SAN DIEGO, Calif. (Sunday, January 12, 2003) - The U.S. Women's National Team opened their 2003 campaign with a hard-fought 0-0 draw against a much-improved Japan team in front of 5,099 fans today at Torero Stadium in San Diego, Calif. The match served as a warm-up for the Four Nations Tournament in China taking place from Jan. 23-29 and featuring the top four teams in the world in the USA, Norway, Germany and China. The USA leaves Thursday for China, which will host the 2003 Women's World Cup from September 23-October 11, 2003.
"When you've have some time off, the last thing that comes back is the finishing touch," said U.S. head coach April Heinrichs, whose team hasn't played in two months following its successful qualification for the Women's World Cup last November. "You are a step off, or your shots are a few inches wide, but overall it was a great start for us heading into the Four Nations Tournament. We gave a lot of players the chance to play today and the team is ahead of where we were last year at this time."
The USA definitely had more of the chances throughout the match, but the highly skillful Japanese possessed the ball well and made few mistakes in the back that the Americans could capitalize on. The U.S. started the match searching for a rhythm, which it finally found towards the end of the first half and kept throughout the game, but could not find its shooting touch as most of the 12 U.S. shots went high. The Americans put just one shot on goal, which Japanese goalkeeper Nozomi Yamago saved, but did flight in a number of dangerous crosses, only to see them snagged by Yamago.
"Japan possesses the ball as well as anyone in the world," added Heinrichs. "They are a team that will qualify for the Women's World Cup."
Japan plays its Women's World Cup qualifying tournament in April.
Japan had just four shots, but its most dangerous chance was a cross, as Naoko Kawakami ran onto the ball at the end line just right of the goal. With an open net, she found the angle too sharp, and struck a hard cross that skidded in front of the U.S. goal before being cleared out of danger.
Midfielder Lorrie Fair had two chances in the first 33 minutes, but didn't get all of her volleys and hit both right of the goal. In the 19th minute, Aly Wagner collected a ball in the midfield, and with the goalkeeper out, tried to loop the ball into the net, but it sailed a few yards high. In the 28th minute, Tiffeny Milbrett slipped Wagner a nice pass inside the penalty area. She turned well to the goal, but once again the shot was high. Wagner had a chance for a spectacular goal from distance in the second half after she collected a ball that Yamago had headed clear after coming way out of her goal, but her strike from 45 yards flew well wide left.
In the 24th minute, Tiffany Roberts challenged Yamago on a high cross, but her header went wide right as the Japanese goalkeeper crashed into her. Milbrett also had a dangerous chance in the first half after she latched onto a ball that had bounced into the penalty area from the right flank, and hit her volley well, but just over the crossbar.
Brandi Chastain had perhaps the best chance of the first half in the 39th as Shannon MacMillan hit a bending free from the right flank. Cindy Parlow flicked the ball on and it bounced to Chastain at the far post, but she headed the ball over the goal.
"Sometimes you can appease yourself by saying that we played well and that the game was a good start to the year for us, but it really was," said Chastain. "The goals will come. We have great goal scorers. And our back four is very organized and working very well with the other two lines. It was a great preparation game for the Four Nations Tournament."
Heinrichs made five substitutions at halftime, sending on goalkeeper LaKeysia Beene, midfielders Jena Kluegel and Angela Hucles, and forwards Abby Wambach and Heather O'Reilly. The 18-year-old O'Reilly, star of the USA's U-19 World Championship team, sparked the attack and almost busted through the defense early in the second half, but Yamago came off her line to corral the ball.
The USA pushed hard for a winner at the end of the match, and created a few dangerous scrambles in the penalty area, but there were too many Japanese bodies to navigate.
Forward Lindsay Tarpley, the 2002 Chevy Young Female Athlete of the Year, came on in the 67th minute for the USA to earn her first full international cap. Tarpley, the captain of the USA's Under-19 World Championship team, scored the "golden goal" against Canada that gave the USA the 1-0 victory last September.
"She wasn't intimated at all," said Heinrichs of Tarpley. "She just went out there and played."
The U.S. will train for three more days in San Diego before heading to China on Thursday for the Four Nations Tournament, which will take place in three cities, two of which are Women's World Cup venues, from Jan. 23-29. The U.S. will open the competition versus Norway on Jan. 23 in Yiwu, meet the host nation China on Jan. 26 in Wuhan and finish against Germany on Jan. 29 in Shanghai.
The next domestic match for the U.S. women will be on Feb. 16 against Iceland at Blackbaud Stadium in Charleston, S.C.
- U.S. Women's National Team Game Report -
Participants: United States Women's National Team vs. Japan
Competition: International Friendly
Venue: Torero Stadium (San Diego, Calif.)
Date: January 12, 2003; Kickoff - 1:00 p.m. (PT)
Weather: 68 degrees; sunny, breezy
Scoring Summary: 1st - 2nd - F
United States 0 - 0 - 0
Japan 0 - 0 - 0
USA - 18-Siri Mullinix (24-LaKeysia Beene, 46); 15-Kate Sobrero (20-Thori Bryan, 57), 6-Brandi Chastain, 14Joy Fawcett, 4-Cat Reddick; 5-Tiffany Roberts (13-Angela Hucles, 46), 2-Lorrie Fair (25- Lindsay Tarpley, 68), 10-Aly Wagner, 8-Shannon MacMillan (7-Jena Kluegel, 46); 16-Tiffeny Milbrett (9-Heather O'Reilly, 46), 12-Cindy Parlow (22-Abby Wambach, 46).
Subs not used: None.
JPN - 1- Nozomi Yamago; 4-Yasuyo Yamagishi, 13-Yuka Miyazaki, 15-Mai Nakachi (16-Emi Yamamoto, 57), 2-Yumi Obe; 5- Tomoe Sakai (14-Akiki Sudo, 75), 7-Yayoi Kobayashi, 8- Naoko Kawakami, 10- Homare Sawa; 11-Tomoko Suzuki (18-Karina Maruyama, 70), 17-Shinobu Ohno (9- Mio Otani, 46).
Subs not used: 3-Hiromi Isozaki, 6-Yoshie Kasajima, 12- Miho Fukumoto.
Statistical Summary: USA / JPN
Shots: 12 / 4
Saves: 1 / 1
Corner Kicks: 5 / 3
Fouls: 7 / 14
Offside: 0 / 1
USA - Lorrie Fair (caution), 64.
Referee: Sandra Hunt (USA)
Asst. Referee: Roger Itaya (USA)
Asst. Referee: Fabio Tovar (USA)
4th Official: Sandra Belmont (USA)