The Boston Globe from Boston, Massachusetts on September 21, 2003 · 56
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The Boston Globe from Boston, Massachusetts · 56

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Sunday, September 21, 2003
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C4 Boston Sunday Globe SEPTEMBER 21, 2003 Shutouts are strong evidence Norway, N. Korea off on the right foot By Frank DeFApa GLOBE STAFF PHILADELPHIA - The United States team is embarking on a rough road in the fourth Women's World Cup. That was confirmed by the results of the opening two matches yesterday, Norway defeating France, 2-0, and North Korea stopping Nigeria, 3-0. The Norwegians were not at their best, but goals by Anita Rapp (47th minute) and Dagny Mell-gren (66th), plus the return of goalkeeper Bente Nordby from retirement and Hege Riise from knee surgery, showed they could regain their form. And North Korea, one of the least-exposed nations in the tournament, displayed quickness, technique, and an incessant attacking mentality. Norway was the only team besides the US, which meets Sweden in Washington today, to reach at least the semifinals of the 1991, '95, and '99 Cups, but it has been in a transition stage for several years and is still relying on players who were keys to the '95 title. Mellgren, the former Boston Breaker forward who was the leading scorer in WUSA history, was reasonably optimistic, projecting a possible quarterfinal match at Gillette Stadium Oct 1. If Norway wins Group B, it will meet the second-place team in Group A "It is great to come back to the US and play, and I am looking forward to going back to Boston," Mellgren said. "I hope Breakers fans come out and cheer for Norway." And if Norway's opponent is the US? "They will probably cheer for the US," Mellgren said. "But we are going for the win in the group. It is tough to qualify for the next round, and the toughest group is Group A" But all four teams in this dou-bleheader showed weaknesses. Norway was imprecise and slow, its defense shaky against the runs of Stephanie Mugneret-Beghe and Marinette Pichon. France lacked assertiveness and experience. Nigeria had difficulty with defensive clearances and had no concept of the offside trap. North Korea did not seem capable of varying the tempo. The Norwegians, though, figure to improve as the tournament progresses. This result injected confidence into the team. Nordby, persuaded to return by coach Age Steen, provides security in goal, and Riise is an inspiring presence in midfield, though she is being eased back and did not enter the match until the 88th minute. The opening game is always a little bit tense," Mellgren said. This gives us a lot of confidence going into the Brazil game. "We know what our goal is, and our goal is the gold medal. We know what we can do. It is going to be a tough ride because the tournament is getting better and every team is getting better." Mellgren hopes the tournament can revive interest in the WUSA which suspended operations last week. "I was sad when I heard about it," she said. "It is important to have a professional league for female athletes. I hope the World Cup gives women athletes and the league a lot of attention." Steen expressed concern with Norway's defense, hinting at changes for the Brazil match Wednesday, but was encouraged by the performance of Nordby, whose aggressiveness short-circuited advances and excellent positioning and reflexes discouraged the French. There were 24,347 tickets sold for this doubleheader, though the crowd was announced as 13,486. The field at Lincoln Financial Field had strong traces of NFL markings. But the aesthetics and attendance are expected to improve when the US plays Nigeria Thursday. North Korea coach Kim Jong Man also spoke of tactical modifications for Thursday's game against Sweden. "We saw Nigeria against China last month and realized Nigeria's level was quite high," Kim said. "I thought they would be very difficult" The Nigerians; though, appeared slow and were unable to spring striker Mercy Akide on counterattacks. Akide's low 25-yard shot was tipped off the left post by Ri Jong Hui in the 36th minute, and Nigeria never came any closer to scoring. Defender Ifeanyichukwu Chiejine was hospitalized after a late-game clash. "This should help us prepare for the American game," Nigeria coach Samuel Okpodu said. The