U.S. Women Battle for Roster Spots for Trip to China
CHARLESTON, S.C. (Monday, January 14, 2002) - After demolishing Mexico 7-0 on a rainy Saturday night, the U.S. women re-energized for three more days of training as head coach April Heinrichs mulls her final decisions on which 18 players she will take to China for one of the most challenging tournaments possible. The USA will play Norway, Germany and China in the span of five days, meaning that all 18 players on the roster will likely be called on to contribute. The USA trained in icy temperatures and on a soggy field on Sunday morning, but found a more hospitable climate and a drier pitch on Monday. The USA will have one last training scrimmage on Tuesday morning before Heinrichs picks her roster Tuesday afternoon. The USA will leave for China on Wednesday.
SOUTHERN HOSPITALITY: The U.S. players emerged from their rooms on game day to find the hotel hallway line with red, white and blue streamers and balloons as the hotel staff went out of their way to wish the U.S. team luck in their game against Mexico. On Sunday afternoon, the players and staff returned from training to find a note of congratulations on the 7-0 win over Mexico from the hotel staff on each pillow.
NOW THAT'S A LONG DAY: The USA's Wednesday will begin at 4:30 a.m. as the team mobilizes for a flight to the West Coast, followed by a 15-hour flight to Hong Kong followed by a four-hour bus ride to Guangzhou, meaning that by the time the Americans flop their heads on a pillow in China, they will have been traveling over 24 hours.
WHO WILL MAKE THE 18?
U.S. head coach April Heinrichs must choose 18 players from the 24 in training camp to represent the United States at the Four Nations Women's Tournament in China, being played from January 23-27, 2002. Following is a look at her options among the players who were not on the 1999 Women's World Cup Team and/or the 2000 Olympic Team.
THE YOUNG AND THE RESTLESS: Of the 16 WUSA players called in by Heinrichs, 10 are veterans of the 2000 Olympic Team (including Danielle Slaton), seven distinguished themselves in the WUSA this season and eight (including Slaton) dominated college soccer last season to earn their call-ups. Almost all of the seven WUSA players trying to make their mark have had some experience with the various U.S. National Team programs, but all are itching to get a shot to prove themselves on the highest level and earn a shot at making the 2003 Women's World Cup Team. Of the 16 WUSA players called in, five were from the San Diego Spirit, while the Bay Area CyberRays and Atlanta Beat placed three players each. The Boston Breakers have two players. The Philadelphia Charge, Carolina Courage and the New York Power each have one player on the training camp roster. With Mia Hamm's pre-camp scratch from the roster, the Freedom does not have a player.
WUSA - BACKS: With defender Christie Pearce, a starter in all five matches at the Olympics, out until the start of the 2002 WUSA season after tearing her ACL while playing for the New York Power last year, Heinrichs has given long looks several outside backs, calling in Kylie Bivens and Nancy Augustyniak of the Atlanta Beat, Thori Bryan of the San Jose CyberRays, Jena Kluegel from UNC and Danielle Slaton from Santa Clara. Slaton and Bryan can also play in the middle. Bryan, who has 57 career caps and was a member of the 1995 Women's World Cup Teams and an alternate on the 1996 Olympic Team, last played for the USA in China a year ago. She played an important role in helping the San Jose CyberRays to the WUSA championship last season, playing every minute of all 21 matches. Bivens, who got her first national team call-up for the Nike U.S. Women's Cup training camp, also played some midfield for the Beat this season and scored from that line in the WUSA championship game. Augustyniak was also a key player for the Beat as she developed into one of the rising young stars in the WUSA.
WUSA - MIDFIELD: Also trying to earn her first cap is Shannon Boxx, the defensive midfielder for the San Diego Spirit who was perhaps her team's most consistent player. Boxx started every match for the Spirit and captained the team for one match in Julie Foudy's absence for national team duty. With three goals and four assists, she was also the Spirit's third leading scorer.
WUSA - FORWARD: Danielle Fotopoulos, a member of the 1999 Women's World Cup team who came into the USA's training camp last October in the best shape of her life, is back in the fold and looking to earn a spot in the USA's striker rotation leading up to the 2003 Women's World Cup. Fotopoulos is the all-time leading scorer in college soccer history and has scored 12 goals in just 27 matches for the USA, including one against Mexico on Saturday, which was her first international match since Oct. 7, 1999 against Finland. The 5-foot-10 forward scored nine goals with five assists in the WUSA last season, good for a tie for fifth in the league.
THE CREAM OF THE COLLEGE RANKS: If the youngsters in the U.S. National Team program are going to have a shot at making the 2003 Women's World Cup Team, the time is now to get them valuable experience. Five of the eight college players on the training camp roster played major roles in the U.S. Under-21 National Team's triumph at last summer's Nordic Cup in Norway, while the three that didn't - Aly Wagner (knee), Danielle Slaton (knee) and Christie Welsh (flu) - would have been on the roster if not for injuries and illness.
