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World Cup qualifying semifinals are near after U.S. dominates in 3-0 whitewash of Trinidad & Tobago.

U.S. women

Milbrett finds net five times in 9-0 rout of Panama, earning spot in qualifying semifinals.

SEATTLE (Saturday, November 2, 2002) -- The United States women continued the formality of CONCACAF qualifying tonight, routing Panama 9-0 and coming within one victory of qualifying or the 2002 Women's World Cup.

Striker Tiffeny Milbrett had three goals after nine minutes and five before 34 minutes had passed as the U.S. rolled to an 8-0 advantage at intermission before 21,522 at SAFECO Field.

Milbrett also gave her coach, teammates and U.S. fans a scare in the 56th minute when she stepped oddly and injured her right knee, a malady she said was not serious after the game. Milbrett left the game and the Americans had to go with 10 players for the remainder of the match since all allowable substitutions had been used.

"I absolutely panicked when I saw her go down with the knee injury,'' said U.S. coach April Heinrichs. "I thought it was the ACL (anterior cruciate ligament). It could have been a tragedy for this team.''

The Americans advanced to Wednesday's semifinals hereby winning Group 1. With CONCACAF receiving two automatic berths to the World Cup, both semifinal winners qualify for the fourth quadrennial world tournament and then play for the Cold Cup Saturday at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif. The winner of the third-place match advances to a playoff for a potential third CONCACAF invitee.

The U.S. will meet the second-place finisher from Group 2 in the semifinals which is dependent on tomorrow's Canada-Costa Rica match. Mexico (2-1) won 2-0 over Trindiad & Tobago to finish second in Group 1 and make the semifinals.

Attacker Shannon MacMillan scored twice for the U.S. which outshot Panama 38-2, 20-0 on frame. In sweeping to a 3-0 record in group play, American goalkeepers have not had to make a difficult save, facing only two shots on goal while the U.S. posted an overall shots advantage of 93-5.

After playing before a total of 9,778 for the first two games, the Americans were buoyed by the healthy crowd tonight. "This was a special crowd tonight," Heinrichs said. "They appreciated every touch on the ball, every effort to get back on defense, and they appreciated the players out there for their efforts and intensity. It was really an electrifying crowd to play in front of and for our players a real treat. They cheered for 90 minutes."

Milbrett tied a U.S. women's record for most goals in a game, previously accomplished by Brandi Chastain against Mexico at the 1991 CONCACAF qualifying tournament and by Michelle Akers against Taiwan at the 1991 Women's World Cup. Milbrett already holds the American record for most assists in a match with five, getting that against Australia in 1997.

Milbrett increased her international goal total to 94 and is near becoming the fifth woman in international history to reach the milestone of 100 goals.

Milbrett's first goal came from six yards with a volley of a chip from midfielder Aly Wagner.

Wagner and Milbrett hooked up again three minutes later when the young midfielder slid a ball behind the defense to Milbrett who split two defenders to tap the ball into the net from seven yards out.

"We expected it to be packed in again tonight, but I was surprised we were actually able to find the space we did," Milbrett said. "I got some great balls out of the midfield and that makes my job much easier because I can be a forward and be a finisher. It was great fun to be out there, to finish some goals and come away with the top spot in our group."

Milbrett had a hat trick before the game was nine minutes old with MacMillan playing her through into the middle of the penalty area for an easy touch into the net for a 3-0 lead.

"As far skill, speed and goal scoring ability, Tiffeny is probably second to none in the world," said defender Chastain. "And when you couple her with a player who can pass the ball exactly where it needs to be in Aly Wagner, you have a deadly combination."

MacMillan hit the crossbar in the 12th minute and then got her two goals just two minutes apart in the 12th and 14th minutes to increase the margin to 5-0, both on drives that Panama goalkeeper Monica Franco got a hand on, but couldn't turn aside. MacMillan has 51 carrer goals, the seventh player in U.S. history to reach 50 or more. It also gave her a team-leading 16 goals in 2002.

United States 9, Panama 0

Lineups: United States - LaKeysia Beene, Cat Reddick, Brandi Chastain (Tiffany Roberts 24), Joy Fawcett - captain (Kate Sobrero 28), Jenny Benson, Lorrie Fair, Angela Hucles, Aly Wagner (Julie Foudy 46), Shannon MacMillan, Tiffeny Milbrett, Abby Wambach. Panama - Monica Franco, Tricia Arosemena, Lucresia Bustamente, Raiza Gutierrez, Yoraidil Perez (Steffany Aguilar 58), Amarelis DeMera (captain), Yanilka Gonzalez, Diana Valderrama, Maritzenia Bedoya, Ruth Romero (Maxima Gonzalez 31), Natalia Perea (Elizabeth Louis 78).

Scoring:
United States - Milbrett (Wagner) 3.
United States - Milbrett (Wagner) 6.
United States - Milbrett (MacMillan) 9.
United States - MacMillan (Wambach) 12.
United States - MacMillan (Hucles) 14.
United States - Milbrett (Wagner) 22.
United States - Milbrett (unassisted) 34.
United States - Roberts (Wambach) 40.
United States - Wambach (Hucles) 85.

Shots: United States 38, Panama 2. Saves: United States 0, Panama 11. Corner kicks: United States 7, Panama 1. Fouls: United States 2, Panama 4. Offside: United States 3, Panama 1 Yellow card caution: United States - Foudy 90. Red card ejection: Panama - DeMera 86.

Referee: Varnette Laing (Bahrain). Assistant referees: Maria del Socorro (Mexico), Paulette Riley (Jamaica). Attendance: 21,522 at SAFECO Field in Seattle. Weather: Cold, dry, 40 degrees (roof closed).

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