CHICAGO (Dec. 13, 2016) – Tobin Heath and Ashley Sanchez have been voted the 2016 U.S. Soccer Female and Young Female Player of the Year, respectively.
Heath, who has long been a fan favorite for her entertaining style of play and dynamic work with the ball, wins the award for the first time in her ninth year with the U.S. Women’s National Team. She won after earning 40 percent of the vote. Crystal Dunn came in second with 34 percent.
“It’s obviously an honor to win an award like this, especially when you look at the list of amazing players who have won it before,” Heath said. “This year was a difficult one for our team, but overall we played some great soccer so it’s humbling to be recognized individually. I’m just proud to be in the company of all the great players that were nominated and all of the players that played for the USA this year. I couldn’t have accomplished anything without the support of my teammates and my coaches, and while it was a fun year for me personally, I’m excited not only about my own future, but also the future of this team as I know we have a lot more room to grow and many more goals to achieve.”
This year saw the 28-year-old Basking Ridge, N.J. native elevate her game to an even higher level. Heath played in 22 games, scoring six goals while recording eight assists tying for second-most on the team with Dunn. Both numbers were career bests for Heath, who this year competed in her fifth world championship for the USA. She played 1,747 minutes in 2016, good for second-best on the team.
Heath was one of the USA’s best players at the 2016 Olympic Games where she recorded two assists. In her fourth season playing for the NWSL’s Portland Thorns FC, Heath finished the year with 10 assists – a new league record – in only 14 appearances for the club – while helping PTFC to the regular season title. She was named to the NWSL Best XI.
Sanchez, who hails from Monrovia, Calif., played in two Women’s World Cup tournaments in 2016. She captained the USA at the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup in Jordan, and was the youngest player and the only one born in 1999 at the 2016 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup in Papua New Guinea. She wins the award with 47 percent of the vote. Midfielder Andi Sullivan came in second with 27 percent.
Playing forward and attacking midfielder, the 17-year-old Sanchez became the first U.S. Youth Women’s National Team player to score in both a FIFA U-17 and U-20 Women’s World Cup in the same year and was one of the USA’s top players at both World Cups.
At the U-17 Women’s World Cup, Sanchez scored three goals, one against Paraguay and two against eventual runner-up Japan. She played every minute of all three games in Jordan and finished her U-17 career averaging a goal a game with 21 goals in 21 caps. Sanchez started all six games at the U-20 Women’s World Cup and played all but two minutes, scoring one goal and dishing two assists. She finished this U-20 cycle with five goals in 16 U-20 international matches.
Sanchez won the Golden Ball as the best player in the tournament at the 2016 CONCACAF U-17 Women’s Championship in Grenada, starting all five games while scoring a team-leading five goals as she helped the USA to the regional title and a berth at the 2016 FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup. She was also named to the 2016 CONCACAF U-17 Women’s Championship Best XI.
In 2016, Sanchez also trained briefly with the full U.S. Women’s National Team during an April camp in Orlando, Fla. She has verbally committed to attend UCLA next fall.
“It was a memorable year for sure, and even though we fell short at both World Cups, I know the experiences that me and my teammates had will last a lifetime,” Sanchez said. “It’s a huge honor to win this award and I’m really appreciative of everyone who voted for me. I also want to thank all of my teammates and coaches on the U-17s and the U-20s. They are great players and great friends and hopefully a bunch of us will reach our goals of playing for the full team one day.”
A new voting process was put into place in 2014. Votes are collected from respective National Team coaches, National Team players who have earned a cap in 2016, American soccer league (MLS, NASL and NWSL) head coaches, select media members, former players and administrators.
Players cannot win the Young Male or Young Female award more than once.
The U.S. Soccer Female Player of the Year has been awarded since 1985, when midfielder Sharon Remer earned the first Female Athlete of the Year honor. The Young Female Player of the Year honor was first awarded in 1998, with Cindy Parlow earning the honor.
PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (Dec. 3, 2016) – The U.S. Under-20 Women’s National Team once again left everything on the field before falling 1-0 to an extremely talented Japan side in the Third-Place Match of the 2016 FIFA Under-20 Women’s World Cup.
“Anybody that watched the games knows that Japan is absolutely world class,” said U.S. head coach Michelle French. “Being able to track and manage their movement off the ball is something that’s very difficult. We did our best. I couldn’t be more impressed with Japan as a team, but on the flip side our players took every single punch that they threw until that goal at the end. We almost found a way, as we’ve done all tournament, to get a goal and get back in the game.”
