BACK IN BLUE (AND RED AND WHITE): After double days of training on Monday and Tuesday, U.S. head coach Greg Ryan gave the U.S. Women’s National Team Wednesday off as the squad beings to taper into their clash with Australia (tickets) on Sunday, Oct. 16 at Titan Stadium on the campus of Cal State Fullerton at 3 p.m. PT (Live on ESPN2). The U.S. team played a 50-minute full-field, 11 v. 11 scrimmage on Tuesday morning with Abby Wambach providing the lone goal during a match in which the U.S. players looked sharp, particularly considering the team has not played together since late July. The U.S. team will train once on Thursday, Friday and Saturday before kicking off against the Matlidas on Sunday. The U.S. team will then travel on Monday to Charleston, S.C., to take on Mexico (tickets) the following Sunday, Oct. 23 at 1 p.m. ET (Live on ESPN2). Ryan will bring 24 players to each market to train before the games and pick 18 to suit up for the matches. Ryan has used 30 different players in the USA’s seven matches so far this year.
YEAR OF THE SHUTOUT: The USA is 7-0-0 on the year and has not allowed a goal against while scoring 21. Nine different players have combined to score those 21 goals. When you add in the shutout win over Mexico on Dec. 8, 2004, the USA has not lost, tied or conceded a goal in the last eight games. While that is not close to a record (the USA put together a streak of 14 consecutive shutout victories in 1991), it is the second longest such streak in U.S. history. Four different times the USA has posted six shutout victories in a row, and went seven games once before this streak. The USA’s overall shutout streak now stands at 748 minutes (which includes the final 28 minutes of the match against Denmark on Nov. 6, 2004). Three goalkeepers have shared those minutes, with Briana Scurry, Nicole Barnhart and Hope Solo all seeing time in the U.S. nets during the streak. Solo has five shutouts this year while Barnhart has picked up the other two. Cat Reddick and Kate Markgraf have started all seven games together in the middle of the U.S. defense this year, no doubt playing a major part in the consecutive blankings.
STATE OF THE UNION, CHENEY SPEAKS: No, not U.S. Vice-President Dick Cheney. We’re talking about 18- year-old U.S. forward Lauren Cheney. The high school senior is not intimidated by being the youngest player on the U.S. roster, but definitely feels she's got a lot to learn. The Indianapolis product talks about her goals on the soccer field, the college recruiting process and Michelle Akers on this exclusive ussoccer.com podcast.
BIG MAC: With 60 career goals, Shannon MacMillan has piled up some of the best stats in U.S. history. She took some time out from preparations for the USA’s match against Australia to talk about her desire to still play at the highest level, the story behind why she wears number eight and why it might not be so smart to have 90-pound lap dog.
GOALS R’ US: Only seven U.S. players who faced Australia at the 2004 Olympics are on the training camp roster for the Oct. 16 rematch, but the U.S. team, in a sign of remarkable depth, brings potent scoring power in four forwards that weren’t at the Olympics. Tiffeny Milbrett (100), Shannon MacMillan (60), Christie Welsh (20) and Danielle Fotopoulos (16) have combined for 196 career international goals. Speaking of Fotopoulos, she's bagged four goals in the last two U.S. WNT matches. The NCAA’s all-time leading scorer talks about her life as a soccer mom, her comeback from knee surgeries and her new coaching gig.
MATILDAS COME A CALLING: On Sunday, the USA will face Australia for the eighth time in the United States. The teams have met five times in Australia and four times on neutral soil, including the 1-1 tie in group play at the 2004 Olympics. Australia has one of the best nicknames of any women’s national soccer team, dubbed the Matildas after “Waltzing Matilda,” Australia’s national song. What it means, we don’t know. You’ll have to ask a real Aussie to translate the below passage:
From Waltzing Matilda:
Once there was a swagman camped in a billabong,
Under the shade of a coolabah tree;
And he sang as he looked at his old billy boiling,
Who'll come a`waltzing Matilda, with me?
Who'll come a`waltzing Matilda, my darling
Who'll come a`waltzing Matilda with me?
MATILDAS CUT THEIR TEETH ON TOUGH COMPETITION: The USA will be facing a team on Sunday that impressively owns victories in 2005 over reigning Women’s World Cup champion Germany, 2007 Women’s World Cup hosts China and an always-tough Japan side, all 2003 Women’s World Cup and 2004 Olympic participants. Those wins came under new/old head coach Tom Sermanni (who also coached Australia from 1994-1997). U.S. fans may recognize the well-liked Sermanni as the assistant coach for the San Jose CyberRays in 2001 and 2002 and the head coach of the New York Power in 2003. Australia has faced some excellent competition under adverse conditions so far this year, playing 11 matches, all in Asia, with 10 coming against international opponents. Australia’s 2005 results:
Date Opponent Score Aussie Goalscorers Venue
Jan. 28 Germany 1-0 W DeVanna Quanzhou, China
Jan. 30 China 0-3 L -- Quanzhou, China
Feb. 1 Russia 5-0 W Garriock, De Vanna, Gill (2), Salisbury Quanzhou, China
Mar. 26 Japan 0-2 L -- Japan
Mar. 29 Japan 2-1 W Peters, Kurulay nbsp; Japan
July 15 Tianjin FC 1-2 L Blayney Tianjin, China
July 17 China 2-1 W Gill, Peters Tianjin, China
July 20 China 0-2 L -- Tianjin, China
July 23 Japan 2-4 L De Vanna, Peters Tokyo, Japan
July 27 S. Korea 0-0 T -- Jeonju, South Korea
July 29 S. Korea 0-3 L --
MITTS SIDELINED: No, the USA’s speedy right back is not injured, but she’s been spending some time outside the lines working for ESPN as a sideline reporter for college football. Mitts, whose prior TV experience includes working as a host on a Philadelphia morning show and doing some color for college soccer broadcasts, has already worked a handful of football games. She was on the sidelines for Clemson vs. Maryland, Army vs. Baylor, New Mexico State vs. Cal, Cincinnati vs. Miami of Ohio and Virginia Tech vs. Marshall. She is scheduled for 13 games this season.
SHE KNOWS THE WAY TO THE STADIUM: U.S. goalkeeper Jenni Branam grew up about five minutes from Titan Stadium in Fullerton. “Well, five to seven minutes depending on if you make the lights,” she said. While Branam doesn’t know if she’ll be on the 18-player roster for the Australia match yet, she has traveled a long way to come back home. The Placentia, Calif., product played her youth club soccer for the Southern California Blues and was the first Southern Californian to attend UNC on a women's soccer scholarship where she won two NCAA titles with the Heels. She's had some injuries in her career, and hasn't played a match in goal for the USA since 2000, when she earned all five of her caps, but she was the alternate ‘keeper on the 2000 Olympic Team. She was drafted by the San Diego Spirit in 2003 and beat out the incumbent as a rookie on her way to a great season. That helped her get back in for the 2004 Olympic Residency camp (after surgeries on knee and finger post-WUSA), but she fell short of making the Olympic roster. She recently got back from Sweden where she played for second division side Balinge and helped them gain promotion to the First Division for next season.