girls are upset with themselves. Maybe this is just the motivation we need for the next game." Jin Pyol Hui converted in the 13th and 88th minutes, and set up substitute Ri Un Gyong after a Nigeria giveaway in the 73d minute. The North Koreans' appearance has political implications, and the crowd included several hundred fans displaying a large flag depicting the Korean peninsula, symbolizing the reunification movement Jin referred to North Korea leader Kim Jong n and acknowledged the support. The Korean people are one nation, one blood," Jin said. "I would like them to continue supporting the team in the future." In Columbus, Ohio, another former Breaker, Maren Meinert, assisted on two second-half goals, including the go-ahead score by Stefanie Gottschlich, in Germany's 4-1 victory over Canada, and Mio Otani scored three goals over a span of 11 minutes and Homare Sawa added two goals and an assist as Japan routed Argentina, 6-0. Meinert sent a cross that bounced once inside the penalty box and Gottschlich bent low to head a soft shot from 8 yards out over goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc for a 2-1 lead in the 46th minute. Meinert also set up Birgit Prinz's goal with a cross in the 75th minute for a 3-1 lead. Material from Associated Press was used in this report. t" ... iff "1 ' fr US iJ -21 : y b tfl " 1 1 It AP FILE PHOTO Winning was already old hat for US veterans (from left) Mia Hamm, Brandi Chastain, Kristine Lilly, and Joy Fawcett as they celebrated their World Cup victory in 1999. The four have 881 international appearances among them. No breaking news for veteran team Very little has changed with US roster and results By John Powers GLOBE STAFF W! Ex-Breaker Dagny Mellgren (14) celebrates with Unnie Lehn after scoring the second goal in Norway's 2-0 win over France. ASHENGTON - The Last Roundup was supposed to have happened four years ago in Pasadena. The Babes of Summer had won an other World Cup to go along with their Olympic gold medal. They had put the women's game on the map and laid the groundwork for a professional league. Some of them had been around for three quadrennia. What more was there to play for? Yet when the US women's soccer team takes the field at RFK Stadium this afternoon to begin its Cup defense against Sweden, nine of the 1 1 starters from the victory over China in the 1999 final will be in uniform, almost all of them starting. Doesnt this bunch ever have a breakup dinner? "I know the character and competitive nature of these individuals," says Brandi Chastain, back for another go at 35. "Whether they're playing cards or dancing to Mia's car-dio-salsa video." If there's a tournament with a trophy, " Chastain and her agingageless playmates want in. Four of them 32-year-old Kristine Lilly (255), 31-year-old Mia Hamm (239), 32-year-old Julie Foudy (231), and 35-year-old Joy Fawcett (216) have 941 international appearances among them. If they stick around for next summer's Olympics (their third), which they almost certainly will, they'll easily surpass 1 ,000. In a sport in which 100 caps is considered a major milestone, 1 1 American players have that many and Kate Sobrero is only three away. All told, the 20 players on the roster have more than 2,200 caps and 116 Cup appearances. No soccer team, male or female, has played at such a high level for so long, but this one has been winning for so long that there's been no compelling reason to break it up. "When things arent broke, why fix them?" figures Chastain, who has 171 caps despite playing only two matches between 1991 and 1996. Hut you've got players you've got to get in." Like forward Abby Wambach, midfielders Aly Wagner and Shannon Boxx, and defenders Danielle Slaton and Cat Reddick, some of whom have been waiting four years or more for their chance. "It isnt a quick ride to stardom," acknowledges coach April Heinrichs. When the past is playing so well in the present, if s difficult to make room for the future. Thaf s Heinrichs's dilemma for the next three weeks, as she tries to change the guard without losing the castle. It's not so much that the Lillys and Hamms and Fawcetts and Foudys are still around, but that they're still starting and performing. Can you sit a two-time champion just because her understudy is more than ready? This time Heinrichs says she will, if only for a game here and there. "I told the team that we can select an 1 1 to start tomorrow and we may choose a different 11 for the next match," she said. "We have a lot of players who can start for us at different positions, depending on different needs." Heinrichs, who played during the late '80s when the US talent pool was barely two dozen players deep, has used 56 players in inter- f . ' i . I ''if J X . I ' ft I A iV- .