Rest assured, U.S. set for quarterfinal

By John Powers

The Boston Globe

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Mia was a DNP. Julie Foudy played only half the match, as did Kristine Lilly. Cindy Parlow and Shannon Boxx stayed on the shelf. No need to keep the big guns firing, not in a game they didn't need to win.

So the US women's soccer team went with its "any-of-the-20" theme, dipped deep into the bench, and still ran roughshod over North Korea by a 3-0 count Sunday in its World Cup group finale before a sellout crowd of 22,828 at Crew Stadium, setting up a Wednesday quarterfinal showdown in Foxborough against Olympic champion Norway.

"When the draw came out, I'm not sure whether we had nine points in us," mused coach April Heinrichs, after her squad had breezed through a group that not only included the Asian champions but also Sweden and Nigeria.


The Americans didn't need nine points to advance. A draw Sunday would have managed nicely. Even a loss would have done it. But the way they saw it, victory was the only option. "We didn't step on the field with any intention of tying," said Heinrichs, whose squad has won its last 10 Cup matches dating back to 1995.

Even with Mia Hamm and three others who started the first two games resting on the bench, the hosts went hard at the North Koreans from start to finish, getting two second-half goals from defender Cat Reddick after a penalty kick by Abby Wambach gave them the lead in the 17th minute.

"If you're going to be replaced by anybody, that's quite a performance," observed Brandi Chastain, whose broken foot has opened the door for the 21-year-old Reddick, the team's only collegian. "I'll take it any game."

Though Heinrichs went with five defenders, figuring that the North Koreans would storm the gates for 90 minutes to avoid elimination, the Americans couldn't resist pushing the ball forward and jamming the Asians into their end. That got them one of their weirder goals, when Wambach had a score called back by Brazilian referee Sueli Tortura, who promptly awarded the US a penalty kick -- which was made by Wambach.

"The ref wasn't an English speaker," said Wambach, who drilled the penalty high and right past keeper Ri Jong Hui. "But I got the impression she'd called a foul on the defender (O Kum Ran) who was marking Tiffeny Milbrett."

Not that the hosts were quibbling. And as soon as they returned from intermission, they put the Koreans on the floor with Reddick's first goal, a belly-bumper of a deflected ball from Foudy's header off Aly Wagner's corner kick in the 48th minute.

For the Koreans, who'd been blanked, 1-0, by Sweden after scoring three on Nigeria in their opener, a two-goal hole might as well have been the Grand Canyon. "The USA is world-ranked No. 1," observed head coach Ri Song Gun, whose squad was also sent home by the Americans by the same score four years ago in Foxborough. "Their capability is high."

Too high for the game but overmatched Koreans, who'd hoped to make the final four here after dethroning China as continental champions since the last Cup. When Reddick headed in another off a Shannon MacMillan feed in the 66th minute, it was time to check flight schedules for Pyongyang.


By then the crowd, which included Red Sox shortstop/fiance Nomar Garciaparra, had been chanting Hamm's name, hoping at least for a cameo appearance from the world's best player, who'd performed in all 20 of her country's previous Cup matches.

Not today, decided the coach, who wanted to rest Hamm for the quarterfinals after using her for all 180 minutes in the first two matches. "I'm sure she was disappointed," said Heinrichs, who said that Hamm had no problem with the DNP after having the substitution scenarios explained to her before the match.

Three years ago, when the weary Americans lost to the Norwegians in overtime in the Olympic final, Heinrichs felt she had little choice but to keep her starters on the field for five games. Now, she has the luxury to start a Kylie Bivens in the back, a Boxx in the midfield, a Wambach up front, and play for the medal round, which begins Wednesday.

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