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Women's National Team Notes from the Four Nations Tournament - January 29, 2004

U.S. WOMEN READY TO KICK OFF FOUR NATIONS TOURNAMENT: The U.S. Women’s National Team trained at Shenzhen Stadium for the first time on Wednesday (Jan. 28), running through an energetic practice inside the 40,000-seat perfect oval shaped stadium, featuring an aesthetic roof that covers every seat. The softer field was a welcome respite for the U.S. players, who had been training on a much harder pitch outside the stadium, and the quality surface will make the three matches in five days a bit easier on the legs. The USA was back on the outside training field on Thursday, but no one seemed to mind as the cold weather finally broke and the U.S. practiced in what could actually be called humidity. In fact, for the first time on the trip no player trained wearing any sweats or hats. Almost the whole team used the afternoon for a quick shopping trip to downtown Shenzhen and then returned for dinner and a meeting on the eve of the first match of 2004.

USA vs. SWEDEN PREVIEW: Both teams brought approximately 75-percent of their Women’s World Cup Teams to China (Sweden has 16 players from their WWC runner-up squad while the USA has 15 from its WWC third-place team), but both sides are missing top players. The USA will be without 551 caps worth of experience in the world’s all-time scorer Mia Hamm, defender Brandi Chastain, and forward Cindy Parlow, a two-goal scorer in Women’s World Cup.  Sweden is without star forward Hanna Ljungberg, who tore her ACL last week, as well as starting goalkeeper Caroline Johnsson and midfielder Malin Andersson, who are back in Sweden recovering from minor injuries. The USA won the last meeting between the countries in the opening match of the 2003 Women’s World Cup, a rousing 3-1 victory in which the USA played a dominating first half while Sweden ramped up the energy in the second.  Kristine Lilly scored one of the greatest Women’s World Cup goals in U.S. history to open the scoring before Parlow added a header to make it 2-0 at half. Victoria Svensson, who would win the Silver Ball as the second best player of the tournament, pulled a goal back on a brilliant header, but Women’s World Cup debutante Shannon Boxx clinched the match with a header of her own off a corner kick. The USA is 11-2-5 all-time against Sweden, but just 2-1-4 since 2000, including a 1-1 tie at the Algarve Cup last year. The Swedish women received much acclaim back home for their excellent run to the Women’s World Cup Final and were voted Team of the Year in a recent nationally televised sports awards show, finishing No. 4 in the athletes of the year voting (behind No. 1 Anika Sorenstam, among others). While the Swedish team definitely has a overall size advantage over the USA, the Americans are perhaps faster, and many of the past matches have featured tight battles with few scoring chances for either team. Until the game in the Women’s World Cup, the previous six games between the teams produced no more than two total goals in any match. U.S. head coach April Heinrichs has named the 20 players eligible to play in the tournament. During each match, there will be five substitutions allowed per team. Following are both the U.S. and Sweden rosters:

GOALKEEPERS (2): 1-Briana Scurry, 18-Siri Mullinix; DEFENDERS (7): 2-Kylie Bivens, 14-Joy Fawcett, 15-Kate Markgraf (*nee Sobrero), 21-Heather Mitts, 29-Amy LePeilbet, 3-Christie Rampone (*nee Pearce), 4-Cat Reddick; MIDFIELDERS (7): 7-Shannon Boxx, 23-Lori Chalupny, 11-Julie Foudy, 19-Angela Hucles, 13-Kristine Lilly, 26-Leslie Osborne, 5-Tiffany Roberts; FORWARDS (4): 8-Shannon MacMillan, 27-Heather O’Reilly, 25-Lindsay Tarpley, 20-Abby Wambach.

GOALKEEPERS (2): Hedvig Lindahl (Linköpings FC), Sofia Lundgren (Umeå IK); DEFENDERS (8): Anna-Maria Eriksson (Kopparbergs/Landvetter), Sofia Eriksson (Umeå IK), Sara Larsson (Malmö FF), Hanna Marklund (Umeå IK), Sara Thunebro (Djurgården/Älvsjö), Jane Törnqvist (Djurgården/Älvsjö), Karolina Westberg (Malmö FF), Kristin Bengtsson (Djurgården/Älvsjö); MIDFIELDERS (6): Linda Fagerström (Djurgården/Älvsjö), Malin Moström (Umeå IK), Frida Nordin (Malmö FF), Therese Sjögran (Malmö FF), Anna Sjöström (Umeå IK), Frida Östberg (Umeå IK); FORWARDS (4): Elin Elkblom (N/A), Salina Olsson (Hammarby IF), Victoria Svensson (Djurgården/Älvsjö), Josefine Öqvist (Bälinge IF). 

Friday, Jan. 30
China vs. Canada     2:15 p.m. local (1:15 a.m. ET)
USA vs. Sweden      4:30 p.m. local (3:30 a.m. ET)

Sunday, Feb. 1
China vs. USA           2:15 p.m. local (1:15 a.m. ET)
Sweden vs. Canada    4:30 p.m. local (3:30 a.m. ET)

Tuesday, Feb. 3
USA vs. Canada       2:15 p.m. local (1:15 a.m. ET)
China vs. Sweden     4:30 p.m. local (3:30 a.m. ET)

BRUSH WITH GREATNESS: When players like Julie Foudy, Joy Fawcett and Kristine Lilly were growing up, they didn’t have any female role models in the world of sports. Foudy loved the Los Angeles Lakers and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.  Lilly followed the New York Jets and Joy Fawcett looked up to her older brother, who would play for the U.S. Men’s National Team.  Times have changed -- and three young U.S. players are perfect examples.  When defender Kylie Bivens was playing for the Under-14 Western Regional Team, Fawcett was her coach.  When midfielder Leslie Osborne was 11, Foudy did a clinic for her club team in Milwaukee and was so impressed with the young player that the national team captain and amateur soothsayer told her, “you should play ODP…you have the potential to play for the National Team one day.”  Defender Cat Reddick, who has 42 caps for the USA, just this week got up the courage to tell Foudy that she wore number 11 in youth soccer because Foudy was her favorite player.  Now, Osborne, Bivens and Reddick can be role models for a whole new generation of players.    

