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U.S. Rolls Over Costa Rica

Veterans help pick up the pace as five players, including Boxx, score in a 5-0 victory.

September 02, 2003|Grahame L. Jones | Times Staff Writer

April Heinrichs, coach of the United States women's national soccer team, divides her players into two categories, those she describes as "personality players" and those she calls "role players."

Whether that's just another way of saying starters and substitutes is not yet clear, but on Monday night it made little difference.

Heinrichs left on the bench eight players with a phenomenal combined total of 1,475 international appearances, but the World Cup-bound U.S. team still managed to overcome Costa Rica, 5-0, in front of 12,349 at the Home Depot Center in Carson.

The Americans built a 2-0 lead in the first half, courtesy of a 17th-minute goal by playmaker Aly Wagner, who placed her shot perfectly into the upper left corner of the net, and a 41st-minute headed goal by hard-charging forward Abby Wambach off a thoughtful Wagner pass.

For 45 minutes it was all one-way traffic, with Costa Rica forced to do little but defend and the U.S. working to break down the packed ranks at the back, with curiously limited success.

The defending world champions should be able to unlock the mysteries of a Central American defense better than they did, especially if they are to solve the problems presented by Sweden, Nigeria and North Korea in the first round of the Sept. 20-Oct. 12 World Cup.

Heinrichs thought so too, because at the start of the second half she went to her bench, sending into the game veterans Brandi Chastain, Joy Fawcett, Julie Foudy, Mia Hamm, Kristine Lilly and Christie Pearce.

The effect was immediate. The speed of play quickened and the energy level increased. Within 12 minutes, the U.S. goal total had been doubled as the Ticas wilted.

First, Shannon Boxx, the midfielder from Redondo Beach making her national team debut, made the evening even more memorable for herself by scoring her first international goal in the 53rd minute.

Four minutes later, Cindy Parlow headed in a cross from Lilly to make it 4-0, and the rout was on.

Another veteran, Shannon MacMillan, drew a huge cheer when Heinrichs sent her into the game in the 70th minute, an amazingly quick 102 days after the winger had undergone ligament and cartilage surgery on her right knee.

Hamm pounced and made it 5-0 in the 82nd minute after the Costa Rican defense failed to clear a loose ball. It was Hamm's 141st international goal, just another statistic on a night of many.

Tiffany Roberts, the Americans' honorary captain for the match, was feted before the kickoff for winning her 100th international cap, the 16th U.S. player to do so.

The victory was the 300th in the 18-year history of the U.S. team.

Even Costa Rica got into the act, bringing 16-year-old North Torrance High player Vanessa Rojas into the game in the late going for her international debut.

The Americans' final pre-World Cup warmup is Sunday against Mexico in San Jose.

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