WINS RECORD IN SIGHT AS "FAN CELEBRATION TOUR" ROLLS INTO KANSAS CITY: The U.S. Women's National Team will take on Mexico for the third time in 2004 on Saturday, Oct. 16, at 5 p.m. CT, in a match followed at 7:30 p.m. by the MLS clash between the Los Angeles Galaxy and hometown Wizards. The U.S. game is not on TV, but fans can follow all the action on www.ussoccer.com's MatchTracker, presented by Philips Electronics. This has been a banner year for the U.S. women, who have won every tournament it entered in 2004, taking four tournament titles culminating with the 2004 Olympics. The U.S. team has lost just once this year, that to Sweden, but also beat the Swedes in the first match of the year. The USA's three ties - vs. China, Japan and Australia - were also coupled with wins over those opponents, meaning the USA defeated every team it played in 2004. With 24 wins and six matches left to play in 2004, the USA has a chance set the record for wins in a year, which currently stands at 26 in 2000. The record for goals in a year is 124, also set in 2000, when the USA played a record 41 matches, but with increased parity in the world of women's soccer and strong competition this year, the USA's 84 goals so far means that the record is safe.
USA vs. MEXICO PREVIEW: The USA is 13-0-0 all-time vs. Mexico, including three wins in 2004, with the most recent meeting a 3-0 victory in New Mexico on May 9. The meeting prior to that, however, was one for the ages. That came in the championship of the CONCACAF Women's Olympic Tournament in San Jose, Costa Rica, and was perhaps the most exciting game ever between the two countries. The USA went down 2-0 after just 15 minutes as Maribel Dominguez scored two lighting strikes. Midfielder Lindsay Tarpley pulled a crucial goal back on a header just before halftime and then the U.S. came out after the break on a mission, peppering the Mexican goal with shots until Abby Wambach equalized on a brilliant solo effort just 11 minutes from the end of the game. U.S. captain Julie Foudy then dramatically won the match in the 84th minute, striking a rebound through goalmouth traffic, off the right post and into the net to give the USA the regional title. Mexico is experiencing a high point in its women's soccer history having qualified for the 2004 Olympics and advanced to the quarterfinals out a group that included Germany and China. Mexico pulled off two great results, tying China 1-1 and losing to Germany, 2-0, to advance, before falling 5-0 to a very talented Brazil team in the quarterfinals. While most of Mexico's stars will not be in Kansas City, as head coach Leo Cuellar has chosen to call in a young group, the growth that Mexico has made since the 1999 Women's World Cup has been inspirational in women's sports.
A LOOK AT THE MEXICO: Mexico is one of the most improved women's soccer countries in the world since becoming the first Spanish-speaking country to qualify for a Women's World Cup in 1999. (Mexico was also the first Spanish-speaking country to qualify for the women's soccer tournament in an Olympics). Mexico's plays an exciting style featuring an extremely united mixture of Mexican-Americans and homegrown talent. Mexico is without its top two goal scorers and will have trouble finding the net without star forward Maribel Dominguez, who put her team on her back and led them to an Olympic berth with an amazing nine goals in qualifying, and UCLA star Iris Mora, who adds some feistiness to the attack, but will be playing with her college team this weekend. Mexico will also be without starting goalkeeper Jennifer Molina, who has proven to be one of the best in her country's short women's soccer history, but back-up Pamela Tajonar is also talented. Mexico's captain is former Notre Dame and Boston Breakers player Monica Gonzalez, who will be Mexico's most experienced player on the pitch. With such a young team, as Cuellar has brought mostly U-21 and U-19 aged players, the match may serve as valuable experience for a team that has nine players who would be eligible to play in the 2004 U-19 World Championship in November in Thailand had Mexico qualified. Mexico has always struggled with the USA athletically, and while they have improved, the young Tricolores will be hard-pressed to slow the U.S. attack as six players come in uncapped at the senior level and four more have four or less caps.
CUELLAR "DOES THE IMPOSSIBLE": Mexico shocked many in their home country by qualifying for the 2004 Olympics and creating a huge story back in Mexico, and much credit should be given to head coach Leo Cuellar, a former NASL star and captain of the Mexican National Team who earned 41 caps for his country. Cuellar played for the San Diego Sockers, the San Jose Earthquakes and the Golden Bay Earthquakes in the NASL, scoring 14 goals and picking up 54 assists in a career that spanned 1979-1984, when he played with a now-famous wild "afro" hairstyle. After six years of work, Cuellar put together a team that was more fit and more confident than ever before, with some talented players all over the field. With his qualification for the Olympics, Cuellar in a sense "bought" four more years of support as his squad shoots for the 2007 Women's World Cup in China.
FOUDY, SCURRY LOSE OUT ON BBQ: U.S. captain Julie Foudy and goalkeeper Briana Scurry will miss the match in Kansas City, and a chance to sample the world famous BBQ, due to prior commitments. It will be the only "Fan Celebration Tour" match the two will miss. Scurry has played in 23 of the 28 matches so far while Foudy sat out just one.
BARNHART GETS THE CALL-UP: To replace Scurry on the roster, U.S. head coach April Heinrichs has called in Stanford senior All-American Nicole Barnhart, the starter on the USA's Under-21 2004 Nordic Cup championship team. Barnhart, who has Pac-10 games for the Cardinal on Friday against Arizona and Sunday against Arizona State, will arrive on the morning of the USA's match and make it back in time on Sunday to face the Sun Devils in the afternoon. Ironically, with Barnhart's call-up, both goalkeepers on the U.S. roster are from Pennsylvania, Kristin Luckenbill from Paoli and Barnhart from Gilbertsville. Long known as a producer of quality quarterbacks, perhaps Pennsylvania will now be known as the cradle of goalkeepers.
Notes: The USA-Mexico match will be the sixth game for U.S. women in Missouri, but the fourth in Kansas City, all since 1999 ... The USA is undefeated in the state of Missouri, but ironically has tied three of the five games ... Against New Zealand on Oct. 10, U.S. goalkeeper Briana Scurry became the 11th player in U.S. history to play 150 or more times for the national team ... Kristine Lilly needs seven goals to become the world's second-leading all-time scorer behind teammate Mia Hamm ... Currently at 101 career goals, seven more would move Lilly past Italian great Elisabetta Vignotto (107) ... U.S. players Mia Hamm, Shannon MacMillan and Siri Mullinix put on quite a field goal kicking display in Kansas City in 2000, making five of six off a tee in front of more than 60,000 fans at halftime of a Kansas City Chiefs pre-season game ... Each player took one kick from 20, 30 and 40, with Hamm missing from 40 on the last kick ... Of course, the day before she had made a 50 yarder off a tee at Chiefs practice, then moved the tee up to 40 and made one kicking left-footed .... Forward Abby Wambach is one goal away from passing her coach, April Heinrichs on the all-time goals list ... Ironically, it has taken Wambach almost exactly as long to reach 36 goals (49 games) as it did for Henrichs to reach 37 goals (47 games) ... 17 players in U.S. history have played 100 or more times for the USA ... Aly Wagner is the next closest with 74 career caps ... Kristine Lilly, at 285 caps, is just 15 games from the preposterous 300-cap mark.