GUANGZHOU, China (January 20, 2008) The U.S.
Women¹s National Team scored a 77th minute goal off a header from midfielder
Shannon Boxx to earn a 1-0 victory over China
and win the
2008 Four Nations Tournament. It was the first tournament title for new U.S.
head coach Pia Sundhage.
The U.S. team swept almost all of the tournament awards
as midfielder Lindsay Tarpley scored four times to earn the Top Scorer award,
forward Heather O¹Reilly was named Tournament MVP, Sundhage was named
Best Coach and the USA also won the Fair Play Award, going three games without
getting a yellow card. Chinese net-minder Zhang Yanru was named Best Goalkeeper.
Boxx¹s goal came after defender Lori Chalupny had
burst past a defender outside the penalty box on the right side only to be
been scythed down, earning a free kick.
The initial service was cleared off a Chinese head,
but the ball fell to defender Becky Sauerbrunn on the right wing and she
sent a looping service back into the middle. Boxx got a bit of separation
from her defender and arched her body to send a looping header over the Chinese
goalkeeper into the right corner from 11 yards out. The goal was the 18th
of Boxx¹s international career. It was Sauerbrunn¹s first career
³I am of course very happy for the coaching staff
and for the players," said Sundhage. "It is great to win this tournament.
I am also very happy with the way we played. The Chinese team forced us to
change the system from the first half to the second half. The defending of
the China team was also challenging, which was good, because that is what
it is all about. At the end of the day, it was speed (that made the difference).
You get tired after a while and the header that Boxx put in the goal was
just excellent. It was a good finish for us in this tournament.²
The USA came into the match needing just a draw to win
the tournament, but it was China who played the more conservative game, dropping
way back into a low-pressure defense, often getting all 11 players behind
the halfway line when the U.S. defenders had the ball. The Steel Roses stayed
in their 4-5-1 formation until late in the game when they finally tried to
push some players forward in search of an equalizer.
The low-pressure tactics forced the Americans into a
more patient possession game, as well as a formation change in the second
half. The U.S. team moved from a 4-4-2 with O¹Reilly playing wide on
the left, to a 4-3-3 with Abby Wambach at center forward, O¹Reilly coming
down the right and halftime substitute Tobin Heath on the left.
The USA out-shot China 12-2 for the match, but the
boisterous crowd, seemingly all armed with bang sticks, created an electric
atmosphere as they urged their team forward.
China¹s most dangerous chance came in the 13th
minute when star forward Han Duan evaded U.S. captain Christie Rampone with
a masterful juke at the top of the box and lashed a left-footed shot that
was brilliantly saved by U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo, who flew backwards to
tip the ball over the crossbar.
China created most of its danger off three free kicks
from outside shooting range. Solo had to grab two services that skidded into
the penalty box and saw one cross flash through the goal mouth and out of
The U.S. put half of its 12 shots on frame, but dangerous
chances were definitely at a premium against the organized and committed
In the 32nd minute, O¹Reilly tore into the penalty
area on the left side and chipped a cross through the goal box. Zhang leaped
to get a hand to it, changing the trajectory just enough to throw Boxx
off-balance and she miss-hit her volley a yard wide right of the open net.
In stoppage time of first half, the USA took a short
corner kick and midfielder Carli Lloyd fired a cross in on the ground. In
a mad scramble, no U.S. player could get a solid swing at the ball and Zhang
was able to corral it.
China definitely got the memo on Tarpley, who had scored
twice in the two previous matches, Zhang Tong blanketing her for the entire
first half and giving her little space to create. Tarpley was replaced at
halftime by Angie Woznuk, who earned her third cap.
Lloyd came close to scoring on a set play three minutes
into the second half, but Zhang pushed her 25-yard blast off the cross bar
and out for a corner kick.
O¹Reilly had a nice chance in the 54th minute after
Wambach won ball at midfield and played her through down the right flank,
but with a defender on her left hip, she cut her shot wide of the left post.
In the 68th minute, Heath showed some crafty skills, beating her player in
the left side of the penalty box and dribbled straight down the goal line
to the near post. She cut the ball back to O¹Reilly, but she knocked
her contested shot over the goal.
In the 83rd minute, O¹Reilly set up substitute
Amy Rodriguez will a perfect slip pass behind the Chinese defense on a lightning
counter-attack. Rodriguez got her shot on frame, but Zhang got a few fingers
on it to push it outside the right post.
O¹Reilly¹s impact in taking players on and
creating danger down the flanks during all three matches was so great that
she won the tournament MVP award without scoring a goal.
The USA has now won the Four Nations Tournament six
out of the seven times it has attended the competition. The USA won in 1998,
2003, 2004, 2006, 2007 and 2008, failing to take top honors only in 2002.
The nine goals over the three games were also the most ever scored in a single
Four Nations Tournament by the USA, besting its previous high by three.
Veteran U.S. defender Cat Whitehill did not see any
action in the Four Nations due to an ankle injury suffered right before the
tournament started. Becky Sauerbrunn and Ali Krieger shared minutes next
to the ever-steady Rampone in the center of the defense and both performed
admirably in their first-ever caps. Sauerbrunn played against China wearing
a mask after breaking her nose against Canada in the first match. Rampone
played all 270 minutes in the tournament, marshalling a defense that gave
up just one goal over three matches.
In the first match of the day, Canada pulled out a last
gasp tie with Finland, scoring its first goal of the tournament in the fourth
minute of second half stoppage time as Jodi-Ann Robinson fired on a 25-yard
blast into the left corner just 30 seconds before the final whistle. Canada
earned third-place and Finland finished fourth.
The U.S. team now returns to the United States and will
reconvene at the beginning of February for a training camp at The Home Depot
Center in Carson, Calif. The roster for that camp will be announced in the