Friday, August 15, 2008

ATH: US Women to Semis!

Flyin' Hawaiian cuts down Canada Substitute forward Natasha Kai scores in OT to give U.S. women 2-1 win
Posted Friday, August 15, 2008 7:23 AM ET


Natasha Kai headed in an overtime goal on Friday to give the United States a 2-1 victory over Canada in a storm-delayed game that took more than four hours to complete. Her goal secured the Americans a spot in the Olympic women's soccer semifinals.

Natasha Kai's game-winning goal for the U.S. in extra time Coach Pia Sundhage's team now moves on in an attempt to maintain its record of reaching every Olympic final. The U.S. won in 1996 in Atlanta, was runner up to Norway at Sydney 2000, and won again in Athens in 2004.

The coach was pleased that her team kept trying to score even after Kai's goal in the 101st minute.

"With this young team it's healthy that they tried to score another goal," the U.S. coach said. "I'm not opposed to that. I thought they did well."

Shannon Boxx, who provided the cross for the winner in her 100th game for the team, said it had become used to winning tight matches.

"All year this team has been great at dealing with pressure," she said. "We've always fought for 90, 100, whatever it takes. I like the fact that we are creating chances and having different people score goals."

Canadaian coach Even Pellerud, who is stepping down after nine years in charge, was disappointed his team allowed the Americans to play their assing game.

"I hoped to to see my team play as well as they have done before this tournament. We didn't," he said.

"We gave the U.S. team too much time and space to use their passing skills. Normally playing the U.S. brings out the best of us but today we looked a bit tired and didn't have the legs or gas we used to have. They created more than we did."

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Natasha Kai
A thunderstorm began right at kickoff time, and the players were soon playing in a torrential downpour. That didn't stop the Americans from going ahead with a simple move in the 12th minute.

Amy Rodriguez' cross from the right was headed down by Heather O'Reilly and, although Canadian goalkeeper Erin McLeod partially blocked it, Angela Hucles was perfectly positioned at the far post to nudge the ball over the line.

Eight more minutes were played in awful conditions with thunder and lightning rumbling and flashing around the stadium before the referee, on he advice of the organizers, pulled the players off the field for their own protection. It was also a minute after Canada had been forced to replaced an injured goalkeeper, Karina LeBlanc taking over from McLeod.

The delay lasted an hour and 40 minutes -- more than the whole length of a game -- before the storm moved on and the players came back out.

The technically-superior Americans created better chances, but that didn't keep Canada from tying it in the 30th minute.

When the Canadians lost possession just outside their own area, Clare Rustad won the ball and Sinclair took over, firing a 25-yard shot that flew past goalkeeper Hope Solo inside the far post.

Hucles should have made it 2-1 in the 34th minute, when she had only goalkeeper LeBlanc to beat from 12 meters out. But she pulled her shot well wide of the far post.

The Americans kept putting together imaginative moves in the second half, but they tended to try and walk the ball into the net as soon as they got inside Canada's penalty area. When Hucles got clear again in the 71st minute, she went for goal but shot straight at LeBlanc.

The Canadians rarely threatened, but Sinclair came close to snatching the lead in the 79th minute with a low, left-foot 22-yard kick that Solo saved one-handed, diving to her left.

Rodriguez almost scored the winner in the final minute of second half injury time when she outpaced a defender, only to have LeBlanc to push her shot around the post.

Extra time was 11 minutes old when the Americans went ahead again. Shannon Boxx sent in a looping cross from the left and Kai, who replaced Heather O'Reilly at the start of the first extra period, got behind the Canadian defense to head past the exposed LeBlanc from five meters.

Substitute Lauren Cheney should have made it 3-1 when Kai ran down the left and gave her a clear shooting chance, but she shot wide.

The win sets up a rematch of the 2007 World Cup semifinal in which the Americans suffered their only loss under then-coach Greg Ryan. Under present coach Pia Sundhage, the United States has only lost once: a 2-0 defeat by Norway in the United States' preliminary round opener on Aug. 8.

