SAN JOSE, Calif. (Saturday, April 27, 2002) - In just her second match for the full U.S. Women's National Team and her first start, forward Abby Wambach scored her first career goal and picked up her first assist to lead the USA past Finland, 3-0, at Spartan Stadium in front of a boisterous doubleheader crowd of 11,990. Defenders Joy Fawcett and Jena Kluegel also scored in the match for the U.S., who improved their record in 2002 to 5-2-2.
In addition to her goal and assist, Wambach, a rookie standout for the Washington Freedom in the WUSA, collected eight shots in the game (including two that hit the post) and earned Chevy Woman of the Match honors for her efforts as the U.S. out-shot Finland 33-3 in the game.
The USA repeatedly got behind the Finnish defense on the flanks to send numerous dangerous services in the penalty area. If not for solid games from both of Finland's goalkeepers, Johanna Lindell and Satu Kunnas, who both made point blank stops in the match, the margin of victory would have been higher.
Finland played low-pressure defense the entire match and was content to bunker even after going down a goal early, a valuable strike for the USA as it forced to the Finns to come out of their defensive shell a bit.
Wambach opened the scoring after just seven minutes when midfielder Kristine Lilly blew by her defender on the left flank, turned the corner at the end line and played a crisp pass back to Wambach that was a half step behind her. The 5-10 striker smoothly collected the ball as she spun towards goal and smacked a hard shot into the left corner with her right foot from 10 yards out.
"That goal was phenomenal," said U.S. head coach April Heinrichs. "She just turns and strikes, and we see her confidence just skyrocket. You can't give confidence. You can't wish confidence. Players, I think erroneously, think that coaches can give them confidence, but at the end of the day it's earned. I think Abby's earning it in the WUSA and now for the USA."
The second U.S. goal came in the 30th minute after a Wambach diving header floated to Fawcett at the far post across the penalty area. Seconds earlier, Fawcett had banged a Shannon MacMillan corner off the underside of the crossbar in a play reminiscent of her game-winner against Germany in the 1999 Women's World Cup quarterfinals three years ago, but this time she made no mistake, snapping a header into the goal from two yards out. The goal was the 25th of Fawcett's illustrious career. She is the highest scoring defender in U.S. Women's National Team history.
"Getting called into the national team is an honor in itself," said Wambach. "I think when you get called in, you're asked to perform at a certain level. Today, among other days, I feel like I performed pretty well and hopefully it will give us a big boost going into qualifying later this year."
U.S. goalkeeper LeKeysia Beene made history, becoming the first woman to play for her club and country on the same day as she went 90 minutes for the Bay Area CyberRays in a 2-1 loss to the Carolina Courage in the first game of the doubleheader and 76 minutes for the USA against Finland. Beene made one save in the match, before giving way to 20-year-old Hope Solo, who helped preserve the shutout for the USA.
The final U.S. tally came late in the match when Kluegel danced away from her defender in the left side of the penalty area with a splendid cut back move to slam a shot into the roof of the goal from six yards out. The 89th minute tally was the first of Kluegel's 18-game international career and came off a cross from midfielder Lorrie Fair, who had freed herself down the right flank.
Although she uncorked four shots in the game, high-scoring forward Shannon MacMillan's five-game U.S. goal-scoring streak came to end in the match. MacMillan has scored 11 goals on the year, including eight across her recent streak.
Five current or former Santa Clara Broncos took part in the match for the U.S just minutes from their college campus, including a 90-minute performance from the WUSA's #1 draft pick Danielle Slaton. Defenders Brandi Chastain and Kylie Bivens, as well as midfielder Aly Wagner and forward Mandy Clemens played the match in front of families and friends. For Bivens, the appearance was seventh with the U.S., while Clemens picked up her fifth cap. Wagner played a splendid game in midfield, consistently putting U.S. players in dangerous positions with deft chips and probing passes.
Boston Breakers midfielder Angela Hucles picked up her first international cap in the game, playing the final 45 minutes and impressing the crowd with her strong presence on the ball and speed moving forward.
"I was very, very pleased with our attacking ability," added Heinrichs. "We have put a little bit of emphasis on it this week, and we didn't have a lot of training sessions, but some of our decisions in the attacking third were outstanding. They were dynamic, they were aggressive, they were explosive, and really stretched Finland high and wide. I think our chances and the score don't really reflect the game."
The U.S. women will now return to their WUSA clubs and colleges and will not regroup again to play for their country again until July. CONCACAF qualifying for the 2003 Women's World Cup will take place at the end of October and in early November at venues that will be announced soon.
U.S. WOMEN'S NATIONAL TEAM GAME REPORT
Participants: USA vs. Finland
Competition: International Friendly
Venue: Spartan Stadium (San Jose, Calif.)
Date: April 27, 2002 - Kickoff 7 p.m. PT
Weather: Cool, crisp - 53 degrees
Scoring Summary: 1 - 2 - F
United States 2 - 1 - 3
Finland 0 - 0 - 0
USA - Abby Wambach (Kristine Lilly), 7.
USA - Joy Fawcett (Abby Wambach), 30.
USA - Jena Kluegel (Lorrie Fair), 89.
USA - 24-LaKeysia Beene (18-Hope Solo, 76); 4-Cat Reddick (21-Kylie Bivens, 67), 14-Joy Fawcett, 19-Danielle Slaton, 6-Brandi Chastain (2-Lorrie Fair, 46); 10-Aly Wagner, 13-Kristine Lilly (7-Jena Kluegel, 46), 11-Julie Foudy (5-Angela Hucles, 46); 16-Tiffeny Milbrett (22-Mandy Clemens, 60), 23-Abby Wambach (20-Christie Welsh, 75), 8-Shannon MacMillan.
FIN - 12-Johanna Lindell (1-Satu Kunnas, 46); 3-Jessica Julin, 4-Heidi Matinlassi (18-Pia Silander, 89), 5-Sari Seppanen, 14-Petra Vaelma (2-Janina Vuorisalo, 62); 16-Sinikka Soloma, 6-Marjo Ikola (15-Minna Tuominen, 69), 7-Salla Ranta (10-Katri Nakso-Koivisto, 46), 11-Elisa Simonen (9-Tiina Saario, 76); 13-Heidi Kackur, 8-Minna Mustonen.
Statistical Summary: USA - FIN
Shots: 33 - 3
Saves: 1 - 9
Corner Kicks: 10 - 1
Fouls: 4 - 9
Offside: 1 - 0
Misconduct Summary: None
Referee: Keri Seitz (USA)
Asst. Referee: Sharon Wheeler (USA)
Asst. Referee: Chris Strickland (USA)
Chevrolet Woman of the Match: Abby Wambach