Japan dominated possession as the USA battled to keep the game scoreless until the very end of regulation.
While Japan had most of the ball and shots, the USA limited the highly dangerous attempts and goalkeeper Casey Murphy was always there to make the save (seven on the night) until the very end of the game.
The USA did have two good chances to score in the second half, launching a quick counter-attack that got Jessie Scarpa free down the right wing, but with an unmarked Ashley Sanchez making a run up the middle, Scarpa hit the retreating defender with her square pass.
Scarpa almost scored on a header in the 77th minute, beating the Japan goalkeeper to a cross off a corner kick, but lifted the ball just over the goal.
“It’s been a fantastic tournament,” said French. “A lot lessons for all the players on our team. We wanted to be able to leave PNG with a medal, but everything we take away from this moment, whether its the feeling of being defeated, or the feeling of knowing they are always in the game, is going to be really valuable for them moving forward.”
With no overtime to be played in the competition’s consolation game, the USA was minutes from forcing penalty kicks before Mami Ueno chipped Murphy from the left side of the penalty area for the game’s lone score.
“To sum up the entire tournament for us, I would use just one word: passion,” said French. “The passion that this group payed with every single game, never quitting, the resolve and resiliency they showed, was massive. That’s the identity of this team. Absolutely, we could have played better soccer, there’s no doubt about that, and the players know that. But as I said, they gave everything until the very last second.”
Goal Scoring Rundown:
JPN – Mami Ueno (Hikaru Kitagawa), 87th minute: The USA hit a short free kick from midfield that Japan won and turned into a counterattack. Japan worked the ball up the left side to Hikaru Kitagawa who slipped a pass to Mami Ueno with some space to turn in the left side of the penalty area. She then sent a lofted shot that flew over Murphy and settled into the right side of the net. USA 0, JPN 1 FINAL
Key Saves and Defensive Plays:
USA – Casey Murphy, 21st minute – As they would many times on the night, Japan did some nice work with the ball to work it into the penalty box after a throw-in. A Japanese player shot from a sharp angle, but Murphy was well-position to push ball away for a corner kick on a full-out dive.
USA – Casey Murphy, 35th minute – Japan worked the ball into the right side of the penalty area and Yui Hasegawa unleased a shot on goal that Murphy was to push over the goal with an acrobatic leap.
USA -- Casey Murphy, 45+2 minute – Japan put on the pressure around the left side this time and cut a cross back for a player to shoot that was deflected before Murphy brilliantly got a hand to the ball and pushed it over bar.
USA -- Casey Murphy, 74th minute – Japan once again worked the ball into the right side of the box for a close-range shot, but Murphy dove full out to her left to push the ball away for a corner kick.
- This marks the second time the USA has finished fourth in a FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup. The USA also finished fourth in 2006 in Russia, falling to Brazil on penalty kicks.
- The USA has finished in the top four in six of the eight U-20 Women’s World Cups it has contested
- Kelcie Hedge got her first start of the tournament, playing forward with Ashley Sanchez, before being replaced by Jessie Scarpa at halftime.
- Marley Canales entered the match in the 86th minute for Emily Fox, earning her first minutes of tournament. The minutes for Canales meant that all 18 field players played in the World Cup. Only back-up goalkeepers Brooke Heinsohn and Rose Chandler did not see the field.
- The loss was just the sixth for the USA over eight FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cups.
- The USA has now lost just five matches in regulation time in its history in the tournament, spanning eight competitions. Three of the losses were to Germany, one to China PR during group play in 2008 when the USA had already clinched first place in the group, one to Korea DPR (in overtime) of this tournament and tonight to Japan.
- The USA played Japan three times during this U-20 cycle, losing 5-0, 3-0 and 1-0.
- This was the third time the USA has played in the Third-Place Match of the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup. The USA defeated Brazil for third in 2004 and lost in penalty kicks to Brazil in 2008.
- Defenders Kaleigh Riehl, Taylor Otto and Maddie Elliston, midfielder Emily Ogle and goalkeeper Casey Murphy played every minute of the tournament. Forwards Mallory Pugh and Ashley Sanchez played all but one and two minutes, respectively.
