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Aug. 14, 2008
U.S. vs. Canada women in Olympic quarters

Natasha Kai had a hat trick against Canada the last time the two teams played.
Natasha Kai had a hat trick against Canada the last time the two teams played.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
Shanghai, China -- The United States and Canada have traveled some 6,000 miles to play what is turning into one of the hotly contested rivalries in women's soccer in the Olympic quarterfinals Friday (6 a.m. ET).

At stake is a place in the semifinals and medal round. The loser goes home.

The U.S. has enjoyed a sizeable advantage over Canada through the years, although the Canadians have narrowed the gap in recent times. They have played each other 44 times.

This year alone they have met four times. Two matches ended in close affairs, the other two in U.S. routs. The two close encounters included a 1-0 American victory in the Peace Queen Cup on a stoppage-time goal by Angela Hucles June 21. The Americans also prevailed in the CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament championship game in Mexico April 12 on penalty kicks after both teams scored in extra time (Carli Lloyd for the U.S., Melissa Tancredi for Canada).

The U.S. also rolled to a 6-0 triumph in Washington, D.C. May 10, considered one of the side's most complete games of the year (Natasha Kai had a hat-trick) and recorded a 4-0 win in the Four Nations tournament in China Jan. 16 (Amy Rodriguez scored twice and Lindsay Tarpley struck for two off the bench).

In world championship play, the teams also met in the 2003 Women's World Cup third-place match in Carson, Calif. with the Americans prevailing.

“They are kind of our local rivalry, so of course the competition between us gets pretty intense and heated because we face each other so much," said U.S. forward Heather O'Reilly, who scored the fastest goal in women's Olympic history (40 seconds into the match) in the 4-0 win over New Zealand that clinched a quarterfinals spot. "We know so many of the players as individuals. Every time it’s going to be a battle of wills, but we’re definitely very excited to play. We play them a lot of times throughout the year, but this is a different level and a different environment. We’ll be excited and pumped.”

U.S. veteran defender Heather Mitts agreed.

“We’ve played Canada quite often, so you would think by now we’d know what to expect from them," she said. "We played them in D.C, and played really well and had a great result. Then we played them in South Korea it was a completely different team we played against. I think we were lucky to come away with that win.

“Against Canada, we always know to expect a physical game, but we want to continue to play our game and not get caught up in the other team’s tendencies. It’s important to focus on us. We’ve done that every game and really grown from that disappointing loss to Norway.”

That was a 2-0 defeat in the opening game to Norway.

Oh, Canada

Canada has three dangerous attackers. Christine Sinclair, a former University of Portland star, who has 93 career goals, including her country’s score in a 1-1 tie with China at the Summer Games. Kara Lang, who plays her college soccer at UCLA with U.S. forward Lauren Cheney, is coached by U.S. assistant coach Jillian Ellis. Lang has scored once in the Olympics and has 32 career goals. Melissa Tancredi, a defender turned center-forward who scored against the U.S. during qualifying, has seven career goals. Virtually all of the Canadian players played or are playing college soccer in the U.S.

The turn of the century

After U.S. captain Christie Rampone played in her 200th career game against New Zealand Aug. 12, Shannon Boxx will reach a career milestone against Canada. Boxx, who debuted in 2003, will become 22nd player in U.S. history to play 100 or more times for her country. Boxx, 31, didn’t play her first match for the U.S. until she was 26, but has played almost every National Team game for the U.S. since then when she was healthy.
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