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U.S. to Open Two-Leg Qualifying Playoff on Saturday in Italy


U.S. WOMEN FACE FIRST LEG CHALLENGE IN ITALY: The U.S. Women’s National Team faces Italy on Nov. 20 at Stadio Euganeo in Padova, Italy, in the crucial first leg of the two-game series that will determine the final berth to the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup. Fans can watch the match live on ESPN3.com at 10:30 a.m. ET or follow along on ussoccer.com’s MatchTracker our at twitter.com/ussoccer_wnt. The weather has been chilly and rainy so far during the USA’s stay in northern Italy and rain is possible on game day as well. Stadio Euganeo seats about 18,000 for soccer and is the home to Calcio Padova of the Italian “Serie B.” The USA is scheduled for one training on the game pitch on Friday morning. U.S. head coach Pia Sundhage brought 24 players to Italy, but will suit up 18 on game day.

CONFERENCE CALLING: U.S. head coach Pia Sundhage, team captain Christie Rampone and forward Abby Wambach spoke to the media via a conference call on Thursday, Nov. 18.

U.S. Captain CHRISTIE RAMPONE
On Saturday’s game and the series with Italy:
"We are really excited right now for this second opportunity to qualify. We’re heading into our first game of two, and it is going to take two games to get through this qualifying match. The team is training well. We’re really excited. We think we have good momentum going with the way the team is looking and we’re looking forward to the first game and then getting back to the U.S."

U.S. Forward ABBY WAMBACH
On going into the series against Italy:
"I think the thing we’ve been focusing a lot of our attention on is that it’s an opportunity for us. In the World Cup, when you lose you don’t get another chance. We’re very grateful and thankful for this second chance and we don’t want to throw it away. We want to look at it in the right way. It’s going to teach us a lot of lessons. Hopefully we can get the bugs out so that if we do qualify, we can be successful in 2011. The state of the team is great. We’re really positive, upbeat and excited to match up against Italy in these two games."

A complete transcript is available at ussoccer.com.

STUDIO 90 FROM ITALIA: Preview Saturday’s match and check out additional video features from Italy as ussoccer.com’s Studio 90 is along for the ride providing updates and features from the U.S. WNT as it prepares for the first leg of the series. Visit the Media Center at ussoccer.com to watch.

RETURN LEG AND SERIES RULES: Both teams will travel the day after the match to Chicago where the second leg of the series will be held on Nov. 27 at Toyota Park in Bridgeview, Ill. The match will kick off at 1 p.m. CT and also be shown live on ESPN3.com. The winner of the series will be determined on total goals scored over the two matches. If the teams are tied on goals at the end of the two games, goals scored in the away match will count as double to determine the winner. If the teams are tied on goals and have both scored the same amount of away goals, or neither team has scored over the 180 minutes, two 15-minute overtime periods will be played. If that still doesn’t determine a winner, then penalty kicks will decide the series.

TICKETS IN CHICAGOLAND: Tickets for USA vs. Italy at Toyota Park start at $10 and are on sale through ussoccer.com, by phone at 1-800-745-3000, at all Ticketmaster ticket centers throughout Chicagoland (including Carson Pirie Scott and Walmart stores), and at the Toyota Park ticket office (open Monday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.). Groups of 15 or more can obtain a discount order form at ussoccer.com or call 312-528-1290. Tickets will also be available at the Toyota Park box office starting at 9 a.m. on the day of the game.

