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USA Gears Up for World Cup Qualifying with Matches against China

U.S. Women's National Team vs. China
Kennesaw, Ga.
International Friendly
Oct. 1, 2010

USA GEARS UP FOR WORLD CUP QUALIFYING WITH MATCHES AGAINST CHINA: The USA matches against China, on Oct. 2 at KSU Soccer Stadium in Kennesaw, Ga. (6 p.m. ET), and Oct. 6 at PPL Park in Chester, Pa. (7 p.m. ET on ESPN2), will be the USA’s final two games before entering the 2010 CONCACAF Women’s World Cup Qualifying Tournament being held in Mexico from Oct. 28 through Nov. 9. Thus, the games take on a bit more of an edge as spots on the U.S. roster for qualifying are on the line. U.S. head coach Pia Sundhage brought 30 players for a training camp in Kennesaw, Ga., but will suit up 18 for each of the matches. The USA is currently first in the FIFA Women’s World Rankings and China, suffering through perhaps its biggest down period in the program’s history, is listed at 14th, its lowest spot since FIFA started ranking women’s national teams. These will be the 10th and 11th international matches for the U.S. women this year and will serve as the players’ final audition for the Women’s World Cup qualifying squad before Sundhage picks a 20-player roster following the two games. On the Sunday following the match in Kennesaw, the USA will bring 24 players to Philadelphia for the second leg of the series. Since coaching her first game for the United States in January of 2008, Sundhage has compiled an overall record of 48-1-4 with the only loss in regulation time coming in the first game of the 2008 Olympics. Her winning percentage of (.943) is the best-ever for a coach in U.S. Women’s National Team history.

U.S. WNT Quick Hits:

  • The USA’s 21 goals this year have been scored by nine different players – Abby Wambach (8), Lauren Cheney (5), Amy Rodriguez (2), Carli Lloyd, Heather O’Reilly, Kristine Lilly, Megan Rapinoe and Shannon Boxx, plus an own goal by Iceland in the Algarve Cup.
  • Heather O’Reilly’s 26 career goals put her 15th on the all-time scoring list. She is within one goal of equaling the career total of Joy Fawcett. 
  • Lindsay Tarpley’s 30 career goals tie her for 12th all-time with Brandi Chastain. She is seven away from tying April Heinirchs for 11th all-time. 
  • Abby Wambach is the third all-time in U.S. history with 109 career goals. Kristine Lilly, Wambach, Tarpley and O’Reilly are the only players on this roster who are in the top-15 all-time goal scorers. Ten of those players are retired with Tiffeny Milbrett being the other. 
  • The USA is riding a 46-game unbeaten streak in domestic matches (42-0-4). 
  • Since Sundhage took over the U.S. team in the fall of 2007, she has given 13 players their first caps and eight of them are on the preliminary roster for the China games. Sundhage’s first-cappers are: Rachel Buehler, Tina DiMartino, Tobin Heath, Ali Krieger, Ella Masar, Becky Sauerbrunn, Kendall Fletcher, Christine Nairn, Meghan Schnur, Kelley O’Hara, Brittany Taylor, Alex Morgan and Sara Huffman. Sundhage has called in four uncapped players for these matches as defender Whitney Engen, forward Sydney Leroux and goalkeepers Jill Loyden and Alyssa Naeher are looking for their first caps. 
  • Of the 198 players who have represented the United States Women’s National Team, 80 have scored a goal. 
  • The USA has gone unbeaten in its last 31 games against teams from Asia, a streak that includes 25 wins and six ties (it also includes matches against Australia, which moved several years ago from the Oceania to the Asia confederation). 
  • The last time the USA lost to a team from Asia was at the 2003 Four Nations Tournament in China, a 2-0 loss to the Chinese. 
  • Defender Brittany Taylor had a perfect attendance mark this season in WPS, playing all 24 games and all 2,160 minutes. 
  • Amy Rodriguez could be the next U.S. player to reach 50 career caps, something just 37 players have achieved in U.S. history. A-Rod is currently on 47. 
  • Since the end of the 2007 FIFA Women’s World Cup, the USA is 50-1-5. 
  • Four of Abby Wambach’s 109 goals have come against China. 
  • The USA is 72-1-2 when Abby Wambach scores a goal.

