By Ridge Mahoney
The U.S. women's team has played 20 games this year without being beaten, yet
none of those games has greater importance than the Gold Cup semifinal against
Mexico Wednesday at Home Depot Center (Fox Soccer Channel, 10 pm ET).
By winning, the USA clinches a spot in the 2007 FIFA Women's World Cup next
September, regardless of what it does in Sunday's gold-medal game. And while a
win over Mexico, which the U.S. beat two months ago, 3-1, in Rochester, is all
but a foregone conclusion, U.S. coach Greg Ryan expects his players to
come out aggressively and leave nothing to chance.
Two years ago, the teams met in the final game of the 2004 CONCACAF Olympic
qualifying tournament, and the Americans fell behind, 2-0, before rallying to
"There is added pressure because there is one game and you're in," says Ryan,
who would prefer group play to be used for World Cup qualifying as is done in
most of the world. "Now, if you lose a game, you still have a shot to qualify by
winning your next game and then you're playing against Japan. But there is
additional pressure with just a one-game situation.
"It's a funny game. We've all seen games where a team dominates but still loses.
That's just the way it is sometimes in soccer, much more so than in other
In the other semifinal, Canada plays Jamaica (FSC, 7:30 p.m. ET). The two semi
winners automatically qualify, the losers meet in a third-place match Sunday,
and the winner of that game advances to a two-game playoff with Japan.
Abby Wambach, playing in her hometown, scored two of the goals in the
2004 win over Mexico. She's been hobbled by a sprained ankle suffered in the
Peace Queen Cup earlier this month, and didn't play in the tournament final,
which the Americans won by beating Canada, 1-0, on Kristine Lilly's 116th
"We played our same style, our same system, we just inserted Natasha Kai,"
says Ryan. "We played very well. Obviously, we're not quite the same team
without Abby because she's been so good for us, but I think we'll probably put
Tash in there and go after it like we did in the final of the Peace Cup."
The U.S. has won all 17 meetings with Mexico and can set a team record for
longest unbeaten run.
here for more on the U.S. women.
BY THE NUMBERS
30 The USA's 30-game unbeaten
streak, which began with a 5-0 victory over Mexico Dec. 8, 2004, in the
final match for Mia Hamm, Julie Foudy and Joy Fawcett, matches the
longest unbeaten streak in U.S. women's history.
29 Since Greg Ryan took over as coach in 2005, the USA is undefeated in 29 games (24-0-5).
17 The USA has beaten Mexico all 17 times they have met. In their most recent game, the Americans won, 3-1, on Sept. 13 in Rochester, N.Y.
14 The USA has all 14 games it has played in Women's World Cup qualifying,
12 The USA crushed Mexico,
12-0, in 1991 in the first qualifier it ever played. It has opened
against Mexico in every qualifying tournament, also winning, 9-0, in
1994 and 3-0, in 2002.
Goalkeepers: Briana Scurry (U.S. residency), Hope Solo (U.S.
residency); Defenders: Lori
residency), Tina Frimpong (U.S. residency), Stephanie Lopez
(Univ. of Portland), Kate Markgraf (U.S. residency), Heather Mitts
(U.S. residency), Christine Rampone (U.S. residency), Cat Whitehill
(U.S. residency); Midfielders: Angela
Hucles (U.S. residency), Carli Lloyd (U.S. residency), Marci
Miller (U.S. residency), Leslie Osborne (U.S. residency), Aly Wagner
(U.S. residency); Fowards: Danesha
Adams (UCLA), Natasha Kai
(U.S. residency), Kristine Lilly (U.S. residency), Heather O'Reilly (Univ. of North Carolina), Lindsay Tarpley (U.S. residency), Abby Wambach (U.S. residency).
Goalkeepers: Jennifer Molina (New England Mutiny/USA), Sophia Perez (San Diego Gauchos/USA), Pamela Tajonar (FC Indiana/USA); Defenders: Marichuy Castillo (Mexico FC), Liza Gomez (Mexico FC), Lulu Gordillo (Andrea's Soccer), Marlene
Sandoval (Mexico FC), Chayito Saucedo (Mexico FC), Isabel
Valdez (Mexico FC); Midfielders: Monica
Gonzalez (California Storm/USA), Fatima Leyva (Mexico FC), Juana Lopez
(Mexico FC), Paty Perez (Mexico FC), Monica Vergara (Mexico
FC); Fowards: Charlyn Corral
(FC Indiana/USA), Maribel
(Levante/SPA), Iris Mora (no club), Monica Ocampo (Gacelas Univac),
Carmenita Padilla (Univ. of
the Pacific/USA), Guadalupe Worbis (FC Indiana/USA).