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U.S. WNT Arrives in China for Four Nations Tournament

Friday, January 19, 2007
U.S. Women’s National Team
Notes from Guangzhou, China

U.S. WOMEN TOUCH DOWN IN CHINA FOR FOUR NATIONS TOURNAMENT: There is no getting around it…China is far from the United States. It’s not as if the U.S. team needed a reminder, but the 26-hour hotel-to-hotel journey from Redondo Beach, Calif. (where the USA had been based during training camp) to Guangzhou, China, certainly reinforced that fact. The team flew from Los Angeles to San Francisco and then to Beijing, before catching a flight south to Guangzhou, a bustling city of over 10 million that hosted the 1991 FIFA Women’s World Cup Final. While the trip was long, arriving in the evening on Jan. 17 (the U.S. team pulled into the hotel around 11:30 p.m.) meant the players could grab a quick bite and hit the sack for some much needed and well-deserved sleep. The 14-hour flight to Beijing was actually pretty easy, with a less-than-full plane giving the players a chance to stretch out (kind of) and catch some somewhat comfortable sleep. U.S. rookie Lauren Cheney even had four seats to herself and took advantage with some serious prone napping. She was nice enough to give up the “bed” to Carli Lloyd for a few hours so the midfielder could also get some decent sleep. Flying into Beijing instead of Hong Kong (as the U.S. team usually does on its way to China) did allow the USA to avoid the two hectic border/passport checkpoints that must be traversed when leaving Hong Kong and entering mainland China. (Photo Gallery)

SCURRY, MARKGRAF LEAD U.S. TEAM: One sign that the USA has brought a young team to China…only two players on the roster have more than 100 caps. On most other National Teams, that would be a lot, but the USA roster is usually dotted with members of the Century Club. Not so with the 2007 Four Nations roster, where Kate Markgraf (153) and Briana Scurry (158) are the only 100-cappers. Defender Cat Whitehill is at 99 caps and will likely join the club when the USA opens the tournament against Germany on Jan. 26. Whitehill would become the 19th U.S. player to earn 100 caps.

SWEATING OUT THE JET LAG: The U.S. team trained twice on each of its first two days in China, as the players try to adjust as quickly as possible to the 16-hour time difference from the West Coast, where the team was training before departing for the Far East. The U.S. team has been pleasantly surprised to find mild temperatures, and thus far, no rain. The trips to China in January have been notoriously cold and wet, but here in the southern part of the country in the Guangdong Province, the sun has even peaked through the gloomy skies on several occasions and the team has shed their sweat tops and pants quickly at each training.

CONVENIENT COMMUTE: The U.S. team is staying at a hotel that is part of a sprawling 10-million square foot athletic complex that features the spectacular and architectural award-winning 80,000-seat Guangdong Olympic Stadium, where all the matches of the Four Nations Tournament will be played. Some of the players’ rooms even look out into the stadium, luxury box style. The complex allows the U.S. team to walk to trainings, cutting down on the traffic-packed bus rides that have become familiar for the USA in China. In addition, it is about a five-minute walk (including elevator wait time) from the U.S. team’s floor to the locker rooms, making this perhaps the most convenient tournament the U.S. team will ever play in.

USA FIRST TO LAND: The USA is the first of the three visitors to arrive, with England and Germany expected this weekend. China, of course, is in town and has been training together for several weeks. The eyes of the women’s soccer world will be on Guangzhou for the three match days of the tournament as the competition features four of the world’s top teams, all of whom will participate in the 2007 FIFA Women’s World Cup. Germany is ranked first in the most recent FIFA Women’s World Rankings, the USA is second, China is ninth and England is 12th.

ROAD TO CHINA BEGINS: The Four Nations Tournament will start the year of preparation matches for the U.S. team, culminating in the 2007 FIFA Women’s World Cup, to be played Sept. 10-30 in five Chinese cities. The USA will play three matches at the Four Nations Tournament and four more at the Algarve Cup in Portugal in March. The team will then begin a Residency Training Camp in early April at The Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif., and play approximately eight domestic matches before leaving for the Women’s World Cup in late August. There could be no better way to start such an important year than a match against the world’s top-ranked team, Germany.

