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Womenís U.S. Cup í98

U.S. blanks Brazil 3-0 to sweep fifth straight U.S. Cup.

By Gary Davidson
SoccerTimes

RICHMOND, Va. (Sunday, September 20, 1998) -- So much has been made recently of Mia Hammís pursuit of the 100-goal milestone, many of the United Statesí star strikerís other skills have been obscured.

Hamm did not find net this afternoon, but she still played a crucial role in the Americansí 3-0 decision over Brazil to capture the Womenís U.S. Cup í98 before 9,147 at University of Richmond Stadium.

Defender Joy Fawcett, midfielder Michelle Akers and striker Debbie Keller netted the goals as the U.S. improved its record to 15-0 in winning all five U.S. Cups to date. The victory also avenged a 1-0 loss in Brazil last December. The U.S. is 20-1-2 since.

"The first 30 minutes werenít good for us," U.S. coach Tony DiCicco said. "We needed somebody up front to take charge and hold the ball. And Mia did it . . . Mia is beginning to recognize what needs to be done and is doing it and, I think, playing the best soccer sheís ever played. She had a very important role in our game today. It wasnít going the way we wanted it to. We told (the team) what we wanted and she picked it up And it became contagious within the team."

Hamm started the sequences that produced the first two U.S. goals, giving the Americans a 2-0 advantage at intermission.

In the 32d minute, she hit a left-side corner kick across the goal mouth to midfielder Brandi Chastain headed the ball back to the right post where Fawcett effortlessly nodded a shot two yards into the net.

"We have a way we go about corner kicks," Chastain said. "Someone has the near post and someone wide has the far post. This teamís got heart and anything into the box, youíre going to try your damnedest to get onto the end of the ball. We reiterate that before the game. I got onto the end of it and Joy was exactly where she was supposed to be, doing her job, and she put it away."

Hamm had four goals and six assists for the three U.S. Cup matches and her pair in Fridayís 4-0 triumph over Russia gave her 101 for her career, the third player internationally to break the century mark. But it was Fawcett, who also scored one in the 9-0 rout of Mexico and played tough defense on the right flank throughout the week was named the tournamentís most valuable player.

"Itís great other people are scoring taking some of the pressure off of Mia," Fawcett said. "Iím sure itís great for her to know she doesnít have to do it all."

In the 43d minute, Hamm fed Akers in the left side of the penalty area. Brazilís Katia literally wrestled Akers to the ground but as she landed on her side, Akers swung her right foot and rifled a six-yards shot that caromed off keeper Maravilha into the short side for her 98th international goal.

"She was definitely doing a great job of mugging me," said Akers, who played with a first-degree separation in her right shoulder suffered Friday against Russia. "I was able to hold her off, throw her arms away a little bit and keep my eye on the ball and whack it on goal. I was just trying to throw her away from me, but once we got done wrestling, I was able to keep my eye on it and whack it."

Brazilís game plan was simple. Defend most of the time and try to send an occasional long ball to its speedy attackers Pretinha and Maicon. Three times the strategy worked. Goalkeeper Briana Scurry made one point-blank stop, used intimidation to force another shot over the bar and central defender Kate Sobrero raced back to diffuse a breakway.

"You have to respect their speed," said U.S. central defender Carla Overbeck. "They try to lull you into a slow possession game and then they spring one of their forwards at the top of your defense and youíre caught. You have to honor them."

Chastain fed Keller for a six-yard header in the 74th minute to finish the scoring.

Gary Davidson is managing editor of Soccer Times and can be e-mailed at info@soccertimes.com.

United States 3, Brazil 0

Lineups: United States - Briana Scurry, Christie Pearce, Carla Overbeck (Sara Whalen 78), Kate Sobrero, Joy Fawcett, Brandi Chastain, Michelle Akers (Tisha Venturini 46), Julie Foudy (Debbie Keller 70), Kristine Lilly, Tiffeny Milbrett (Shannon MacMillan 70), Mia Hamm (Robin Confer 76). Brazil - Maravilha, Valeria, Elane, Juliana, Nene, Katia (Caterina 70), Racquel (Doranil 64), Suzana, Fabiana (Debora 56), Pretinha, Roseli (Maicon 19).

Scoring: United States - Fawcett (Chastain) 32; United States - Akers (Hamm) 43; United States - Keller (Chastain) 74. Shots: United States 18, Brazil 6. Saves: United States 3, Brazil 3. Corner kicks: United States 8, Brazil 1. Fouls: United States 17, Brazil 17. Offside: United States 2, Brazil 4. Yellow card caution: United States - Lilly 13; Brazil - Valeria 41, Elane 42. Red card ejections: Brazil - Valeria (second yellow card) 51.

Referee: Sandra Hunt (United States). Assistant referees: George Vergara (United States), B.J. Baitinger (United States). Attendance: 9,147 at University of Richmond (Va.) Stadium. Weather: Hot, humid, 81 degrees.

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