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U.S. U-20 WNT Prepares to Face Host Mexico in CONCACAF Qualifying Semifinal

U.S. U-20 WOMEN READY FOR CLASH WITH MEXICO: For most of the players on the U.S. Under-20 Women’s National Team, the match against Mexico on Wednesday, January 25, at Luis Pirata Fuentes Stadium, will be the most important of their young international careers. A berth to the 2006 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Championship in Russia is on the line. Fans can follow the match live on’s MatchTracker, kicking off at 3 p.m. local time / 4 p.m. ET. Six of the players on the American roster were on the U.S. team that competed in the 2004 FIFA U-19 Women’s World Championship in Thailand, but that’s in the past, and a victory against Mexico secures one of CONCACAF’s three berths to this year’s World Championship. Eight teams started this 2006 CONCACAF U-20 Women’s Final Qualifying Tournament, but only four remain, with Canada taking on Jamaica in the other semifinal. The top three finishers in the tournament (two finalists and the winner of the third-place match between the semifinal losers) will advance to Russia. Both the championship and consolation matches will take place in Veracruz.

The Final Four

January 25, 2006 – Semifinals
Canada vs. Jamaica (1 p.m. ET) Luis Pirata Fuentes Stadium (Veracruz)
USA vs. Mexico (4 p.m. ET) Luis Pirata Fuentes Stadium (Veracruz)

January 27, 2006
Third-Place Match (1 p.m. ET) Luis Pirata Fuentes Stadium (Veracruz)
Championship Final (4 p.m. ET) Luis Pirata Fuentes Stadium (Veracruz)

HOW THEY GOT THERE: The U.S. team was tested in its first match, a 4-1 win over Jamaica, but the Americans were in total control in 4-0 and 5-0 wins over Surinam and El Salvador to win Group B. Mexico opened Group A play with a rousing 10-0 victory over Panama, then lodged a solid 2-0 win over Trinidad & Tobago before falling to Canada, 3-2, in its final first round match to finish second in Group A. Mexico (16) has actually scored more goals than the USA (14) in this tournament so far.

Group B U.S. Goal Scorers
USA 4, Jamaica 1 DiMartino, Rodriguez, Adams, Cheney
USA 4, Surinam 0 Rodriguez, Long, Poach, O’Hara
USA 5, El Salvador 0 Cheney (2), Dew, Rostedt (2)

Group A Mexico Goal Scorers
Mexico 10, Panama 0 Corral (4), Nieva (2), Ocampo, Mendez, Morales, Valdez
Mexico 2, T&T 0 Tania Morales, Verónica Corral
Mexico 2, Canada 3 Monica Ocampo, Verónica Corral

WE MEET AGAIN: The USA and Mexico will meet on Wednesday for the second time with a berth to a FIFA women’s world youth championship on the line. In 2004, the two teams also met in the CONCACAF qualifying semifinals in Canada, with the USA coming away with a 6-0 win as Angie Woznuk scored three goals, Kerri Hanks had two and Stephanie Kron had the other. Mexico followed a very similar path to the semifinals this time around. In 2004, they had big wins over Panama and Jamaica, before falling to Canada in their third and last group game (3-0). The USA’s path to the semis in 2004 was markedly different from this time, however. The U.S. team racked up 14 goals vs. the Domincan Republic and 11 vs. T&T before tying Costa Rica, 0-0, in a match played in the rain. The USA then rebounded for the big win over Mexico to earn a spot in Thailand, but fell to Canada, 2-1, in the title game.

USA vs. MEXICO PREVIEW: The USA will have to contend with two very talented attacking players for Mexico in Veronica Corral who, at just 14 years of age, leads the tournament with six goals, and Monica Ocampo, who gave the full U.S. Women’s National Team some trouble during the USA’s 3-0 victory over Mexico last October in Charleston, S.C. Corral also got into the game against the USA, playing 22 minutes, and is thought to be the youngest person ever to play against the full U.S. Women’s National Team. She just turned 14 last November 9. Ocampo, an extremely crafty dribbler with a dangerous left foot, has two goals in the tournament. Corral has scored in all three games so far, including four against Panama. Nine of the players on Mexico’s roster are based in the United States, with Texas’ Christine Nieva at Arizona State and Rebecca Mendoza attending Notre Dame (where she played in 15 matches off the bench). Midfielder Rebecca Juarez, who plays her youth club ball in Southern California, also played against the USA last October along with Ocampo and Corral. Juarez and Mendoza have also played for the full Mexican National Team. While Mexico has some talented attacking players, so too does the U.S., with four impact forwards in Amy Rodriguez, who comes back off a suspension after being red-carded vs. Surinam, Jessica Rostedt, Lauren Cheney and 17-year-old Kelley O’Hara. The three have combined for eight of the USA’s 13 goals so far. This match promises to be much tighter than the one two years ago, with more Mexican players having more international and U.S. Division I college experience. Of course, the Mexicans will also be playing at home in front of wildly partisan crowd. Mexico’s head coach is former NASL star and Mexican National Team player Leo Cuellar, who also coaches the full national team. Cuellar has does fantastic work with Mexican soccer since 1999, when the Tricolores became the first Spanish-speaking club to qualify for the FIFA Women’s World Cup. He certainly has the international experience to prepare his young team for this match. Cuellar’s full Mexican national team defeated Canada at qualifying for the 2004 Olympics in Costa Rica to earn a first berth for Mexican women’s soccer in the Olympics.