U.S. WNT QUICK HITS

  • U.S. head coach Pia Sundhage brought 24 players to Italy – the 20 who were on the CONCACAF Women’s World Cup Qualifying roster, plus Leslie Osborne, Lindsay Tarpley, Tina DiMartino and Ashlyn Harris.
  • The U.S. roster that suits up for the Italy match will wear numbers 1-18.
  • This will be the first ever Women’s World Cup playoff match for the United States, which has qualified directly to the past four Women’s World Cup tournaments from the CONCACAF qualifying event. In 1999, the U.S. qualified as host.
  • Abby Wambach has 11 career Women’s World Cup qualifying goals, moving her past Carin Gabarra into third place on the USA’s all-time qualifying goal scoring list. She now sits behind only Michelle Akers (17) and Mia Hamm (12)
  • Kristine Lilly’s nine qualifying goals ranked her fifth all-time behind Akers, Hamm, Wambach and Gabarra (10).
  • Since the end of the 2007 FIFA Women’s World Cup, the USA is 55-2-6.
  • The USA is 73-1-2 when Abby Wambach scores a goal.
  • Under Pia Sundhage, the USA has a 20-1-2 record against Europe teams while scoring 47 goals and allowing nine.
  • The USA has allowed just 26 goals in 60 matches under Sundhage; 20 from the run of play, four from set plays and two on own goals.
  • The USA’s 46 goals this year have been scored by 12 different players – Abby Wambach (16), Lauren Cheney (7), Amy Rodriguez (6), Megan Rapinoe (4), Alex Morgan (3), Carli Lloyd (3), Heather O’Reilly (2), Yael Averbuch, Kristine Lilly, Shannon Boxx, and Rachel Buehler, plus an own goal by Iceland in the Algarve Cup.
  • More than 200 servicemen and women from the U.S. Army base in nearby Vincenza have requested tickets to the game, meaning the U.S. team will have its own small, but likely very loud and patriotic cheering section.
  • The match is being played at Stadio Euganeo, where former U.S. international Alexi Lalas played from 1994-96 during his two seasons for Padova in the Serie A. He was the first American to play in Italy’s top division.

HISTORY WITH ITALY: The USA history with Italy can be divided pretty much into two sections: ancient history (the six matches from 1995 and before) and modern history (the seven matches since 1997). The Americans did not get off to a good start in ancient history, losing its first three matches to the Italians while scoring just one goal. That included the USA’s first-ever international match in August 1985, a 1-0 loss in Jesolo, Italy. After the three losses, the USA rebounded to win the next three games over 1993-1995 by a combined 9-0 goal difference. The USA has lost just once to Italy in modern history, but that was a 1-0 setback in March of 2001 when the U.S. team consisted of all young players in a match prior to the Algarve Cup as the U.S. veterans were involved in pre-season training camps for the WUSA. Since then, with both team’s full squads, the USA won 4-0 at the Nike U.S. Cup in 2001 in Cary, N.C., a match that featured Heather O’Reilly’s first career goal, drew 2-2 in Oct. of 2003 in a match following the 2007 FIFA Women’s World Cup (which was the most recent on home soil), then won a pair of 2-0 matches in 2008 at the Algarve Cup in Portugal and the Peace Queen Cup in South Korea. Lindsay Tarpley and Heather O’Reilly scored at the Algarve Cup while Abby Wambach tallied both goals in South Korea.

USA RETURNS TO TOYOTA PARK: The return leg will mark the third match for the U.S. at Toyota Park in the last five years, with victories against China and Ireland coming in 2006 and 2008, respectively. Including a perfect six wins in six tries at Soldier Field, the U.S. has a 9-0-0 record in Chicagoland dating to a May 4, 1997, victory against Korea Republic at Norris Stadium in St. Charles. In five other meetings with Italy at home dating to 1993, the U.S. has posted five wins and a 16-1 goal differential. The teams have met three times at neutral sites and the U.S. has won all three of those meetings, including the 2008 games at Algarve Cup and Peace Queen Cup.

ALL-TIME SERIES: The U.S. holds an 8-4-1 all-time record against Italy with 26 goals for and eight against. All four of the previous meetings on Italian soil have been losses for Americans, including the first-ever international match for the U.S. women, a game in 1986 which was the 10th-ever match for the team and in 1988 (Kristine Lilly’s 13th cap). The most recent matchup in Italy was that 1-0 loss in 2001 in which the U.S. fielded a young lineup of players. No players on the USA’s current roster in Italy played in that match.

