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U.S. WNT Defeat Costa Rica 4-0 to Qualify for 2004 Olympics


SAN JOSE, Costa Rica (Wednesday, March 3, 2004) - The U.S. Women's National Team booked its place at the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece, with a dominating 4-0 victory over host Costa Rica in one semifinal of the CONCACAF Final Round Women's Olympic Qualifying Tournament.  Mexico stunned Canada, 2-1, in the other semifinal to earn its first-ever trip to the Olympics Games for women's soccer.

The U.S. got first half goals from Aly Wagner, Abby Wambach and Kristine Lilly, and a second half strike from Shannon Boxx, out-shooting the plucky Costa Ricans 20-1 on sunny but extremely windy day at Estadio Nacional.

This marked the first time the Americans had to qualify for an Olympics, having earned spots in the 1996 and 2000 tournaments through their finishes at the previous year's Women's World Cup.  The match was never in doubt as the USA scored in the 5th minute and the back line of Heather Mitts, Joy Fawcett, Cat Reddick, Kate Markgraf, and later substitute Amy LePeilbet, never let the Ticas near the U.S. goal.

Mia Hamm created the first score, taking a pass from Mitts down the right wing and bursting past a defender.  She crossed to the near post, where Lilly flicked the ball to the far post, and Wagner plowed the ball into the net on a diving header from two yards out as a defender took her legs out.  It was Wagner's 14th career goal.

The second U.S. goal came in the 26th minute as Fawcett lifted a ball over the defense to the sprinting Abby Wambach.  The 5-foot-11 forward drove into the right side of the penalty area, cut back into the middle to her preferred left foot and drilled her shot into the left corner from 16 yards out for her 18th career goal.

Lilly added the third goal three minutes later after Boxx was chopped down at the top of the penalty area.  Hamm ran over the ball and Lilly hit a rising free kick from 18-and-a-half yards out that flew into the upper left corner just under the crossbar for her 95th international goal.

The USA's fourth goal may have been the prettiest as MacMillan made a darting cut inside the penalty box to receive Hamm's a throw-in from the right sideline, but instead of collecting the ball, she spun it back towards Boxx with the outside of her right foot and the U.S. midfielder crushed a first time volley into the left corner from 14 yards out.  It was Boxx's ninth career goal in just 16 matches.

The USA dominated possession for long stretches, forcing the Costa Ricans to chase, a tough task for their two forwards who could not get close to the U.S. backs as they pinged the ball around the field.  Costa Rica, which played with a very deep sweeper, packed the back and made it difficult to find a way to the net, but through some great combination play, especially from Lilly and second half substitute MacMillan, the USA created several more chances before the final whistle blew.

Costa Rica's one shot, which went wide right, came in the waning moments from star Shirley Cruz, and although it brought cheers from the crowd, the match had long been decided.

The real drama on the day came in the first semifinal as Mexico earned an historic win, becoming the first Spanish-speaking country to earn a berth in the Olympic women's soccer tournament.  Star forward Maribel Dominguez scored both goals for her side, in the 21st and 58th minutes, while Canada pulled a goal back through 17-year-old Aysha Jamini in the 84th, making the last six minutes excruciating for Mexico.  Mexico got some excellent play in the air from goalkeeper Jennifer Molina, who also made several big saves at the end, and the back line led by Monica Gonzalez, Rubi Sandoval and Elizabeth Gomez managed to keep the physical Canadians at bay.

The USA will face Mexico for the CONCACAF regional championship on Friday, March 5, at 8 p.m. CT at Estadio Eladio Rosabal Cordero.  Fans can follow all the action on ussoccer.com's MatchTracker.  This will be the fifth regional championship game for the U.S. women, who have won the four previous CONCACAF tournaments in which they have participated, three Women's World Cup Qualifying competitions (including one Women's Gold Cup) and one CONCACAF Women's Gold Cup that was not a qualifying competition.

U.S. WOMEN'S NATIONAL TEAM GAME REPORT
Match-up:       USA vs. Costa Rica
Competition:  CONCACAF Final Round Women's Olympic Qualifying - Semifinal
Venue:           Estadio Nacional; San Jose, Costa Rica
Date:             March 3, 2004; Kickoff - 2:30 p.m. CT
Attendance:   4,000
Weather:       Sunny, windy - 80 degrees

Scoring Summary:
                   1    2     F
USA           3    1    4
CRC          0    0    0

USA - Aly Wagner (Kristine Lilly)       5th minute.
USA - Abby Wambach (Joy Fawcett) 26.
USA - Kristine Lilly (Unassisted)       29.
USA - Shannon Boxx (Shannon MacMillan) 51.

