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She's a Keeper
Grant Wahl
July 12, 1999
Thanks to the play of unflappable goalkeeper Briana Scurry, the U.S. advanced to the final against China
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July 12, 1999

She's A Keeper

Thanks to the play of unflappable goalkeeper Briana Scurry, the U.S. advanced to the final against China

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Scurry thought she had blown her chances of ever making the national squad, but the U.S came calling two years later. "Training a goalkeeper is an evolutionary process," DiCicco says. "Back in '94 I determined that Briana was a player we needed to invest in. I look for two things in a goalkeeper: athleticism and mental skills, and she epitomizes both. I can teach techniques and tactics, but the other two are the most difficult to affect."

The alltime leader among U.S. keepers in caps (83), wins (77) and shutouts (52), Scurry is mindful of her position as a pioneer, appearing at clinics on the asphalt-covered playgrounds of Chicago, Detroit and New York City. "My role is to introduce choices to African-American girls," Scurry says. "Soccer isn't a sport that they're exposed to in the inner city, so you have to go in and make it fun. Being visible is the main idea for me, and the World Cup should help that."

Before long, she is certain, there will be other black starters on the national team. (The only other African-American on the squad is Scurry's backup, Saskia Webber.) Scurry is quick to point out that NCAA champion Florida had five blacks on its team last fall, the U.S. men used five African-Americans in their win against Argentina last month, and France won last year's World Cup with a m�lange of ethnicities. "The talent is out there," she says. "The complexion of this team could change pretty quickly."

In the meantime the most popular traveling band since the Grateful Dead has a more pressing worry: China, which became the Cup favorite last week after its stunning 5-0 semifinal whitewash of defending champion Norway in Foxboro, Mass. The Chinese have taken two of three matches from the U.S. this year, including a 2-1 victory at Giants Stadium on April 25, which ended the Americans' 50-game winning streak on home soil. Certainly China will have no fear of playing the Cup's host nation in a sold-out Rose Bowl.

Of course the last World Cup final played in Pasadena, the men's championship in 1994, was decided by a memorable, if maddening, penalty-kick shoot-out between Brazil and Italy. Though she's only been involved in one shoot-out—and she lost-Scurry says she's ready if the women's final ends in a deadlock. "It's all mental," DiCicco says of the tiebreaker. "The pressure is on the shooters because the goalkeeper isn't expected to save any. If she makes one save, she's a hero. If she makes two saves, there's a monument built in her hometown."

If Scurry repeats her semifinal performance on Saturday, she won't need to save any penalty kicks to deserve a monument back home in Dayton.

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