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Wambach Hat Trick Leads U.S. Past Japan 3-1


  • Same Two Teams Will Meet Again on Tuesday, May 9, in Osaka
  • Boxx Dominates Midfield, Wambach Provides All the Scoring With Fourth Career Hat Trick

KUMAMOTO, Japan (May 7, 2006) – The U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team let in a goal less than three minutes into the match, but tied the game just before halftime and got two more goals in the second half, all courtesy of striker Abby Wambach, to record a 3-1 victory over Japan on a rainy, misty day at KK Wing Stadium.

Japan shocked the U.S. team early as they scored off a corner kick when Azusa Iwashimizu got her head on Aya Miyama’s cross from the right side. The 10-yard shot flew past fully extended U.S. goalkeeper Hope solo, off the inside of the right post and bounced just over the goal line. It was the first international goal in just her second full international match for the 19-year-old Iwashimizu, who recently captained of the Japanese U-20 team in their failed attempt to qualify for the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Championship in Russia.

The goal marked the first time the U.S. team had fallen behind under head coach Greg Ryan, who was coaching his 17th game at the helm, and now has an all-time record of 13-0-4.

It took the USA until the 40th minute to get the equalizer, and that came on an extremely generous penalty kick decision from referee Pannipar Kamnueng of Thailand. The foul occurred in the 37th minute as U.S. captain Kristine Lilly lifted a pass into the left side of the penalty area for the charging Wambach. The U.S. forward and Japanese goalkeeper Miho Fukumoto crashed into each other inside the penalty area, with Fukumoto appearing to clear the ball just before contact, but Kamnueng pointed to the spot.

Fukomoto needed medical attention after her collision with the 5-foot-11 Wambach and the penalty shot wasn’t taken until the 40th minute, but Wambach shrugged off the delay and buried her chance into the right corner. Wambach, who missed her shot in the penalty shootout during the Algarve Cup championship game against Germany last Match, made no mistake this time, driving the ball low into the net as Fukumoto went the wrong way.

The field was quite slick after a night of rainfall and a steady fell mist during the game. The conditions made the playing surface extremely fast, but the Americas did well to pressure the Japanese in the midfield and the hosts managed just three shots on goal over the match, only two after scoring early on. Midfielder Shannon Boxx was a force in the middle of the field for the USA, winning countless tackles and sending several Japanese players flying on fifty-fifty challenges.

Wambach foreshadowed her big day just 40 seconds into the game as two header flicks after a long punt by Solo got her in behind the defense in the right side of the penalty area. Wambach smacked her shot to the far post, but Fukumoto dove low to her right to snag it. The Japanese goalkeeper, playing in just her seventh career match in place of injured starter Nozomi Yamago, did extremely well, showing confidence beyond her experience, but could do nothing on the winning goal.

It came in the 72nd minute after defender Cat Whitehill blasted a clearance from midway in the USA defensive half that flew far into the Japanese half over their back line and into the path of the thundering Wambach. She out-muscled a Japanese defender, who fell sprawled on the turf, then burst into the penalty box and smacked a left-footed shot off Fukomoto’s leg and into the roof of the net from 13 yards out.

Japan, which had seemed content with a draw when the score was 1-1, picked up the urgency in the last 15 minutes in search of a tying goal, but Solo came up with four big plays to diffuse any thoughts of a comeback. She made two tough catches in traffic, in the 78th and 88th minutes, punched a ball away from danger on another cross, and with a sliding smother, also swept a ball off the feet of a Japanese forward who had flashed through in the right side of the penalty area.

With Japan pressing forward, the U.S. stuck in one more, courtesy of some hard work from Lilly, who was playing in her world record 307th career match.

Lilly powered past Japanese captain Hiromi Isozaki on the left side of goal box all the way to the end line and then lifted a short pass in the air back to Wambach at the near post. Falling backwards, Wambach delicately re-directed the ball with her head from an almost impossible angle, bouncing it inside the right post from just four yards out.