-fv W: " f AP PHOTO If the US is to have the last laugh, young star Abby Wambach should play a role. national matches during the past three years. Most of them could play for any team in the world. And all of the eight new faces on the roster are more than ready for Cup duty. "We can stick any one of them out there and know they can play," says Chastain. "In 1999, I'm not sure we could have done that" Wambach, who scored both goals in Washington's overtime victory over Atlanta in the WUSA final, likely will start sometime during the tournament. So will Wagner, who was one of the last players cut from the 1999 Cup and 2000 Olympic teams. And so may the irrepressible Boxx, the first uncapped player to make a Cup roster, who scored twice in her first two matches. If they start, though, a bemedaled veteran will sit That's fine, the veterans say. "Obviously, everybody wants to play and everybody on this team is used to playing," says Hamm, who has started every Cup match in US history. "We will do whatever we can to help the team win. If that means we play 90 minutes the first match, none in the second, and 30 in the third, players will step up and do it unselfishly. It's a team tournament, and we're going to need every member of the team." In Sydney, Heinrichs used only 13 players during the tournament and the US was upset by Norway in overtime in the Olympic final. She may well use all 20 this time, if only to give aging legs a breather. The Americans, whoU play six matches in six cities in 22 days if they reach the Oct 12 final, are by far the oldest team here, with seven regulars over 30. Five of them played alongside Heinrichs in the inaugural 1991 Cup. Yet the golden oldies insist they're not thinking of this tournament as a farewell tour. "People have been asked a multitude of times: Tnis is your last World Cup; how are you feeling?' " says Chastain, who'd be as old as Jack Benny if she hangs around for another. "Let's talk about it after. Thinking about it before it's over is premature." Wolyniec boosts MetroStars over Crew in OT ASSOCIATED PRESS John Wolyniec scored in the 99th minute, giving the MetroStars a 1-0 victory over the Columbus Crew last night mi - in East Rutherford, NJ. . The win was the sec-roundup oni in four games for the MetroStars, who solidified their grip on second place in the Eastern Conference. Columbus, which had won its pre- vious six games at Giants Stadium, lost for the first time in five contests (3-1-1). The Crew remain a point ahead of the Revolution for the final Eastern Conference playoff berth. Wolyniec, set up 6 feet in front of the Crew's goal, converted a free kick from midfield by Amado Guevara nine minutes into overtime. Guevara had a chance to end it with a penalty kick three minutes into over- time, but goalkeeper Jon Busch Just got a hand on the ball. The MetroStars pressed the attack as time wound down in regulation'. Guevara had a good scoring chance in the 67th minute but lifted the ball over the net, and Clint Mathis followed with another opportunity about three minutes later. Both teams had goals nullified by offside calls late in the scoreless first half: Ross Paule of Columbus in the 37th minute and Mathis in the 38th minute. Earthquakes 4, Wizards 1 London Donovan scored three goals as San Jose stretched host Kansas City's winless streak to nine games. Burn 2, Fire 0 Toni Nhleko scored his first career goal and added an assist as host Dallas beat Chicago in the debut of interim head coach Colin Clarke. Bud Collins Bryan brothers boost US BRATISLAVA Slovakia Cain used his overhead smash on Abel, and sometimes the Brothers Bryan, out of Camarillo, Calif., feel like doing the same thing with their tennis rackets. "Sure, we get mad at each other, really PO'd," says the elder by two minutes of the 25-year-old twins, Michael Carl Bryan. "But we work it out. Mostly we get each other fired up at the guys across the net" says the lefthander in the right court, Robert Charles Bryan. "We were really fired up today. We've waited