When the USA Women’s National Team played Sweden in their final Women’s World Cup group game on Thursday, it will be 13 years since those same two teams played an epic international friendly at the National Sports Center (NSC).
It was July 14, 2006, a Friday. The temperature was in the mid-90’s, and the game was played in the heat of the day. The match was held during USA CUP, and was broadcast live on ESPN.
While just an international friendly, the ending of the game would produce an improbably dramatic finish that left one team jubilant and the other crouching on the turf, deflated.
The USA’s Abby Wambach scored the first goal in the 38th minute and the U.S. looked to be cruising to victory, until Sweden tied the game in the 72nd minute.
Then the end-game fireworks started. In the 89th minute, Cat Whitehill launched a 70-yard free kick that soared over the Swedish keeper’s head, then bounced once and into the top of the net. Just two minutes later, in stoppage time, Sweden got the equalizer. It was 2-2, with barely a minute left. But that’s all the time U.S. captain Kristine Lilly needed as she scored off a throw-in. Seconds later, the referee blew the final whistle, and the U.S. grabbed a dramatic 3-2 victory over a Swedish team that was a rising international power at the time.
Only one player from the U.S. starting line-up that day, Carli Lloyd, is still playing for the U.S. team in France. She was in just her second season playing with the U.S. National Team when she took the field at the NSC.
In the broadcast booth that day, JP Dellacamera handled the play-by-play for the ESPN broadcast, a position he still holds down at the 2019 World Cup, this time for Fox. U.S. soccer legend Julie Foudy was the color commentator.
Over the years, the U.S. Women’s National Team played 14 international matches at the NSC. That 2006 match was the last. As the popularity of the U.S. Women’s Team skyrocketed, US Soccer moved their games to stadiums with a larger seating capacity than the NSC.