CHARLESTON, S.C. (Saturday, January 12, 2002) - The U.S. Women's National Soccer Team opened its 2002 schedule with a 7-0 victory over Mexico in front of a sell-out crowd of 5,634 fans at Blackbaud Stadium.
The match started in chilly 40-degree temperatures before heavy showers hit at halftime and drenched the players for the rest of the match. The U.S. women were playing a full international match for the first time since Sept. 9, 2001, and it took several minutes for the Americans to find a rhythm, but when they did, seven spectacular goals followed.
"It was great for us to get a 90-minute game under pressure, in front of a crowd and under the lights," said U.S. head coach April Heinrichs. "Our finishing in the second half was very good." In the 22nd minute, Cindy Parlow got possession on left flank, cut inside and lofted a cross into the penalty area. Shannon Mac-Millan clashed with a Mexican defender about 12 yards out, but won the ball solidly and lofted a perfect looping header over Mexican goalkeeper Lin-nea Quinones and into the upper right corner. Parlow had several near misses after getting behind the Mexican defense before leaving in the 56th minute.
The USA scored again in the 35th minute as Tiffeny Milbrett poked a short pass to Lilly at the top of the penalty area. Lilly moved the ball onto her left foot and hit a nasty, swerving shot that totally fooled Quinones, catching her wrong-footed as the ball plowed into the left side of the net.
"The players came out with a lot of enthusiasm and eagerness, and it showed at the beginning of the match as we were a little unsettled and gave up possession too easily," said U.S. head coach April Hein-richs. "I was very impressed when the players made the adjustments themselves after halftime and came out and possessed the ball much better in second half."
Despite the driving rain, the USA added five goals in the second half, packing them into 38 minutes of attacking flurry. U.S. captain Julie Foudy notch-ed the third goal directly off a corner kick as MacMillan hit a low drive into the pack of players. Foudy volleyed it out of the air with her right foot as the ball struck Mexican defender Lisa Nanez on the leg and snuck into the lower right corner for her 39th international score.
"It was raining sideways," said Lilly, who notched her 88th international goal and was honored before the game by FIFA for being the most capped female player in the world. "But we finished great tonight and hopefully that will carry over into the tournament in China at the end of the month."
U.S. head coach April Hein-richs gave time to several young players, including defenders Cat Reddick and Jena Kluegel and midfielders Aleisha Cramer and Aly Wagner. It was Wagner that showed the scoring touch, picking up a goal and an assist.
"For Aly to come in and play the balls that she did, and finish, showed a high level of sophistication," added Heinrichs. "And every time Aleisha Cram-er touches the ball, you can tell she's a special player."
In the 65th minute, Wagner sent a deft chip into the penalty area to Fotopoulos, who controlled the ball, held off a defender and pivoted to crack her shot under Quinones as the wet ball slipped through her arms and rolled slowly over the goal line. It was the 12th goal in 27 international matches for Fotopoulos.
The USA's fifth goal was perhaps the most spectacular, as Milbrett sized up a left-footed cross from almost flush on the left sideline, bending it hard into the middle to the slashing MacMillan who snapped a falling header into the left corner past the committed Quinones.
Wagner's goal was as subtle as it was spectacular as a Mexican clearance off a U.S. corner kick fell to her at the top of the penalty area. With her first touch, Wagner delicately sent a looping ball over the stunned Quinones and into the upper left corner. It was Wagner's sixth goal in international play.
MacMillan completed her hat trick in the 89th minute, courtesy of Fotopoulos, who cut back sharply on a defender deep in the left side of the penalty area, then slid a pass across the goal for MacMillan to knock in from close range.
The hat trick was the first of MacMillan's national team career and pushed her career goal total to 38. She was named the Chevrolet Player of the Game for her three-goal, one assist night.
"I want to become more of an impact player on this team and prove I can make a difference," said MacMillan. "Tonight was a great starting point for the year."
Mexico played a 4-5-1 formation for most of the match, leaving Iris Mora alone up top to face the USA's back line and she had little success as Mexico took just two shots to the USA's 29. Lakeysia Beene earned the shutout in goal for the USA in just her fifth game, but did not have to make a save. While the American women have routed Mexico in the past, two of the last three meetings ended in hard-fought 3-0 and 3-2 victories for the U.S.
"Mexico is a team that we'll play in Women's World Cup qualifying and putting a stamp on the victory like this is exactly what we wanted to do," said MacMillan. "It sends a message."
The USA will stay in Charleston, S.C. for three more days as Heinrichs evaluates the 24 players in training camp before picking the 18 that will travel to China next week for the Four Nations Tournament featuring Germany, China and Norway.