Brazil defeated the Norwegians 2-1 earlier today in Tianjin on goals by Daniela and 2007 FIFA Women's Player of the Year Marta.

In the other quarterfinal matches, Japan defeated China 2-0 and will play Germany, which defeated Sweden 2-0 in overtime.



Extra Time (courtesy of USSoccer.com)
U.S. head coach Pia Sundhage, On the match and the lightning delay:
I feel like I am a player. I am exhausted and happy. Even though we started off playing very well before the rain, it was hard to get back, but the players did a fantastic job in the locker room and in coming back from giving up the goal that made it 1-1. It’s was a good win.”

On what she did in the locker room during the one hour and 39 minute delay:
“I had a plan, but I changed my mind because the players handled it very well. There was music in the locker room and happy smiles. They were ready to go. This team coached themselves in the locker room when it was raining outside. I am very proud of that.”

On why she didn’t bring Natasha Kai on until overtime:
“I thought we did well at forward with A-Rod because of her speed and with Angela Hucles. We switched Carli Lloyd to a more attacking role in hopes that she would get some more shots. With all due respect for Canada, which is a good team, we were thinking about extra time and that 30 minutes. We got 30 minutes out of Tash so I thought that was good timing.”

On if she thought her team should have hung back a bit more instead of going for a third goal:
“I think we did a little bit of both and with this young team, I think it’s healthy that they tried to score another goal. I am not opposed to that. I thought they did well.”

U.S. midfielder Shannon Boxx

On the match and the lightning delay:
“I’m really proud of the team for the way we handled the rain delay. Canada is a great squad, and we’ve played them many times this year. We respect them a lot and have to come out every game and play tough, and battle, but also possess the ball. We did a great job with our possession and created a lot of chances.”

On what Natasha Kai brings to the team:
“Natasha brings so much energy and when she comes on the field, she brings an excitement and energy to our team. Her physical battle in the air is amazing and there she was finishing on a header.”

“I see how she is when she comes onto the field. When she’s waving to the crowd and getting the crowd going, that puts a smile on the faces of the people on the field who are already tired and it lifts us up.”

On her game-winning assist:
“Amy (Rodriguez) got it in the corner and just laid it back and I was wide open. I knew Natasha was in there, so if I could get that cross in behind the back four she could head it in.”

On working for more than 100 minutes to get a winning goal:
“All year this team has been great at dealing with pressure of being down a goal, or tied, or having a team come back. We’ve always fought for 90, 100, whatever it takes, minutes. I like the fact that we are creating the chances and having different people score goals. The next step is having people finish them.”

U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo

On the match:
“It was one of those strange games because I didn’t have to do too much, especially in the first half. But suddenly Sinclair gets her great touch, her one shot, and that’s usually how Canada plays us. Not a lot to do, but when I have to do something, it’s usually you have to make a great save. But that said it was a hard game. Our defense was all over the place, going into tackles and going up for air balls. It was intense.”

On Natasha Kai’s role off the bench:
“I told Tash that we were going to need her big time in this tournament. I told her she would have to come on the field and that we would need goals from her. She came on and played awesome.”

U.S. defender Kate Markgraf

On the match:
“Canada is a great opponent. They came at us with numbers and they are very strong physically so we had to match their athleticism and their mentality and then be able to play our game. We don’t try to play that way. We’re not as good at it as them, so we have to keep the ball on the ground. We had a lot of great chances and Canada was a really good team, but that is what a quarterfinal is all about. ”

On how well the field at Shanghai Stadium absorbed the heavy rain:
“The field was beautifiul. It drained probably the best of any field I’ve ever played on. The rain was not a factor what-so-ever.”

On the match:
“It was a very difficult game. Anytime you get in a quarterfinal, it’s a gamble who is going to win. There are lucky bounces and sometimes the best team doesn’t win. Canada was a heck of a team tonight, and we had many chances, and didn’t finish them, and it kept them in the game.”

On it being over four hours from the opening whistle to the final whistle:
“It was a long time, but that’s what the Olympics are about. It’s never going to be easy.”