a long time for this." So has the US Davis Cup team, whose vital doubles point in a best-of-five series has often been bungled by partners who come and go like migrant fruit pickers in the Bryans' hometown. But the Bryans, a solid partnership since they won their first doubles title as 6-year-olds, have arrived just when a win was essential, breaking the deadlock with Slovakia. The victory lifted the US to a 2-1 lead in this relegation engagement that decides which country goes down the tubes, banished from the 16-country World Group in 2004. "The Bryans will be our doubles team for a long time," said US captain Patrick McEnroe. They were a relief. This was a big match for us, and they stepped up in their debut and won it. They made us feel good." They made 4,200 SlovaMan partisans feel bad by performing nearly flawlessly to beat Dominik Hrbaty and Karol Beck, 6-1, 6-4, 7-6 (7-5), in 1 hour 52 minutes. When Andy Roddick lost to Hrbaty Friday, and Mardy Fish was trailing Karol Kucera, it looked like "Bryans or Bust" for the American cause. "If we'd been behind, 2-0, we'd have been hoping for them to keep us alive," said McEnroe. "But now theyVe put us ahead, and we feel good about Sunday." Roddick has a chance to redeem himself and finish off the contentious Slovaks by beating either Kucera or Beck in today's opener. Fish closes against Hrbaty, who says, "If it comes down to a fifth match, everybody will be nervous out of their minds." Although bright sunshine had promenaders out in droves in Bratislava's charming cobbled streets, the convertible roof of the National Tennis Center was closed becase of difficult shadows on the clay court The place was alive with cheering and drum-pounding. But Bob and Mike Bryan, reigning French Open champs, were above it all, poised and determined not to let their long-awaited Cup coming-out party be spoiled by commonplace rookie jitters. They were too tough at the net served too good," said Hrbaty. "We couldnt break them, but we had chances." Eight chances in fact: four against each brother, one a set point as Bob served at 4-5 in the third, erased by Mike's deftly angled volley. Bob saved three breakers in a three-deuce game to 3-3 in the second set one with a service winner and one with a touch volley. Mike rescued two breakers to 5-3 in the second, each volleyed away by Bob. Their wingspan Bob is 6 feet 4 inches, Mike an inch shorter enables them to patrol the net with few leaks, and deliver overhead smashes with ferocity. "We've been bonding forever, knowing each other's patterns instinctively," said Bob. An art sadly fallen from favor in recent years, doubles has been a particular catastrophe area for the US team. For American loyalists, it has been stressful to witness the procession of mismatched, dysfunctional partners over the years since the last really cohesive yoking: two other Californians, Rick Leach and Jim Pugh. They won six straight matches, including the 1990 Cup final over Australians Pat Cash and John Fitzgerald, before parting in 1991. Since then, the US has mixed, matched, and muddled 25 couples in 35 series, resulting in a 15-20 record. But Mike and Bob appear the answer to the problem. Now they are also the answer to a trivia question: Who were the first brothers to play Cup doubles together for the US since Harvardians George and Bob Wrenn in 1903? The Bryans are two years shy of graduation from Stanford if they return one day, and are holders of the NCAA doubles title of 1998, when Bob also won the singles. At singles he is the better (their rankings, Nos. 198 and 672). But it is their No. 1 doubles collaboration that gives them the most joy. "It's the sharing that's great," Mike says. "We really bond in everything we do, share a house, double-date. I feel great for Bob when he wins singles he was a semifinalist in the Jimmy Van Alen Cup at Newport, R.I., but doubles is the real fun for both of us." Bob recalls, "We made it to a lot of singles finals as juniors, but flipped a coin to decide. Our parents Wayne and Kathy Bryan didnt want us to go through the anguish of playing each other. "We met Leach and Pugh at La Costa Calif. when they beat Mexico in Davis Cup in 1990. They were very nice to us, and we decided then that was the job we wanted Davis Cup doubles." They got the job, and got it done admirably yesterday.

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