Thursday, July 18, 2002
U.S. WOMEN FACE NORWAY FOR THE 33rd TIME IN THIRD DOMESTIC MATCH OF 2002: The U.S. Women's National Team has gathered in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in preparation for Sunday's renewal of women's soccer's greatest rivalry as the USA takes on Norway at the National Sports Center in Blaine, Minn., live on ESPN at Noon CT (1 p.m. ET). The USA has played nine matches in 2002, but only two so far in the United States, those being a 7-0 victory over Mexico to open the year on January 12 and a 3-0 win over Finland on April 27. The U.S. women are in their 18th year of competition and have played 276 full international matches. The USA has scored 899 goals over that span and is looking for number 900 in the program's history against Norway. The USA is 5-2-2 on the year with both losses coming to archrival Norway, 1-0 in Huadu, China on January 23 and 3-2 on March 5 at the Algarve Cup in Portugal.
HEINRICHS WILL PICK 18 FROM 23 TO FACE NORWAY: U.S. head coach April Heinrichs has called in 23 players to train for four days in preparation for the match against Norway. Heinrichs will choose 18 players to suit up for the match. The U.S. team trained in stifling Midwestern summer heat on Tuesday and Wednesday before it cooled off a bit for today's training on a brand new field at Bethel College in Arden Hills, Minn. In fact, the Americans were the first soccer players ever to grace the new soccer field. The U.S. team posed for a team photo with the proud Bethel College grounds crew following training.
SHE'S BAAAAAAACK!!: After missing the last four national team events, spanning nine matches, due to injury and her recovery from meniscus surgery on her left knee in late February, striker Mia Hamm has returned to the national team for the match against Norway. The last time Hamm pulled on the U.S. jersey, she scored twice in a 4-1 win over Germany on Sept. 9, 2001, in the first game of the 2001 NIKE U.S. Women's Cup that would be cut short by the events of September 11. Hamm is the U.S. and world all-time leading scorer in women's international soccer with 129 goals 109 assists in 219 games.
SCURRY RETURNS IN HOME STATE: The Norway match also marks the return of goalkeeper Briana Scurry to the U.S. roster. The Dayton, Minnesota, native has 103 caps, 72 more than any other U.S. goalkeeper. Scurry was in the nets for the USA in three out of the five world championships the U.S. women have played. Her splendid goalkeeping throughout that 1999 Women's World Cup, and historic save in the penalty kick shootout in the championship game against China, helped the USA to the title and gained her world-wide fame. Scurry has not played for the USA since Aug. 20, 2000, against Canada when she replaced an injured Siri Mullinix. Following the Women's World Cup, she lost her fitness, suffered several injuries and then lost her starting spot to Mullinix, serving as the backup at the 2000 Olympics in which she did not play. Scurry, who went to high school just 10 minutes from the National Sports Center, has regained her form with the Atlanta Beat and will be looking to regain her spot in the U.S. nets.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY BRANDI: U.S. defender and 1999 Women's World Cup hero Brandi Chastain will be looking for a nice birthday present in the form of a win over Norway as the veteran turns 34 on Sunday. Chastain is one of the pioneers of women's soccer and was a member of the 1991 Women's World Cup Team. She has compiled 149 caps, good for 8th all-time, despite not playing for the national team for almost a three-year stretch in the mid-1990s.
"MAC"NIFICENT: The USA has pumped in 20 goals in nine games in 2002 during which forward Shannon MacMillan has been on a torrid scoring streak. She has 11 of the 20 goals and no other player has more than one. The "Mac Attack" scored her first career hat trick on Jan. 12 vs. Mexico, went two games of the Four Nations Tournament in China without scoring, then tallied in five straight matches, scoring against some of the world tops teams in China, Sweden England, Norway (2) and Denmark (3). MacMillan scored an amazing seven of the eight U.S. goals at the 2002 Algarve Cup, with the other score notched by 19-year-old Kelly Wilson.
ZEPHYR MAKES GOOD: Minnesota's own Jena Kluegel, a former Mahtomedi High School Zephyr, makes a return to her home state with the U.S. Women's National Team for the second straight summer. Kluegel also played for the USA at the NSC against Canada last year in the 1-0 victory that was watch by 15,614 fans, who all gave a rousing cheer when she entered the match as a substitute. The 22-year-old Kluegel is currently playing her trade for the Boston Breakers and she has been one of the top rookies in the league this year after being taken third in the WUSA Draft behind Danielle Slaton and Abby Wambach. Kluegel was three-time high school All-American selection in 1996, '97 and '98 and Parade Magazine's Co-Player of the Year in 1998 at Mahtomedi. She was the Minnesota High School Player of the Year in 1996 and 1997 and Ms. Soccer of Minnesota in 1997.