On moving on:
“There were so many players who stepped in the final 30 minutes and played really hard. We’re getting some momentum. We lost our first game, but we’ve played well ever since. Hopefully that momentum will carry on through to the semifinals.”

U.S. forward Natasha Kai

On her game-winning goal:
“The ball got played back to Shannon Boxx and I saw her ready to cross so I just made sure I got on the end of it.”

On coming off the bench:
“It doesn’t matter if I play 90 minutes or a minute, as long as I help the team. It takes all 18 players to be successful. I came in knowing I need to be that spark and help my teammates out and we came out with the win.”

On wearing a headband with the jersey numbers of three injured teammates:
“Four is for Cat Whitehill, 20 for Abby (Wambach) and 12 for Leslie Osborne. They got injured this year and they are a big part of our team. I just wanted to give them a shout so I got their numbers on my headband.”

U.S. midfielder Heather O’Reilly

On lightning delay:
“The way we looked at it was that we were starting the game all over again, 0-0. It might have played into Canada’s favor a little bit because we got that early goal, we were playing great soccer and they were definitely on their heels and then we had to come inside for such a long time.”

On the match and it being over four hours from whistle to whistle:
“Soccer is crazy sometimes, and this definitely is a new experience for us. I don’t think we’ve ever been at a game for this long. But if we can do this, we can do anything, right?”

On Natasha Kai:
“She’s just full of energy. She’s great starting a game, but maybe even better coming off the bench. She really gave us the lift that we needed and that goal was unbelievable.”

On the myriad of U.S. goal scorers:
“The cool thing about this Olympics so far is that we’ve had so many different goal scorers. I think that is what’s making us special right now. We’ve had six different goal scorers for seven goals, so that’s a pretty cool stat and that’s what’s making us so unpredictable.”

On the USA’s back line:
“We have to give a lot of credit to our defenders who played 120 tough minutes against a Canadian team that is constantly trying to get behind our back line. The amount of 50-yard sprints our backs made was amazing. Everybody did their part tonight.”

On if the team got down after creating so many chances:
“You’re going to keep getting your chances and statistics tell you that that more chances you get, your more likely to get one in. So you really can’t think those negative thoughts. That’s not going to do you any good when you’re out on the field so I think that collectively, we were very confident.”

U.S. midfielder Carli Lloyd

On the match:
“Games like this are why you play. My legs were dead, everyone’s legs were tired, but you just have to push through it. It’s deal with this or go home. So we stayed behind each other and told each other to keep going and ended up with a victory.”


U.S. head coach Pia Sundhage

On the match and the lightning delay:
“I feel like I am a player. I am exhausted and happy. Even though we started off playing very well before the rain, it was hard to get back, but the players did a fantastic job in the locker room and in coming back from giving up the goal that made it 1-1. It’s was a good win.”

On what she did in the locker room during the one hour and 39 minute delay:
“I had a plan, but I changed my mind because the players handled it very well. There was music in the locker room and happy smiles. They were ready to go. This team coached themselves in the locker room when it was raining outside. I am very proud of that.”

On why she didn’t bring Natasha Kai on until overtime:
“I thought we did well at forward with A-Rod because of her speed and with Angela Hucles. We switched Carli Lloyd to a more attacking role in hopes that she would get some more shots. With all due respect for Canada, which is a good team, we were thinking about extra time and that 30 minutes. We got 30 minutes out of Tash so I thought that was good timing.”

On if she thought her team should have hung back a bit more instead of going for a third goal:
“I think we did a little bit of both and with this young team, I think it’s healthy that they tried to score another goal. I am not opposed to that. I thought they did well.”

U.S. midfielder Shannon Boxx

On the match and the lightning delay:
“I’m really proud of the team for the way we handled the rain delay. Canada is a great squad, and we’ve played them many times this year. We respect them a lot and have to come out every game and play tough, and battle, but also possess the ball. We did a great job with our possession and created a lot of chances.”

