When the two teams met just four weeks ago in the championship game of the NIKE U.S. Women's Cup in Portland, Ore., Canada held the USA scoreless in the first half before the Americans exploded for four goals in the second stanza. On a damp and chilly night in the stadium that will host the women's soccer gold medal game in the 2000 Summer Games, the Americans provided the heat, scoring four times in the first half to put the match away before the halftime whistle.
Just four players shared the nine goals as Cindy Parlow registered her first career hat trick and Tiffeny Milbrett lit up the scoreboard for her second career three-goal match. She also owns one four-goal performance. Lorrie Fair added two goals within three minutes of each other in the second half and Shannon MacMillan added one score to celebrate her 100th career appearance for the national team.
The USA picked apart the Canadian defense with tremendous ball possession through quick connections and dynamic runs, producing 30 shots and a shell-shocked night for goalkeeper Nicci Wright. The U.S. ran at Canada with a 3-4-3 lineup that featured the 1999 Women's World Cup striking trio of Milbrett, Mia Hamm and Parlow, who put on a gorgeous display of playmaking, and finishing, from the forward line.
The USA's first goal came in the 17th minute when Milbrett dropped a one-touch pass back to Hamm in the midfield and took off running. Hamm chipped a beautifully-weighted pass over the Canadian defense and Milbrett out-ran her mark to shoot from 19 yards off the left post and in.
The Americans made it 2-0 just two minutes later when Parlow shook herself free from a defender in midfield and Canada's offside trap once again betrayed them, as it would all game, as she put MacMillan clear behind the defense on the right flank. The scrambling defenders arrived too late as MacMillan raced in from an angle and bent her seven-yard shot just inside the left post with the outside of her right foot. MacMillan captained the team for the first time to honor her entry into the century club and the goal was her 27th internationally.
Parlow got on the board in the 37th minute as MacMillan put Joy Fawcett free down the right flank with a velvet touch over the defense. In a play reminiscent of Fawcett's assist to Tiffeny Milbrett in the 1996 Olympic gold medal game, she streaked down the wing and cut hard to the net, gluing Wright to the left post, before cutting a perfect pass back for the trailing Parlow, who finished easily into the open net from six yards out.
Milbrett capped the first half scoring with a cracker of a goal as she took a short corner from Hamm in the left side of the penalty box, squared up on Christine Sinclair and then juked the 16-year-old out of her path with a nifty inside-out dribble. Milbrett then whipped her 16-yard shot over Wright and under the cross bar as two Canadian defenders standing on the goal line could only watch as the ball stretched the roof of the net.
Fair got her first goal just four minutes into the second half as a Wright save off a Hamm breakaway produced a corner kick. Hamm played it short to MacMillan, who crossed from the right and Fair out-jumped Andrea Neil, a player five inches taller, to redirect the ball from the elbow of the six-yard box, over Wright, and into the upper left corner. Hamm provided the service two minutes later when she chipped a pass into the middle. Milbrett flicked the ball with her head over the defense to Fair, who brought the it down beautifully on the instep of her fight foot and then blasted her shot through Wright's legs from eight yards out. Milbrett added her third in the 58th minute when she deftly redirected Sara Whalen's cross from the right flank into the right corner for her 73rd international goal.
Hamm terrorized the Canadian defense all night, but found a cover on goal, as three of her solo chances were spectacularly saved by Wright, and a fourth hit the left post for the trailing Parlow to finish in the open net from eight yards straightaway. Hamm did dish off three assists.
The final U.S. goal came as Whalen streaked down the right flank and fed Parlow with a perfect bending ball behind the defense on the ground. Running hard to the near post, Parlow spun a shot that Wright got a solid hand on, but in a microcosm of her night, then rolled slowly over the goal line. It was Parlow's 33rd career goal.
Canada avoided the shutout when Sinclair finished a rebound off a Christine Latham shot that had been smartly pushed away the diving Jen Branam. The 19-year-old Branam picked up her second cap for the USA as well as a bloodied mouth and a sore back when she dove at the feet of a Canadian player to make a spectacular save in the 79th minute. With the ball cradled in her arms, she then took the full brunt of the falling Latham's knee in her back and lay motionless on the field for a few moments before rising and finishing the game.
It was the fifth time in U.S. history that the American women have won a game by an eight-goal margin. In the other matches, Australia thrilled the largest crowd ever to watch a women's soccer game in Australia, battling China to a 1-1 tie in regulation and through 20 minutes of sudden death overtime before succumbing in penalty kicks, 5-4. A win for the Matildas would have opened the door for the U.S. women to win the tournament, but now they must hope for a Canadian upset of the powerful Chinese. Japan came from behind to defeat New Zealand in overtime, 2-1, on a "golden goal" as the Kiwis squandered their second straight one-goal lead.
The U.S. team will attend the Olympic Draw tomorrow at Sydney Town Hall where they will find out who they will face in the first round of the tournament. The USA then faces New Zealand on Sunday, June 4, at Campbelltown Sports Stadium (2:30 p.m. local/12:30 a.m. ET) as the Pacific Cup continues.