CARY, N.C. (Sunday, October 6, 2002) - The U.S. Women's National Team patiently chipped away at a tough Italian defense, then exploded for four goals in 15 minutes in the second half to record a 4-0 win and claim the 2002 Nike U.S. Women's Cup title today at SAS Park. With the win, the USA finished the tournament with a perfect 3-0-0 record, boosting their all-time Nike U.S. Women's Cup record to a remarkable 24-0-0 and earning their eighth Nike U.S. Women's Cup championship in as many tries.
Seventeen-year-old forward Heather O'Reilly earned Chevrolet Woman of the Match honors after coming off the bench in the 66th minute. O'Reilly, who last month helped lead the U.S. Under-19 Women's National Team to the first ever FIFA Women's Youth World Championship in Canada, scored her first full international goal three minutes later, and added an assist on a Joy Fawcett goal in the 73rd minute that put the match out of reach at 3-0.
"We felt like we created enough chances in the first half to be up 4-0," said U.S. head coach April Heinrichs. "Both teams played low pressure, but when we won the ball, we were getting behind them and creating chances. When you finish, you can jump all over an opponent early. When you don't, you'll have to grind it out over a 90-minute period."
U.S. forward Mia Hamm spurred the U.S. attack after coming in at halftime. Hamm, who has 26 career goals in 24 Nike U.S. Women's Cup matches, was named 2002 MVP after notching two goals and an assist in the team's tournament-opening 5-1 win over Russia and sparking the team offensively in the final two matches.
The USA had a handful of quality scoring chances in the first half but could not convert. The first came in the 10th minute, as forward Cindy Parlow beat the offside trap and had a one-on-one with Italian goalkeeper Fabiana Comin, who easily saved the shot with a dive to her right. Four minutes later, a mix up in back between Comin and Tatianni Zorri saw the Italian defender bang the ball off her sliding goalkeeper and it rebounded to Shannon MacMillan, but the ball jammed her and she cracked her shot wide right from eight yards out. MacMillan had a great chance in the 32nd as Angela Hucles sent a nice chip into the left side of the penalty area, but MacMillan whacked her volley wide right as it spun off her foot.
The final U.S. chance of the half came in the 44th minute as Hucles sent a perfect cross from the end line on the left side to the unmarked Lilly at the far post, but her bullet header was slapped away by the scrambling Comin.
In the second half, the USA turned up the defensive pressure and it seemed only a matter of time until the Italian wall would break. It happened in the 64th minute off a corner kick. The USA took it short and Julie Foudy drilled a cross into the middle for the slashing Lilly to head home from close range past the frozen Comin. With the goal, Lilly tied Michelle Akers for second on the USA's all-time scoring list with 247 career points from 89 goals and 69 assists. Lilly is just 11 goals away from becoming just the fifth person in history to score 100 international goals.
"The biggest difference between the first half and second half was that we went out and high-pressured them defensively," said Heinrichs. "Essentially that means the game is going to get stretched out for both teams. But when both teams are stretched out, over a 90-minute game I think the USA can hang with any team in the world."
With the Italians finally solved, the USA got another goal five minutes later, this one from O'Reilly, and once again on a cross from Foudy. The U.S. captain received a ball with some time on the right flank and looped a cross to the far post for the O'Reilly to hit a half volley from six yards out that skipped under Comin.
"I've gone into other games and maybe had some chances and didn't put them away, and came away disappointed," said O'Reilly, who will now return home to continue her high school season with the East Brunswick Lady Bears. "It was a great ball from Foudy and I'll had to do was tap it in. It is an awesome feeling."
"She will do absolutely anything to help her team win," said Hamm of O'Reilly, who received the game ball after the match signed by all her teammates. "If that means sitting on the bench and cheering as loud as she can, she'll do it. But when she comes in, she's a spark for us no doubt."
The third goal also came off a corner kick as the cross from the right side flew to Foudy deep in the left side of the penalty area. Foudy headed the ball back into the middle where O'Reilly flicked it to Fawcett, who with her back to the goal, spun the ball with the outside of her right foot past Comin and into the net. It was the 26th career goal for Fawcett, who is the all-time leading scoring defender in U.S. history.