Lineups:
USA: 1-Briana Scurry; 2-Heather Mitts, 14-Joy Fawcett, 4-Cat Reddick, 15-Kate Markgraf (6-Amy LePeilbet, 34); 11-Julie Foudy - C, 7-Shannon Boxx (16-Lindsay Tarpley, 60), 13-Kristine Lilly, 10-Aly Wagner; 20-Abby Wambach (8-Shannon MacMillan, 46), 9-Mia Hamm.
Subs not used: 3-Christie Rampone, 5-Leslie Osborne, 12-Cindy Parlow, 17-Heather O'Reilly, 18-Siri Mullinix, 19-Angela Hucles.
Head Coach: April Heinrichs

CRC: 1-Alejandra Alvarez, 3-Gabriela Trujillo, 4-Karol Segura Arguedas, 5-Monica Salazar, 6-Xiomara Briceño, 9-Ericka Castro (19-Marian Montes, 76), 10-Shirley Cruz, 12-Laura Sanchez (7-Emilia Solano, 46), 15-Yahaira Aguilar, 16-Cindy Rodriguez, 17-Jacqueline Alvarez (13-Karla Villalobos, 68).
Subs not used: 2-Daniela Serruth, 8-Ana Gabriel Campos, 11-Megen Chavez, 14-Wendy Barrantes, , 18-Maricela Montes, 20-Silva Arias.
Head Coach: Ricardo Rodriguez

Statistical Summary:     
                               USA/CRC
Shots:                        20/1
Shots on Goal:           9/0
Saves:                        0/5
Corner Kicks:            7/1
Fouls:                       20/19
Offside:                      5/0

Misconduct Summary:
USA - Mia Hamm (caution)       43rd minute.
USA - Amy LePeilbet (caution) 61.

Officials:
Referee:  Maria Cecibel (El Salvador)
Assistant Referee: Maria Tovar (Mexico)
Assistant Referee: Jackeline Saez (Panama)
4th Official: Jill Proctor (Canada)

Wednesday, March 3
Semifinal #1 Mexico 2, Canada 1
Semifinal #2 USA 4, Costa Rica 0

Friday, March 5
Third Place: Canada vs. Costa Rica Eladio Rosabal Cordero (6:00 p.m. CT)
Championship: USA vs. Mexico Eladio Rosabal Cordero (8:00 p.m. CT)

CONCACAF FINALROUND
WOMEN'S OLYMPIC QUALIFYING SCORERS
Player                                        Goals
Maribel Dominguez (MEX)        7
Patricia Perez (MEX)                 5
Aysha Jamani (CAN)                 5
Shannon Boxx (USA)                 4
Abby Wambach (USA)              4
Cindy Parlow (USA)                  3
Christine Sinclair (CAN)            3
Christine Latham (CAN)            3
Natalie Des Vignes (TRI)           3
Megen Chavez (CRC)               3
Mia Hamm (USA)                      2
Shirley Cruz (CRC)                    2
Kristine Lilly (USA)                     2
Aly Wagner (USA)                      2
Shannon MacMillan (USA)        1
Lindsay Tarpley (USA)              1
Charmaine Hooper (CAN)        1
Carmelina Moscato (CAN)       1
Andrea Neil (CAN)                    1
Ana Gabriel Campos (CRC)    1
Gabriela Trujillo (CRC)             1
Cindy Rodriguez (CRC)            1
Maritzenia Bedoya (PAN)        1
Iris Mora (MEX)                         1
Jauna Lopez (MEX)                  1
Alma Martinez (MEX)                1
Tasha St. Louis (TRI)                 1
Leslie Ann James (TRI)             1
Maylee Attin-Johnson (TRI)       1
Fernande Hilaire (TRI)               1
Sehrline Ridore (HAI)                1
Raeann Elder (HAI)                    1
Own Goal                                    2

USA vs. Costa Rica Quote Sheet:

U.S. head coach April Heinrichs on her team being expected to win:
"As Canada showed today, you can't take anything for granted.  You never know the outcome until you play."

