DETROIT, Mich. (Dec. 17, 2008) – The U.S. Women’s National Team defeated China 1-0 on a first-half goal from midfielder Heather O’Reilly to finish off an historic year with its 33rd victory of 2008.
The Americans end the 2008 schedule and its post-Olympic Achieve Your Gold Tour with an overall mark of 33-1-2, the best ever in the 24-year history of the U.S. Women’s National Team program. The U.S. team won all five tournaments it entered, culminating in the 2008 Olympics, and also set a record for most wins and best winning percentage (.944) in a calendar year.
“It was another great win against a pretty good team,” said U.S. head coach Pia Sundhage. “I was happy with the first half, but I think we went for Christmas time a little too early in the second half. China did a good job in the second half, but overall these two games have been good and it’s a great way to end the year. Everybody was happy to see the gold medalists and you could feel that. After everything we’ve done this year and listening to this crowd today, it was fantastic.”
The match, played in front of more than 11,000 fans, was the USA’s seventh-ever game indoors and the first-ever soccer match at Ford Field. It was also the first-ever women’s sporting event held at the facility and the first match in Detroit for the U.S. women since 1993, which served as a homecoming for Michigan natives Kate Markgraf and Lindsay Tarpley, who earned the assist on O’Reilly’s goal.
The lone U.S. goal came in the 32nd minute shortly after a wild sequence in which a quick attack led by Tarpley and Tina Ellertson forced a back pass that was picked up by Chinese goalkeeper Zhang Yanru, earning a indirect free kick from just eight yards from goal. Zhang was issued a yellow card for her infraction and then a bit of chaos ensued as China set up its wall on the goal line. Zhang shoved Tarpley hard in the back several times before being warned by referee Margaret Domka.
When order was restored, Angela Hucles rolled a short square pass to Carli Lloyd, who blasted her shot at goal, but it was deflected away by the Chinese wall.
The USA didn’t let China clear the defensive third and the ball was played back into Tarpley, whose looping shot from just inside the penalty hit the crossbar and rebounded straight to the crashing O’Reilly. The U.S. midfielder had time to quickly settle the ball and blast her shot under Zhang and into the net from eight yards out.
“I saw (the goalkeeper) off her line a little bit and I thought I would try it,” said Tarpley of her shot that struck the crossbar. “It felt pretty good leaving my foot, but fortunately Heather was there to finish it off. It was a great finish on her part to keep her shot low. Tonight was great and it was an incredible crowd. It’s so nice to be able to come back home and play in front of all these amazing fans.”
With the goal, her 10th of 2008, O’Reilly became just the sixth player in U.S. history to record at least 10 goals and 10 assists in a calendar year. The only other players to achieve the rare feat were Carin Garbarra, Mia Hamm (five times), Shannon MacMillan, Tiffeny Milbrett and Abby Wambach (two times).
It was the USA’s fourth victory against China this year, all by shutout, winning three of the matches by 1-0 scores including the most recent game on Dec. 13 at The Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif.
Lloyd had two more free dangerous free kicks in the match, one coming early on as she drilled a 19-yard shot that just missed the lower left corner. In the 28th minute, Lloyd spun her shot just wide of the left post from a bit further back.
Ellertson had an excellent chance in the 36th minute when she got on the end of a Lori Chalupny cross from the left wing, but although she made good contact on her volley, sent the ball rocketing over the net.
China had two good chances in the first half, the first coming from Xu Yuan in the right side of the penalty area, but faced with just U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo to beat, she launched her shot over the goal. Solo had to do more with Wang Dan Dan’s chance, cutting down the angle in the left side of the area against the charging Chinese midfielder and then got both hands on the drive. The ball slipped over Solo’s shoulder, but she was easily able to recover and grab it near the goal line.
Tarpley barely missed delighting her home state crowd in the 57th minute when she collected a short pass inside the penalty area from Chalupny, but slapped her shot into the side netting from eight yards out.
Ellertson injured a hamstring near the end of the first half after a long sprint and Amy Rodriguez came on to play the rest of the match. Rodriguez had a golden chance to score from 12 yards out in the 63rd minute, but shot too softly as she tried bend the ball around Zhang into the right corner and the lanky ‘keeper made the diving save.
China put on some good pressure in the final 20 minutes as Sundhage emptied her bench, but the U.S. played some solid defense and got a few good saves from substitute goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart, who gobbled up a wicked drive from Han Duan in the 72nd minute.
Kristine Lilly entered the match in the 54th minute to extend her world record for international appearances to 342.
The U.S. players will now have a little more than a month off before re-grouping in late January for a training camp to begin the 2009 schedule under Sundhage, who recently signed a four-year extension that will take her through the 2012 Olympics. The team will also compete in the 2009 Algarve Cup in Portugal in March before the players join their WPS teams for the inaugural season of the new women’s professional league.
U.S. WOMEN'S NATIONAL TEAM GAME REPORT
Match: USA vs. China PR
Competition: International Friendly – Achieve Your Gold Tour
Venue: Ford Field; Detroit, Mich.
Date: Dec. 17, 2008; Kickoff – 7:30 p.m. ET
Weather: 70 degrees -- Indoors
Scoring Summary: 1 2 F
USA 1 0 1
CHN 0 0 0
USA – Heather O’Reilly (Lindsay Tarpley) 32nd minute
USA: 1-Hope Solo (18-Nicole Barnhart, 46); 2-Heather Mitts (19-Marian Dalmy, 46), 3-Christie Rampone – Capt., 15-Kate Markgraf (4-Rachel Buehler, 46), 17-Lori Chalupny; 9-Heather O’Reilly (21-Kacey White, 62), 7-Shannon Boxx, 11-Carli Lloyd, 16-Angela Hucles (13-Kristine Lilly, 54); 20-Tina Ellertson (8-Amy Rodriguez, 42), 5-Lindsay Tarpley
Subs not used: 22-Briana Scurry
Head Coach: Pia Sundhage
CHN: 1-Zhang Yanru; 15-Zhou Gaoping, 5-Weng Xin Zhi, 2-Yuan Fan, 14-Liu Hua Na; 12-Wang Dan Dan (17-Gu Ya Sha, 64), 6-Zhang Na (3-Zhang Ying, 57), 7-Bi Yan - Capt. (19-Gao Yan, 83); 8-Xu Yuan, 10-Liu Sa (11-Lou Jiahui, 72), 9-Han Duan (4-Wang Kun, 83)
Subs not used: 16-Zhang Rui, 18-Weng Xiaojie
Head Coach: Shang Ruihua
Statistical Summary: USA / CHN
Shots: 17 / 6
Shots on Goal: 8 / 3
Saves: 3 / 5
Corner Kicks: 2 / 2
Fouls: 5 / 12
Offside: 3 / 1
CHN – Zhang Yanru (caution) 30th minute
Referee: Margaret Domka (USA)
Assistant Referee: Amy Willing (USA)
Assistant Referee: Tony Crush (USA)
Fourth Official: Susan Grobbel (USA)
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