US SoccerUS Soccer

U.S. WNT Notes From Hartford - July 31, 2004

Saturday, July 31, 2004
U.S. Women's National Team
Notes from Hartford, Conn.

The U.S. Olympic Women's Soccer Team arrived in Hartford, Conn., on Thursday afternoon after a (seemingly endless, but only 3-hour) bus ride from Manhattan, where the team appeared on the NBC Today Show, hanging out with fans on the street set outside the studio building before the "Fab Five" - Mia Hamm, Julie Foudy, Kristine Lilly, Brandi Chastain and Joy Fawcett - were interviewed by host Matt Lauer as the rest of the team did a fun drill with host Ann Curry.  After some breakfast in midtown Manhattan, the U.S. team boarded the bus for the trip to Connecticut and had a long training session that afternoon at Loomis-Chaffee School in Windsor, Conn., a beautiful prep school with sprawling, green fields.  The heat and humidity in Connecticut was actually welcome, as the U.S. players are getting ready for what should be a very hot Olympics in Greece.  The team also trained on Friday afternoon at Loomis-Chaffee, this time in front of a small crowd of appreciative fans, and this morning at Rentschler Field, where the Americans will face China tomorrow at 3 p.m. ET (Live on ESPN2) in a match presented by Chevrolet, which offered tests drives of a number of their 2004 cars outside Rentschler Field today.  (No word if speed demon Julie Foudy went for a spin).  A highlight of Friday's practice, at least for the U.S. team, was watching a goalkeeper training for the USA's "emergency goalkeepers" featuring forwards Mia Hamm, Cindy Parlow and defender Cat Reddick outfitted in full goalkeeper gear.  All three showed definite "skills" at the position, even making a few spectacular diving saves, although none would be mistaken for regular U.S. goalkeepers Briana Scurry or Kristin Luckenbill.

USA ROLLING TOWARDS OLYMPICS: The match against Australia will mark the final domestic international before the Olympics and will be the 10th of 2004 against teams that will participate in the Olympics. The USA is 6-1-2 in those matches so far, losing only to Sweden at the 2004 Algarve Cup in Portugal. China qualifed for the 2004 Olympics by defeating South Korea in the semifinal of the Asian Women's Olympic Qualifying Tournament, then defeated Japan for the regional title, regaining their lofty perch atop Asia that had been won by North Korea in the two previous continental tournaments.

The match vs. China will mark the return to the home state of Connecticut's greatest-ever female player in midfielder Kristine Lilly, who hails from Wilton.  The world-record holder in most international matches played at 275, Lilly has also scored 95 times for the USA and played in every single world championship match ever contested by the USA.  The "Queen of Caps" will make her first appearance for the national team in Connecticut in seven years, last playing in New Britain, Conn., in 1997 in a 4-0 win over Canada, which was also the USA's last appearance in the state.  Lilly, who has played in about 85% of the matches ever played by the U.S. Women's National Team, did not score in her first world championship at the 1991 Women's World Cup, but has scored in every world championship event she has played since.  Lilly attended Wilton High School, where the soccer field is named after her, and also is featured on a sign entering the town highlighting her gold medal won at the 1996 Olympics.

The USA has scored 53 goals in its 17 matches so far this year, while allowing just 10, but have benefited from two own goals.  The U.S. team, which has averaged over three goals a game in 2004, after scoring just one goal in each of its last two games before the Australia match, exploded for three scores in the second half of that game to equal the yearly average.  Abby Wambach leads the team in scoring with 13 goals and six assists, while young Lindsay Tarpley has scored seven goals with two assists.  Mia Hamm has six goals and a team leading 10 assists, while Shannon Boxx has found the net six times from her defensive midfielder position.  The U.S. defense has been stellar so far this year, allowing just over half a goal a game on average.  In nine matches against teams participating in the 2004 Olympics, the USA has scored 21 goals and allowed eight, or just under a goal a game.  Defender Kate Markgraf has started all 16 games she has played and 16 of the USA's 17 games so far to lead the team.  Until the Australia match, Boxx had started all 24 games in which she had played since starting national team career in 2003.  She came off the bench at halftime against Australia.  Abby Wambach and Lindsay Tarpley are the only U.S. players to have played in all 17 matches so far this year, which speaks to the value of the powerful striker and the crafty midfielder.  Cat Reddick has started 15 games while Julie Foudy and Heather Mitts have started 13.  Eleven players have started 10 or more games each this year as the starting lineup begins to take shape for the Olympics.

The USA-China match will renew one of the longest and most competitive rivalries in the history of international women's soccer.  The USA holds the advantage with a 13-8-10 record against China over the years, which includes six meetings in world championship events, including the historic 1999 Women's World Cup Final and the 1996 Olympic gold medal game.  The 10 ties are far and away the most draws with any country for the USA, with the next most draws being five against Sweden.  In addition, no team except Norway has beaten the USA more times than China.  The most recent meeting between the two teams was a 0-0 tie in January of this year at the Four Nations Tournament in Shenzhen, China, a competition won by the USA.  China will also be participating in the 2004 Olympics (in a group with Germany and Mexico) and will be looking for a great result against the USA to kick-start their medal hunt in Greece after disappointing results in the last two world championships.  At the 2000 Olympics, China failed to make it out of the "Group of Death" which featured the USA, Nigeria and Norway, and at the 2003 Women's World Cup, as they got upset by Canada in the quarterfinals.  As China is one of the most skillful teams in the world, they usually hold an edge in possession when facing the U.S. team, but have had trouble turning that into goals, scoring more than once just nine out of the 31 times the two teams have met.  The USA has managed more than one goal against the Chinese 13 times.  The USA has shutout China 10 times in the series six times, three of those being 0-0 draws.

GOALKEEPERS (2): 24-Kristin Luckenbill, 1-Briana Scurry; DEFENDERS (6): 6-Brandi Chastain, 14-Joy Fawcett, 15-Kate Markgraf, 21-Heather Mitts, 3-Christie Rampone, 4-Cat Reddick; MIDFIELDERS (6): 7-Shannon Boxx, 11-Julie Foudy, 19-Angela Hucles, 13-Kristine Lilly, 16-Lindsay Tarpley, 10-Aly Wagner; FORWARDS (4): 9-Mia Hamm, 27-Heather O'Reilly, 12-Cindy Parlow, 20-Abby Wambach.

CHINA (Preliminary Roster:

GOALKEEPER: Xiao Zhen; DEFENDERS: Li Jie, Fan Yunjie, Wang Kun, Jin Xiaomei, Liu Yali; MIDFIELDERS: Wang Liping, Liu Huana, Ren Liping, Pu Wei, Zhang Ying, Bi Yan, Duan Fangfang; FORWARDS: Zhang Ouying, Bai Lili, Ji Ting, Qu Feifei, Teng Wei, Han Duan.

U.S. forward Abby Wambach has scored 13 goals so far this year, a yearly total hit or exceeded 16 times in the 20 years of the U.S. Women's National Team by just eight players: Michelle Akers (twice), Carin Gabarra (once), Mia Hamm (five times), April Heinrichs (once), Kristine Lilly (once), Shannon MacMillan (once), Tiffeny Milbrett (four times) and Cindy Parlow (once).