ITALY’S LONG ROAD TO THE WWC: While the U.S. path to qualification was a five-game, eight-team tournament, Italy has played 14 matches to earn fifth place in Europe and a spot in the playoff against CONCACAF’s third-place team. Italy’s qualifying included a group stage against Finland, Portugal, Slovenia and Armenia that resulted in seven wins and one draw while outscoring opponents 38-3. After falling to France 3-2 in a two-game aggregate playoff in September, Italy got past Ukraine 3-0 and Switzerland 5-2 on aggregate in October in subsequent two-game series’.

ITALY WOMEN’S WORLD CUP QUALIFYING
UEFA Group 7
Date                  Opponent  Result    Italy Goal Scorers
Sept. 19, 2009    Slovenia   8-0 W    Conti (3), Gabbiadini (2), Carissimi, Fuselli, Panico
Sept. 23, 2009    Portugal   2-0 W    Panico (2)
Oct. 24, 2009     Armenia    8-0 W    Tona, Conti (2), Gama (2), Fuselli, Schiavi, Panico
Nov. 25, 2009    Armenia    7-0 W    Tona, Conti, Gabbiadini, Panico, Camporese
March 27, 2010   Portugal   3-1 W    Tona, Panico, Camporese
March 31, 2010   Finland     1-1 T    Gabbiadini
June 19, 2010     Slovenia   6-0 W    Gabbiadini, Domenichetti, Camporese, own goal, Conti, Panico
June 23, 2010     Finland     3-1 W    Conti, Gabbiadini, Parisi

UEFA Playoffs
Date                 Opponent    Result    Italy Goal Scorers
Sept. 11, 2010   France        0-0 T      --
Sept. 15, 2010   France        2-3 L      Panico, Domenichetti
Oct. 2, 2010      Ukraine       3-0 W    Conti, Panico, Pini
Oct. 6, 2010      Ukraine       0-0 T      --
Oct. 23, 2010    Switzerland  1-0 W    Tuttino
Oct. 27, 2010    Switzerland  4-2 W    Panico, Camporese (2), Tona

THE SCORPION AND GABBIADINI LEAD WAY FOR ITALY: Italy is not only hardened by the long road through European qualifying, but the squad features several talented players that are among the best in Europe. Leading the way is 35-year-old Patrizia Panico, nicknamed “The Scorpion,” who played 10 matches for Sky Blue FC (making three starts) this past season after joining the squad late in the campaign. Panico has been scoring goals for Italy for years (87 total and 10 alone during UFEA qualifying) and true to her nickname, is extremely dangerous striking inside the penalty area. Italy’s best player is perhaps Melania Gabiadini (71 caps, 22 goals), a dynamic attacking player who gave the USA the most problems during the two recent meetings in 2008. She is fast and a crafty dribbler who an eye for the half-chance. Italy also features veteran defenders Elisabetta Tona (72 caps) and Sara Gama (51 caps). In the midfield, Italy has loads of experience with veterans Tatiana Zorri (151 caps and 22 goals), who along with Panico are remaining alumnae of Italy’s 1999 Women’s World Cup squad, Pamela Conti (68 caps), Giuli Domenichetti (59 caps) and Alessia Tuttino (93 caps). Another one of Italy’s dangerous attackers is Elisa Camporese (59 caps, 17 goals).

IN GOAL, THE AMERICAN PICARELLI: In goal, Italy features one of the more unique players in the women’s game in Anna Picarelli who hails from California and was born and raised in the Los Angeles area. She played four years of college soccer at Pepperdine in Malibu, Calif., where she was one of the best ‘keepers in the West Coast Conference. The 25-year-old Picarelli, who stands just 5-feet, 4-inches, plays much larger and is extremely talented and athletic. She was called into a U.S. U-21 Women’s National Team camp after college, but decided to pursue her career in the homeland of her father and has turned into an important contributor for Italy, starting all 14 of their UEFA qualifying matches while allowing just eight goals. She has learned to speak the language and played for Italy at the 2009 UEFA Women’s Championships in Finland where she was in goal as the Italians upset England by a 2-1 score. Although she has since moved back to California where she plays club soccer, she played several seasons in Italy where she was a part of three Serie A title winners for Bardolino. She came to the attention of Italian National Team head coach Pietro Ghedin after a stirring 3-3 tie in the UEFA Women's Champions League against Arsenal in 2007. She won her first cap in January 2008 and worked her way into the starting spot before the European Championship. She has played once against the USA, starting in the match at the Peace Queen Cup in 2008.

