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First-Timers Join Old-Timers

Boxx and MacMillan are big surprises on a U.S. team for the FIFA Women's World Cup whose experience is second to none.

August 27, 2003|Grahame L. Jones | Times Staff Writer

The women's national soccer coaches of Sweden, Nigeria and North Korea might well be rubbing their eyes in disbelief today.

Shannon Boxx?

Shannon MacMillan?

The inclusion of the Shannons on the U.S. roster for next month's fourth FIFA Women's World Cup was the surprise sprung Tuesday by U.S. Coach April Heinrichs when she named her 20-player squad.

Boxx, a 26-year-old defensive midfielder from Redondo Beach by way of Notre Dame and the New York Power, has not played a single game for the national team, let alone a World Cup match.

MacMillan, a 28-year-old World Cup and Olympic gold-medal-winning forward for the San Diego Spirit, wrecked her right knee on May 19, had surgery three days later and was expected to be sidelined for six months.

Yet here they are, integral members of a team that will try to defend the world championship won so memorably by the U.S. in 1999.

Small wonder, then, if the coaches of the Americans' three first-round opponents in the tournament Sept. 20-Oct. 12 are somewhat bemused.

Not that they will have time to dwell on Boxx and MacMillan. The U.S. team has too many offensive and defensive standouts for its rivals to focus on one or two players.

Brandi Chastain -- she of the off-with-the-shirt flair in '99 -- will be back for an encore. So will Mia Hamm, Julie Foudy, Joy Fawcett and Kristine Lilly. With Chastain, they are, in their own words, the five "old ladies" who helped the U.S. win the first Women's World Cup in China in 1991.

"There will never be another generation like that," said Heinrichs, the inspirational captain of that '91 team.

The roster includes 12 players from the 1999 team and 13 from the team that won the silver medal at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

All but one of the 20 players are from Women's United Soccer Assn. clubs, the exception being versatile University of North Carolina defender Cat Reddick, at 21 the youngest member of the squad.

The U.S. experience level is second to none. Fawcett, Foudy, Hamm and Lilly will be playing in their fourth World Cup. Lilly is the world's all-time appearance leader with 253 caps; Hamm is the world's all-time leading scorer with 140 goals.

For Chastain, Tiffeny Milbrett, Tiffany Roberts and Briana Scurry, it will be their third world championship. It will be the second for MacMillan, Cindy Parlow, Christie Pearce and Kate Sobrero.

"We've got experience, wisdom and composure," Heinrichs said of her roster. "We've got speed, strength and athleticism. You also will see players who will bring us energy and enthusiasm.

"I feel very confident that we can make any and all necessary adjustments to find ways to win. This roster is a reflection of depth at every position."

Despite this wealth of talent and potential, Boxx and MacMillan were in the spotlight.

"Shannon [Boxx] doesn't have the experience that many of our players have, but she fits in great," Heinrichs said. "She has all the qualities to be able to help us. She is strong, powerful, willful.

"I told her about two months ago that if we called her in, I would have confidence to put her in a World Cup game, and I have that because of her competitiveness, because of her mental toughness and because of the way she deals with escalating levels of pressure."

The U.S. has David Chao, the San Diego Spirit's team doctor, to thank for performing the reconstructive knee surgery on MacMillan, who had torn and damaged ligaments and cartilage.

"Shannon's recovery is the closest thing that we see to a miracle in the world of soccer," Heinrichs said. "It's a tribute to her work ethic, her focus, her positive attitude and [to] technology and the great support of the people around her."

And so, against all odds, Boxx and MacMillan will be there when the U.S. team gathers at the Home Depot Center in Carson on Friday to prepare for warmup games there Monday against Costa Rica and in San Jose on Sept. 7 against Mexico.

The U.S. opens World Cup play against Sweden on Sept. 21 at RFK Stadium in Washington.

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(Begin Text of Infobox)

U.S. Women's Roster

The roster for the U.S. women's national soccer team for the 2003 Women's World Cup, named Tuesday by Coach April Heinrichs:

*--* No Name Pos Age Club Caps G 1 Briana Scurry G 31 Atlanta Beat 119 0 2 Kylie Bivens D 24 Atlanta Beat 7 0 3 Christie Pearce D 28 New York Power 100 4 4 Cat Reddick D 21 U. of North Carolina 34 1 5 Tiffany Roberts M 26 Carolina Courage 99 7 6 Brandi Chastain D 35 San Jose CyberRays 169 29 7 Shannon Boxx M 26 New York Power 0 0 8 Shannon MacMillan F 28 San Diego Spirit 154 58 9 Mia Hamm F 31 Washington Freedom 237 140 10 Aly Wagner M 22 San Diego Spirit 45 10 11 Julie Foudy M 32 San Diego Spirit 229 41 12 Cindy Parlow F 25 Atlanta Beat 126 61 13 Kristine Lilly M 32 Boston Breakers 253 91 14 Joy Fawcett D 35 San Diego Spirit 214 26 15 Kate Sobrero D 27 Boston Breakers 95 0 16 Tiffeny Milbrett F 30 New York Power 190 98 17 Danielle Slaton D 23 Carolina Courage 39 1 18 Siri Mullinix G 25 Washington Freedom 38 0 19 Angela Hucles M 25 Boston Breakers 22 1 20 Abby Wambach F 23 Washington Freedom 12 7

*--*

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