September 18, 2010
By Michael Lewis
Giving Scurry her due
On Sunday, the greatest women's goalkeeper in history could walk off the field one last time.
|Briana Scurry is retiring after this WPS season.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
If the Washington Freedoms lose their Women's Professional Soccer playoff game to the Philadelphia Independence on Sunday, Briana Scurry will be involved her final competitive match.
Granted, the likelihood of Scurry playing is a long shot because she has been on the Freedom bench for most of the season. She is calling it quits after this season.
Scurry, 39, has enjoyed quite a career. She backstopped the United States en route to the 1999 Women's World Cup title -- the last world championship the U.S. has won, by the way. She also was in goal for the 1996 and 2004 U.S. Olympics teams.
For the record, Scurry played 173 times for the U.S. National Team.
For me, Scurry's greatest moment came before a crowd of 90,185 at the Rose Bowl on July 17, 1999.
The U.S. and China had battled through 120 minutes of scoreless soccer under the scorching sun in Pasadena, Calif. that afternoon, forcing a shootout.
Leading off the tie-breaker, Xie Hullin placed her shot to the left of Scurry for a 1-0 China lead. But defender Carla Overbeck tied it, putting her attempt to the left of goalkeeper Gao Hong. Qiu Haiyan fired her shot to the upper left, but Fawcett equalized, burying her attempt to the right side to tie things up at 2-2.
Up stepped Liu Ying for the Chinese.
"I actually saw her body language walking," Scurry said. "It didn't seem like she really wanted to be there. I had a feeling about this girl. I did. I can't explain it. I looked up at her and said, 'This is the one.' "
Scurry admitted she broke the rules a bit on the shoot. Goalkeepers are allowed to move -- sideways -- on penalty kicks. Scurry took a couple of steps toward Liu. She then dived to her left to bat the ball away.
"If I jump out and save, but the referee calls it back, they have to do it again," Scurry said. "Now I know where they're shooting and it's even more pressure on them."
We all know what transpired after that. Kristine Lilly converted her attempt as the Americans grabbed a 3-2 lead. The China scored and Mia Hamm put away her try. After another China conversion, Brandi Chastain fired her chance home and the U.S. had its second world championship.
Somewhat lost in the craziness that day -- remember, Chastain ripped off her shirt, revealing a sports bra that caused a controversy or two -- was Scurry's save.
"I've said all along that she's the best goalkeeper in the world," said Tony DiCicco, then the U.S. Women's National Team coach. "She's proved to be the best in the World Cup."
Could not have said it any better.