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DeMera Lifts Panama; U.S. Shuts Out Mexico

October 28, 2002|Grahame L. Jones | Times Staff Writer

Amerelis DeMera is unlikely to have seen her name in the same sentence as Mia Hamm before, but here it is.

The 17-year-old striker from Universidad Tecnologica in Panama City stole the show at the Rose Bowl on Sunday, scoring a deserving hat trick and leading Panama over Trinidad and Tobago, 4-2, in the first game of the CONCACAF Women's Gold Cup.

And Hamm?

Well, the world's best-known player was as active as ever -- as shown by the bruises she picked up after time an again being knocked to the turf -- but was unable to add to her world-record total of 135 goals.

Even so, the United States had more than enough firepower to overcome Mexico, 3-0, in the second game of a doubleheader in front of a chilled gathering of 5,568.

The Americans held a 7-0 all-time advantage over the Mexicans before the match and had outscored them, 51-2, but Mexico's program is rapidly gaining strength under Coach Leonardo Cuellar, a former World Cup player.

As a result, a three-goal victory was about the margin expected.

Mexico's Jennifer Molina made outstanding saves off two shots by Shannon MacMillan and a header by Angela Hucles in the second half, and Kristine Lilly hit the right post with a long-range diagonal shot, otherwise the result might have been more lopsided.

"I think it is a satisfying result for Mexico, and on the flip side it's not a satisfying result for us," Coach April Heinrichs said. "Because we felt that the game got a little reckless in the second half and that while we created more [scoring] chances, we didn't bury them.

"Mexico, every time they come back, they come back with a little bit more determination, a little bit more grit, a little bit more organization, and I think probably a little bit more optimism about what they can create on the offensive side."

It took the U.S. only 4 minutes 33 seconds to take the lead, with impressive midfielder Aly Wagner powering a shot past Molina from 18 yards off a pass from Lilly.

The Mexican defense stiffened after that, and it was not until the 42nd minute that Cindy Parlow was able to double the U.S. advantage. The final goal, by MacMillan, came in injury time in the 90th minute.

"This is a hard surface, especially in the middle after a football game" said Hamm, who came into frequent contact with the ground. "But regardless of that -- and we all talked about it -- technically, it's got to be better."

The rust is still being knocked off the world champions. By the time they return to the Rose Bowl for the Nov. 9 final -- assuming they qualify -- they should be in more dominant form.

On defense, however, they already are proving difficult to play against.

On the rare occasions when Mexico managed to mount attack, central defenders Joy Fawcett and Brandi Chastain, along with outside backs Kate Sobrero and Cat Reddick, were up to the challenge and goalkeeper Briana Scurry had relatively little to do.

Hamm left in the 79th minute and was replaced by 17-year-old Heather O'Reilly.

But by then, another 17-year-old, DeMera, had long since made the day her own.

Panama plays Mexico in the second game of Tuesday's doubleheader at Cal State Fullerton.

The U.S. plays Trinidad and Tobago, whose coach, Jamaal Shavazz, has understandably low expectations.

"We are very eager to play the U.S. and see how much we have progressed since losing, 12-0, [in the 2000 Women's Gold Cup]," he said.

It was only 11-0, but who's counting?

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