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December 1, 2008
U.S. advances in U-20 women's WC

Chillan, Chile -- Sydney Leroux scored twice to lead the the U.S. Under-20 Women’s National Team to a 3-0 quarterfinal victory over England to reach the semifinals of the FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup on Sunday.

The Americans will play the winner of Monday night’s quarterfinal between Brazil and Germany. The U.S.’s semifinal will take place in Coquimbo on Thursday, Dec. 4 at 7 p.m. local time (5 p.m. ET) with a place in the final on the line. The U.S. has qualified for the semifinal stage in all four FIFA events held for this age group.

Midfielder and team captain Keelin Winters scored the game-winning goal in the 53rd minute while Leroux tallied her third and fourth of the tournament in the second half before a crowd of 11,000 at Estadio Nelson Oyarzun. Goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher led her defense to its third shutout in four games as Nikki Marshall and Lauren Fowlkes continued their solid play on the backline. Both have played every minute in the center of the U.S. defense this tournament.

“I thought in the first half England did a very good job of not letting us play our style,” U.S. coach Tony DiCicco said. “We had to change the way we played and then work back to our style as the game went on. We felt that coming back to Chillan was like playing in our home stadium.”

After a scoreless first half, midfielder Christine Nairn came into the game in the 52nd minute and immediately jogged over to take the U.S.’s eighth corner kick. After sending it into the box, the ball was cleared back out to Nairn on the right wing. She sent driven ball to the far post to Winters, who rose above two defenders to send a well-struck header from seven yards out just inside the left post.

“I think we have to give a lot of credit to England because in the first half they were really battling with us,” Winters said. “In the second half we came out with a little bit more desire and I think that’s what it came down to tonight.”

England struggled to build an attack in the second half as the American defense shut down everything that came its way. Rachel Williams and Jade Moore came on in the second half to try to spark the English offense, but the few shots they could muster were all from long range and presented little problem for Naeher.

In the 81st minute, the U.S. took advantage of another corner kick opportunity and again it was Nairn with the service. She played an in-swinger that flew to Leroux, who darted in front of a defender to head down and into the net on a bounce from five yards.

Leroux’s second of the night came in the fourth minute added time. Winters, the woman of the match for her efforts in the midfield, won the ball in her own end and moved forward on the dribble. She played a soft ball through the middle of English back line for Leroux, who sped past the last defender and with a defender in tow, shot from the top of the penalty are to place a perfect shot just inside the right post past the onrushing English goalkeeper.

“I think there were some nerves, but we knew what we had to do to turn ourselves around in the second half,” Leroux said. “The change was just us realizing that if we didn’t step it up that we could be going home. We’ve all sacrificed too much to go home at this point.”

Midfielder and Massapequa, L.I. native Gina DiMartino, who is on the team, did not come off the bench. DiMartino is a member of the Long Island Fury (Women's Premier Soccer League).

In Sunday's other quarterfinal match, the runner up in the USA’s Group B, France, knocked off Group A champion Nigeria, 3-2 with an 88th-minute game-winner from Nora Coton Pelagie.

In Monday’s quarterfinal matches, Japan and North Korea will meet an all-Asian affair while Brazil and Germany will meet in a clash of traditional powers to determine the final two semifinal teams.

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