DECADE REMOVED: The U.S. Women’s National Team has not played in the Atlanta area for more than 11 years, last appearing at Dekalb Memorial Stadium in May of 1999 in a match just before the historic 1999 Women’s World Cup. The USA also played three matches at Decatur High School during the mid-1990s, all shutout wins, and most famously played two 1996 Olympic matches in Athens; the semifinal and gold medal game, both 2-1 victories over Norway and China, respectively. The match at the KSU Soccer Stadium will be the first U.S. Soccer match at the beautiful soccer-specific venue built for the Atlanta Beat of Women’s Professional Soccer and the Kennesaw State women’s soccer team. The 8,300-seat venue was built for $16.3 million and is perhaps the finest small soccer venue in the country.

CONCACAF WOMEN’S WORLD CUP QUALIFYING SET FOR MEXICO: The 2010 CONCACAF Women’s World Cup qualifying tournament will be held from Oct. 28-Nov. 8 in Cancún and Playa del Carmen, Mexico. The eight-team competition, formerly known as the CONCACAF Women’s Gold Cup, will send both finalists to the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Germany while the tournament’s third-place finisher will face the fifth place team from Europe in a home-and-home and series for a World Cup spot. The United States was drawn into Group B along with Costa Rica, Haiti and Guatemala. Group A features host Mexico, Canada, Trinidad & Tobago and Guyana. Group A will play in the 9,000-seat Estadio Beto Ávila in Cancún, which is the regular venue for Mexican baseball team the Quintana Roo Tigres. Group B will face off in Estadio Unidad Deportiva in Playa del Carmen, which holds around 7,000 fans and is home to the Inter Playa del Carmen soccer team in Mexico’s third division. Both stadiums feature natural grass surfaces. Playa del Carmen is just 42 miles south of Cancun on the Yucatán Peninsula. After round-robin play within the groups, the top two teams in each of the group will cross over for the all-important semifinals, with the first-place team in Group A facing the second place team in Group B and vice-versa.

CONCACAF HISTORY: The United States has won all four CONCACAF Women’s World Cup qualifying tournaments in which it has competed (1991, 1994, 2002 and 2006) with all four championship games featuring a USA vs. Canada match-up. The CONCACAF Women’s Gold Cup, which began in 2000, was won by the United States in its inaugural edition as well as in 2002 and 2006. Prior to the establishment of the Women’s Gold Cup, the confederation hosted the CONCACAF Women’s Championship starting in 1991. The United States won that competition in 1991, and 1993 and 1994 (which were not qualifying tournaments for a World Cup) while Canada lifted the trophy in 1998 when the United States automatically qualified to the 1999 FIFA Women’s World Cup as hosts.

LILLY TRIES TO MAKE FIFTH WORLD CUP QUALIFYING SQUAD: Kristine Lilly has already played in five Women’s World Cups, the only women ever to do so, but now she’s trying to make the squad for her fifth Women’s World Cup qualifying tournament. The USA has only participated in four (as host, the Americans didn’t have to qualify for 1999) and Lilly was there at all of them; in Haiti in 1991, in Montreal in 1994, in Pasadena, Fullerton and Seattle in 2003 and in Carson, Calif. in 2007. It’s not a surprise that Lilly is the USA’s all-time leader in World Cup qualifying appearances with 14 and has scored nine goals, fourth in U.S. history behind only Michelle Akers, Mia Hamm and Carin Gabarra. Lilly, 39, was brought back into the national team for two games against Mexico in late March and then scored her 130th career goal in the 4-0 victory against Germany on May 22. It was her first goal for the USA since October 2007. Lilly was already the oldest player ever to earn a cap for the U.S. Women’s National Team when she did so at 37 years, 145 days on Dec. 13, 2008 against China, but on March 28, 2010, against Mexico, she became the only player in U.S. history, and though unconfirmed, likely in world history, to appear for her national team in four different decades. Lilly earned 15 caps in the 1980s, 176 in the 1990s and 151 from 2000-2009. She now has five in 2010.