"You want to go after a team, but when you play a team that is content to roll the ball around the back, you just have to maintain the patience and focus," said Hamm. "Once we got the first one, the way we were possessing the ball, we felt confident that we could get more."
The final goal came off a penalty kick, earned by Hamm as Tiffany Roberts put her clear in the right side of the penalty area with a great through ball. Hamm rounded Comin and was cut down. Brandi Chastain stepped up and buried her shot to give the U.S. defender her third penalty kick goal in the last three games, getting one each in all three Nike U.S. Women's Cup tournament matches. It was her 29th international goal. The USA also defeated Italy for the 1997 Nike U.S. Women's Cup championship, a match in which current Italian head coach Carolina Morace played.
For Hamm, it was her third Nike U.S. Women's Cup MVP Award, also winning the honor in 1995 and 1997.
"My feeling is that Mia has the potential to frighten every opponent and any defender," said Heinrichs. "We knew it would be a hot, heavy day and we knew Mia could spark us a bit off the bench, and she did. That's why we made the tactical choice not to start her and ask her to play 45 minutes."
"Mia and Lil (Kristine Lilly) and all the others completely paved the path for my generation coming into this national team," said O'Reilly, who now has seven caps with the senior team. "And you know what? They're still on top. Lil and Mia are playing the best soccer of their lives and they still deserve all the recognition they get. Mia was my idol growing up and it is awesome to get to play up top with her. She's still my idol."
The U.S. team will take a break before regrouping on October 21 at the Arco Olympic Training Center in San Diego, Calif., to prepare for the CONCACAF Women's Gold Cup, this region's Women's World Cup qualifying tournament, which will begin on Oct. 27 as the USA faces Mexico at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif.
In the early match, Australia defeated Russia 2-0 on first-half goals from Kelly Golebiowski and Joanne Peters. Australia will face Italy on Wednesday night to battle for second place and conclude the tournament.
U.S. WOMEN'S NATIONAL TEAM GAME REPORT
Participants: United States Women's National Team vs. Italy
Competition: 2002 Nike U.S. Women's Cup
Venue: SAS Park - Cary, N.C.
Date: Oct. 6, 2002; Kickoff - 2:00 p.m. (ET)
Weather: Warm, clear - 80 degrees
Scoring Summary: 1 - 2 - F
United States 0 - 4 - 4
Italy 0 - 0 - 0
USA - Kristine Lilly (Julie Foudy), 64.
USA - Heather O'Reilly (Julie Foudy), 69.
USA - Joy Fawcett (Heather O'Reilly), 73.
USA - Brandi Chastain (penalty kick), 78.
USA - 18-Siri Mullinix (1-Briana Scurry, 46); 15-Kate Sobrero (5-Tiffany Roberts, 46), 6-Brandi Chastain, 14-Joy Fawcett, 19-Danielle Slaton (4-Cat Reddick, 29); 13-Kristine Lilly, 2-Lorrie Fair, 11-Julie Foudy (capt.), 17-Angela Hucles (27-Heather O'Reilly, 66), 8-Shannon MacMillan (9-Mia Hamm, 46), 12-Cindy Parlow (22-Abby Wambach, 46).
Subs not used: None.
ITA - 1-Fabiana Comin (12-Carla Brunozzi, 83); 6-Giula Perelli, 4-Pamela Conti, 15-Valentina Boni (5-Margherita Masia, 68), 20-Elisa Camporese (8-Marina Pellizzer, 78); 10-Tatiana Zorri, 16-Piera Maglio (2-Moira Placchi, 91+), 17-Alessia Tuttino, 9-Patricia Panico; 11-Rita Guarino (capt.), 19-Chiara Gazzoli (18-Ilaria Pasqui, 68).
Subs Not Used: 7-Damiana Deiana, 14-Katia Serra.
Statistical Summary: USA / ITA
Shots: 15 / 3
Shots on Goal: 8 / 2
Saves: 2 / 4
Corner Kicks: 6 / 0
Fouls: 10 / 19
Offside: 8 / 1
Referee: Sonia Denoncourt (CAN)
Asst. Referee: Sharon Wheeler (USA)
Asst. Referee: Daniel Burak (USA)
4th Official: Charles Mitchell (USA)
ITA - Tatiana Zorri (caution), 62.
Chevrolet Woman of the Match: Heather O'Reilly.