CLEVELAND, Ohio (June 16, 2007) – The U.S. Women’s National Team continued its march to the 2007 FIFA Women’s World Cup as forward Abby Wambach put together yet another spectacular goal-scoring performance, heading home two balls off set plays in the second half to lead her team to a 2-0 victory over China.
“I think we had a slow start tonight,” said U.S. head coach Greg Ryan. “We didn’t have the determination to go to goal and really to keep the ball and to dominate the game. But late in the first half and certainly in the second half, that determination was there and the commitment was there to attack and to take players on and crack their shots. So, I was happy with the way we played. In the end, our finishing was just a little off today, which is going to happen sometimes and on these days, you have to win on set plays. And that is what happened.”
Wambach’s double upped her international goal total to an amazing 73 in 91 international games. The win over China in the first of the six-game 2007 U.S. Women’s National Team Send-Off Series was the USA’s third of the year over the 2007 FIFA Women’s World Cup hosts, and upped the team’s record in 2007 to 8-0-2. The win also stretched the team’s unbeaten streak in regulation time to 42 games, 41 of those under head coach Greg Ryan. The fifth FIFA Women’s World Cup will be played from Sept. 10-30 in five Chinese cities.
The U.S. team will now travel to New Jersey/New York where it will spend the week preparing to face Brazil on June 23 at Giants Stadium. That match kicks off at 5 p.m. ET and will be broadcast live on ESPN2 and Galavision.
When the USA defeated China 2-0 in January at the Four Nations Tournament in China and 2-1 in March at the Algarve Cup in Portugal, the Americans controlled much of both matches. The USA was also the better team in today’s game, out-shooting China 24-9, but a sluggish first half from the world’s top-ranked women’s soccer team gave China a glimmer of hope coming out of the break.
The Chinese looked extremely committed in the first few minutes of the second half and created some danger around the U.S. goal, but the U.S. players re-asserted themselves and took back the momentum, sending waves of attacks at the game Chinese defense. The USA’s intense pressure paid off in the 67th minute when Wambach jumped over Chinese goalkeeper Zhang Yanru to re-direct Kristine Lilly’s free-kick into the net from three yards out.
The U.S. team then continued its assault on the Chinese net, but could not get a clinching goal until the 88th minute when Wambach met Stephanie Lopez’ corner kick from the left side with a diving header from seven yards out, skipping the ball just inside the right post past lunging Chinese defender Liu Huanan, who failed to cover the left corner. It’s was the 17th multiple goal game of Wambach’s career.
“Fantastic effort,” said Ryan of Abby Wambach’s two-goal game. “Abby is a battler. She never quits and she is great at finding some way to beat you. Today maybe it wasn’t her best day in terms of finishing in the flow of play, but she is going to find another way and tonight she did that twice.”
U.S. goalkeeper Briana Scurry, a long-time nemesis of China, played an excellent match for the USA in her 161st career game, coming up with two big saves late in the match when the Americans still had just the 1-0 lead. The win was the 125th of Scurry’s career and her 75th shutout.
Substitute Zhang Ying shot dangerously from the right side in 72nd minute, but Scurry got a crucial touch to the ball, pushing it outside the post for one of China’s two corner kicks on the night. On the ensuring service, Scurry aggressively punched the ball clear.
In the 83rd minute, Scurry stood up big in her net to bat away a point blank drive from Bi Yan after Zhang had gotten around the right side and rolled a cross into the middle. Scurry’s quick reflexes kept China off the board and five minutes later Wambach sealed the game.
Zhang Yanru, one of the stars of the 2006 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Championship, played a stellar game for China, making eight saves, almost all of them difficult, but she had no answer for the dominating air game of Wambach, who has now scored 33 of her 73 goals with her head.
China did well in its own defensive third to break the USA’s pressure with quality possession, but rarely threatened to get behind the staunch U.S. defense of center backs Kate Markgraf and Cat Whitehill and outside backs Christie Rampone and Lopez. Most of China’s danger came from free-kicks sent into the U.S. penalty area, but Scurry and the U.S. defense handled all of them well.
