Nov. 9, 2002
PASADENA, Calif. - The U.S. Women's National Team won the 2002 CONCACAF Women's Gold Cup in dramatic fashion with a 94th minute "golden goal" from Mia Hamm in sudden death overtime to defeat Canada, 2-1, in the championship game on a wet, soggy field at the Rose Bowl. It was Hamm's first goal of the tournament, but the 136th of her career.
"Canada is an athletic team," said U.S. captain Julie Foudy, who played a marvelous match in midfield. "They are combative and they're the kind of team that will always gets in a foot or a tackle. In conditions like this tonight, that's a perfect game for them, because they are a scrappy team. I give them tremendous credit. Their federation has put a lot of support behind their women's team and you can see the result."
It was the fifth regional title for the U.S. women, having won Women's World Cup Qualifying Tournaments in 1991 and 1994, both over Canada, a CONCACAF event in 1993 in New York, and the inaugural Women's Gold Cup in 2000. It was also the second title at the Rose Bowl following the historic penalty kick victory at the 1999 Women's World Cup.
"We knew the game against Canada was going to be a tough one," said U.S. defender Brandi Chastain. "Playing against Canada always is, because we've played so many games against them in the past and because they've improved so much in recent years. It has become a great game for us, and a true rivalry."
The USA and Canada had already qualified for the 2003 Women's World Cup in China by virtue of their victories in the Women's Gold Cup semifinals, but were playing for regional bragging rights. The USA dominated the match played on a field covered in puddles, but Canada's 5-4-1 formation was tremendously organized, making it difficult for the U.S. to find space in the attacking third. The USA displayed some excellent, crisp, high-paced possession despite the bad conditions, and had created chances throughout the match, but Canadian goalkeeper Karina LaBlanc was excellent all night.
The USA struck first with a remarkable goal from Tiffeny Milbrett in the 27th minute. The sequence started when Aly Wagner played a pass into Kristine Lilly's path on the left wing. Lilly beat the speedy Candace Chapman around the corner and whipped a cross into the middle for Milbrett, who was making a hard lateral run across the six-yard box. Milbrett beat Silvana Burtini to the ball and fired a beautiful first-time volley with her left foot over LeBlanc and into the roof of the net. It was the 95th international goal of her career.
"She's a world class finisher and she proved that again tonight," said Hamm about Milbrett, who scored seven goals in the tournament despite playing just three total halves. Milbrett was named the Most Valuable Player of the Women's Gold Cup and shared tournament top scoring honors with Canada's Charmaine Hooper and Christine Sinclair, who both also scored seven times.
"It was an incredibly ball from (Kristine Lilly)," said Milbrett about her goal. "She had to beat that defender, took her on a good 20 yards down the field and got off a great cross. I delayed my run a little bit and it was a perfect ball, perfect timing."
During the last 30 minutes of the first half, a heavy fog descended on the Rose Bowl, lowering visibility, and Canada's equalizer came in the haze off a corner kick. The goal in stoppage time of the first half was from a scramble in front of the U.S. net after Burtini's cross bounced off several Canadian players before popping free to Hooper, who poked a soft shot that hit U.S. goalkeeper Briana Scurry's foot, then bounced back to Hooper, who cracked the rebound off Scurry and into the roof of the net from close range. It was Hooper's 10th career goal against the USA.
The goal ended the USA's 527-minute shutout streak in Women's Gold Cup action dating back to the 2000 event. Hooper scored the only other goal ever allowed by the USA in Gold Cup play in a 4-1 U.S. semifinal win at the 2000 tournament. Despite allowing its first goal of the tournament, the U.S. defense was stellar in winning countless balls in the air and on the ground, and did a fine job of denying Hooper scoring chances.
"Considering the field and the weather, I thought our team played marvelously from start to finish," said U.S. head coach April Heinrichs. "The first half was phenomenal. The only flaw in that game was that corner kick where the ball was bouncing around, it was a bit sloppy and difficult to clear."
The fog lifted for the second half and Hamm came off the bench for the USA, sparking the team offensively, as Wagner continually probed and poked at the Canadian defense all night with her passes from the midfield. but the center back trio of Sharolta Nonen, Randee Hermus and Breanna Boyd proved tough to break down.
Hamm got to work right way, and in the 48th minute got loose in the right side of penalty area only 15 yards out, but LeBlanc was quick off her line to block the shot almost at Hamm's feet. In the 50th minute, Cindy Parlow brought a ball down beautifully with her instep behind defense, but Hermus came up with a great tackle before she could shoot.
Still, the USA ran at Canada for 45 minutes as Hamm had several more chances, only to be denied by LeBlanc. Parlow just missed on a sliding shot from a Hamm cross and defender Joy Fawcett had a goal called back for offside in the 78th minute.
Canada took just one shot in the second half, a 35-yard blast by Hooper that almost caught Scurry off her line, but flew over the goal. Despite the attacking superiority, the USA could not find the net and the game went into overtime, but four minutes later, it was over, as Wagner won a head ball in the midfield to put Hamm in a footrace to the goal with Boyd. The world's all-time leading scorer executed a finish of class and composure, lifting it with her instep over the stranded LeBlanc and dropping the ball into the right corner of the net as Boyd clattered into her.
"In the second half, (Canada) played eight and sometimes 10 players behind the ball, and we were still able to find a variety of ways to get behind them," said Heinrichs. "I really have to credit our players with applying every lesson we've learned during these five games to pick apart Canada's bunker. And eventually, what a phenomenal goal to finish the tournament with."
"We have so much respect for Canada and how hard they play," added Hamm. "That's why our focus and commitment was there tonight. Every player made an impact in this tournament. Everyone unselfishly said, 'what do I have to do to win.' And that's how you win tournaments like this. It's a grind, and people get injured, and other people have to carry the load, and this team did that."
Fawcett and Brandi Chastain, along with Wagner, Shannon MacMillan and Milbrett were all named to the Women's Gold Cup Best XI. Cindy Parlow was named Honorable Mention All-Tournament Team. The match marked the second big win for the U.S. Women's National Team Program over Canada this fall, both with a golden goal, as the U.S. Under-19 Women's National Team defeated Canada in the 2002 FIFA U-19 Women's World Championship last Sept. 1, as team captain Lindsay Tarpley scored the winner in the 109th minute in Edmonton. The U.S. team will now have several months off before regrouping next January to begin the run to the 2003 Women's World Cup in China.