Fielding a lineup of veteran players for the first time in 2001, the U.S. women's national team played to a hard-fought 2-2 tie with Canada at Varsity Stadium in Toronto as Shannon MacMillan and Tiffeny Milbrett, the top two scorers in the WUSA, tallied for the USA.
U.S. captain Julie Foudy played in her 200th career match for the United States, joining Mia Hamm (217) and Kristine Lilly (226) as the only two players in the history of international soccer, men or woman, to reach that milestone.
"Regardless of what cap it is, you always want to win," said Foudy. "But you have to credit to Canada. They played a good game and finished their opportunities."
On a hot and humid night in front of the largest crowd ever to see a woman's soccer match in Canada, the home team delighted the 9,023 fans with their usual gritty performance. The match was the 29th for Canada under Coach Even Pellerud, but amazingly, the first on Canadian soil. The near capacity crowd in 81-year-old Varsity Stadium saw one of the final soccer games there as the relic is scheduled for demolition in the fall.
Though the USA had more of the play in the opening minutes, Canada got on the board first after Kristina Kiss sent a free kick from the left wing into the U.S. penalty area. Andrea Neil struck a solid header that pulled a great reaction save from U.S. goalkeeper Jaime Pagliarulo, but the rebound bounced right to Canada's all-time leading scorer Charmaine Hooper and she slammed the ball into the open net from two yards out.
"You really have to tip your hat to Canada," said U.S. coach April Heinrichs. "They have two world-class strikers and enough speed all over the field, particularly at the back, to make it tough for us to get behind them. They really are believing in themselves."
Canada was dealt a harsh blow in the 8th minute when it lost captain Amy Walsh to a possible broken leg. She came in a half-second late on a full-throttle tackle with her Atlanta Beat teammate Cindy Parlow and had to be carried from the field.
The U.S. tied the game in the 28th minute after Hamm was fouled it the midfield. She took a quick free kick to MacMillan, who cut inside from the left, beating a defender, and then hit a hard shot on the ground that took a nasty hop and skipped over the shoulder of 20-year-old Canadian goalkeeper Taryn Swiatek and into the net.
MacMillan almost struck again three minutes later, putting the ball through the legs of Neil in the midfield before unleashing a vicious 30-yard blast that drew a brilliant save from Swiatek as she flew to get a touch on the ball and push it off the inside of the right post.
The U.S. team showed some great possession the midfield and around the attacking third, putting together numerous combinations throughout the match that had Canada on its heels.
Heinrichs had the luxury of bringing three 2000 Olympians off the bench at halftime as she inserted Nikki Serlenga, Kristine Lilly and Tiffeny Milbrett, who would put the USA ahead in the 57th minute.
Milbrett almost scored two minutes before that as Parlow put her through in the left side of the penalty area. Milbrett rounded Swiatek to the left, but pushed ball to far to the outside and Sharolta Nonen recovered to clear ball away.
But there was no stopping Milbrett on her 84th international goal as Parlow once again freed her behind the Canadian defense. Milbrett caught Swiatek off her line and drilled a 32-yard dipping shot that stuck in the upper right corner of the net.
Unfortunately for the United States, Canada had an immediate answer and 18-year-old Christine Sinclair tied the match one minute later. The U.S. let high looping ball drop inside the penalty area and Pagliarulo couldn't fight through traffic to punch it way, barely getting a fist on the ball. Sinclair then pounced on the bouncing ball to pound her shot into the upper right corner from eight yards out.
"It's commonplace for a team to score a goal and take a collective sigh of relief and it's a dangerous moment in the game," added Heinrichs. "We were the ones that took that relief and it's disappointing that we would talk so often about that situation and have it happen again to us."
Canada almost went ahead in the 64th minute as Hooper hit the inside of the right post off a free kick from 23 yards out in front of the goal. Four minutes after that, Canada had its last real chance of the game as Hooper lifted a ball over the U.S. defense to Christine Latham in the left side of the penalty area, but her blistering volley scooted just past the right past as Pagliarulo scrambled to cover.
In the 70th minute, the Americans put together a sequence that pinned Canada inside their penalty area as Brandi Chastain and Cindy Parlow both turned the corner and dribbled at the near post, but neither could find a seem to slip a pass to a U.S. attacker.
Canada them came down the field and Kiss blasted a shot from 30 yards the Pagliarulo touched over the crossbar. In the 73rd minute, the Americans had golden chance as Julie Foudy split the Canadian defense with a perfect pass to Milbrett, but she shot high from 16 yards.
The matched ended in near darkness as the sun went down and the ancient lights of Varsity Stadium failed to provide adequate illumination, forcing the teams to play the final 15 minutes in dusky glow. Serlenga almost took advantage of the darkness when she smacked a free kick at goal from the left side of the penalty area, but Swiatek got a hand on the ball to push it over the top. Swiatek was starting in the place of Karina LeBlanc of the Boston Breakers, who was injured in training on Thursday.
The USA played the last seven minutes of the game with 10 women as Kate Sobrero sprained her right ankle and had to leave the match. Heinrichs gave starts to 18-year-old Aleisha Cramer in the midfield and 19-year-old Catherine Reddick in the center of the defense and both youngsters performed admirably.
"I'm fairly pleased with the way we played," said Heinrichs. "We made wholesale substitutions and we were going to make them regardless of the score or the situation. I was pleased with some individual play, but we always want to find ways to win."
Canada started four WUSA players in Walsh, Hooper (Atlanta Beat), Nonen (Atlanta Beat) and Silvana Burtini (Carolina Courage). The U.S. has now failed to defeat Canada in the last four meetings, going 0-2-2. The two teams meet again on Tuesday, July 3, at the National Sports Center in Blaine, Minn. in the second match of the Independence Day Series. The match kicks off at Noon CT and will be broadcast live on ESPN.
June 30 in Toronto, Canada
CANADA 2 UNITED STATES 2
CAN - Charmaine Hooper 15.
USA - Shannon MacMillan 28.
USA - Tiffeny Milbrett 57.
CAN - Christine Sinclair 58.
CANADA -- 22-Taryn Swiatek, 3-Breanna Boyd, 6-Sharolta Nonen (11-Randee Hermus, 74), 7-Isabelle Morneau, 13-Amy Walsh (18-Kristina Kiss, 13), 5-Andrea Neil, 12-Isabelle Harvey, 17-Silvana Burtini, 8-Christine Sinclair, 10-Charmaine Hooper (14-Clare Rustad, 74), 4-Christine Latham.
CAUTIONS: Andrea Neil 48; EJECTIONS: None.
USA -- 1-Jaime Pagliarulo, 3-Christie Pearce (14-Keri Raygor, 46), 4-Catherine Reddick, 15-Kate Sobrero, 6-Brandi Chastain (7-Jena Kluegel, 71), 11-Julie Foudy, 2-Lorrie Fair (5-Nikki Serlenga, 46), 17-Aleisha Cramer, 8-Shannon MacMillan (13-Kristine Lilly, 46), 12-Cindy Parlow, 9-Mia Hamm (16-Tiffeny Milbrett, 46).
CAUTIONS: Kate Sobrero; EJECTIONS: None.
Referee: Sonia Denoncourt (CAN).
Weather: Hot, muggy - 75 degrees.
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