YOUNG TEAM JUMPS RIGHT INTO INTERNATIONAL PLAY: Technically, all 20 of the players on the U.S. roster were playing in their first-ever international matches at the U-20 level in this tournament. With the transition of head coaches last year for the full U.S. Women’s National Team, the hiring of Tim Schulz in May and the impending college season, this group did not get a chance to play an international match in 2005. Thus, Schulz brought many inexperienced players to this tournament, young talents who are just finding their legs in the international game. The six veterans from the team that competed in the 2004 FIFA U-19 Women’s World Championship had quite a bit of experience during the last cycle with the U.S. U-19s. Goalkeeper Kelsey Davis, defenders Nikki Krzyski, Meagan Holmes and Stephanie Logterman, and forwards Amy Rodriguez and Jessica Rostedt (who combined to score five goals in Thailand), are by far the most experienced players on this squad. Beside the six who were in Thailand, the other 14 received their first international caps at the U-19 or U-20 level during this tournament and six have scored their first international goal (or goals) in Danesha Adams, Lauren Cheney, Carrie Dew, Tina DiMartino, Allie Long, Amanda Poach and Kelley O’Hara, who had 10 goals for the U.S. U-17s in 2005. Cheney has two goals at the U-21 level, scoring both at the 2005 Nordic Cup.

SPREADING THE “PT” AROUND: U.S. head coach Tim Schulz should certainly have a rested team for the encounter against Mexico as he has liberally spread the minutes around his 20-player roster. Consider that:

• All but one player, goalkeeper Kelsey Davis who started vs. Jamaica, has played in at least two of the three matches.
• Only three players, Danesha Adamas, Amanda Poach and Jessica Rostedt have played in all three matches.
• No player has played all 270 minutes, and in fact, no player has played more than two total games.
• Sixteen of the 20 players have played between 135 and 180 minutes, the equivalent of a game and a half to two games.
• Only one player has played less than 90 total minutes, and that was Jordan Angeli who had to leave the Surinam match with an injury. She still has two assists in the tournament.
• Nine players have scored the 13 U.S. goals in this tournament.
• 11 players have assists, including two by defender Sarah Wagenfuhr.

BRAZIL AND ARGENTINA MAKE SEVEN FOR FIFA U-20 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP IN RUSSIA: A total of 16 teams will compete for the title, made up by four teams from Europe, three from CONCACAF and Asia, two from both Africa and South America, one from Oceania, and host Russia. The European entrants have already been determined with Germany, France and surprise qualifiers Finland and Switzerland earning berths at the most recent UEFA U-19 Women’s Championships held last August in Hungary. Brazil and Argentina booked their tickets to Russia on Jan. 20, finishing first and second respectively in the final phase of the South American qualification tournament in Chile. Eight teams started the tournament with the top-two finishers playing in a final, four-team round-robin group. Brazil, in somewhat of a shocker, tied Paraguay, 1-1, but then rebounded with a 7-0 win over Peru and a 1-0 victory over Argentina, who edged out Paraguay on goal difference to finish second in the final phase and earn a berth to Russia. Argentina tied Peru, 0-0, but then walloped Paraguay, 4-0, before falling to Brazil in a match they only had to tie or keep close to qualify. To no one’s surpise, Brazilian superstar Marta, who finished second in voting for the FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year in 2005, led the tournament in scoring 14 goals, eight more than her two closest competitors, teammates Renata and Adriane, who had six each.

2006 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Championship Berths
Confederation Teams
Asia 3
Africa 2
South America Brazil, Argentina
Oceania 1
Europe Germany, France, Finland and Switzerland
Host Russia

LACKING LOPEZ: Defender Stephanie Lopez will play key role for the U.S. Under-20 Women’s National Team during 2006, and in fact was named to the roster for this tournament. Lopez, however, was chosen to the U.S. Women’s National Team roster for the recently completed Four Nations Tournament in China, and had to opt out of the qualifying tournament due to the travel and missed school. The University of Portland star who helped the Pilots to the 2005 NCAA title would certainly have been useful in Mexico, not only for her sublime talents on the field and leadership (she will be one of the team captains), but also because she is the only U.S. player who can speak a bit of Spanish.