July 25, 2001
Gjovik, Norway - Santa Clara University head coach Jerry Smith's U.S. under-21 national team got two goals from forward Abby Wambach (Rochester, N.Y./Florida) and one from forward Laura Schott (Wilsonville, Ore./UC Berkeley) to record a 3-0 victory over an out-gunned Iceland team in the opening game of the 2001 Nordic Cup Championships.
The Americans out-shot the gritty Icelanders 31-1 for the match and could have racked up several more goals if not for some poor U.S. finishing and some great goalkeeping from Thora Helgadóttir, who plays her college soccer at Duke University.
"Our performance was very good in all aspects, except for our finishing," said U.S. head coach Jerry Smith after his first Nordic Cup match. "With 31 shots at goal, we would expect to score more than three goals, but it's three points earned and we came out of the match without any injuries."
Iceland played a highly defensive 5-4-1 formation, but the Americans laid waste to the bunker tactics early, scoring in just the 7th minute. The goal was created by U.S. captain Cat Reddick (Birmingham, Ala./UNC) after she intercepted a pass in the midfield and took off on a slashing run through the entire Iceland team. She got to the end line on the left side of the goal and played a cross on the ground to the far post for Schott, who slid and pounded her shot into the net from a sharp angle, five yards outside the post and just two yards from the edge of the field.
The USA made it 2-0 in the 31st minute on a beautiful goal that started in midfield as Schott and Lori Lindsey (Indianapolis, Ind./UVA) played a quick wall-pass to carve through several Iceland defenders. Lindsey then played a brilliant weak-side pass to Katie Barnes (Mason, Ohio/West Virginia) on the right flank. Barnes ran the ball down and took her time before chipping a perfect cross to the far post where Wambach pounded a header into the net from inside the six-yard box.
The USA added its third goal just three minutes into the second half after Devvyn Hawkins (Olympia, Wash./Santa Clara) played a throw-in to Wambach deep in the left corner. She posted up her defender and then rolled inside, making some space for her shot before absolutely pounding the ball into the upper left corner from 12 yards out. The ball ricocheted off the crossbar on its way into the net, giving Helgadóttir no chance.
"Abby proved in the match that she is the quality striker that we knew she would be when we selected her," said Smith. "She was unlucky not get a hat trick. She might be the best goal scorer in the tournament."
Almost all of Iceland's danger came from the booming kicks of Helgadóttir, who consistently sent services far into the U.S. half, forcing the American back line to scramble on several occasions. U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo (Richland, Wash./Washington) picked up the shutout, but besides two through balls that she slid to corral in the second half, had an uneventful match.
Iceland's lone forward Elin Steinardottir was the mouse to the USA's cat as she could do nothing but chase errant long balls and U.S. defenders, who played with a quality rhythm throughout the game, releasing Ally Marquand (Irvine, Calif./Stanford) numerous times up the right flank during the first half and Jena Kluegel (Mahtomedi, Minn./UNC) up the left wing in the second.
Aleisha Cramer (Lakewood, Colo./BYU) was solid in the midfield for the U.S., running the show for the Americans with tremendous savvy and sophistication as she used all of the 74-yard width to carve apart the Iceland defense. But while the U.S. created a cornucopia of chances, they blew numerous opportunities to increase their goal differential, the first tie-breaker should teams finish group played tied on points.
In the 13th minute, the ball was bouncing around inside the Iceland penalty area after a U.S. free kick and Wambach latched onto it, but her well-struck shot was brilliantly saved by Helgadóttir.
Just before the second U.S. goal, Schott almost scored on a spectacular overhead volley, getting good contact on Lindsey's cross, but cut it wide right.
As Iceland began to tire in the second half, the Americans consistently got behind the defense, but could not convert. In the 54th minute Wambach got loose on the right flank, cut inside to lose a defender and drilled a left-footed rocket that Helgadóttir had to push away for a corner kick.
Two minutes later, Schott rushed in on a clear breakaway, but tried to round Helgadóttir to her right and the Icelandic goalkeeper went low to steal the ball off her foot. Schott also had a golden chance in the 65th minute as she ran onto a bouncing ball behind the Icelandic defense, but popped her shot over the goal.
In the 78th minute Wambach ran onto a bouncing ball on top of the penalty area and hit a thundering volley off the corner of the crossbar. In the 82nd minute, Schott's cross from the left flank found substitute Danielle Borgman (Cincinnati, Ohio/UNC), who sent a perfect header across the goal to Wambach, but her volley was spectacularly saved by substitute goalkeeper Maria Agustdóttir, who had come into the game just a minute earlier.
The U.S. suffered a minor setback in stoppage time as Wambach was issued a yellow card for plowing into the back of an Icelandic defender almost half her size. If Wambach receives one more yellow card in the tournament, she would be suspended for one match.
In the other Group A match, Germany defeated Denmark 3-0 and sites atop the group tied with the U.S. In the Group B matches, Finland upset Sweden, 2-1 and Norway tied and up-and-coming Canadian team, 1-1, after University of Portland-bound Christine Sinclair tied the game in the 87th minute. The USA will face Denmark in its next Group A match on Friday. Kickoff is at 7 p.m. local/1 p.m. ET.
USA - Laura Schott (Cat Reddick), 7th minute.
USA - Abby Wambach (Katie Barnes), 31.
USA - Abby Wambach (Devvyn Hawkins), 48.
USA - 18-Hope Solo, 5-Ally Marquand (6-Casey Zimny, 81st), 4-Catherine Reddick - Capt., 3-Anna Kraus, 2-Jena Kluegel, 17-Aleisha Cramer (11-Jill Oakes, 78th), 23-Devvyn Hawkins (9-Erin Misaki, 76th), 14-Lori Lindsey (7-Lori Chalupny, 66th), 22-Abby Wambach, 16-Katie Barnes (15-Danielle Borgman, 68th), 10-Laura Schott.
ICE -- 1-Thora Helgadóttir (12-Maria Agustsdóttir, 82nd), 2-Erna Sigurdardóttir (5-Embla Gretasdóttir, 62nd), 4-Eva Gudbjornsdóttir, 6-Laufey Olafsdóttir (15-Silja Thordardóttir, 30th), 7-Elfa Erlingsdóttir, 9-Erla Hendriksdóttir, 10-Hrefna Johannesdóttir (8-Gudny Thordardóttir, 62nd), 11-Katrin Jonsdóttir, 13-Laufey Johanessdóttir (3-Eyrun Oddsdóttir, 73rd), 14-Elin Steinardóttir, 16-Asta Arnadóttir.
Misconduct Summary: USA - Abby Wambach (caution), 91+.