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SOCCER

U.S. Proves Relentless in 9-0 Rout of Panama

November 03, 2002|Grahame L. Jones | Times Staff Writer

SEATTLE — Monica Franco must have felt like the proverbial duck in a shooting gallery. A tall duck, to be sure, but a duck nonetheless.

And Tiffeny Milbrett was the shotgun.

It was Franco's misfortune Saturday night to be in the nets for Panama at a time when the United States women's national team, and Milbrett in particular, decided to take target practice en route to a 9-0 victory.

And so for Franco, a 19-year-old, wet-behind-the-ears goalkeeper from the University of Panama, this is how the first half of the CONCACAF Women's Gold Cup game at Safeco Field went in front of a stunned crowd of 21,522:

2:58 -- Goal Milbrett, from an Aly Wagner pass.

4:53 -- Goal Milbrett, from a Wagner pass.

8:24 -- Goal Milbrett, from a Shannon MacMillan pass.

11:45 -- Goal MacMillan, from an Abby Wambach pass.

13:06 -- Goal MacMillan, from an Angela Hucles pass.

21:45 -- Goal Milbrett, from a Wagner pass.

33:57 -- Goal Milbrett, unassisted.

39:53 -- Goal Tiffany Roberts, from a Wambach pass.

No one was more relieved to hear the halftime whistle than Franco, who did her best but was powerless against a U.S. team that seemed intent on sending a message to Canada, which had won its first two Gold Cup games by scores of 11-1 and 9-0.

The teams are on course to meet in the final Saturday at the Rose Bowl, and Saturday night's impressive performance made it clear that the Canadians are not the only ones with firepower.

Milbrett's five first-half strikes tied a U.S. record for most goals in a game set by Brandi Chastain against Mexico in 1991 and equaled later that year by Michelle Akers against Taiwan during the first Women's World Cup in China.

Milbrett's night ended before she had the chance to make the record her own. Ten minutes into the second half, she twisted her right knee and left the game. The U.S. already had used its permitted three substitutes and had to play a woman short for the last 35 minutes.

"I was absolutely panicked," said U.S. Coach April Heinrichs. "The way that she turned, I saw her turn, I saw her fall, and I was absolutely convinced she had torn her ACL [anterior cruciate ligament].

"To have to go a year without Tiffeny Milbrett would have been a devastating blow."

But Milbrett shook off the injury and was able to laugh about it afterward, having tripped herself by catching one shoe in the other while turning.

"I felt like we came out and played well, did what we had to do," she said. "We really wanted to work on getting behind [opposing defenses]. I was actually surprised that we were able to find the space that we did [to attack]. There were some great balls out of the midfield. That makes my job so much easier because I can be a forward and be a finisher.

"It was great to be out there, great to finish them [the scoring chances] and great to finish No. 1 in our group."

Even without Milbrett, the Americans continued to attack, but Franco came up with a big foot-save in the 67th minute to deny Wambach, the 2002 Women's United Soccer Assn. rookie of the year who had been added to the U.S. roster Friday after teenage forward Heather O'Reilly was sidelined for the rest of the tournament because of a hip flexor injury.

Wambach also hit the right post with a shot in the 83rd minute, but made up for that miss with a goal two minutes later off a pass from Hucles.

And so it ended up at 9-0, not quite surpassing Canada's lopsided victories over Haiti and Jamaica, but three times more satisfying than the U.S. team's earlier 3-0 shutouts of Mexico and Trinidad and Tobago.

Afterward, Heinrichs said she was not looking beyond Wednesday's semifinals, when the U.S. is expected to play Costa Rica, unless the Central Americans somehow manage to upset Canada today in Victoria, Canada.

"I don't think there's a player on our team thinking about Canada right now," she said. "I think our focus has been to make sure that we advanced in the finest fashion that we could and I think we'll take our semifinal game with tremendous respect."

In the first half of Saturday night's doubleheader, Mexico secured its place in the semifinals by blanking Trinidad and Tobago, on two goals by Monica Gerardo in the 6th and 60th minutes.

*

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

Climbing the Charts

Tiffeny Milbrett's five-goal performance left her alone in third place on the U.S. women's all-time goal list. The top 10:

*--* 1. Mia Hamm 135 6. Carin Gabarra 53 2. Michelle Akers 105 7. Shannon MacMillan 51 3. Tiffeny Milbrett 94 8. Tisha Venturini 44 4. Kristine Lilly 89 9. Julie Foudy 39 5. Cindy Parlow 54 10. April Heinrichs 37

*--*

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