It was a poignant moment: With an hour played, the USA's quarter-final against Japan at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens hung on a knife-edge at 1-1. Some of the USA players were showing signs of losing their nerve. But not Shannon Boxx. The midfielder received a free-kick from Mia Hamm, bore down on the Japanese goalkeeper and still had the vision to find the better-placed Abby Wambach, who slotted home effortlessly for a 2-1 victory. USA went on to claim the Olympic Gold, defeating Brazil 2-1 after extra time, marking the pinnacle of Boxx's footballing life to date. Now the 28-year-old has her sights set on another career highlight in the form of the FIFA Women's World Player of the Year 2005.

A little over two years ago Boxx was looking forward to sitting down with her then fiancé and now husband Sean Taketa and a few family members to watch USA's opening game of the FIFA Women's World Cup USA 2003 against Sweden on television. Their plans were interrupted by a telephone call on 16 August 2003: USA coach April Heinrichs had named Boxx in the World Cup squad despite her never having even played in an international - a first in USA women's football.

Boxx writes football history
Just weeks later, Boxx herself was on television scoring the decisive goal in USA's 3-1 victory over Sweden, her third goal in her third international match. Another unprecedented feat in the US women's game. Moreover, Boxx was hardly reputed as a goalscorer in the women's US professional league, WUSA, having netted just once in 21 games in the FIFA World Cup season.

Though the title of world champion was to elude Boxx in 2003, she was voted player of the match in the third-place play-off against Canada. She even managed to get on the scoresheet, earning the following endorsement from Fran Hilton-Smith of FIFA's Technical Study Group (TSG): "She seized control of the game, spurred on her team-mates and finally scored the decisive goal in USA's victory."

Labelled as something of a nomad after her college days, Boxx played in Los Angeles and Boston and even in Saarbrücken, Germany. In 2001, she was recruited by San Diego Spirit for the opening of the WUSA season, where she remained until her switch to New York Power.

Since making her international début against Costa Rica on 1 September 2003, she has only missed a single game, scoring 13 goals in 50 appearances and establishing herself as an indispensable member of the US team. In May 2004, she skippered a World XI that defeated world and European champions Germany 3-2 as part of the FIFA Centennial celebrations. 

Unlikely hat-trick
In February 2004, Boxx claimed a hat-trick in the 7-0 victory over Trinidad & Tobago in the Olympic qualifiers, a rare achievement for a midfielder. "I love playing in forward positions. I like to shoot and get involved in attack, but I know my role is primarily a defensive one at the end of the day," Boxx says of her game.

2005 has been another successful year for Shannon Boxx. She lifted another title with USA in the Algarve Cup under new coach Greg Ryan, completing every game with the exception of 23 minutes. A year earlier, she was voted best player of the same tournament. She has started all nine games for her country in 2005 and played an instrumental role in upholding USA's perfect goals-against record.

Sporting talent seems to run in the Boxx family. Sister Gillian won Olympic Gold as a catcher for the US softball team in 1996 in Atlanta.

Shannon Boxx has already achieved one of her own career ambitions in winning the Olympic Gold. She will have to wait until 2007 to fulfill her second dream of lifting the FIFA Women's World Cup. And even if USA are not successful in China, Boxx is planning a long career: "I want to play until I can play no more. I want to be able to say at the end of my career that I achieved everything." The accolade of FIFA Women's World Player of the Year would certainly go some way towards achieving that.