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Hamm Delivers for U.S.

Her overtime goal gives Americans a 2-1 victory over Canada in final of CONCACAF Gold Cup. Mexico clinches third.

November 10, 2002|Grahame L. Jones | Times Staff Writer

Out of the fog, off the bench and onto the victory podium.

That was the path Mia Hamm took Saturday night as she led the U.S. women's national team to a 2-1 victory over Canada in the championship game of CONCACAF Women's Gold Cup in front of 6,911 at the Rose Bowl.

Sent on as a second-half substitute, Hamm scored the tournament-winning goal 3:34 into sudden-death overtime.

Taking an astute pass from Aly Wagner, Hamm fought off the challenge of Canadian defender Breanna Boyd and lofted a shot over goalkeeper Karina LeBanc, who had come off her line in response to the threat.

With the ball safely in the back of the net, Hamm took off on a sprint for the corner flag, waving her arm to summon her teammates to join the celebration. It was her first goal in the tournament and could not have come at a better time.

The match against a spirited and talented Canadian team was in balance throughout, and the result could have gone either way.

With the fog rapidly descending over the Arroyo Seco, making visibility from the upper reaches of the Rose Bowl a problem, the U.S. took the lead early, and in spectacular fashion.

With just over 26 minutes played, Kristine Lilly blew past Canadian defender Candace Chapman on the left flank.

Lilly, in her world-record 244th international match, crossed the ball into the goal area, where Tiffeny Milbrett hit it on the fly, unleashing a ferocious left-foot volley from 12 yards that all but tore the netting from the frame.

It was one of the goals of the tournament and, until the dying seconds of the first half, it seemed destined to be the game-winner.

But Canada, not surprisingly, was not about to be knocked out by a single punch.

In the final minute of the half, Silvana Burtini sent a corner kick in from the right, Andrea Neal headed the ball forward and Christine Sinclair poked it toward the U.S. net, forcing goalkeeper Briana Scurry into a foot block. Charmaine Hooper was on hand to drive the ball home and tie the score.

So much for Milbrett's heroics and the fog. Both disappeared at halftime.

In a pre-planned move, April Heinrichs, the U.S. coach, took Milbrett and Tiffany Roberts off after 45 minutes, replacing them with Hamm and Lorrie Fair, respectively, as she sought fresh legs to drive the U.S. forward.

And Hamm delivered.

Earlier, on a wet and thoroughly miserable evening in Pasadena, Mexico also managed to find plenty to celebrate.

Goals by Monica Gonzalez in the 13th minute, Iris Mora in the 37th and two by Maribel Dominguez in the 66th and 82nd minutes were enough to earn Coach Leonardo Cuellar's increasingly impressive team a convincing 4-1 victory over Costa Rica and third place in the tournament.

More important, it kept alive Mexico's chances of joining the U.S. and Canada in the Women's World Cup in China next year. Mexico advances to play a home-and-home series against the third-place finisher in the yet-to-be-played Asian qualifying tournament for a place in the World Cup.

"Being humble and not being arrogant, I think we are the better team at this moment," Cuellar said, "so I think we deserved the victory.

"Obviously, now we have another big challenge in front of us, but we would like to put another CONCACAF team in the World Cup."

Mexico's first goal came when American referee Kari Seitz ruled that Costa Rican defender Gabriela Trujillo had fouled Dominguez when the two chased a loose ball in the penalty area. Gonzalez made no mistake with the resulting penalty kick, tucking the ball inside the lower right corner of the net.

In the 26th minute, Shirley Cruz stunned Mexico with a shot from 24 yards that flew into the net past diving Mexican goalkeeper Jennifer Molina to tie the score.

"I think my team was shaken strongly by such a beautiful goal," Cuellar said.

It was the Ticas' last hurrah, however, because from then on Mexico controlled the game on a muddy and in places water-logged field.

Mora put Mexico back in front within a minute of being sent on as a substitute in the 36th minute, scoring directly off a corner kick as the ball slipped past defender Cindy Rodriguez and beneath the left arm of goalkeeper Marie Claire Herra.

Mexico's victory was assured in the second half by Dominguez's two goals, the first on an excellent header off a cross from the right flank by Mora, the second also from a Mora pass.

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