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Remembering '99: MacMillan to Fawcett

When Shannon MacMillan trotted onto the field in the 65th minute of the USA’s 1999 FIFA Women’s World Cup quarterfinal match against Germany, there was no way to tell that her first touch would be one of the most important in the history of U.S. women’s soccer.

The score was tied 2-2 in a drama-filled back-and-forth encounter that had seen the USA fall behind 1-0 on a own goal from Brandi Chastain just five minutes into the match, a blow that might have crushed a lesser team. Tiffeny Milbrett tied the game in the 16th minute after pouncing on a loose ball inside the penalty area. Germany took the lead again in stoppage time of the first half, once again a potentially crippling psychological event as the Americans headed into the locker room down a goal in their first knockout match of that historic Women’s World Cup.

When Chastain atoned for her miscue just four minutes into the second half, miraculously striking a shot on the turn that hit the left post and caromed in, it was clear that the Americans had more than enough gumption to get the winning goal.

That historic winner came after MacMillan replaced Julie Foudy and immediately ran to take a corner kick from the right side. MacMillan, who is known as one of the purest strikers of the soccer ball in U.S. history, smacked a flat, driven service to the near post, where it was met and re-directed perfectly into the net off the head of Joy Fawcett. The bullet header was past leaping German goalkeeper Silke Rottenberg in an instant, her attempt at a save too late, as the ball was already stretching the net.

“I was just making my usual run on corners, but I knew the near post was wide open,” said Fawcett. “Seeing Mac come in, I know she could get it there. I made eye contact with her and I just knew she would hit it right to me. It was definitely my most memorable goal ever.”

MacMillan’s wide-eyed celebration with Fawcett, which was part joy, part disbelief, was of course due to the importance of the goal, but also to the pair’s tight friendship as MacMillan had long helped raise Joy’s daughters on the road, serving as the permanent babysitter.

“We had (MacMillan) up and ready to go in right when we got the corner kick, but we were taking out Julie Foudy, which wasn’t the easiest sub to make,” said then U.S. head coach Tony DiCicco. “Then (assistant coach Jay Hoffman) yelled to me, ‘let’s get her in to take the corner!’ so Hoffy gets some credit for that one. Then she hits a perfect corner and Joy Fawcett just popped free and headed it past Silke. It was an interesting first touch to say the least.”

The USA would take just three more shots in the game, none on goal, while the Germans forced U.S. ‘keeper Briana Scurry to make four saves as they tried for an equalizer that never came.

The goal was Fawcett’s only score of the Women’s World Cup, and not only was it a glorious game-winner but it won a bet that she had with fellow defender Kate Sobrero, who famously had to dye her hair red for the rest of the tournament.