave away the game in the 68th minute when a combination of defensive miscues in the defensive third gave Germany a great chance, but the sliding Slaton blocked Christa Schapertons' point blank shot away for a corner kick. A minute later, a Lilly free kick from the right side the penalty area tantalizingly slipped through traffic and skidded just past the left post.
The Americans had two golden chances to win in the last five minutes as Lilly played Fair behind the defense in the right side of the penalty area, but Rottenberg cut down the angle and gobbled up the well-hit shot. The USA's day was encapsulated just moments later as Americans had a goal called back. Parlow settled a Reddick cross at the penalty spot for Milbrett to hit a screaming volley into the right corner, but the flag was up for offside and the goal was quickly waived off by the referee.
"We played some good soccer, and if soccer was voted on like gymnastics or figure skating, we'd probably be voted the winner of both games," said Heinrichs of her team's two Four Nations matches. "But soccer is not just an artistic game, it's about results and you have to come to win."
In Norway's 3-0 win over China, the Scandinavians were once again out-shot, but finished clinically as Solveig Gulbrandsen scored two goals in the first 16 minutes of the match and Anita Rapp added a goal two minutes into the second half to pace the Olympic champions.
The USA will end the tournament, and its three-week road trip, on Sunday at Tianhe Stadium, site of the 1991 Women's World Cup Final. Foudy, Fawcett, Lilly and Heinrichs played in that historic 2-1 victory over Norway while Brandi Chastain was on the bench.
- U.S. WOMEN'S NATIONAL TEAM GAME REPORT -
Participants: United States vs. Germany
Competition: Four Nations Women's Tournament
Venue: Yingdong Stadium (Panyu, China)
Date: January 25, 2002 - Kickoff 1:50 p.m. Local/12:50 a.m. ET
Weather: Chilly, overcast - 56 degrees
Scoring Summary: 1st - 2nd - Final
USA 0 - 0 - 0
GER 0 - 0 - 0
USA - 24-Lakeysia Beene, 15-Kate Sobrero (4-Cat Reddick, 46), 14-Joy Fawcett, 19-Danielle Slaton, 6-Brandi Chastain (7-Jena Kluegel, 46), 13-Kristine Lilly, 17-Aleisha Cramer (2-Lorrie Fair, 46), 11-Julie Foudy-Capt., 8-Shannon MacMillan (8-Aly Wagner, 67), 12-Cindy Parlow, 16-Tiffeny Milbrett.
GER - 1-Silke Rottenberg, 2-Kerstin Stegemann, 3-Stefanie Gottschlich, 4-Nia Kunzer, 17-Ariane Hingst, 15-Navina Omilade, 6-Renate Lingor, 7-Kerstin Garefrekes (11-Martina Muller, 46), 8-Sandra Smisek (16-Jennifer Meier, 65), 10-Bettina Wiegmann - Capt. (14-Christa Schapertons, 62), 9-Birgit Prinz.
Statistical Summary: USA - GER
Shots: 9 - 3
Shots on Goal: 6 - 3
Saves: 2 - 6
Corner Kicks: 3 - 3
Fouls: 10 - 12
Offside: 3 - 2
USA - Kristine Lilly (caution), 43.
USA - Cindy Parlow (caution), 80.
Referee: Vibeke Karlsen (Norway)
Assistant Referee: Zuo Xiudi (China)
Assistant Referee: Liu Hong Juan (China)