Heinrichs on Costa Rica:
"This is the third time we've seen Costa Rica in just over a year and I think they've made remarkable improvement.  They have a fighting spirit, organization and commitment that I didn't see six months ago.  I was extremely impressed with them and I was not surprised by their result with Canada and by their effort in the first half against us.  I think they are a really nice team and over the course of the tournament they were one of the best teams in possession play.  We can learn from the Costa Rican team in playing quick one and two touches and combination play through the midfield."

Heinrichs on the main attributes that helped the USA qualify for the Olympics:
"In this tournament, I think one of the most important qualities that helped us advance was discipline.  We didn't react to referees or to late fouls and that was a huge factor in why we were able to advance.  We kept our heads."

Heinrichs on the team's training the past few months:
"We've worked extremely hard.  This might be the most difficult January or February we've ever had.  You can't just show up in Costa Rica and except to qualify for the Olympics.  It's an honor to coach these players and be a part of this organization.  The commitment to excellence is 365 days a year, so to bring this group to Costa Rica, to train as hard as they did, and to be able to achieve our goal of advancing to the Olympics is very exciting for everyone."

Heinrichs on her team's performance against Costa Rica:
"Our team has gotten better during the course of the tournament.  We played our best game today.  We had some phenomenal combination play up the wings today and it became very difficult for Costa Rica to stay with us."

Heinrichs on Mexico's qualification:
"We are celebrating Mexico's advancement largely because they are the little guys, the underdogs, and as Americans, we always cheer for the underdogs.  But having watched Mexico during the course of the tournament, they really deserved to advance.  They played extremely well against us and really took it to Canada today. You really saw some great spirit."

On the growth of CONCACAF women's soccer:
"What we are finding with Mexico's advancement and Costa Rica's success during the tournament is the power of belief.  They believe in themselves now and part of the reason is that their Federations are giving them more opportunities to play.  If you play against the USA enough times, you start believing you can beat them one day.  We've played Costa Rica three times now and each time they have gotten better, maybe not in terms of the result, but in terms of the performance."

"I am really pleased for the women's game to see Mexico qualify for the Olympics, and it will get more support from their Federation and make CONCACAF better.  It will force the United States and Canada to keep working hard to stay ahead."

U.S. midfielder Shannon Boxx on the USA's qualification for the Olympics:
"This is my first time qualifying for an Olympics, so I'm really excited.  Obviously, it was something that was expected of us, but it's still always a tough road.  We came out today and put on a good performance and got the result we needed."

U.S. defender Cat Reddick on the team's qualification for Greece:
"It's so exciting to know that this team is going to Greece.  I'm excited to train with these players for the next four months.  The Olympics is something you dream about and every time you see those five rings you know that it's something special."

U.S. captain Julie Foudy on not taking qualification for granted:
"The one great thing about this team is that we never take anything for granted.  There are so many things that can go wrong.  You can let in a bad goal or have a bad referee or something else.  We knew we had to make sure we respected them, playing Costa Rica in Costa Rica.  Their fans are loud and very behind them.  We weren't thinking we were a shoe-in during this entire tournament, because you just never know.  Look at what happened to Canada."

Mexican forward Iris Mora on the historic victory:
"It means so much to us and to Mexican women.  We've been working for seven years and have never won anything.  It's just a fantastic feeling.  It's almost unbelievable."

Mexican head coach Leonardo Cuellar on what the win means for Mexican women's soccer:
"It has been a long process.  It has been a lot of work.  Before, in the past, nothing really happened or was organized with the national team.  This is a real accomplishment.  What we earned today was another four years of support.  We live in a culture where you have to win to get the support and today, these beautiful women have earned that support."

Cuellar on his team's mental approach:
"We have worked tremendously hard on our mental attitude and character and to be determined.  We are never going to be able to measure ourselves at a high level if we don't challenge ourselves to do the right things.  We have enormous respect of the Untied States and for Canada, but we proved today that we can do good things once in a while."

Cuellar on two-goal scorer Maribel Dominguez and the team:
"She was awesome.  She deserved it because she has sacrificed a lot.  The players deserved this win.  They do not get any pennies for this.  It has no value financially for them, but emotionally, these are tattoos that stay on your heart forever."

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