-U.S. Under-20 Women’s National Team Match Report-
Match: U.S. U-20 Women’s National Team vs. Japan U-20 Women’s National Team
Date: Dec. 3, 2016
Competition: 2016 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup – Third-Place Match
Venue: National Football Stadium; Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea
Kickoff: 1 a.m. ET
Weather: 88 degrees; Hot, Humid
Scoring Summary: 1 2 F
USA 0 0 0
JPN 0 1 1
JPN – Mami Ueno (Hikaru Kitagawa) 87th minute
USA: 1-Casey Murphy; 5-Madeline Elliston, 6-Taylor Otto, 3-Kalegih Riehl, 14-Ellie Jean; 9-Mallory Pugh (capt.), 20-Katie Cousins (7-Savannah DeMelo, 69), 10-Emily Ogle, 18-Ashley Sanchez, 16-Emily Fox (13-Marley Canales, 86); 17-Kelcie Hedge (15-Jessie Scarpa, 46)
Subs: 2-Parker Roberts, 4-Sabrina Flores, 8-Courtney Petersen, 11-Ally Watt, 12-Rose Chandler, 19-Natalie Jacobs, 21-Brooke Heinsohn
Head Coach: Michelle French
JPN: 1-Chika Hirao; 3-Hikaru Kitagawa, 4-Nana Ichise, 6-Rin Sumida, 7-Hina Sugita; 8-Yui Hasegawa, 10-Yuka Momiki (Ccpt.), 13-Hisui Haza, 14-Narumi Miura (17-Shiho Matsubara 59); 15-Asato Miyagawa, 16-Miyabi Moriya (18-Mami Ueno, 46)
Subs Not Used: 2-Yuki Mizutani, 5-Ruka Norimatsu, 9-Meika Nishida, 11-Juri Kawano, 12-Mamiko Matsumoto, 19-Yuzuho Shiokoshi, 20-Honoka Hayashi, 21-Natsumi Asano
Head Coach: Asako Takakura
Stats Summary: USA / JPN
Shots: 3 / 29
Shots on Goal: 3 / 8
Saves: 7 / 3
Corner Kicks: 4 / 8
Fouls: 4 / 7
Offside: 3 / 0
Referee: Liang Qin (CHN)
Asst. Referee: Yang Fang (CHN)
Asst. Referee: Mengxiao Boa (CHN)
4th Official: Riem Hussein (GER)
ussoccer.com Player of the Match: Casey MurphyRead more
PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (Nov. 29, 2016) – The U.S. Under-20 Women’s National Team battled with every ounce of energy they had through 90 minutes of regulation and 30 minutes of overtime before falling 2-1 to a talented Korea DPR side in the first semifinal of the 2016 FIFA Under-20 Women’s World Cup.
“I think you saw why Korea DPR made the semifinal and why the growth of the game in their country has propelled them to so much success,” said U.S. head coach Michelle French. “I thought the first 90 minutes we did well enough to be in the game. It’s an extremely disappointing feeling for those players right now who left every bit of energy and every piece of their heart out on the field today.”
The USA will now face the loser of the France-Japan semifinal in the third-place match on Saturday, Dec. 3, at the National Football Stadium (1 a.m. ET on FS1 and telemundo.com).
“Now we’re at a point where we have to turn around and refocus because we have an opportunity to earn a medal,” said French. “Our players need to realize that. Their job isn’t done and they’re going to have every opportunity against whoever our opponent is [in the third place match] to come out and show why we deserve to be in the final four.”
The U.S. team played an excellent first 30 minutes, putting together some quality possession coupled with some excellent defense pressure that created danger in the Korea DPR defensive third. U.S. captain Mallory Pugh had two good looks at goal, albeit from a tight angle, and cut the first one just past the left post while Korea DPR goalkeeper Kim Myong Sun made a kick save on the second.
The Koreans got the first goal in the 51st minute, which came from the penalty spot after U.S. midfielder Katie Cousins was whistled for a handball while blocking a shot. Jon So Yon converted her spot kick into the lower right corner as U.S. goalkeeper Casey Murphy jumped the other way.
As the game wore on, the technically savvy and organized Korea DPR team had the lion’s share of the possession and shots, but the Americans kept fighting, and as they’d done all tournament, got a goal when they needed one.
French sent on attackers Ally Watt, Kelcie Hedge and Jessie Scarpa between the 66th and 78th minutes, but it was a defender who would get the tying score.
