Wagner Makes an Impact

Nov. 1, 2002

By Fred J. Robledo
Pasadena Star News
Staff Writer

It didn't take midfielder Aly Wagner long to make an impact with the U.S. women's national soccer team in Sunday's 3-0 victory over Mexico in the CONCACAF Gold Cup.

Wagner, who scored the winning goal for Santa Clara in the 2001 NCAA championship, scored in the fifth minute of Sunday's game for her eighth national team goal.

Wagner and the United States continues CONCACAF Group 1 round-robin play tonight at 7 p.m. at Cal State Fullerton against Trinidad & Tobago, followed by a match between Mexico and Panama at 9 p.m.

The U.S. figures to win by a lopsided margin. To U.S. coach April Heinrichs, monitoring the development of players such as Wagner and 17-year-old Heather O'Reilly is a priority. Wagner is a creative midfielder on the rise.

"She's (Wagner) still developing in a lot of roles," said Heinrichs. "She has the ability to spray the ball around the park. She has the ability to serve the ball and put texture on every pass. The players love receiving balls from Aly Wagner."

Though Wagner is inexperienced, she seems to have all the tools for stardom.

"She has great vision and is working hard on the defensive side and in the air,' said Heinrichs. "She's trying to integrate herself with her teammates and still be the creative playmaker with the license to express herself.

"During the course of a game, you can look at some of our veteran players and if they didn't have a good first half, they will have a good second half. That's the sign of a veteran player, and that's something Aly is going to learn."

Even though the U.S. is a heavy favorite over Trinidad & Tobago, a 4-2 loser to Panama in its Group 1 opener, Heinrichs voiced some concern.

"They were probably less organized defensively (than Panama), but they're a better possession team,' she said. "They really spray the ball around well."