The goals upped Wambach’s international total to 54 in just 71 games. It was also her fourth career hat track, which includes one five-goal game against Ireland in 2004.

The two teams will meet again in the second leg of the two-game tour on Tuesday, May 9, in Osaka as part of a doubleheader that also features the Japan Men’s National Team against Bulgaria. The U.S. team left for Osaka immediately after the game and will conduct one training session in Japan’s third largest city on Monday before finishing the tour on Tuesday at Nagai Stadium, which hosted matches in the 2002 FIFA World Cup.

U.S. WOMEN'S NATIONAL TEAM GAME REPORT

Match-up: USA vs. Japan
Competition: International Friendly
Venue: KK Wing Stadium; Kumamoto, Japan
Date: May 7, 2006; Kickoff – 1:00 p.m. local / Midnight ET
Attendance: 6,681
Weather: Rain, misty – 65 degrees

Scoring Summary:
         1 2 F
USA 1 2 3
JPN 1 0 1

JPN -- Azusa Iwashimizu (Aya Miyama) 3rd minute.
USA -- Abby Wambach (Penalty Kick) 40.
USA -- Abby Wambach (Cat Whitehill) 72.
USA -- Abby Wambach (Kristine Lilly) 89.

Lineups:
USA - 18-Hope Solo; 2-Heather Mitts, 4-Cat Whitehill, 14-Amy LePeilbet (8-Tina Frimpong, 46), 3-Christie Rampone (15-Stephanie Lopez, 59); 7-Shannon Boxx, 11-Carli Lloyd (12-Leslie Osborne, 83), 5-Lindsay Tarpley (10-Aly Wagner, 71); 9-Heather O’Reilly (6-Natasha Kai, 70), 20-Abby Wambach, 13-Kristine Lilly – Capt.
Subs not used: 1-Briana Scurry, 19-Christie Welsh.
Head Coach: Greg Ryan

JPN - 12-Miho Fukumoto; 2-Hiromi Isozaki – Capt., 7-Kozue Ando, 5-Kyouko Yano, 14-Azusa Iwashimizu; 6-Tomoe Sakai, 10-Homare Sawa, 19-Shinobu Ohno (23-Rumi Utsugi 75), 18-Iya Miyama, 11-Mio Otani (9-Eriko Arakawa, 63), 20-Yuki Nagasato (16-Karina Maruyama, 78).
Subs not used: 4-Nao Shikata, 13-Maiko Nakaoka, 15-Tomoko Suzuki, 17-Emi Yamamoto, 21-Tomomi Akiyama, 22-Nayuha Toyoda.
Head Coach: Hiroshi Ohashi

Statistical Summary:
USA / JPN
Shots: 12 / 8
Shots on Goal: 7 / 3
Saves: 2 / 3
Corner Kicks: 7 / 2
Fouls: 7 / 5
Offside: 9 / 1

Misconduct Summary:
USA – Carli Lloyd (caution) 41st minute.

Officials:
Referee: Pannipar Kamnueng (Thailand)
Asst. Referee: Hisae Yoshizawa (Japan)
Asst. Referee: Satomi Hamasaki (Japan)
4th Official: Hong Eun Ha (Korea Republic)

Sierra Mist Woman of the Match: Abby Wambach

U.S. Women’s National Team Quote Sheet:
GREG RYAN, U.S. Head Coach
On the match:
“I was very happy with our team. This is the first game since I’ve been coaching that we’ve been behind by a goal, so it was important for us that when we went down, to keep playing our game, to keep feeling good about ourselves and not change the way we play.”

On stopping Japan:
“We knew it was going to be a very difficult game, because we have tremendous respect for Japan. They scored a goal after two minutes, and it was a great goal on a header. Japan plays with great skill and composure so it was very important for us to defend as a team with high pressure to prevent Japan from creating opportunities to score.”

