Dec. 14, 2001
CHICAGO, Ill. - The U.S. Women's National Team's clash with Mexico on January 12 at Blackbaud Stadium in Charleston, S.C., (7 p.m. ET on ESPN2) will be just the beginning of a three-week trek that will take the team across the world to China, where they will face Norway, Germany and China in the Four Nations Women's Tournament taking place in Guangzhou from January 23-27, 2002.
U.S. head coach April Heinrichs today named the 24 players that will come into Charleston, S.C., on January 8 and train for four days. She will then pick 18 players to face Mexico on January 12. Among the 24 players are Danielle Slaton and Aly Wagner from this year's NCAA Champion Bronco women's soccer team, along with former Santa Clara standouts Brandi Chastain and Kylie Bivens.
The team will then have several days of training as she re-evaluates her roster before picking the 18 players to represent the USA against the three world powers in the Far East with matches on January 23, 25 and 27. Guangzhou holds a special place in the hearts of the U.S. Women's National Team veterans, who won the first-ever FIFA Women's World Cup in the bustling metropolis back in 1991. Heinrichs was the captain of that team.
"It's wonderful to have the Women's National Team players together for more than just a friendly game," said Heinrichs. "To be able to train with the objective of going to China and playing in what amounts to a 'Group of Death' is a tremendous opportunity. Playing games against Norway, Germany and China in a five-day span will be an astronomical and exciting challenge for us. But first, we must focus on Mexico, which will also be an important game as we are likely to face them in our regional qualifying tournament for the Women's World Cup."
The USA will open the tournament on Jan. 23 vs. Norway at Huadu Stadium, face Germany on Jan. 25 at Panyu Stadium and finish the tournament in grand fashion, taking on China on Jan. 27 at Tianhe Stadium, site of the 1991 Women's World Cup Final. The game times have not been set pending the finalization of plans with Chinese television to show all the matches live throughout the country.
The tournament will also afford the U.S. women some valuable experience, giving them a sneak preview of the venues, atmosphere and competition they should encounter at the 2003 Women's World Cup in China. The pre-Women's World Cup seasoning may be most valuable for the younger players on the squad, as this will mark the seventh trip to China for some of the U.S. veterans. The U.S. team last visited China in January of 2001 to play two matches, losing 1-0 in Panyu before tying 1-1 in front of 30,000 fans at the brand-new Dragon Stadium in Hangzhou.
But first, the USA must focus on an up-and-coming Mexican side at what is sure to be a sold-out Blackbaud Stadium. Only 500 corner seats remain for the match, priced at $18 each, at the 5,113-seat venue. Tickets are available at all Ticketmaster outlets throughout the Carolinas and Georgia (including Publix & Cat's Music), by phone at 843-554-6060 or on the web at www.ussoccer.com.
Aside from the grueling schedule of three games in 120 hours, the U.S. women will face difficult, yet unique challenges in each of their three matches in China. Against Norway, the USA faces the only country in the world that holds a winning record against them. The USA is 13-16-2 all time against Norway, and in the most recent meeting at the Algarve Cup last March, a young U.S. team staked a 3-1 lead over the Olympic champions before giving up three goals in the last 17 minutes to lose 4-3. While the USA holds an 11-7-9 all-time record against China, they have failed to beat them in regulation time in the last seven meetings. The USA's last victory over China came on April 22, 1999, in a match before the Women's World Cup, and the team escaped with a victory only after a last-minute winner from Tisha Venturini. In Germany, the Americans face a team likely still smarting from a 4-1 thrashing at the feet of the U.S. women at the 2001 NIKE U.S. Women's Cup, just a month after the German women conquered Europe and won their third consecutive continental championship.
Of the 24 players called into the Charleston training camp, 17 are WUSA players and seven recently completed their college seasons. Among those seven are defender Danielle Slaton and midfielder Aly Wagner, who led Santa Clara University to the NCAA championship in Dallas on Dec. 9. Slaton, whose inspirational defense was a key to shutting out North Carolina in the championship game, was named Defensive MVP of the Final Four. Wagner was stellar in the center of the midfield for the Broncos, setting up two goals in the semi-final victory over Florida and scoring the winner on a brilliant strike from 18 yards out in the NCAA final. She was named the Offensive MVP of the Final Four.
Also called into the camp were defenders Jena Kluegel and Cat Reddick, both of UNC, and midfielder Aleisha Cramer of BYU, who finished 1-2-3 respectively in minutes played for the national team in 2001 as a group of rising stars got the chance to play in numerous full internationals while the veterans were committed to their WUSA teams. The other two college players called in were forward Abby Wambach of Florida, who scored 31 goals for the Gators this year and ended her career with 96, and goalkeeper Hope Solo of Washington. Slaton, Wagner and Wambach were named First-Team All-Americans while Reddick and Solo garnered Second-Team honors and Kluegel was named to the Third-Team.
Solo is the youngest, but with seven caps, ironically the most internationally experienced of the three 'keepers in camp. Jaime Pagliarulo (San Diego Spirit) has three national team caps while WUSA Goalkeeper of the Year LaKeysia Beene (San Jose CyberRays), despite extensive youth international experience, has only four caps with the full team.
Heinrichs called in 11 veterans of the 2000 Olympic Team, including Slaton, who was the youngest member of the squad in Australia. Among the Olympians are two of the world's all-time leading scorers in Mia Hamm (129 career goals) and Tiffeny Milbrett (86), who are both finalists, along with China's Sun Wen, for the first-ever FIFA World Female Player of the Year, to be awarded in Zurich, Switzerland on Dec. 17.
Also making returns to the national team are Thori Bryan of the CyberRays, who has 56 caps, but earned 52 of them from 1993-'97, and Danielle Fotopoulos of the Carolina Courage, a member of the 1999 Women's World Cup champions who has 11 goals in 26 appearances, but last played for the USA on Oct. 7, 1999, against Finland. Three young players who distinguished themselves in the WUSA this past season, San Diego's Shannon Boxx and Nancy Augustyniak and Kylie Bivens of the Atlanta Beat, may get the chance to earn their first full national team caps.