Canada answers call, will replace Nigeria as Saturday opponent.
MacMillan finds net four times, leading 6-1 rout of shorthanded Canada.
By Gary Davidson
WASHINGTON, D.C. (Saturday, April 26, 2003) -- The first 15 minutes had a surreal feeling. The United States women were trailing a vastly outmanned opponent at cavernous -- and mostly empty -- RFK Stadium. Suddenly, midfielder Shannon MacMillan drilled a free kick into the net, waking up the Americans who proceeded to roll over Canada 6-1 in a friendly before 5,693 at chilly, damp RFK.
MacMillan scored three more times in the second half after the U.S. had matters well in hand and the decision was no longer in doubt. It was the seventh time in U.S. women's history a player had scored at least four goals in a match with Brandi Chastain -- a starting defender today -- and Michelle Akers scoring five in 1991 and Tiffeny Milbrett matching the feat last November in a 9-0 rout of Panama.
MacMillan, who has scored three goals in a game twice, improved her career total to 58 goals, one more than teammate Cindy Parlow, fifth best in U.S. women's history. After leading the Americans with 17 goals in 2002, MacMillan is No. 1 this year with six tallies as the U.S. women raised their record to 6-1-3 in a season in which they won the Four Nations Cup in China and Algarve Cup in Portugal.
"We didn't start right," she said. "I don't know if it's from our preparation before the game, but we definitely didn't start the way we know how to play. When we get into the World Cup, if you let a goal like that go in early, that's trouble. Luckily today, we were able to bounce back and punish them."
Canada hardly resembled the increasingly fierce rival of recent times. Asked Wednesday to replace Nigeria, which could not enter the U.S. because of visa problems, Canada hastily assembled a 15-player roster that included three starters from the 1-1 draw against the Americans March 14 in the Algarve Cup. Eight players from Canadian team that lost to the U.S. in the under-19 world championship final were called in.
One of those starters, striker Christine Sinclair exploited a moment of lax U.S. defense to put Canada ahead 1-0 in the seventh minute. Thirty-five yards up her left flank, defender Melanie Booth cleared a long ball down the center of the field. Chastain was in position to make a play, but couldn't get her feet right and the ball skipped by her. Sinclair was first to the ball at the top of the penalty arc and with goalkeeper Brianna Scurry charging to the top of her box, Sinclair calmly knocked her first touch into the lower left corner for the 1-0 lead.
"Mistakes happen. Players make mistakes," U.S. coach April Heinrichs said. "It happened so quickly. Brandi, I think, thought she didn't have a player on her hip and that puts Bri (Scurry) in the absolute center of the goal mouth with a very big frame behind her. If that ball's on the flank a little bit, at a more severe angle, Bri makes the save."
Canada did not put another shot on frame with the U.S holding an overall 20-5 shots advantage, 16-1 on net.
"Any coach in the international game will worry (that an opposing coach) up 1-0 will pack it in, close up shop," Heinrichs said. "You just sit down and destroy, which is truly the M.O. of Canada. But I believe in my players. I believe in their ability to come back. . . In the international game, when you give up one goal, you can make it very dangerous."
Nine minutes later, forward Mia Hamm (who twice scored four times in a match) carried from the left flank to the top corner of the box where she was tripped by Kara Lang, Canada's 16-year-old defender. U.S. midfielder Aly Wagner ran over the dead ball before MacMillan drove it just beyond the dive of keeper Erin McLeod inside the near post for a 1-1 tie.
It took the Americans 17 more minutes to assume the lead. Parlow led an open MacMillan into the right side of the box for a cross through the middle. The ball bounced behind Parlow who was tangled up with sliding defender Andrea Neil. The ball continued to midfielder Kristine Lilly who, at a 45-degree angle from the left post, made it 2-1 by knocking a 12-yard shot over the head of McLeod, who was poorly positioned, too far off her goal line.
U.S. captain and midfielder Julie Foudy made it 3-1 before intermission. MacMillan skimmed a right-side corner kick to the six-yard box where defender Joy Fawcett made a clever back-heel pass that set up Foudy to nail a bouncing ball. Neil did a split and got her right foot on the blast, but the ball spun into the net in the 41st minute.
The second half belonged to MacMillan. In the 55th minute, defender Cat Reddick cleared a long ball to Aly Wagner who flicked forward a header from the center stripe. MacMillan ran onto the seemingly innocuous ball and, spotting McLeod 10 yards off her goal line, chipped a 40-yarder over her head and into the net on one hop for a 4-1 advantage.
In the 78th minute, Wagner sprang MacMillan behind the Canadian defense. The University of Portland alumnus advanced the ball with her left foot into the left side of the box and then lofted a shot with the outside of her right foot over a helpless McLeod to make it 5-1.
"Quality finishing, that's all you need to say," said Wagner, MacMillan's teammate on the Women's United Soccer Association San Diego Spirit.
A minute later, in a strikingly similar play, Lilly sent a long roller that slipped between three defender to MacMillan with only McLeod to beat. MacMillan shot from 20 yards into the net's right corner for a 6-1 margin.
"I've never (scored four goals) before, but when you are getting passes like the balls I got, if I don't finish those, then I don't belong here," MacMillan said.
Notes: Lilly reached a milestone, making her 250th appearance for the U.S., which is a world record for caps. Hamm has appeared 233 times in a U.S. jersey. By comparison, the 11 Canada starters had a combined total of 231 caps.
Attendance was meager despite today's event being a doubleheader. The Washington Freedom and Atlanta Beat drew 1-1 in the nightcap with Scurry playing the full game for the Beat and Hamm playing the second half for Washington.
United States 6, Canada 1
Lineups: United States - Briana Scurry, Cat Reddick, Joy Fawcett (Danielle Slaton 46), Brandi Chastain, Kate Sobrero, Julie Foudy - captain (Angela Hucles, 46), Kristine Lilly, Shannon MacMillan, Aly Wagner, Cindy Parlow, Mia Hamm (Heather O'Reilly 63). Canada - Erin McLeod, Kara Lang, Melanie Booth, Sasha Andrews, Clare Rustad, Andrea Neil (captain), Carmelina Moscado (Rhian Wilkinson 68), Brittany Timko, Diana Matheson, Christine Latham (Amber Allen 58), Christine Sinclair.
Shots: United States 20, Canada 5. Saves: United States 0, Canada 10. Corner kicks: United States 8, Canada 3. Fouls: United States 7, Canada 9 Offside: United States 6, Canada 1. Yellow card cautions: Canada - Booth 45.
Referee: Sandra Hunt (United States). Assistant referees: George Vergera (United States), Rob Fereday (United States). Attendance: 5,693 at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C. Weather: Rain, cold, 52 degrees.
Gary Davidson is a SoccerTimes managing editor and can be e-mailed at email@example.com.