Tiffeny Milbrett was a money player for the USWNT in the 1990’s. (Andy Mead/YCJPhoto)
This originally story was posted in U.S. Women’s Soccer Magazine in July 1999
By Michael Lewis
LOS ANGELES — OK, let’s say the U.S. needs a late goal against China to win the Women’s World Cup on July 10. Where would you place your money?
Would it be with Mia Hamm, who has scored more international goals than any other man or woman on this planet?
Would it be with Michelle Akers, who has accumulated more career World Cup goals than any player?
Or would you place the team’s destiny with a 5-2, 130-pound dynamo named Tiffeny Milbrett.
On a team that has more than its share of stars and superstars, it is easy for anyone to get lost in the shuffle.
On the field, Tiffeny, the smallest player on the U.S. team at 5-2 – might occasionally get lost in the forest of defenders, but her shiftiness and speed usually allows her to find a way to put a shot on goal and score.\
“Put someone — or four people — in front of her and the goal and it’s like putting a carrot in front of a starving horse,” Akers said. “She just can’t resist.”
Despite her small stature, no one has come through bitter than the 26-year-old Milbrett the past four years. After Akers was injured at the 1995 Cup, Milbrett was called off the bench and turned into one of the few surprises for the U.S., scoring three times, which tied her for the team lead.
She struck but twice at the 1996 Olympics, saving her best for last — the game-winner in the gold medal match, a 2-1 triumph over China.
And in this Cup, Milbrett has been the Americans’ most dangerous player, leading the way with three goals. If you’re counting, Hamm and Akers have combined for seven goals in those same competitions.
“She’s going to play her best game on Saturday,” U.S. coach Tony DiCicco said. “She’s such a fireball of energy. She’s one of the best dribblers in the world. I know that’s not a very comfortable thought for them (China).”
Milbrett, native of Portland, has always been a goalscorer, setting records and standards at every level she has played. She was tied with Hamm for the Division I career scoring lead (103 goals) before U.S. teammate Danielle Fotopoulous broke it last year. She is fourth on the U.S.’s all-time list with 62 international goals in 123 appearances.
Milbrett said that he was “very confident” entering Saturday’s match. “What I want to do is make sure I can play my game,” she said. “That means to work hard, battle and get behind the Chinese defense. . . . It’s going to be a challenge to creative against one of the world’s great defenses.”
Saturday’s game is a rematch of that gold-medal encounter, although Milbrett admitted that she and her teammates have approached this final differently.
“In ’96 it was a Cinderella story to end the season with a gold medal,” she said. “We just went into it blindly. “The feeling of the Olympics was that we finally got to the final, we can take a deep breath, a sigh of relief. I don’t feel like that this time around. Because everybody wants to make sure we want to end it on a good note, we can’t take a big sigh until the game is over.”