United States keeps stars on bench in 3-0 pool win over North K

Monday, September 29, 2003

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The fans chanted "Mia! Mia! Mia!" as the game wound down and the United States' best player sat on the cold, metal bench in a blue warmup outfit.

For the first time in her World Cup career, Mia Hamm never got in. She wasn't needed.

The United States rested its stars for a bigger game ahead, letting its depth make the difference Sunday in a 3-0 victory over North Korea.

Not even the fans' pleas or a visit by Hamm's fiance -- Boston Red Sox shortstop Nomar Garciaparra -- could sway coach April Heinrichs to change her mind.

"We told her the scenarios before the game," said Heinrichs, who has juggled the lineup for each game. "We talked to her a little bit about that. I'm sure she's a little disappointed."

The unbeaten Americans (3-0) will play Norway in their quarterfinal match Wednesday in Foxboro, Mass.

Norway, which beat the United States to win the gold medal at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, wrapped up its first-round play on Saturday. That played heavily into Heinrichs' decision to rest her older stars as the U.S. team needed only a tie to advance.

Hamm watched from the bench and team captain Julie Foudy got a new role -- super sub -- as youth carried the day. Abby Wambach had a penalty-kick goal and Cat Reddick -- the only collegian on the roster -- scored twice in the second half.

Heinrichs planned to get Hamm in for a few minutes in the second half, then changed her mind when the lead reached 3-0.

"After we scored our third goal, we were playing very confidently and had borderline cockiness," said Wambach, Hamm's teammate on the WUSA-champion Washington Freedom. "I think that's what's so exceptional about this team.

"We can score three goals without the most prolific goal-scorer in the world. When you do that, you know you have a great team, and you know you have a lot of depth."

Wambach put the United States ahead to stay off a penalty kick in the 17th minute. Wambach beat goalkeeper Ri Jong Hui with a low kick to the right corner.

Foudy started the second half and played a role in both of Reddick's goals.

Foudy's header off a corner kick sent the ball on one bounce to Reddick, who knocked it in with her right thigh. Foudy later passed to Shannon MacMillan, who lofted the ball to Reddick in front of the net for a header.

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