- The Washington Times - Monday, September 22, 2003

Trifecta day at RFK.

Mia Hamm recorded three assists, Shannon Boxx scored her third goal in her third national team game and the U.S. team successfully began its quest for a third Women’s World Cup with an impressive three-goal performance.

The United States also came away with three points yesterday.

Hamm assisted on goals by Kristine Lilly, Cindy Parlow and Boxx to lead the Americans to a convincing 3-1 victory over Sweden in Group A play before 34,144 at RFK Stadium in the first round of the World Cup.

“When you prepare for three years and for something and you wait for that moment and it finally comes, it’s an unleashing and I think we felt that,” U.S. team coach April Heinrichs said.

It wasn’t all good news for the Americans.

Defender Brandi Chastain, whose clinching penalty kick and subsequent shirt-stripping is the enduring image of the team’s 1999 World Cup win, left the game in the first half with a fractured bone in her right foot. She was replaced by World Cup rookie Cat Reddick.

X-rays showed Chastain broke the third metatarsal. She is expected to miss the rest of group play and could return in time for the quarterfinals if the United States gets that far.

“I’m a quick healer and I feel very good about my chances of playing in the later rounds,” Chastain said.

The United States (1-0) next plays Nigeria (0-1) Thursday night at Philadelphia’s sparkling Lincoln Financial Field in the second game of Group A play. A win over Nigeria, which appears likely, would give the Americans six points and nearly lock up first place in the group based on what North Korea (1-0) does against Sweden (0-1) Thursday in Philadelphia.

“I think its between North Korea and Sweden to see who will go through to the quarterfinals [Oct. 1 in Foxboro, Mass., as Group A’s No. 2 team] because I think the U.S. team will win against North Korea and Nigeria,” said Sweden coach Marika Domanski-Lyfors.

The U.S. women were too big, too strong and too skilled for Sweden. It all started up front with forwards Abby Wambach and Parlow. The 5-foot-10 Wambach and the 5-11 Parlow were a physical duo for which Sweden’s four-player backline had no answer.

Wambach and Parlow took advantage of their height, winning virtually every ball in the air. Two of the three goals for the United States came off Hamm corner kicks. Hamm served corners that found Parlow in the 36th minute and Boxx in the 78th minute that ended any thoughts Sweden had of earning a draw.

“It’s one thing to be able to hit them, it’s another thing to finish them,” Hamm said. “We aim for sections of the goal. You try to be as accurate as you can.”

A beautiful buildup led to the first American goal in the 28th minute which made it 1-0. From out of the midfield, U.S. captain Julie Foudy played a ball to the right for Parlow, who in turn played it up the flank to Wambach.

Wambach dribbled into the box and sent a short square pass to Hamm positioned near the penalty spot. Hamm then laid the ball back to Lilly whose left-footed shot from 20 yards out found the net. It was Lilly’s 92nd career goal for the U.S. team.

“There’s nothing like a goal that rips the back of the net off,” Heinrichs said.

The United States took a 2-0 halftime lead on Parlow’s 63rd international goal off a Hamm corner. Hamm served the ball toward the middle of the box and Parlow out jumped Swedish defender Hanna Marklund and sent a high, looping header that hit the underside of the crossbar and went in.

“I don’t think anybody can matchup with Cindy and I physically in terms of our height,” Wambach said. “If they cover me, Cindy is open on the corner kicks, she gets the goal. If they cover Cindy, I’m open for the corner kicks and get a goal. It’s incredible to see the diversity that we can go to, the depth on this team.”

After the United States dominated the first half, Sweden got back into game in the second half. The talented forward combination of Hanna Ljungberg and Victoria Svensson connected for Sweden’s goal in the 58th minute.

Ljungberg sent in a 30-yard cross into the middle of the box, Svensson beat defender Kate Sobrero and sent a well-placed header in the upper left corner.

For the next 10 minutes, the Swedes started pushing five players forward trying to come up with the equalizer. However, the 5-8 Boxx put the game away for the Americans in the 78th minute when she out jumped a Swedish defender eight yards from goal and headed in Hamm’s corner kick to give her team an insurmountable 3-1 lead.

“I mean, amazing serve and you know we’ve been working on me getting the ball in the back post,” Boxx said. “I just kind of peeled out and the ball was right there and I just got up and over and I didn’t see it go in. It was after it was already in the back of the net that I was like, ‘Oh, gosh.’”

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