MacMillan’s late penalty kick proves the difference, beating Australia 1-0 to win inaugural Pacific Cup.
The U.S., China and Canada all finished 4-1 in the six-nation round robin, but the Americans took home the trophy on far better goal differential of plus-16, to plus-9 for China and minus-1 for Canada.
It was the third tournament championship won abroad this year for the U.S. women along with the Australia Cup in January and the Algarve Cup in Portugal in March. The Americans also captured its own Nike U.S. Women's Cup in May in Portland, Ore.
"We've really made a lot of parallels with the Pacific Cup to the Olympics in September," said U.S. coach April Heinrichs. "From the long flight over here, to the weather, to the amount of games we played, to the fact that we could lose our first game and still come back to win. I was most pleased that we demonstrated consistency and got better through the course of every game. We played well in adverse conditions on the road and the comparisons to the Olympics are overt and obvious. This tournament will no doubt help inspire us in our preparation because we have an idea of what to expect."
Heinrichs started the match with tournament-leading scorer Cindy Parlow (seven goals) on the bench, but it was the 5-foot-11 striker who created the winning scenario after coming on in the 59th minute. The Americans had run hard at the Australia goal all match, outshooting its foe 19-4, but despite numerous near misses, could not find a way past Matildas' goalkeeper Tracey Wheeler and the scrappy Aussie defense.
In the 79th minute, Parlow received a bouncing pass in the top of the penalty area and attempted to touch it over defender Cheryl Salisbury. The 5-foot-11 Salisbury, seeing herself beaten and with no one behind her, knocked the ball down with her upper arm. Referee Tammy Ogston did not hesitate to award the penalty kick and MacMillan drilled her shot home for the winner.
"The field was slick and sometimes it was hard to read the ball, but we still created a lot of chances," said MacMillan, who scored her 29th international goal. "I had several chances in the first half, but the game is stingy and we couldn't put them away. On the penalty, Mia looked at me because she knew I wanted it. I wanted to bury it because I was frustrated for not finishing my chances earlier."
Heavy showers and high winds pelted the field for 45 minutes before the match and continued throughout the game. The U.S. team dominated play with possession against the high-pressure defense of the Australians as strikers Tiffeny Milbrett and Mia Hamm, with great support from the midfield, repeatedly sliced wide gaps in the Matlidas' back line.
The U.S. knocked the ball around with remarkable precision considering the conditions, as sheets of rain fell in the second half. "We had every weather condition we could possibly have on this trip," Heinrichs said. "We need to get used to playing on a slick surface. The footing was unbelievably difficult. All things considered, to win 1-0, to create as many chances as we did, and to pursue the kind of soccer we did, we have to be pleased. Anyone can tear a house down, we're trying to build one up."
U.S. goalkeeper Siri Mullinix was solid. In the second minute, Mullinix punched away a free kick and later dove at the feet of Sunni Hughes to snuff out a rebound opportunity in the 13th minute. She came far out of her goal a half dozen times to clear away Australia through balls and defused the last dangerous Aussie chance when she pushed a troublesome ball from Amy Wilson over the crossbar in the 66th minute.
"We played very well under the conditions and especially against a very fired up Australia team on Australia soil," said U.S. midfielder Julie Foudy. "The weather plays into their game, which is a feisty, scrappy, direct type of game. In the first half, we could have easily walked into the locker room with two or three goals."
In the 20th minute, Hamm played a one-two with Milbrett, who wen in alone on Wheeler, but the Australia keeper dove low to her left to make a fantastic save.
The next five minutes saw three U.S. chances go wanting as Hamm looped a ball to Milbrett behind defense only for her to volley wide from 16 yards. Midfielder Kristine Lilly then hit a volley that was palmed off the cross bar by Wheeler. MacMillan, crashing hard, hit the rebound over the top.
A quick passing sequence between Lilly, Hamm and Milbrett once again put the latter clear to shoot, only to push her shot wide from eight yards.
In the 52nd minute, Milbrett shook herself free at the top of the penalty box, but skipped her left-footed shot just wide of the left post. In the 78th minute, Milbrett's chip from 20 yards had eyes for the upper corner before Wheeler batted it away.
The U.S. team returns to the States tomorrow, then has week break before regrouping in Hershey, Pa., on June 20 to prepare for its first match of the CONCACAF Women's Gold Cup on June 23 against Trinidad & Tobago at 8 p.m. (ET).
United States 1, Australia 0Lineups: United States - Siri Mullinix, Christie Pearce, Joy Fawcett, Kate Sobrero, Brandi Chastain (Cindy Parlow 59), Kristine Lilly, Lorrie Fair (Nikki Serlenga 83), Julie Foudy (captain), Shannon MacMillan, Tiffeny Milbrett, Mia Hamm. Australia - Tracey Wheeler, Cheryl Salisbury, Bridgette Starr, Diana Alagich, Anissa Tann-Darby (Sacha Waiwright 85), 7-Alison Foreman (captain), Kate McShea, Bryony Duus (Amy Wilson 46), Sharon Black (Heather Garriock 68), Sunni Hughes, Alicia Ferguson (Kelly Golebiowski 68).
Shots: United States 19, Australia 4. Saves: United States 2, Australia 4. Corner kicks: United States 12, Australia 1. Fouls: United States 2, Australia 10. Offside: United States 2, Australia 3. Yellow card cautions: United States - Parlow 82; Australia - Foreman 45.
Referee: Tammy Ogston (Australia). Referee’s assistants: Bronwyn Calver (Australia), Jacquie Leleu (Australia). Attendance: 3,617 at Breakers Stadium in Newcastle, Australia. Weather: Rain, windy, cold, 48 degrees.