July 29, 2001
DOKKA, Norway - Needing just a draw to earn a place in a 5th consecutive Nordic Cup championship game, the U.S. Under-21 Women's National Team put together its best performance of the tournament so far, dominating a rugged and skillful German team on both sides of the ball, but needed a 76th minute equalizer from 17-year-old Jill Oakes (West Hills, Calif./Santa Anita Strikers) to salvage a 1-1 tie and a berth in the final. The USA will play Sweden for the championship on Tuesday at Gjovik Stadium (7:00 p.m. local/1 p.m. ET).
The USA and Germany finished group play with seven points each, but the USA won the group with a goal difference of plus-7 to Germany's plus-5. The Americans suffered a harsh blow in the match when forward Abby Wambach (Rochester, N.Y./Florida) picked up her second yellow card of the tournament for a hard foul on German captain Nia Kunzer and will be suspended for the championship game.
With Aleisha Cramer (Lakewood, Colo./BYU) running the show in midfield on her 19th birthday alongside Lori Lindsey (Indianapolis, Ind./UVA) and Devvyn Hawkins (Olympia, Wash./Santa Clara), the Americans dominated the first half as its quick possession soccer repeatedly sprung outside backs Jena Kluegel (Mahtomedi, Minn./UNC) and Ally Marquand (Irvine, Calif./Stanford) down the flanks. The USA out-shot Germany 11-0 in the first half, but could not get a goal despite several quality chances, and it almost came back to haunt them.
With U.S. team in total control of the match, Germany struck in its typical fashion, scoring on its first quality chance as six-foot midfielder Kerstin Garefrekes rode several tackles at the top of the penalty area before the ball bounced free behind the U.S. defense. She coolly curled her shot around charging U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo (Richland, Wash./Washington) and suddenly the Americans needed a goal in the last 33 minutes to make the final.
The U.S. didn't panic and came hard at the Germans for 19 minutes before Oakes got the priceless goal the U.S. needed. U.S. head coach Jerry Smith made three changes in the 69th minute, sending on Oaks, forward Anne Morrell (Plymouth, Mich./Michigan Hawks) and midfielder Lori Chalupny (St. Louis, Mo./JB Marine). All added fresh legs and spark to the U.S. team, and six minutes later, Oakes tied the match.
The U.S. played the ball square through the midfield and Chalupny fed Marquand on the right flank. She swung a cross into the penalty area that skidded by Laura Schott (Wilsonville, Ore./UC Berkeley) as Germany failed to clear. The ball bounced to Oakes, who corralled it with her chest and then struck a low shot from 12 yards out that snuck into the left corner past diving German goalkeeper Corrine Ernst.
"Sitting on the bench, I always prepare myself mentally so if I get a chance to go into the game, I can make an impact," said Oakes, whose ball-winning in the air and on the ground was also a key in the U.S. victory. "I was a bit surprised to see the ball bounce right to me, luckily I got a good bounce and I was able to stick it in the corner."
The Americans expertly killed the last 14 minutes of the game with quality possession, no-nonsense clears and long balls into the corners that the forwards shielded from the frantic German defenders. Still, the end of the match was an all out war as both sides killed themselves to win tackles and air balls as a light rain fell on Dokka Stadium, making the smooth pitch even faster. The Americans did endure a bit of drama at the end as the referee let five minutes of stoppage time go by, and in the last minute, German forward Jennifer Meier took a shot that was deflected for a corner kick. Wambach then came up big, propelling her 5-foot-11 frame into the air to clear the cross out of danger with a solid header and the USA's place in the final was secure.
"We knew we had to play 90 minutes against Germany, so when we went a goal down, no one panicked," said Cramer. "Germany has some great players and they have a mentality like the U.S., they never give up. We knew we had to play our "A" game to make the final and the team came through."
Substitute forwards Morrell and Schott did extremely well for the U.S. after the goal, keeping possession and creating a couple of solid scoring chances. In the dying minutes, Morrell cracked an overhead volley just over the crossbar before being called for holding her defender and Schott barely missed adding an insurance goal, beating Ernst to a bouncing ball in the penalty area before sending her header wide right of the goal.
Forward Katie Barnes (Cincinnati, Ohio./West Virginia) put in a gutsy performance on a badly bruised foot, as she started and played 63 minutes before giving way to Schott. Barnes almost staked the USA to an early lead, but her shot off a poor German clearance bounced wide left in the 7th minute.
Smith made one change to the starting lineup from the first two matches, inserting Danielle Borgman (Cincinnati, Ohio/UNC) on the forward line in place of Schott. The move almost paid off in the 15th minute as Borgman busted through only to have her volley snuffed by the charging Ernst in the right side of the penalty area. In the 34th minute, Borgman once again broke free in the right side of the penalty area, but Ernst once again saved her shot. Borgman got a piece of the rebound, but so did a German defender, and the shot went wide.
The U.S. defense was strong throughout the match as Cat Reddick (Birmingham, Ala./UNC) and Anna Kraus (Sunnyvale, Calif./Santa Clara), who celebrated her 21st birthday, kept tabs on the German attacking duo of Meier and Conny Pohlers while Kluegel and Marquand handled the talented German outside midfielders.
"The overall play of the defense has been very solid in this tournament," said Reddick, the U.S. captain. "We've allowed very few shots and it was discouraging to see them score on their first chance. But coming back from being a goal down showed the composure we have even though we are young team."
In the other Group A match, Iceland defeated Denmark, 3-0. In Group B, Finland lost its chance for a place in the championship game by losing 2-1 to Canada, but it was Sweden who won the group after tying Norway, 2-2. Sweden, Finland and Canada all ended group play with four points, but Sweden won the group with a superior goal difference over the other two nations.
2001 U.S. UNDER-21 WOMEN'S NATIONAL TEAM GAME REPORT
GER - Kerstin Garefrekes (unassisted), 57.
USA - Jill Oakes (Ally Marquand), 76.
USA - 18-Hope Solo, 5-Ally Marquand, 4-Catherine Reddick - Capt., 3-Anna Kraus, 2-Jena Kluegel, 17-Aleisha Cramer, 23-Devvyn Hawkins (7-Lori Chalupny, 69th), 14-Lori Lindsey (11-Jill Oakes, 69th), 22-Abby Wambach, 15-Danielle Borgman (20-Anne Morrell, 69th), 16-Katie Barnes (10-Laura Schott, 63rd).
GER - 1-Corrine Ernst, 2-Kerstin Garefrekes, 3-Bianca Rech (15-Tanja Worle, 85th), 4-Nia Kunzer, 5-Christina Zerbe, 6-Nicole Muller (10-Katrin Lange, 80th), 8-Maria Schaper Tons (7-Sabine Luderer, 82nd), 13-Antonia Schmale, 16-Annika Schmidt, 9-Conny Pohlers, 11-Jennifer Meier.