by John Philip Wyllie
Two of the three San Diego-based players involved in the international friendly between the Unites States and Mexico on Saturday came into the game wanting to make a statement.
For Chula Vista's Mexican goalkeeper, Linnea Quinones, a strong performance might trigger an invitation to next month's WUSA player combine and an opportunity to continue her career playing professionally for one of the eight women's professional soccer league franchises. For American goal scorer, Shannon Mac-Millan, the game was viewed as an opportunity to step up and finally become a leader on a team for which she has played a secondary role for much of the last eight years.
MacMillan, her teammates and the weather combined to hand Quinones a setback in her quest for WUSA stardom as the United States romped to a 7-0 victory in both team's first outing of the new year. Mexico, outshot 29-2, was only able to keep the game within reach through the first half due to some spectacular goalkeeping on the part of Quinones.
In the 22nd minute, she thwarted towering Cindy Par-low on a point blank shot to preserve what at that point was a 0-0 draw. Seconds later however, MacMillan headed a pass from Parlow into the upper right corner and began her three-goal one assist career topping performance. Kristine Lilly's brilliant goal from 25 yards doubled the U.S. total, but Quinones barreled out of her net to thwart Parlow a second time late in the first half to hold the score line at 2-0 through the intermission.
In the second half, the heavens opened up and sent forth a deluge of water soaking the players, the fans and the field. The torrential rain made it difficult to see the ball. And with the Mexican defense seemingly exhausted, Quinones was as exposed as a bleeding man in a tank full of hungry sharks.
Led by MacMillan's two second half goals, the U.S. moved in for the kill and pummeled the Mexican net relentlessly. Despite the fact that five goals were scored in the half, the final result could have gone into double digits had Quinones not stifled several other promising attacks. Her saves off a ten yard blast from U.S. Player of the Year, Tiffeny Milbrett in the 54th minute and her diving fingertip stop off of a Parlow break away two minutes later demonstrated her ability to play at the highest level. Whether that will be enough to gain her a WUSA tryout remains to be seen.
"I want to become more of an impact player on this team and prove I can make a difference," MacMillan said afterward. "Tonight was a great starting point for the year." Buoyed by Mexico's to most recent efforts against the U.S. in which they held the scores to 3-2 and 2-0 respectively, Quinones had hoped for better.
The third local player involved, 17 year old Bonita Vista High senior Lina Valderrama, made her debut on the senior Mexican team gaining 72 minutes of international experience playing in the mid-field.