Having spun the gold of Atlanta into the silver of Sydney, the United States women’s national soccer team will try to reverse the process next month in Athens.
On Thursday, the 18 players who will be attempting the transformation were named when Coach April Heinrichs selected her roster for the Aug. 11-26 Olympic tournament. The U.S. plays Greece, Brazil and Australia in the first round.
Few eyebrows will be raised by Heinrichs’ selections, but there were significant players omitted.
Forward Tiffany Milbrett, who scored the gold medal-winning goal against China in the 1996 final in Athens, Ga., will not be going to Athens, Greece.
Milbrett, who also scored twice against Norway in a 3-2 overtime loss in the 2000 final in Sydney, disagrees with Heinrichs on tactical matters and opted off the national team after the U.S. finished third at the 2003 Women’s World Cup.
Forward Shannon MacMillan, Milbrett’s former sidekick at the University of Portland and the American team’s leading goal scorer at the Atlanta Games, did not make the final cut. Between them, Milbrett and MacMillan have scored 159 goals for the U.S. since 1991.
Four other players who also were on last September’s World Cup team did not make the Olympic roster: goalkeeper Siri Mullinix, the silver medal-winning starter at Sydney in 2000; defenders Kylie Bivens and Danielle Slaton and, perhaps most surprising, midfielder Tiffany Roberts, a gold medal winner in 1996 and world champion in 1999.
“That was unequivocally one of the tougher decisions,” Heinrichs said of Roberts.
“She’s a team favorite, loved by all of us.... She makes people around her enjoy the game more, she makes training sessions fun, she makes drills fun, she’s one of the classiest human beings this program has ever seen.
“But at the end of the day she was competing for one or two of the spots where we have the most depth. And it made it difficult to pick her when we felt like we had some good depth at the back and good depth in midfield.”
Heinrichs said selecting the 2004 roster was far more difficult than choosing the 2000 Olympic team or the 2003 World Cup team.
In the end, she came up with a squad of nine former Olympians that includes two goalkeepers, six defenders, six midfielders and four forwards.
They range in experience from midfielder Kristine Lilly, with a world-record 273 international appearances, and Mia Hamm, with a world-record 149 international goals, to backup goalkeeper Kristin Luckenbill, who has only three appearances.
They range in age from 36-year-old defender Joy Fawcett, one of seven U.S. players appearing in her third Olympics, to 19-year-old forward Heather O’Reilly.
In addition to Luckenbill and O’Reilly, two other newcomers who were not on the 2003 World Cup squad are midfielder Lindsay Tarpley, 20, like O’Reilly a starter on the U.S. team that won the FIFA Women’s Under-19 World Championship in Canada in 2002, and 25-year-old defender Heather Mitts.
“There’s no question in my mind that this team is a better team,” than the one that lost to Germany in a World Cup semifinal, Heinrichs said. “We’re sharper, cleaner, crisper.
“We’ve been able to review, address and improve almost every area of our game, every area of every individual’s game.”
The U.S. plays Canada on Saturday in Nashville, then has final warm-up games against Australia and China before leaving for Greece.
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*--* The Roster The 2004 U.S. women’s Olympic soccer team Name Age Hometown App/G GOALKEEPERS Briana Scurry 32 Dayton, Minn. 138/0 Kristin Luckenbill 25 Paoli, Pa. 3/0 DEFENDERS Brandi Chastain 35 San Jose 177/30 Joy Fawcett 36 Huntington Beach 232/27 Kate Markgraf 27 Bloomfield Hills, 118/0 Mich. Heather Mitts 26 Cincinnati 19/0 Christie Rampone 29 Point Pleasant, 118/4 N.J. Cat Reddick 22 Birmingham, Ala. 56/4 MIDFIELDERS Shannon Boxx 27 Redondo Beach 23/9 Julie Foudy 33 Mission Viejo 253/44 Angela Hucles 25 Virginia Beach, 32/4 Va. Kristine Lilly 32 Wilton, Conn. 273/95 Lindsay Tarpley 20 Kalamazoo, Mich. 23/7 Aly Wagner 23 San Jose 63/14 FORWARDS Mia Hamm 32 Chapel Hill, N.C. 257/149 Heather O’Reilly 19 East Brunswick, 22/3 N.J. Cindy Parlow 26 Memphis, Tenn. 143/69 Abby Wambach 24 Rochester, N.Y. 37/26 Coach: April Heinrichs