“We had to continue to play strong defensively, because at the end of the first half, Japan was becoming stronger than us. We felt we could play balls behind Japan’s defense and that’s how the second goal was created, but it was important that we continued to play hard because of Japan’s ability to counter-attack quickly.”
On the Japanese players:
“There are many very, very good players for Japan. I have known (Homare) Sawa for a long time from her playing in the United States and she is a wonderful soccer player. It was very important for us today to keep her under pressure because she can win the game by herself. I like (Yuki) Nagasato, I think she is a very good young player and a very important player for Japan as a strong striker that can hold the ball and score goals, but also play with the other players, (Mio) Otani, (Eriko) Arakawa and Sawa. I think she is a very important player for this team.”

On going down a goal:
“You never want to be behind a goal, but it was very important because with a young team, you don’t know how they are going to react. Are they going to get shaky or are they going to raise their level? It was only two minutes in, but I thought the team definitely performed very well, they raised their level, and we didn’t get the tying goal for a long time, but they never got rattled. It was an important game for us.”

On the USA’s defense:
“The main thing we’ve been able to do to every opponent we play is that we have a very organized, pressing team defense. The way we organized that today was to keep a lot of pressure Sawa, who’s their playmaker, and Boxxy took care of that. I thought our midfield did a great job with Carli (Lloyd) and (Lindsay) Tarpley pressing up on the two holding midfielders, the backs were rotating, and we just didn’t give them any time and space. Occasionally, they still played through it, but it wasn’t as often as in the past.”

On Abby Wambach’s hat trick:
“It’s fantastic for her, because a finisher just has to get in a positive flow, a positive rhythm, where they just feel like anything they touch is going to go in. We didn’t play a lot of games last year, and you don’t get (that felling) without playing games all the time. So for Abby’s, that huge, because it’s confidence, and now when she steps on the field, she’s going to start feeling like everything’s going, and it will.”

On Hope Solo and getting a third goal:
“It’s always tough when you are only up one and they were counter-attacking very effectively. I think Hope Solo came up with a huge play because that game could have gone 2-2 very easily. She came out and snuffed a through ball at the feet of one of the Japanese players. I thought the back line did very, very well containing them, and you are always happy when you see that next one go in, because then it’s over. It was great to see Lilly create it and Abby finish it.”

ABBY WAMBACH, U.S. Forward
On her three goals:
“I think you could go back to all the goals I’ve scored and they’ve mostly been with my head, so I’ve been (working on) different ways (to score). The PK was a confidence builder after the Algarve miss. The header, Lil just did that whole thing herself, she just put in on my head, that part was easy. Cat just cleared the ball and I got a really good jump on the ball and put it away. Having three goals as a forward is a great accomplishment, period, but to have three different goals like today, it’s a good thing to build from.”

On the next game on Tuesday:
“The game in two days is going to be hostile. There will be way more Japanese fans and I think it’s going to be a great environment for us to play in.”

On going down a goal:
“Some teams can get real frustrated in those scenarios, but being a goal down, this team kind of comes alive and we figure it out, no matter what. We’ve had a couple of ties in the last few years, and for me, that leaves a bit more of a sour taste in my mouth than a loss…We went down, we didn’t lose confidence, we didn’t lose our focus, we stayed together and moved forward as a team. In the second half, we really came out and really dominated, had the run of the play and once we got the goal to go ahead, they were just sending numbers forward and that was leaving us with chance after chance and we got that last goal which just broke their back.”

HOPE SOLO, U.S. Goalkeeper
On the match:
“There weren’t too many direct shots on goal, I didn’t have to make too many diving saves, but I had to stay so mentally focused to decide when to come off my line. I had to be ready for through balls and crosses, and they had a lot of dangerous crosses that were kind of in-between my range. Did I want to come or stay back on my line? But I think I made good decisions when to come.”

On giving up an early goal after moving the player covering the back post to the near post:
“First off, I hate giving up a goal, who doesn’t? But for me, it was hard because I never want to give up a post player, I like my two post players, but we gave up a post player to defend that near post ball. You give up something somewhere, and it’s risky. We made a good assessment in watching them and knowing they send people to the near post, so we thought we could clear (the back post), but unfortunately, that’s where the ball went.”

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