U.S. Roster
GOALKEEPERS (3): Nicole Barnhart (FC Gold Pride), Ashlyn Harris (Washington Freedom), Jill Loyden (Chicago Red Stars)
DEFENDERS (7): Rachel Buehler (FC Gold Pride), Stephanie Cox (Boston Breakers), Ali Krieger (FFC Frankfurt), Amy LePeilbet (Boston Breakers), Heather Mitts (Philadelphia Independence), Christie Rampone (Sky Blue FC), Becky Sauerbrunn (Washington Freedom)
MIDFIELDERS (10): Yael Averbuch (Sky Blue FC), Shannon Boxx (FC Gold Pride), Tina DiMartino (Philadelphia Independence), Kristine Lilly (Boston Breakers), Lori Lindsey (Philadelphia Independence), Carli Lloyd (Sky Blue FC), Heather O’Reilly (Sky Blue FC), Leslie Osborne (Boston Breakers), Megan Rapinoe (Chicago Red Stars), Lindsay Tarpley (Boston Breakers)
FORWARDS (4): Lauren Cheney (Boston Breakers), Alex Morgan (California), Amy Rodriguez (Philadelphia Independence), Abby Wambach (Washington Freedom)

Italy Roster
GOALKEEPERS (3): Chiara Marchitelli (Graphistudio Tavagnacco), Ana Maria Picarelli (Ajax of Los Angeles), Sara Penzo (Venezia)
DEFENDERS (8): Roberta D’Adda (Brescia), Sara Gama (Chiasellis), Raffaella Manieri (Torres), Maria Sorvillo (Graphistudio Tavagnacco), Laura Neboli (Reggiana), Viviana Schiavi (Brescia), Elisabetta Tona (Torres), Alia Guagni (CF Firenze)
MIDFIELDERS (6): Pamela Conti (Levante), Giulia Domenichetti (Torres), Marta Carissimi (Torino), Carolina Pini (Bayern Monaco), Alessia Tuttino (Roma), Tatiana Zorri (Lazio)
FORWARDS (5): Elisa Camporese (Torres), Silvia Fuselli (Torres), Melania Gabbiadini (Bardolino), Patrizia Panico (Sky Blue FC), Evelyn Vicchiarello (Chiasellis)

THE GOAL IS GERMANY: Hosting on their own soil, the two-time defending Women’s World Cup champions will be favorites to hoist a third consecutive trophy and there is no doubt that the Germans will run a fantastic Women’s World Cup, scheduled for June 26-July 17 in nine cities spread out all over the country: Berlin, Frankfurt, Mönchengladbach, Sinsheim, Wolfsburg, Augsburg, Bochum, Dresden and Leverkusen. Almost all of the cities will host four matches, but unlike past Women’s World Cups, there will be no doubleheaders. The largest stadium is in Berlin (74,244), which will host just the opening game featuring the Germans. The smallest stadium is in Bochum, which seats 23,691. The Women’s World Cup Final will take place in Frankfurt (49,240) on July 17 and 13 of the 16 spots are set. The qualifiers are: host Germany, Korea DPR, Japan and Australia from Asia and Sweden, Norway, France and England from Europe, New Zealand from Oceania, and Nigeria and Equatorial Guinea from Africa.

BLOG FROM THE BOOT: No time for much activity in Padova besides training, eating and sleeping, but you can still get some tidbits, photos and news from the U.S. WNT’s trip to Italy on the WNT Blog.

FOLLOW THE WNT ON TWITTER: Keep up with all U.S. women’s National Team news (in short form, of course) by following at www.twitter.com/ussoccer_wnt.

STAT OF NOTE
The only player on the USA’s current roster ever to play a match in Italy for the U.S. National Team is Kristine Lilly, who did so in 1988.

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