ALSO ON SLAM!
Tuesday, May 2, 2000
Canadian women pack punch for Portland
Canadian women's soccer coach Even Pellerud packed plenty of offence for this weekend's Nike U.S. Women's Cup in Portland, Ore.
Unlike the Algarve Cup in March, Pellerud has veteran striker Silvana Burtini at his disposal, as well as new faces Kelly Haxton and Christine Latham. In all, the Norwegian-born coach has six forwards on his 18-player roster.
Pellerud may need all of his guns. If the Canadian women get past South Korea on Friday, chances are they will meet the world champion Americans in Sunday's final of the four-country competition. The U.S. opens Friday against Mexico.
The Americans have won all six editions of the tournament, posting an 18-0-0 record and outscoring their opposition 79-8.
"In Portugal, I was missing natural strikers," said Pellerud, who was forced to push up midfielders to play alongside 16-year-old striker Christine Sinclair at the Algarve Cup.
"This time, it's the opposite.... This time we have a lot of strikers on the team with speed."
Pellerud's strike force comes with limitations, however.
Some are young and inexperienced -- the Calgary duo of Haxton and Latham have yet to play at this level while Sinclair and Kristina Kiss have just four caps apiece, all from the Algarve Cup.
Burtini, a veteran of 44 internationals, may need more time to get match fit in her comeback from a knee injury suffered in the W-League semifinals last August.
"She is healthy, but I think she needs more training," said Pellerud, who will evaluate Burtini at practice before deciding whether she can start Friday.
The other Canadian forward is veteran Isabelle Harvey.
Star striker Charmaine Hooper remains out because of stress fractures.
The Americans have 14 of their World Cup veterans, including midfielder Kristine Lilly, who is on the verge of becoming the first soccer player to appear in 200 internationals.
The 28-year-old from Wilton, Conn., is sitting on 198 caps and would hit 200 if she appears in Sunday's final. Lilly, who sets a record every time she appears in an international, made her international debut at 16 years 12 days.
The left-footed midfielder has gone on to play in 18 different countries against 34 international teams from Argentina to Yugoslavia. Lilly has scored 83 goals in international play, with six coming against Canada.
Lilly has played in more World Cup matches (18) than 10 of the Canadians have played internationals. She has 10 goals at this tournament alone.
Other big names on the U.S. team include pin-up striker Mia Hamm and World Cup hero Brandi Chastain.
"My object is to play them (the United States) on Sunday," said Pellerud, showing the confidence of a coach who has won the World Cup himself (1995 with Norway). "The main thing for my team is to play high-level games. . . . That's the way we can progress.
"I'm a strong supporter of playing the best (teams)," he added. "Many of our players aren't playing regular club games this spring and that's a problem for the Canadian team. We have to solve that. Part of the solution could be the pro league (slated to start next April) in the States."
As for Friday's opposition, Pellerud said he knew "close to zero" about the South Koreans.
"But I will find out before the Friday game," he said. "I've started to investigate."
Under Pellerud, a young Canadian team finished fifth at the Algarve Cup.
Wizards still count on Bunbury: Canadian Alex Bunbury has had to watch from the sidelines much of the time this season as the Kansas City Wizards attack has torn up Major League Soccer.
The veteran striker from Montreal has played in just two of the Wizards' seven games and started just one. That's because new signing Miklos (Danish Dynamite) Molnar has ignited the Kansas City offence.
The Wizards scored just 33 goals in 32 games last year while stumbling to an 8-24 record. This season, they have scored 17 goals en route to a 6-0-1 record.
Molnar has five goals and veteran Mo Johnstone has three, while midfielders Preki, Chris Klein and Chris Henderson have eight between them.
Bunbury has yet to register a shot on goal but coach Bob Gansler says the Canadian's time will come.
"I'm sure you will hear more from Alex as we go along," Gansler said Tuesday. "As we look at our schedule, continuously having midweek games, I think there'll be a lot of opportunities for Alex to shine in the near future.
"So don't count him out yet."
Bunbury started last Saturday's 5-0 win over Colorado in place of Molnar, who was nursing an injured ankle.