2007 Four Nations Tournament - Guangdong Olympic Stadium, Guangzhou, China
Friday, January 26
China vs. England       1:30 p.m. local / 12:30 a.m. ET
USA vs. Germany        4 p.m. local / 3 a.m. ET 

Sunday, January 28
China vs. Germany      1:30 p.m. local / 12:30 a.m. ET
USA vs. England           4 p.m. local / 3 a.m. ET

Tuesday, January 30
Germany vs. England   1:30 p.m. local / 12:30 a.m. ET
USA vs. China                4p.m. local / 3 a.m. ET

RISE OF THE NORTH: In what may be some sort of a record, the U.S. roster features eight players (40 percent of the roster) from Region II, a.k.a., the North, no doubt a sign of the growth of women’s soccer across the United States. Perhaps even more amazing, there are no players on the roster from Southern California, long a fertile ground for National Team players, and just one from California in defender Stephanie Lopez. The other three Region IV players hail from Hawaii (Natasha Kai) and the state of Washington (Hope Solo and Tina Frimpong).

THE SKIPPER SPEAKS!: Speaking of Region II, Kalamazoo, Mich., product Lindsay Tarpley is one of the greatest U.S. players ever to come out of the Midwest. As the captain of the 2002 U-19 team that won the FIFA youth world championship, 1-0, over Canada in Edmonton, Tarpley scored the winning “golden goal” in sudden death overtime, evoking the excited call from the announcer, “The Skipper has won it! The Skipper has won it!” It’s been five years since she led the U-19s to victory and now the forward-turned-midfielder-turned-forward is entrenched in the U.S. squad and will be a key player up top for the USA with the absence of Kristine Lilly and Abby Wambach. Before leaving for China, Tarpley sat down with to answer 11 questions, ranging from her changing role on the National Team to her favorite jelly bean flavor.

NO STRANGERS TO CHINA: Of the 20 players on the U.S. roster, just two have never previously been to China, and those are uncapped forwards Lauren Cheney and Casey Nogueira. In addition to numerous players who have played in the Four Nations Tournament before, several players have also traveled to China with the U.S. U-19s or the U-21s. Their familiarity with the travel, culture, food and weather of China could be very valuable come September and the 2007 FIFA Women’s World Cup. Goalkeeper Briana Scurry and forward Heather O’Reilly are the team-leaders in trips to China with five each. Combined, the U.S. roster has been on 56 trips to China. Following is a breakdown:

5 - Briana Scurry, Heather O’Reilly

4 - Lindsay Tarpley, Kate Markgraf

3 - Heather Mitts, Cat Whitehill, Carli Lloyd, Leslie Osborne, Angela Hucles, Lori Chalupny, Hope Solo, Stephanie Lopez

2 - Natasha Kai, Marci Miller, Tina Frimpong, Yael Averbuch, Joanna Lohman, India Trotter

1 - Lauren Cheney, Casey Nogueira

SHOPPING ANYONE?: After training twice on Jan. 18 and 19, the U.S. team will practice only in the morning on Jan. 20 with a shopping excursion planned in the afternoon. Shopping in China is almost a sport in itself, with amazing bargains to be had if 1) you can find them and 2) you are a good negotiator. The price of everything and anything bought at a street market in China is up for negotiation, and it is not uncommon for players to return to the hotel with the exact same item having paid significantly different prices.

FOUR NATIONS MATCHES WILL HAVE WIDE TV AUDIENCE: While the matches, which kick off in the wee hours of the morning in the United States, will not be on TV in North America, the Four Nations matches will have a large TV audience. All six matches will be shown across China on CCTV Channel 5, the sports channel of Chinese Central Television. Women’s soccer has a good following in China, where the 1999 Women’s World Cup Final was watched by one-hundred million people. With two of the top teams from Europe also in the competition in Germany and England, some of the matches will also be shown in Europe on Eurosport, indicating the continuing growth of the women’s game world-wide.

Forward Lindsay Tarpley has the most career international goals of anyone on the U.S. roster with 13.

Quote of the Week:
A Chinese journalist, obviously still stinging from the loss in the 1999 FIFA Women’s World Cup Final, a match in which U.S. goalkeeper Briana Scurry made a crucial save during the historic penalty kick shootout.

“I hate Briana Scurry. She’s a great goalkeeper, but I hate her.”