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Young Americans

Youthful U.S. women's team cruises past Italy 4-1

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Posted: Saturday July 08, 2000 11:59 AM


CENTRAL ISLIP, New York (AP) -- U.S. coach April Heinrichs turned to her youngsters, and they easily beat Italy 4-1 in a women's soccer exhibition game.

With a squad averaging 19.5 years of age Friday night, the Americans outclassed the Italians on goals by Aly Wagner, Sara Whalen, Susan Bush and Caroline Putz. The game drew a sellout crowd of 6,002 at newly built EAB Park.

With most of the Women's World Cup veterans on a break, Heinrichs' relatively inexperienced squad played attractive soccer.

Whalen, Christie Welsh and Mary-Frances Monroe each played a part in the scoring. Defender Christie Pearce joined Whalen as the only two 1999 World Cup veterans to play in the match.

"I was very pleased for this team and with the great result for the young players," Heinrichs said. "We had excellent possession and really created enough chances to score five or six goals.

"At times, we showed our naivete, which can come back to hurt us, but the players will grow more sophisticated with more experience. It is difficult and frustrating for young players when they come into the national team environment, but I tell them that their development comes with the youth teams, and I think we saw some of that success tonight."

The U.S. team broke through in the 24th minute as Monroe stole a ball inside the penalty box, got past a defender and toed the ball to the charging Wagner for a low, left-footed drive into the corner for her fifth international goal.

Italy tied the match just two minutes into the second half when Rita Guarino and goalie Jen Branam came together on a through ball at the top of the penalty box. Guarino got past the tackle as the ball popped free behind Branam, and she sent it into the empty net.

The lead and the momentum was short-lived as Aleisha Cramer played a pass to Whalen in the left side of the penalty box in the 55th minute Whalen beat a defender to the inside and hit a blistering drive into the roof of the net from 15 yards (14 meters) to give the Americans a 2-1 lead. It was Whalen's fourth goal in the last five games and seventh international score in her career.

"This is really a break for a lot us," said Whalen, who will travel to Germany with the U.S. team on July 12. "But to get the chance to come out and play in my hometown was awesome."

The Americans then ran at Italy and put the game away with two goals in the last 15 minutes.

Bush scored in the 76th minute, off a cross from Michelle French. Putz provided one final highlight, scoring on her second touch of the game after coming on in the 87th minute. In stoppage time, Wagner burst free down the right flank and played a perfect bending ball behind the defense to Putz, who slammed the ball home from close range.

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