U.S. Team Report
DiCicco may start MacMillan instead of Parlow
Posted: Friday July 09, 1999 07:54 PM
By Steve Almasy, CNN/SI
PASADENA, Calif. -- U.S. coach Tony DiCicco has one critical decision left to make -- when to bring in Shannon MacMillan. The 27-year-old former Portland star has emerged as the United States' top substitute but she might get plugged into the starting lineup against China.
Both MacMillan and striker Cindy Parlow -- whom MacMillan would replace -- have their own strengths. MacMillan is faster, and her speed will give the Chinese defenders trouble. Parlow works harder on defense and is a better passer. But MacMillan has a great cross and is the best corner kick taker in the world.
"I can't make a bad decision," DiCicco said after Friday's light workout at the Rose Bowl. "I just want to make the right decision."
For her part MacMillan, a starter practically her whole career, would rather leave the bench behind before the first whistle blows. It kills her to have to sit and watch her teammates out there battling, she said. But she makes the most of her time on the sidelines.
"It's hard to not start, but I just try to look at the whole game," she said. "Not just a particular aspect."
It paid off handsomely against Germany in the quarterfinals. MacMillan came in the match in the 65th minute for the ineffective Julie Foudy. When the ball went out over the German endline, MacMillan knew just where to drive her corner kick.
"I knew Joy would be open on the near post," she said.
MacMillan had once again provided that spark of offense off the bench. But the United States, which has started slow in most games in this World Cup, can't afford to let China have the early momentum in Saturday's final (3:50 p.m. ET, ABC).
Wanting the crown backAfter China defeated Norway 5-0 in the semifinal round, it convinced many media members that China, which has beaten the United States twice this year, is a better team than the host side.
"We've never looked at it that way," midfielder Kristine Lilly said when asked if the team sees at itself as an underdog. "We look at it as we're not the defending champions. We lost in 1995.
"China is a very good team. We think we're a very good team. It comes down to who scores the most goals."
Fan frenzyWhen the U.S. team was introduced to its security officer before the cup began it caught a few players off guard. Why would they need an escort?
A few weeks later the players are glad he's around. People, presumably fans, have tried to sneak onto the players' floors of the hotel that they have been staying at in the various cities. Players have been followed to the malls or other places.
"It's not so much that it's scary," said bright-eyed defender Sara Whalen, "but it's very ... uncomfortable."
Other players have had Different experience while at the malls.
"Are you going to go to the soccer game Saturday?" a young Californian asked Tisha Venturini during one of her recent trips. She said she was.
"You better have tickets; I hear it's sold out," he added.
Getting togetherThe women on the U.S. national team genuinely seem to love each other but one of the difficulties of playing in large, noisy stadia has been communicating.
Central defender Carla Overbeck said that has caused each player in the back to have to trust the others even more.
"We just have to be there for each other in case breakdowns happen," she said.
Another focus of the U.S. side, not just the defenders, has been to win 50-50 balls and second balls. The team has someone who tracks the percentage, and Overbeck said that the team had to commit itself toward working harder when that number was low in the first half of the game against Denmark.
The U.S. has done better since that opening match but must get a majority of the loose balls Saturday. One other element of strategy said Parlow will be the pace of the game."We're not going to get many scoring chances," she said. "So we're likely to play a little more indirect and knock the ball around a little."
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