USA vs. NORWAY HISTORY: The USA has played Norway more times than any other country and Norway remains the only team with a winning record against the USA. The U.S. women currently stand at 13-18-2 and have faced Norway in several of the biggest games in U.S. history as the rivalry has burned for years. First and foremost was the 1991 Women's World Cup Final, a 2-1 U.S. victory. Norway knocked the USA out of the 1995 World Cup with a 1-0 victory in Sweden, but the Americans gained revenged at the 1996 Olympics, defeating Norway in the semifinals on a golden goal from Shannon MacMillan. The teams did not meet at the 1999 Women's World Cup, but met in the first game of the 2000 Olympics, a 2-0 U.S. win. But in this seesaw battle, the Norwegians won the Olympic gold medal, 3-2, while taking just three shots on goal. There is no love lost between the two teams, but great respect, as the two countries are the most successful women's soccer nations in history and have produced many of the world's greatest players. The U.S. women will be looking to break a frustrating four-game losing streak to the Norwegians, a streak which has seen the USA play equal to or better than Norway over the four matches, dating back to the 2000 Olympic gold medal game in Sydney. In the next meeting, a young U.S. team fell 4-3 to Norway at the 2001 Algarve Cup in Portugal. The USA has also lost to Norway twice this year, 1-0 at the Four Nations Tournament in China in January and 3-2 at the 2002 Algarve Cup.
FOCUS ON CONCACAF QUALIFYING: The U.S. players come into the Norway match in late-season form after completing three-quarters of the WUSA campaign. All the players are focused on making an impression to either get, or keep, themselves in the running for a spot on the 2003 Women's World Cup Team. But the U.S. women's will have to do something in 2003 that they have not had to do since 1994 -- qualify for a Women's World Cup. As the host of the 1999 event, the USA got an automatic berth. But even as the reigning Women's World Cup champions, the USA will still have to qualify as there is no automatic berth given by FIFA to defending world champions. The second edition of the CONCACAF Women's Gold Cup, which will be held from Oct. 27-Nov. 9, will serve as the Confederation's qualifying competition for 2003 FIFA Women's World Cup. CONCACAF has two guaranteed spots in the 2003 WWC, with the third-place finisher in the qualifying competition playing the fourth-place team from the Asian Football Confederation for the final spot. The 2002 CONCACAF Women's Gold Cup Tournament will be held from Oct. 27-Nov. 9 at four venues on the west coast of the United States with the championship match at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif. on Saturday, Nov. 9. The eight-team tournament, which features two groups of four teams each, will take place at Titan Stadium in Fullerton, Calif., at Centennial Stadium in Victoria, Canada and at SAFECO Field in Seattle, Wash., as well as at the world-famous Rose Bowl, site of the 1984 Olympic Final, the 1994 World Cup Final and the 1999 Women's World Cup Final. All of the group matches will be played as doubleheaders. The USA was placed in Group 1, which will play at the Rose Bowl, Titan Stadium and at SAFECO Field, along with Mexico, the runner-up in the Central American qualifying tournament and the winner of Group A in the Caribbean qualifying tournament, with the latter two having to go through pre-qualifying in their respective regions to win a spot at the Women's Gold Cup. The U.S. women will open the tournament on Sunday, Oct. 27, against Mexico at the Rose Bowl, then play its second first-round match on Tuesday, Oct. 29, against a Caribbean nation at Titan Stadium before traveling to Seattle for the final game of group play on Saturday, Nov. 2, against a Central American team. Should the Americans qualify for the semifinals, they will stay in Seattle, as both semifinals will be played as a doubleheader at SAFECO Field on Wednesday, Nov. 6.
Stat of Note
The U.S. Women's National Team has played 11 games in Blaine, Minnesota and holds an 8-3-0 record in those contests, losing to Canada, Sweden and Norway.
Quote of the Day
U.S. defender Brandi Chastain on Sunday's match with Norway:
"The bottom line is that this is a game we need to win. Of course, it doesn't impact on the World Cup or anything, but we haven't played up to our standards in the last few games against Norway. You can expect a game that will be combative from the first whistle to the end, but this game is all about us. It's about our mentality and our technical game. We've been in the WUSA for a few months and we're ready to be a national team again."