On what Natasha Kai brings to the team:
“Natasha brings so much energy and when she comes on the field, she brings an excitement and energy to our team. Her physical battle in the air is amazing and there she was finishing on a header.”

“I see how she is when she comes onto the field. When she’s waving to the crowd and getting the crowd going, that puts a smile on the faces of the people on the field who are already tired and it lifts us up.”

On her game-winning assist:
“Amy (Rodriguez) got it in the corner and just laid it back and I was wide open. I knew Natasha was in there, so if I could get that cross in behind the back four she could head it in.”

On working for more than 100 minutes to get a winning goal:
“All year this team has been great at dealing with pressure of being down a goal, or tied, or having a team come back. We’ve always fought for 90, 100, whatever it takes, minutes. I like the fact that we are creating the chances and having different people score goals. The next step is having people finish them.”

U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo

On the match:
“It was one of those strange games because I didn’t have to do too much, especially in the first half. But suddenly Sinclair gets her great touch, her one shot, and that’s usually how Canada plays us. Not a lot to do, but when I have to do something, it’s usually you have to make a great save. But that said it was a hard game. Our defense was all over the place, going into tackles and going up for air balls. It was intense.”

On Natasha Kai’s role off the bench:
“I told Tash that we were going to need her big time in this tournament. I told her she would have to come on the field and that we would need goals from her. She came on and played awesome.”

U.S. defender Kate Markgraf

On the match:
“Canada is a great opponent. They came at us with numbers and they are very strong physically so we had to match their athleticism and their mentality and then be able to play our game. We don’t try to play that way. We’re not as good at it as them, so we have to keep the ball on the ground. We had a lot of great chances and Canada was a really good team, but that is what a quarterfinal is all about. ”

On how well the field at Shanghai Stadium absorbed the heavy rain:
“The field was beautifiul. It drained probably the best of any field I’ve ever played on. The rain was not a factor what-so-ever.”

On the match:
“It was a very difficult game. Anytime you get in a quarterfinal, it’s a gamble who is going to win. There are lucky bounces and sometimes the best team doesn’t win. Canada was a heck of a team tonight, and we had many chances, and didn’t finish them, and it kept them in the game.”

On it being over four hours from the opening whistle to the final whistle:
“It was a long time, but that’s what the Olympics are about. It’s never going to be easy.”

On moving on:
“There were so many players who stepped in the final 30 minutes and played really hard. We’re getting some momentum. We lost our first game, but we’ve played well ever since. Hopefully that momentum will carry on through to the semifinals.”

U.S. forward Natasha Kai

On her game-winning goal:
“The ball got played back to Shannon Boxx and I saw her ready to cross so I just made sure I got on the end of it.”

On coming off the bench:
“It doesn’t matter if I play 90 minutes or a minute, as long as I help the team. It takes all 18 players to be successful. I came in knowing I need to be that spark and help my teammates out and we came out with the win.”

On wearing a headband with the jersey numbers of three injured teammates:
“Four is for Cat Whitehill, 20 for Abby (Wambach) and 12 for Leslie Osborne. They got injured this year and they are a big part of our team. I just wanted to give them a shout so I got their numbers on my headband.”

U.S. midfielder Heather O’Reilly

On lightning delay:
“The way we looked at it was that we were starting the game all over again, 0-0. It might have played into Canada’s favor a little bit because we got that early goal, we were playing great soccer and they were definitely on their heels and then we had to come inside for such a long time.”

On the match and it being over four hours from whistle to whistle:
“Soccer is crazy sometimes, and this definitely is a new experience for us. I don’t think we’ve ever been at a game for this long. But if we can do this, we can do anything, right?”

On Natasha Kai:
“She’s just full of energy. She’s great starting a game, but maybe even better coming off the bench. She really gave us the lift that we needed and that goal was unbelievable.”

On the myriad of U.S. goal scorers:
“The cool thing about this Olympics so far is that we’ve had so many different goal scorers. I think that is what’s making us special right now. We’ve had six different goal scorers for seven goals, so that’s a pretty cool stat and that’s what’s making us so unpredictable.”

