U.S. WOMEN POISED FOR CONCACAF CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
With a berth to the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece firmly in hand, the U.S. Women’s National Team will play Mexico tomorrow at Estadio Eladio Rosabal Cordero in Heredia for the 2004 championship of the CONCACAF region. The match kicks off at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT and while it is not available on American television, fans can follow all the action on ussoccer.com’s MatchTracker presented by Philips Electronics. At stake are regional bragging rights, and that is more than enough to motivate the U.S. team who will be playing a sky-high Mexican side coming off the biggest win in its history over Canada to qualify for the Olympics for their first time ever. The U.S. team did not train on Tuesday morning, instead opting for a short jog and stretch around the team hotel as high winds once against battered the players. The championship game of the CONCACAF Final Round Women’s Olympic Qualifying Tournament will be the fifth game in 12 days for the U.S team, a fatiguing schedule anywhere, but on the hard fields of Costa Rica, even tougher on the legs and feet. The final will be on the somewhat softer field at Eladio Rosabal Cordero, prompting one U.S. player to comment that it “will be nice to play on some grass.”
USA vs. MEXICO PREVIEW
The USA and Mexico met just a few days ago on Feb. 29 in the final Group B match for both teams with the USA coming away with a 2-0 victory on an own goal and a header from Abby Wambach, who has become a fan favorite in Costa Rica, not only for her impressive physical game, but also for her spectacular goal scoring and work ethic on the forward line. Mexico put in a fine performance against the USA less than a week ago, and while the Americans were in total control of the match, the USA did not fire a shot in the second half of that game. With the gorilla-sized pressure of qualifying for the Olympics off both of the team’s shoulders, the final should be an entertaining and wide-open affair, as Mexico will look to get another of the biggest results in its history in the span of three days. Mexican forward Maribel Dominguez is the tournament’s leading scorer with seven goals, but did not get a sniff at the U.S. net in the last match, firing several shots from distance that did not trouble U.S. goalkeeper Briana Scurry. This will be the fifth regional championship game for the USA, which beat Canada in three of them and Brazil, when they were a guest team at the 2000 CONCACAF Women’s Gold Cup, in the other. The USA defeated Canada in CONCACAF Women’s World Cup Qualifying in 1991 (5-0), 1995 (6-0) and 2002 (2-1 in OT), while downing Brazil 1-0 in the Women’s Gold Cup final. The U.S. has gotten goals from seven different players, the most variety of any team at the tournament, including four goals each from Shannon Boxx and Abby Wambach. This will be the first-ever CONCACAF regional championship game for Mexico as they continue to add more “firsts” to their women’s soccer history.
NOTES AND STATS
With her goal against Haiti in group play, Shannon MacMillan became the sixth player in U.S. history to score 60 or more goals, joining Mia Hamm, Michelle Akers, Tiffeny Milbrett, Kristine Lilly and Cindy Parlow. MacMillan’s second assist against Haiti gave her 50 for her career and made her just the fourth member of the “50-50” club, players who have scored more than 50 goals and picked up 50 or more assists.
With a world-record 125 career assists, Mia Hamm would be ninth on the U.S. career scoring chart if she had never scored a goal. When you count her 146 career goals, she has 40 more international goals than any player in history.
Kristine Lilly scored her 95th career goal against Costa Rica in the semifinal and is now just five goals away from becoming the fifth player in international soccer history to score 100 times.
The USA is working on a streak of seven consecutive shutouts and a “no-goals-allowed” streak of 679 minutes, dating back to Nov. 2, 2003, when Mexico scored in the 41st minute of a match in Dallas on a penalty kick from team captain Monica Gonzalez. Gonzales was a teammate of Kate Markgraf and Shannon Boxx at Notre Dame and of Markgraf, Angela Hucles and Kristine Lilly on the Boston Breakers.
The USA has scored 21 goals in this tournament and 26 in 2004 while allowing zero.
ALGARVE CUP NEXT
The U.S. team returns home on March 6, but will re-group on March 10 and travel to the Algarve Cup in Portugal, the most prestigious women’s international invitational tournament in the world. U.S. head coach April Heinrichs will announce the 20-player Algarve roster after this tournament is complete. The USA won the tournament last year with a 2-0 victory over China in the championship game as Mia Hamm and Shannon MacMillan each scored and assisted to each other. The U.S. was just informed out the venues for its matches, which are at small stadiums spread out over the southern tip of Portugal throughout the Algarve region. The tournament will be a stiff test for the road warrior U.S. team, facing three top European countries in a span of five days, and then a placement match two days after the end of group play. Following is the USA’s Algarve Cup schedule and venues. The games will not be broadcast in the United States, but fans will be able to follow the games on ussoccer.com’s MatchTracker, presented by Philips Electronics.
2004 Algarve Cup – Portugal
Sunday, March 14
USA vs. France Ferreiras, Portugal 4:15 p.m. local/11:15 a.m. ET
Tuesday, March 16
USA vs. Denmark Quarteira, Portugal 1:45 p.m. local/8:45 a.m. ET
Thursday, March 18
USA vs. Sweden Lagos, Portugal 4:15 p.m. local/11:15 a.m. ET
Saturday, March 20
Placement Match TBD TBD
She Said It (or in this case, He Said It):
“Only one miracle a day in Costa Rica.”
-- A Costa Rican journalist as the USA led 3-0 at halftime of their victory over Costa Rica and after Mexico’s stunning upset of Canada