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U.S. lineup apt to have MacMillan on the bench.

By Gary Davidson

LANDOVER, Md. (Wednesday, June 30, 1999) -- Shannon MacMillan made a strong case for the starting lineup with a one-goal, two-assist performance in a 3-0 victory against North Korea, but if today's public practice formation for the United States was any indication, she will be on the bench for the Women's World Cup quarterfinal match tomorrow against Germany.

"Right now I'm very pleased with the starting lineup," Coach Tony DiCicco said. "There a good chemistry and a good combination between what we have up front, what we have in the midfield and in the back. I think we have a lot of versatility with that starting lineup. I can move players around. I can go from one system to another system very simply."

Germany is a strong, solid team, with good defense and an offense led by midfielder Bettina Wiegmann.

With advancement to the quarterfinals assured, DiCicco gave starters a rest by opening with four reserves Sunday. The North Koreans never found an answer to MacMillan, who netted the first goal, then fed fellow reserve Tisha Venturini for two header goals in a rare start in the midfield.

There has been media speculation about a possible start for the 1996 Olympic hero who lost her job this year when the United States switched formations, dropping a midfielder. "I'm probably going to be coming off the bench, but hopefully getting in," MacMillan said.

"It's good I'm doing my job, and I'm sure Tony will make the right decision, and he'll make what's best for the team, and that's important. I'll be ready for what he needs. That's all right. I'll keep doing what I'm doing and be ready for anything."

MacMillan, more than any other player, has made DiCicco's life complicated as he tries to figure out a way to get production from the former Portland University star. He remembers her sudden-death goal to beat Norway in the 1996 Olympics semifinals en route to the gold medal.

"No, she's make my life better," DiCicco said, qualifying a reporter's term. "She's so confident now, I can feel it. The last time I felt her like this was the Olympics. And I remember the Olympic semifinal ... when I just had a feeling she was going to go in and do it. So whether she's starting or has to come in, I'm real excited about what she can give us.

"The decision I have to make is whether I go with (Shannon) MacMillan with her speed and quickness, or go with (Cindy) Parlow's heading presence and what she's giving me right now. Other than that, it's pretty close to the lineup (from the first two matches). The only thing is there's possibility they both can be in the lineup if we decide to go with a flank midfield presence.

"If I were able to do that, it would make us that much more dangerous, but we would probably take someone out of the defense (3-5-2 instead of 4-3-3). I'm not sure if I would do that or not. We're still looking at Kate (Sobrero, a defender recovering from a sprained right ankle), but my feeling right now is one or the other (between MacMillan and Parlow) and I'm leaning toward Cindy because she started the first two games.

"We did well in those games, and she gives us a lot. Kate's given us a lot, too, and I don't want to change something that's been working for us. What the last game gave us was other players who are ready to step in and perform at the highest international level. Our subs did great against a team I thought had a very good organization and some good athleticism, and I would not hesitate to use them if I need them."

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

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