As the game entered the 89th minute, Scarpa cut back on her defender from the left wing and sent a cross into the penalty area for Pugh. She took a hard touch and it bounced off a defender, then off Pugh, before a Korea defender made a poor clearance. Natalie Jacobs came flying through to hit an athletic left-footed, first-time volley that looped into the right side of the net to tie the game.
Due to the cooling break and several injuries in the stifling heat, seven minutes of stoppage time were added to the end of the match that saw some wild end-to-end play. The USA was forced to play the last four minutes of stoppage time with 10 players after Watt had to go out injured and the Americans had already made their three allowed substitutes in regulation. Watt went down hard in the 81st minute as she was violently decked from behind by Korean defender. She tried to continue, but could not, and the USA lost its fastest player for the overtime period.
After the USA dodged a few quality scoring chances from Korea DPR in second half stoppage time, French was able to utilize the new rule allowing for a fourth sub in overtime and sent on Courtney Peterson for Watt.
Korea DPR wasted no time going ahead, however, creating a very nice goal less than a minute into the first overtime. The USA tried to push for a second equalizer and battled with tremendous heart until to the end, but a clearly fatigued U.S. team could not find the net again.
“I said it all tournament, I couldn’t be more proud,” said French. “Again you find a way to get the goal at the end. We never gave up, I think in the end, the 4 o’clock games that we had (in the heat) and the possession that Korea DPR had, it just started to add up and you could see our players start to fatigue a little bit. That’s 100 percent to be expected, so great game for Korea DPR and best of luck to them in the final.”
U.S. defender Maddie Elliston cleared a ball off the goal line after Murphy made a fantastic point blank save in the 109th minute to keep the USA in the game, but it was not to be.
Murphy had an excellent game in goal, making several fine saves over the course of the 120 minutes while controlling the air her penalty box as well.
Goal Scoring Rundown:
PRK – Jon So Yon (penalty kick), 50th minute: Korea DPR started the half strong and earned a penalty kick after Katie Cousins was called for a handball while sliding to block a shot in right side of the penalty box. The ball initially hit her leg, but deflected up her body and ricocheted off her arm. Jon So Yon calmly sent her kick into the lower right corner as U.S. goalkeeper Casey Murphy guessed the other way. USA 0, PRK 1
USA – Natalie Jacobs, 89th minute: With the seconds ticking away in regulation, Jessie Scarpa cut back on her defender from the left flank and sent a cross into the penalty area for Pugh, who took a hard touch to goal in the middle of the penalty area. The ball bounced off a defender, and then Pugh, and then another defender made a poor clearance. Jacobs came flying through to hit an athletic left-footed, first-time volley into the right side of the net to tie the game. USA 1, PRK 1
PRK – Ri Hyang Sim (Sung Hyang Sim), 91st minute: As the first overtime began, Korea DPR wasted little time going ahead, scoring just 48 seconds after the restart on an excellent build up. The play started on a dead ball after the USA was called for offside. Korea DPR played the ball to the left and then up the middle. A series of passes then got the ball into the right side of the penalty area to Ri Hyang Sim whohad an uncontested shot from inside the six-yard box and she stuffed her shot into the near post past charging U.S. goalkeeper Casey Murphy for the game winner. USA 1, PRK 2 FINAL
- The loss was the first in overtime for the USA in the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup.
- The USA has lost just four matches in regulation time in its history in the tournament, spanning eight competitions. Three of the losses were to Germany and one to China PR during group play in 2008 when the USA had already clinched first place in the group.
- The USA defeated Korea DPR 2-1 in overtime during the quarterfinals at the 2012 U-20 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Japan and lost to them in penalty kicks in the 2014 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup quarterfinals in Canada.
- The USA has played in the third-place game of the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup on two other occasions, defeating Brazil in 2004 and losing in penalty kicks to Brazil in 2008.
- Natalie Jacobs got her first start of the tournament at right back. Ellie Jean, who had played right back in the four previous games, moved into right midfield and ran with fury until she was taking off in the 71st minute for Kelcie Hedge.
- The goal for Natalie Jacobs was just her second at the U-20 level in 20 caps.
- Courtney Petersen played the entire overtime in her first action since the opening match of the tournament against France.
- The USA has given up five goals in the tournament, four off set plays. Korea DPR’s game-winner was the first goal given up from the run of play.