BARNHART TAKES OVER: With Hope Solo, the USA’s first choice goalkeeper since 2005, out for 5-6 months due to shoulder surgery on Sept. 22, the goalkeeping chores will likely fall to Nicole Barnhart, a U.S. veteran who has backed up Solo during that entire time. Barnhart, who got her first caps in goal for the USA in 2005, emerged as a legitimate international goalkeeper about the same time Solo re-emerged (Solo had not played for the USA in 2003 or 2004 after earning 12 caps from 2000-2002). Barnhart has earned just 23 total caps, but has some big game experience, playing in qualifying for the 2008 Olympics and several big Algarve Cup matches. Barnhart has never lost a match while compiling a record of 14-0-2. Barnhart will be challenged by three young ‘keepers in Jill Loyden, who has been the USA’s third ‘keeper for about a year, and WPS rookies Ashlyn Harris and Alyssa Naeher. Harris took over in goal for the Washington Freedom at the end of the WPS season, helping the team to the playoffs with some stellar play. Naeher broke into the starting lineup for the Boston Breakers this season after totally recovering from a knee injury and showed the form that earned her Best Goalkeeper honors at the 2008 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup and made her a three-time First-Team All-American at Penn State (2007, 2008 & 2009).

CURRENT FIFA World Ranking: 14
USA Overall Record vs. China: 23-8-11
Last Meeting vs. USA: Dec. 17, 2008 (a 1-0 U.S. win indoors at Ford Field in Detroit, Mich., in the final match of the Olympic year) Head Coach: LI Xiaopeng
Key Players: G Zhang Yanru, D Yu Fan, D Weng Xinzhi, D Zhao Gaoping, M Zhang Na, M Sun Ling, F Xu Yaun

USA vs. China Fast Facts: While the two countries have met 42 times in their histories, the USA and China have not squared off since Dec. 17 of 2008, marking 22 months since the last meeting, the longest gap between games since 1991 … The teams met four times in 2008, with the USA winning all four by shutout, but three of the matches ended 1-0 … The other game was a 4-0 victory at the Algarve Cup, a harbinger of China’s dip in from that foreshadowed the perennial women’s soccer power failing to qualify for the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup … The loss at the Algarve Cup also sent China’s French coach Elisabeth Loisel packing … After having two consecutive Europeans at the helm (Marika Domanski-Lyfors coached China in the 2007 FIFA Women’s World Cup), China has hired Chinese coaches since then … Of the seven goals the USA scored against China in 2008, six were scored by players on this current roster as Shannon Boxx, Lindsay Tarpley, Tobin Heath, Abby Wambach, Carli Lloyd and Heather O’Reilly each got one … China, a Women’s World Cup finalist in 1999 and host in 2007, failed to qualify for the tournament for the first time when it finished fourth in the 2010 Asian Women’s Cup this past May … China fell to North Korea in the semifinal and then lost 2-0 to Japan in the all-important match for third place with the winner earning Asia’s third and final WWC berth … China suffered a quarterfinal loss at the 2008 Olympics where it also fell to Asian rival Japan, 2-0, in what many saw as a changing of the guard atop Asian women’s football … China will be playing Canada on Oct. 30 in Toronto before dropping down to play the USA … One of the most famous of the 42 meetings between the USA and China came in Georgia, Athens to be exact, as the USA defeated China 2-1 to win the first Olympic gold medal for women’s soccer on goals from Shannon MacMillan and Tiffeny Milbrett … The USA and China have played 20 times since 2000, but only five of those have been in the United States … Eight have been in China and the remaining seven matches were in Australia, Germany and Portugal.

CHATTING WITH THE CAPTAIN: Christie Rampone’s comeback from the birth of her second child is just about complete. So we sat down with the U.S. captain and asked her 11 questions about her return to fitness, her run for another World Cup Team and much, much more.

KICK YA, HEAL YA: Meghan Schnur has a professional soccer contract and a master’s degree. That’s two pretty cool pieces of paper. In this special feature for, we find out how Schnur balances two careers.

HEATH ON THE MEND: Flashy U.S. midfielder Tobin Heath won’t be playing in these two matches against China, but she is doing well in her comeback from major ankle surgery. We caught up with the young talent in this podcast for

COMEBACK CARLI: The USA’s attacking midfielder is back training full-out with the national team after recovering from a broken ankle. We catch up with the 2008 U.S. Female Soccer Player of the Year in this video and hear about her comeback from the serious and frustrating injury.

WNT BLOG: Keep up with the award-winning (that’s right, third in Best Blog category in the Best Of U.S. Soccer Awards for three years running) WNT Blog that is packed with infotainment, amusing anecdotes, WNT news and fun pics.