U.S. forward Heather O’Reilly played the entire 90 minutes for the USA and caused problems for China on the flanks all game long. She had a golden chance to double the lead in the 77th minute, racing in one-on-one with Zhang, but the Chinese ‘keeper did well to stab the shot with a dive to her left.
Ryan made just two substitutes in the match, sending on midfielder Leslie Osborne for Shannon Boxx in the 53rd minute and replacing captain Kristine Lilly with Lindsay Tarpley in the 78th minute. Both players contributed to the win and Tarpley almost scored a spectacular shot in stoppage time, driving her shot from distance just over the goal.
“We are just preparing for the World Cup,” said Osborne. “For two years, we have been working so hard with our fitness and getting to know each other with so many different personalities out there. In the last two months and for the rest of the summer it is just about chemistry. We aren’t working on anything else except just playing…We’ve worked so hard, all that we have left is to play and work on the details. We feel really good right now.”
The U.S. team played the match with heavy hearts and without goalkeeper Hope Solo, who returned to Seattle after the death of her father earlier in the week. The U.S. team wore black armbands in memory of Solo’s dad.
After the match against Brazil on June 23 in East Rutherford, N.J., which will be a re-match of the 2004 Olympic gold medal game, the U.S. team will have some time off before resuming the “Send-Off Series” against Norway in East Hartford, Conn., at Rentschler Field on July 14 as team captain Kristine Lilly makes a triumphant return to her home state. After facing Norway, the USA will travel to Northern California to face Japan at Spartan Stadium in San Jose on July 28, before taking on New Zealand in Chicago on Aug. 12 at Soldier Field. The U.S. team will finish up against Finland in Los Angeles on Aug. 25 at The Home Depot Center in the final match before the team heads to China. For complete details and ticket information for the entire Send-Off Series, visit to ussoccer.com.
Match-up: USA vs. China
Competition: International Friendly
Venue: Cleveland Browns Stadium; Cleveland, Ohio
Date: June 16, 2007; Kickoff – 7 p.m. ET
Weather: Clear, humid – 80 degrees
1 2 F
USA 0 2 2
CHN 0 0 0
USA – Abby Wambach (Kristine Lilly) 67th minute.
USA – Abby Wambach (Stephanie Lopez) 88th minute
USA: 1-Briana Scurry; 3-Christie Rampone, 4-Cat Whitehill, 15-Kate Markgraf, 14-Stephanie Lopez; 7-Shannon Boxx (12-Leslie Osborne, 53), 17-Lori Chalupny, 11-Carli Lloyd; 9-Heather O’Reilly, 20-Abby Wambach, 13-Kristine Lilly – Capt. (5-Lindsay Tarpley, 78)
Subs not used: 6-Natasha Kai, 8-Tina Ellertson, 16-Angela Hucles, 22-Marian Dalmy, 24-Nicole Barnhart.
Head Coach: Greg Ryan
CHN: 1-Zhang Yanru; 5-Li Jie – Capt. (17-Jiong Shuai, 75), 23-Zhou Gaoping, 8-Weng Xinzhi (11-Liu Huana, 67), 16-Liu Yali (14-Li Dongna, 63), 4-Pu Wei, 21-Song Xiaoli (9-Ji Ting, 46), 15-Qu Feifei, 7-Bi Yan, 10-Han Duan, 20-Zhang Ouying (24-Zhang Ying, 67).
Subs not used: 3-Wang Kun, 18-Xu Meishuang.
Head Coach: Marika Domanski-Lyfors
Shots: 24 9
Shots on Goal:10 3
Saves: 3 8
Corner Kicks: 8 2
Fouls: 8 12
Offside: 5 1
USA – Shannon Boxx (caution) 48th minute.
CHN -- Weng Xinzhi (caution) 64.
CHN – Zhou Gaoping (caution) 67.
CHN – Zhang Yanru (caution) 68.
Referee: Kari Seitz
AR1: Sharon Wheeler
AR2: Margaret Domka
4th Official: Rachel Woo
Sierra Mist Woman of the Match: Abby Wambach