Playing with a roster consisting mostly of young players mixed with a few veterans, the U.S. women's national team used a long range goal by former Portland all-America Justi Baumgardt to come from behind and defeat Ukraine, 2-1, in a close-door match at North Field on the campus of UCLA.
The USA has been training in Los Angeles in preparation for the nationally televised match against Ukraine Dec. 20, at Fresno State University's Bulldog Stadium. Kickoff is at 1:00 p.m. (PT).
The match will be the final game of the year for the U.S. women, who will begin residency camp in Orlando, Florida, in early January and spend five months together in preparation for the 1999 FIFA Women's World Cup next summer in the United States.
While U.S. Head Coach Tony DiCicco gave nine players their first international game in the closed-door match, he will play his veterans on Sunday, including 10 players from the 1996 Olympic gold medal team.
The USA fell behind Ukraine, 1-0, in the 17th minute as American goalkeeper Saskia Webber handled a ball outside the penalty box. Natalia Zinchencko smoked her shot through the defensive wall and by Webber on her team's first shot to give Ukraine the lead.
That was the last highlight for Ukraine, who fell back into their defensive zone and played with five defenders, as the USA dominated possession. Aly Wagner, who red-shirted the 1998 college season at Santa Clara due to a knee injury, got her first cap as she started in the midfield along with 16-year old debutante Aleisha Cramer, a high school junior from Colorado, and Baumgardt. The trio dominated possession for the USA, but the young Americans struggled to penetrate through the Ukraine defense to strike on goal. Ukrainian goalkeeper Veronika Shulga was forced to make just three saves as the USA out-shot the Europeans, 13-3.
The match also marked the full international debuts of former college stars Ann Cook (William & Mary), Shauna Rohbock (BYU) and Sheri Bueter (Clemson).
Several players with youth national team experience got their first full national team cap as three members of this past summer's Under-20 Nordic Cup team debuted in Samantha Baggett (Duke), Heather Aldama (Santa Clara) and UNC-bound Susan Bush (Houston Challenge). Two former members of the Under-16 National Team also played for the full national team for the first time. The 5-foot-10 Cramer, who played a solid match before being replaced by Aldama in the 72nd minue, joined 16-year old Veronica Zepeda, who played the last 29 minutes at forward, as the 3rd and 4th youngest players ever to play for the national team, behind Mia Hamm and Kristine Lilly.
But former William & Mary star Natalie Neaton scored the equalizer for the USA, heading in a cross from Baggett in 40th minute. It was Neaton's fourth goal in five career international matches.
Baumgardt then got the winning goal in the 69th minute when she ripped a 35-yard wind-aided knuckling shot that flew under the cross bar for the winning goal. It was her second international goal in six matches.
The match was the first in the 186-game history of the U.S. women's national team that a member of the 1991 FIFA Women's World Cup championship team did not play. U.S. midfielder Kristine Lilly had her consecutive start streak of a team-record 63 matches come to an end.
The USA has now gone unbeaten on American soil in 43 straight matches. The American women are 21-1-2 in 1998, tying the team record for victories in a year. A win on Sunday in Fresno would break the record, and also allow the USA to tie the record for fewest losses.
Dec. 16 in Los Angeles
USA 2 Ukraine 1. Goals: Neaton 40, Baumgardt 69; Zinchenko 17.
USA -- Webber, R.Fair (Bryan, 46), Cromwell, Baggett, French, Cramer (Aldama, 72), Wagner (Cook, 39), Baumgardt, Neaton (Rohbock, 69), Confer (Zepeda, 61), Bush (Bueter, 72).
Ukraine -- Shulga (Chornobai, 83), Mazurenko, Izhko, Rezvin, Andryuschenko, Stasiouk (Chorna, 76), Mischenko, Ivanova (Oznobikhina, 81), Pekur (Karpenkova, 89), Zinchenko, Frishko (Zhdanova, 68).
Att.: none (closed-door match).
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