March 4, 2002

Wagner Earns Two Assists at Algarve Cup

March 4, 2002

FERRIERAS, Portugal - Forward Shannon MacMillan scored in her second straight match and 19-year-old Kelly Wilson added the second goal in her first-ever game for the full U.S. Women's National Team as the USA earned a 2-0 victory over England in Group B at the Algarve Cup. The USA and Norway will meet on Tuesday, March 5, with the winner advancing to the Algarve Cup Championship Game.

Earning a shot at the championship game certainly wasn't easy for the Americans, who eventually wore down a young English side that came prepped for battle. For what England lack in talent, it made up for in effort, as the USA failed to find the net in the first half.

The U.S. team did serve numerous dangerous crosses from the right flank in front of the English net, but in a first half spent almost entirely on England's defensive side of the field, the USA could not turn offensive superiority into chances, getting only four good ones, three from MacMillan.

Heinrichs gave the start to midfielder Aly Wagner in a 3-4-3 formation and the Santa Clara University junior was magnificent. In just the 8th minute, Wagner lifted ball over defense to MacMillan, who took a great touch to control, but struck her skidding shot wide left of goal. In the 38th minute, MacMillan collected a pass about 10 yards above the penalty area on the left side and turned hard toward the middle, losing two defenders as she shifted gears, but her rocket shot swerved just wide right of the upper corner. In the 43rd minute, MacMillan pounced on a rolling ball in the penalty area after a scramble, but launched her shot out of the small stadium from 16 yards out.

England's only chance came early as U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo, at full extension, had to scoop a close-range shot outside the right post. The USA almost took the lead in the final minute of the first half, but Wagner's header off a corner kick skipped off the top of the crossbar.

With captain Julie Foudy putting in 90 minutes of hard labor at defensive midfield, Wagner was the maestro in controlling tempo of the game and was at the fulcrum of many U.S. attacks, especially after the U.S. team finally caught a rhythm at the end of the match and kept England on its heels for the last 20 minutes.

The USA finally broke through in the 59th minute as Wagner played a perfect through ball that put MacMillan free behind defense. The U.S. striker had plenty of time to settle herself before hammering her shot under England goalkeeper Leanne Hall and into the left corner from 15 yards out.

England ran hard for 90 minutes, but their game deteriorated under the U.S. pressure in the second half as they served a steady diet of long balls, the majority of which were won strongly by U.S. backs Joy Fawcett, Cat Reddick and Danielle Slaton, who was replaced in the 60th minute by Kate Sobrero.

With 15 minutes left, Wilson, who came on at halftime for Danielle Fotopoulos, did what only a handful of players in U.S. history have done, scoring in her first game. Once again, it was Wagner who sliced open the English defense with a pass of superior feeling and pace, springing Wilson on a breakaway. The University of Texas freshman dribbled at the English goalkeeper, threw her a hip fake as she dribbled left, then slid to tuck the ball under Hall to make it 2-0.

"I was hoping to get into the game today, and if the opportunity came, I felt confident that I could contribute," said Wilson, one of the top forwards on the U.S. Under-19 National Team. "Aly played me an awesome ball and all I had to do was beat the goalkeeper."

Former SCU standout Kylie Bivens played the entire second half at right midfield after coming on at halftime for Lorrie Fair, and distinguished herself with some rock hard play, earning a yellow card in stoppage time.

The USA has lost three straight games to Norway since winning 2-0 in the first round of the 2000 Olympics and Tuesday match promises to be another in the long line of epic battles between the two women's soccer super powers.

"We're psyched to play Norway again," said MacMillan, who scored her 41st international goal. "We always know that the game will push both teams to their highest levels. We just have to take care of our bodies tomorrow, get as much rest as possible and get ready to go to war for 90 minutes."