THE GOLDEN ARCHES: After being in China for four days, it was about time for a team trip to McDonald’s last Wednesday, and the whole U.S. team walking down the block to the familiar golden arches was not a sight often seen by the citizens of Shenzhen. The U.S. players dined on cheeseburgers, Big Macs, fries and more than few ice cream sundaes, definitely getting their fix of Americana for the week. 

YEAR OF THE MONKEY: The Chinese Lunar New Year fell on January 22, a few days before the USA arrived, and the U.S. team found the Chinese still in a festive mood.  In fact, the U.S. players have been wishing people a “Happy New Year” all week long, much to the delight of the locals. The New Year in part originated from a Chinese legend that tells of a village thousands of years ago that was ravaged by an evil monster. The following year the monster returned and again ravaged the village. Before it could happen a third time, the villagers devised a plan to scare the monster away. Red banners were hung everywhere, as the color red has long been believed to protect against evil. Firecrackers, drums and gongs were used to create loud noises to scare the beast away. The plan worked and the celebration lasted several days during which people visited with each other, exchanged gifts, danced and ate tasty foods. This year is the Year of the Monkey and the pictures and caricatures of monkeys are everywhere in Shenzhen.  On Wednesday night, the U.S. (and the other three teams) attended the traditional Four Nations Tournament welcome banquet, which featured Chinese dancers and clowns, but the highlight of the evening was five small boys, dressed as and shrieking like monkeys, complete with ears and full makeup. The young troupe proved to be amazingly talented, pulling off some body-bending maneuvers and acrobatics of remarkable dexterity, bringing the crowd to their feet.

SHE’S NOT A TEENAGER ANYMORE: Midfielder Lori Chalupny turned 20 years old on January 29 and the UNC sophomore was planning on celebrating for almost a full two days, on January 29 in China, and then also a day later when it became January 29 back home.  At dinner, the U.S. players sung “Happy Birthday” to Chalupny, affectionately nicknamed “Chalupa” and presented her with several big slices of colorful Chinese cake. A slight snafu occurred when team captain Julie Foudy started to sing the birthday song as she brought to the cake to the table only to see that Chalupny was the only player not in her seat - she was across the room getting another glass of juice.  Once the red-faced midfielder returned, the players belted out the song in full voice.  

ALL FOUR COACHES ATTEND PRESS CONFERENCE: The four head coaches attended a press conference for the local Chinese media on Thursday with U.S. head coach April Heinrichs the only coach to have participated in this tournament before. After its disappointing exit in the Women’s World Cup quarterfinals, China now features a new coach in Zhang Hai Toa, who at 34 is only two years older than his team’s captain, former San Diego Spirit defender Fan Yunjie.  For Canada’s Even Pellerud and Sweden’s Marika Domanski Lyfors, this is the first time their teams have participated in the tournament.  Following are selected quotes from the press conference form Heinrichs and Lyfors:

U.S. head coach April Heinrichs
On facing three of the best teams in the world…
“This is our fourth time in China in the month of January in the last four years. I feel this is one of the best tournaments to prepare us for the early part of our year. We have Olympic qualifying next month, so this is the best tournament we could play in terms of facing these three great teams. The Sweden, China and Canada matches will present three very different styles and three very difficult challenges in such a short span of five days.”

On the benefits of traveling across the world for matches…
“I think the U.S. players are “protected” in a lot of ways.  So to come to China and travel across many time zones and experience diverse cultures is a growing experience for all of our players and I think it’s important in terms of our growth as a team. We find that when we come to China and play in this tournament, whether you win or lose, your team is better at the end of the tournament when you play competition like this.”

On some goals and expectations for the Four Nations Tournament…
“We have 15 players from our World Cup roster here and we are in a position as a team that we are looking at some younger players and have been for the last year or two.  We also have some senior players with a great deal of experience and this team will be very similar to the one you saw a year ago (at the Four Nations) and in the World Cup.  Our hope is to be improved in our attacking play and possess the ball a little bit better than we did during the World Cup.  What you are going to see is four teams matching up and playing differently against each opponent and that’s what so exciting about the evolution of women’s soccer.”

On Sweden…
“One of the most impressive things to me during the World Cup was the play of Sweden.  They could play indirectly or directly depending on what they needed to do, so to compete against a team like that was very difficult because they played such a unpredictable style.”

One the difficult of the Four Nations Tournament…
“Two years ago we came (to the Four Nations), gave up one goal and finished in third place.  Last year, we won it, but China beat us 2-0 and probably should have won the tournament.  That’s what so exciting and unnerving about playing in the Four Nations Tournament.”

Sweden head coach Markia Domanski Lyfors
On her team’s goals and expectations…
“We want to thank the Chinese Federation for inviting us here.  It is a great tournament and we are honored to be here among the best teams in the world.  I think it will be great matches and a great opportunity to test some young players against the best teams in the world.  I think I have a great team, but we also know that we had a lot of luck in the last championship and we know have to be even better, so this tournament is a great way to start preparing for the Olympics.”

U.S. defender Kate Markgraf after another harrowing cab ride, this one to the downtown Shenzhen shopping district:

“This is the only country where no one calls ‘shotgun’.”

Note: Markgraf, and two other veterans, made 19-year-old Heather O’Reilly get in the front seat of the taxi.