NORDIC CUP VETS WELCOMED TO THE BIG SHOW: Of the players that did help the U.S. U-21s win its fourth Nordic Cup in the last five years, goalkeeper Hope Solo from the University of Washington, and defenders Cat Reddick and Jena Kluegel from UNC, anchored a defense that allowed just two goals in four matches. Midfielder Aleisha Cramer of BYU scored two goals and had two assists in the historic 6-1 victory over Sweden in the Nordic Cup championship game. Forward Abby Wambach, who scored 31 goals for Florida this past season, dominated opposing defenses in Norway, scoring three goals in the tournament, but missed the final game due to suspension for yellow cards. Wambach has one full national team cap (earned against Germany last September), but the other four have been slowly weaned in the international arena. Solo has seven appearances for the full national team and played a solid, and at times spectacular, game in front of 30,000 fans in a 1-1 tie with China in Hangzhou last January. Cramer, the third youngest player ever to play for the full national team, has amassed 17 caps since debuting on Dec. 16, 1998 against Ukraine at 16 years, 141 days. She has played for the USA on the U-16, U-18, U-21 and full national team levels. Cramer came into the USA vs. Germany match last Sept. 9 at halftime with the scored tied 1-1 and helped spark the USA to the 4-1 victory.
RESIDENCY CAMP EXPERIENCE PAYING OFF: Solo, Cramer, Kluegel, Wagner, Slaton and Welsh were all members of the USA's Olympic Residency Camp, with Slaton being the youngest player to make the 2000 Olympic Team. A hip injury limited Kluegel's chance to make the Olympic team, but since then she has earned 14 caps for the USA and was the leader in minutes and games played for the national team in 2001. A midfielder in college, she helped lead UNC to the NCAA title game last December and is showing tremendous potential as a world-class attacking back. Reddick, who started only one game for UNC as a freshman (which happened to be the NCAA Championship Game) burst onto the scene by starting both of the USA's Independence Day Series games against Canada, playing 90 minutes in the central defense in both. She was a full-time starter for UNC this season, helping the Heels to an undefeated regular season and a berth in the NCAA championship game. She captained the USA's U-21 Nordic Cup championship team and has nine caps and one goal, that coming against Olympic champion Norway at the Algarve Cup last March. Kluegel and Wambach, both who finished their college eligibility last year, and Cramer (Soph) and Solo (Junior), were nominated for the Hermann Trophy, awarded to college soccer's top player.
WAGNER AND SLATON LEAD BRONCOS TO THE PROMISED LAND: After battling injuries for most of the last two years, midfielder Aly Wagner and defender Danielle Slaton had dream seasons for the Santa Clara Broncos this season, leading the team to the school's first NCAA championship. With both players finally free of nagging injuries, Slaton anchored the defense and Wagner directed the attack all the way to the NCAA championship game where the Broncos defeated UNC, 1-0, on a beautiful 18-yard strike from Wagner. The two were named the Defensive and Offensive MVPs of the NCAA Final Four. Wagner scored an amazing 17 goals with a NCAA Division I best 20 assists during the 2001 season. Both are among the most experienced of the young players with Wagner already having scored five international goals in her 15 caps while Slaton has earned 24 caps and was a member of the 2000 Olympic Team, but did not play in Australia. In fact, Slaton earned 23 of her 24 caps in 2000, but did not appear for the USA last year while trying to rest a chronically injured knee. Slaton last played for the USA on Sept. 1, 2000, against Brazil during a 4-0 win in her hometown of San Jose in the USA's send-off match for the Olympics. Wagner last appeared in a 4-1 win over Italy on July 7, 2000 in a match that featured mostly younger U.S. players.
SHORT ON EXPERIENCE, LONG ON TALENT: The future is bright in goal for the USA as all three goalkeepers on the training camp roster bring some wonderful qualities to the position in addition to their youth. LaKeysia Beene is just 23 years old, Jaime Pagliarulo is 25 and Hope Solo is 20. None of them are super tall (Solo is 5'9", Beene is 5'8" and Pagliarulo is 5'7"), but all are tremendously brave, have great hands and athletic ability and have the ability to make the big save. Solo has one of the best kicking games of any goalkeeper in the history of the U.S. National Teams program. She will be a senior next season at Washington. All also have one thing in common: They each started for the U.S. Under-21 Nordic Cup Team. Beene, the WUSA Global XI First Team goalkeeper played a major role in helping the Bay Area CyberRays to the WUSA championship, saving Sun Wen's penalty kick in the shootout to help win the championship. Ironically, Solo has more career caps (7) than her older counterparts, but Beene (5 caps) played most recently against Germany on Sept. 9 and Mexico last Saturday. Pagliarulo has three caps, and played her best game in China last January, holding a powerful Chinese team scoreless in Panyu for 90 minutes before giving up an unstoppable goal in stoppage time.
STAT OF NOTE: The U.S. Women are 11-3-7 all-time in China, which includes a 6-0-0 record at the 1991 Women's World Cup. Of the 21 matches the USA has played in China, just eight were against China. In those eight games, the USA has a 2-2-4 record. The only loss IN China that was NOT TO China was against Norway in 1988.
INJURY REPORT: Brandi Chastain (thigh contusion), Lorrie Fair (thigh contusion) and Tiffeny Milbrett (foot contusion) did not train on Sunday after getting a bit beat up against Mexico. Fair and Chastain trained on Monday while Milbrett took another day off. The 2001 WUSA MVP should be healthy and ready for the matches in China.