With one final offensive outburst, the United States completed its tune-up matches for the 1999 Women's World Cup with a 4-2 victory over Canada today.
Now it's time for the tournament, and that's just fine with U.S. goalkeeper Briana Scurry. "For me, I just kind of wanted to get the game out of the way," she said. "Having a couple of goals scored on us today is probably a good thing because we know we need to tighten things up some."
The U.S. team's send-off game drew 23,325 at Civic Stadium, one of eight Women's World Cup venues, and was televised by ABC Sports. The attendance set a record for a non-Olympic women's match that had not been coupled with a Major League Soccer or U.S. men's national team game. More than half of the spectators stayed to watch Brazil score two second-half goals and defeat Australia, 3-1, in another exhibition here between Women's World Cup teams.
After taking this week off, the U.S. players will reconvene June 14 in New Jersey to begin final preparations for their Women's World Cup opener June 19 against Denmark at Giants Stadium. More than 65,000 tickets have been sold for that match.
Entering today's game, the United States had won six straight by a combined 31-0. China had been the last team to score against the U.S. team when it beat the Americans, 2-1, on April 25.
The U.S. shutout streak ended in the seventh minute today when Canada's Charmaine Hooper scored on a header for a 1-0 lead. But U.S. forward Mia Hamm scored in the 11th minute to tie the game and Tiffany Milbrett gave the Americans a 2-1 lead when she converted a pass from Hamm in the 17th minute.
"When we give up a goal, I'm really not worried, especially in the first 10 minutes," Scurry said. "There's no way they're going to hold us."
In the 44th minute, with the United States a player short while midfielder Brandi Chastain was having a cut patched, Hooper scored again to tie the match at 2.
One minute later, Kristine Lilly gave the United States the lead for good. She took a pass from Hamm and drove a shot that ricocheted off the underside of the crossbar and across the goal line.
Cindy Parlow added a clinching goal in the 83rd minute.
U.S. Coach Tony DiCicco said his team is ready for the Women's World Cup, but added that there always are things to work on.
"Our marking wasn't good enough, our heading of the ball wasn't good enough," DiCicco said. "We played very well in a lot of aspects of the game. But again, we gave them enough so it was 2-2 at one point. We don't want teams to get to that point against us."
One reason the United States may have had some problems heading the ball was that it was without midfielder Michelle Akers, who sprained an ankle in practice Saturday. Had this been a Women's World Cup match, DiCicco said, she would have played. But with nothing on the line, he said he saw no reason to risk further injury.
In the first half, Canada managed six shots, five on goal. The second half was played predominantly in Canada's end, and the Canadians managed just one shot on Scurry.
"I think we were good up to about the 65th minute of the match," Canada Coach Neil Turnbull said. "Then we got a little tired. [The United States] is probably the most fit team in the tournament."
The U.S. team is 15-2-1 this year. Both losses were to China, but the United States probably would not face the Chinese in the Women's World Cup until the semifinals.
Although this was the Americans' final tune-up, there wasn't much nostalgia about the end of this portion of their schedule. The players have been training together in Florida for much of the past six months, and their entire focus is on regaining the title they won in 1991 but lost in 1995.
"It's just part of the process," Hamm said. "But this has been good for us."
1999 Women's World Cup
When: June 19 to July 10.
United States' first-round Schedule:
June 19: vs. Denmark in East Rutherford, N.J.
June 24: vs. Nigeria in Chicago
June 27: vs. North Korea in Foxboro, Mass.
Doubleheaders at Jack Kent Cooke Stadium:
June 23: Norway vs. Canada, Australia vs. Sweden
June 27: Germany vs. Brazil, Nigeria vs. Denmark
July 1: Quarterfinals*
*United States will be one of the teams if it advances.