The U.S. Women’s National Team put an emphatic finishing touch on its preparation schedule for the 2007 Women’s World Cup, powering past Finland, 4-0, in the team’s final match before leaving for China on Monday.
The U.S. earned first half goals from Shannon Boxx and Kristine Lilly, and second half strikes from Lindsay Tarpley and Heather O’Reilly, on a beautiful, clear evening at The Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif.
The U.S. team will have one day off before departing for Shanghai on Monday to begin the final run to its 2007 FIFA Women’s World Cup opener against North Korea on Sept. 11 in Chengdu, which will be broadcast live on ESPN2. With the win, the USA improved its record to 13-0-2 in 2007, which includes an impressive 10-0-2 mark against teams that will be playing in the 2007 FIFA Women’s World Cup.
The U.S. dominated from start to finish, piling up a 38-2 shot advantage across 90 minutes as Finland goalkeeper Tinja-Riikka Korpela made 12 saves and saw numerous other shots flash past the posts or over the crossbar.
“Finland is an organized team defensively,” said U.S. head coach Greg Ryan. “They played in a 4-5-1 with 10 players behind the ball most of the first half and we were a little out of sync. We had a lot of opportunities in the final third but we didn’t create good opportunities out of them; over-hit crosses, rushed our passes. We talked at halftime about playing a little more composed, a little more settled, picking the right opportunities to get behind, and I thought we played well.”
The game’s first goal came from a familiar face in Carson, with hometown hero Boxx scoring for the fifth time in five games she has played at The Home Depot Center. Boxx, who hails from nearby Torrance, looped a perfectly placed header over Korpela in the 30th minute after Lilly found her on a free kick from the left flank.
“Shannon is looking like herself again, which is fantastic,” said Ryan. “She’s one of the best in the world at set play goals. She looked like a forward tonight taking players on. I think she likes it here (at The Home Depot Center).”
The assist was the 100th of Lilly’s career, putting her in an exclusive club with Mia Hamm as the only two players in women’s soccer history to score more than 100 goals and pass for 100 or more assists.
The USA added to the lead six minutes later, this time with Lilly on the receiving end of a great assist. On her 126th career goal, the U.S. captain easily touched the ball into an empty net after dynamic midfielder Lori Chalupny raced into the right side of the penalty box, sucked the goalkeeper to the near post and then rolled a precise square pass to Lilly for the easy tally.
Moments after Lilly’s goal, a rolling power-outage hit Carson, causing the stadium lights to flicker and go out at the 40-minute mark. The teams were able to finish the half in twilight before the stadium’s lights were reset, and the start of the second half was not delayed.
Tarpley peppered the Finland goal all night, launching eight shots before she scored the USA’s third goal on her ninth attempt in the 68th minute. On the goal, she deftly rolled off her defender to win a skipping ball from Christie Rampone behind the defense in the right side of the penalty box, took a quick touch to the right to evade the lunging Korpela and struck her shot along the ground just inside the right post from 10 yards out. It was her 17th career international goal.
The U.S. closed out the night and their Women’s World Cup preparation with a fourth goal on one of the better passing combinations you will see. The play started with Rampone playing a perfect pass from behind the halfway line into Tarpley at the top of the penalty area. Tarpley turned on the ball quickly to feed Carli Lloyd to the right of the penalty area, and Lloyd hit a perfect one-time pass into the middle for a charging O’Reilly, who finished perfectly on a hard slide from six yards out. The goal was O’Reilly’s third of the year and the 11th of her career.
“Tonight, we hit the back of the net and had tons of chances,” added Ryan. “I thought that we had a lot of energy in attack tonight. We said let’s just roll up our sleeves and go after them in attack. It’s important to carry that kind of spirit into the World Cup. We are going to go after teams and if they can hang with us OK, if not, we’ll just keep swinging until we can knock them out.”
U.S. forward Abby Wambach was forced to leave the game in the 27th minute after jamming a toe earlier in the match during a tackle with a Finnish player.
Ryan made all six of his allowed substitutions, getting valuable minutes for the U.S. reserves while giving some veterans a bit more rest. One of those subs was midfielder Aly Wagner, who saw her first game action since May 12 vs. Canada after recovering from a groin injury. Wagner came close to scoring after a nifty dribble in the penalty box, but her left-footed shot was saved by the diving Korpela.