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Ryan begins final push for Women's World Cup
by Ridge Mahoney, July 27th, 2007 7AM
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He has three more games and a few more weeks before he must submit his list of players for the 2007 FIFA Women's World Cup, yet head coach Greg Ryan finalized his roster last week by adding three players to an original list of 18.

Forward Natasha Kai, midfielder Angela Hucles and defender Marion Dalmy got the nod. Kai and Dalmy are two of six World Cup players who have debuted for the national team since Ryan took over from April Heinrichs in March, 2005.

Starting Saturday against Japan at Spartan Stadium in San Jose, Ryan will tinker not with formations and systems, but with blocs of 11 players who he believes may earn starting slots in the World Cup. The Americans play New Zealand Aug. 12 in Chicago and meet Finland Aug. 25 in a send-off game at Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif.

"Looking at some of the teams we're going to play and the matchups we're going to face, it's going to be important we're able to start more than 11 players, so I'll definitely try to get those players as many minutes as I can," says Ryan, whose team faces North Korea, Sweden and Nigeria in the Women's World Cup, which kicks off Sept. 10.

"We're not going to have the same 11 starters for each of our games, I think we've established that. What we're going to do over these last three games is to with the players that we think are going to play the most minutes in the World Cup."

He's also using some closed-door games to give some of the backups additional playing time as well as tinker. Hucles, a forward in college and Virginia's all-time leading goalscorer, is re-learning that position after playing mostly in midfield while accumulating 66 caps. She played up top Thursday in a closed-door game against Japan.

"We do have a lot of midfielders and so whether I play forward or midfield I'm just happy to be on the team and have a chance to play," says Hucles, who missed the 2003 World Cup because of a shin injury yet won a gold medal with the 2004 Olympic squad.

Ryan believes in Hucles he can add a second target forward to assume some of the burden hefted by Abby Wambach, scorer of 74 goals in 93 games and a constant target.

"She gets fouled all the time, and sometimes if she doesn't fall down, the refs don't blow the whistle," says Hucles. "I'm not Abby, but if Greg thinks I can help the team in that position, I'm all for it."

Ryan has myriad choices in midfield, where Carli Lloyd, Marci Jobson and Leslie Osborne have emerged since Ryan took over to supplement Shannon Boxx, Aly Wagner and Lori Chalupny.

Kai's blistering pace adds another element to a potent crop of forwards including Wambach, captain Kristine Lilly, Heather O'Reilly and Lindsay Tarpley.

Dalmy, with just two caps and just out of Santa Clara, joins a back line loaded with experience in Kate Markgraf (160 caps), Christie Rampone (165) and Cat Whitehill (111).

"We have a very talented squad and it's made up of a diverse group of players, which we'll need at the World Cup," says Ryan, whose record in 43 games in charge is 36-0-7, with a penalty-kick loss Germany in the 2006 Algarve Cup final officially recorded as a tie.

"It was a matter of picking the best players and making pretty sure we had plenty of good ones at each position. We're going to play a diverse group of games [in the World Cup] and to do that and be successful you've got to have a fairly diverse squad."

U.S. WOMEN'S WORLD CUP ROSTER:
GOALKEEPERS (3):
No. Player (Hometown) GP/G
21 Nicole Barnhart (Gilbertsville, Pa.) 3/-
1 Briana Scurry (Dayton, Minn.) 160/-
18 Hope Solo (Richland, Wash.) 45/-
DEFENDERS (6):
No. Player (Hometown) GP/G
2 Marian Dalmy (Lakewood, Colo.) 2/0
8 Tina Ellertson (Vancouver, Wash.) 22/0
14 Stephanie Lopez (Elk Grove, Calif.) 21/0
15 Kate Markgraf (Bloomfield Hills, Mich.) 160/0
3 Christie Rampone (Point Pleasant, N.J.) 165/4
4 Cat Whitehill (Birmingham, Ala.) 111/11
MIDFIELDERS (7):
No. Player (Hometown) GP/G
7 Shannon Boxx (Redondo Beach, Calif.) 66/14
17 Lori Chalupny (St. Louis, Mo.) 41/14
16 Angela Hucles (Virginia Beach, Va.) 66/5
19 Marci Jobson (St. Charles, Ill.) 14/0
11 Carli Lloyd (Delran, N.J.) 33/6
12 Leslie Osborne (Brookfield, Wis.) 41/2
10 Aly Wagner (San Jose, Calif.) 112/21
FORWARDS (5):
No. Player (Hometown) GP/G
6 Natasha Kai (Kahuku, Hawaii) 26/7
13 Kristine Lilly (Wilton, Conn.) 328/123
9 Heather O'Reilly (East Brunswick, N.J.) 61/10
5 Lindsay Tarpley (Kalamazoo, Mich.) 70/15
20 Abby Wambach (Rochester, N.Y.) 93/74



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