On the USA’s back line:
“We have to give a lot of credit to our defenders who played 120 tough minutes against a Canadian team that is constantly trying to get behind our back line. The amount of 50-yard sprints our backs made was amazing. Everybody did their part tonight.”

On if the team got down after creating so many chances:
“You’re going to keep getting your chances and statistics tell you that that more chances you get, your more likely to get one in. So you really can’t think those negative thoughts. That’s not going to do you any good when you’re out on the field so I think that collectively, we were very confident.”

U.S. midfielder Carli Lloyd

On the match:
“Games like this are why you play. My legs were dead, everyone’s legs were tired, but you just have to push through it. It’s deal with this or go home. So we stayed behind each other and told each other to keep going and ended up with a victory.”





- U.S. WOMEN'S NATIONAL TEAM GAME REPORT -

Match-up: USA vs. Canada
Competition: 2008 Olympic Games
Venue: Shanghai Stadium; Shanghai, China
Date: August 15, 2008; Kickoff – 6 p.m. local / 6 a.m. ET
Attendance: 26,129
Weather: Humid, Rain, 84 degrees

Scoring Summary: 1 2 OT1 OT2 F
USA 1 0 1 0 2
CAN 1 0 0 0 1

USA – Angela Hucles (Heather O’Reilly) 12th minute.
CAN – Christine Sinclair (Clare Rustad) 30.
USA – Natasha Kai (Shannon Boxx) 101.

Lineups:
USA: 1-Hope Solo; 17-Lori Chalupny, 15-Kate Markgraf, 2-Heather Mitts, 3-Christie Rampone; 7-Shannon Boxx, 11-Carli Lloyd, 9-Heather O’Reilly (6-Natasha Kai, 91), 5-Lindsay Tarpley (13-Tobin Heath, 82); 16-Angela Hucles, 8-Amy Rodriguez (12-Lauren Cheney, 109)
Subs: 18-Nicole Barnhart, 4-Rachel Buehler, 14-Stephanie Cox, 10-Aly Wagner
Head Coach: Pia Sundhage

CAN: 18-Erin McLeod (1-Karina LeBlanc, 19); 3-Emily Zurrer, 9-Candace Chapman, 10-Martina Franko; 4-Clare Rustad, 6-Sophie Schmidt, 7-Rhian Wilkinson, 8-Diana Matheson; 12-Christine Sinclair, 14-Melissa Tancredi (17-Brittany Timko, 46, 16-Jonelle Filigno, 92+), 15-Kara Lang
Subs: 5-Robin Gayle, 11-Randee Hermus, 13-Amy Walsh, 2-Jodi-Ann Robinson
Head Coach: Even Pellerud

Statistical Summary: USA / CAN
Shots: 34 / 8
Shots on Goal: 17 / 7
Saves: 6 / 13
Corner Kicks: 7 / 1
Fouls: 15 / 18
Offside: 6 / 3

Misconduct Summary:
CAN – Martina Franko (caution) 70th minute.
CAN – Kara Lang (caution) 84.
USA – Lauren Cheney (caution) 111.

Officials
Referee: Jenny Palmqvist (SWE)
Asst. Referee: Helen Caro (SWE)
Asst. Referee: Hege Steinlund (NOR)
4th Official: Estela Alvarez (TOG)

Sierra Mist Woman of the Match: Shannon Boxx

2008 Olympic Women’s Soccer Quarterfinal Results - Aug. 15
Match-Up Venue
USA 2, Canada 1 Shanghai
Japan 2, China 0 Qinhuangdao
Brazil 2, Norway 1 Tianjin
Germany 2, Sweden 0 Shenyang

2008 Olympic Women’s Soccer Semifinal Match-Ups - Aug. 18
Match-Up Venue Kickoff
Brazil vs. Germany Shanghai Stadium 6 p.m. local / 6 a.m. ET
USA vs. Japan Beijing Workers Stadium 9 p.m. local / 9 a.m. ET

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