Zepeda Nets Goal, Assist to Lead U.S. U21 to Nordic Cup Final

Zepeda Nets Goal, Assist to Lead U.S. U21 to Nordic Cup Final

July 26, 2002

TURKU, Finland - Finland proved to be the most gracious of hosts at the 2002 Nordic Cup, pulling off a 2-1 victory over Denmark today, which combined with the USA's 4-0 victory over Greece, sent the U.S. Under-21 Women's National Team to the Nordic Cup championship game for the sixth consecutive year. The USA will face Germany on Sunday in Turku for the title.

Without a sanctioned FIFA tournament for U-21 women, the Nordic Cup serves as the top competition in the world for this age group. The USA has won four out of the last five Nordic Cups since 1997, including three in a row. The USA beat Germany in 2000 championship game, 1-0.

"The goal after group play was to get to the final and we've done that," said U.S. head coach Jerry Smith. "Like our U.S. Men's National Team in the World Cup, we got a little help from a team in our group, but we're looking forward to defending our Nordic Cup championship against Germany. Our focus on finishing was much sharper today than in the previous two matches, as it will need to be on Sunday, as Germany won't allow us many opportunities."

The USA got goals from Cat Reddick, Bronco forward Veronica Zepeda, Alyssa Ramsey and Christie Welsh, giving them the exact number of goals they needed to win the group on goal difference. The USA, Denmark and Finland all finished with six points in Group A, but the Americans had a plus-4 goal difference while the Danes had a plus-3. Finland finished third in the group with a plus-1 goal difference.

The Americans got it started quickly with a goal from Reddick in the 6th minute. The USA took a short corner kick from the right side and Bronco All-American Aly Wagner struck a cross into the middle where Reddick headed the ball into the net from eight yards out.

The USA made it 2-0 in the 18th minute as Zepeda, making her first start of the tournament, took a pass from Marcia Wallis in the left side the penalty area, beat a player and then struck her shot over the goalkeeper from a steep angle into the right side netting. The U.S. made it 3-0 in stoppage time of the first half as Wallis, positioned 35 yards from the goal, flicked a long pass into space for Ramsey, who lifted the ball over the charging goalkeeper and into the net from 12 yards out.

As the Finland-Denmark game was tied at halftime, the U.S. team did not know that they would need one more goal to make the final, but Welsh would provide the crucial score in the 60th minute. Zepeda collected a ball on the left flank, beat a player down the wing and whipped in a low cross to Welsh, who struck the ball first time into the bottom right corner from 12 yards out.With just minutes remaining in the U.S. match, they were informed of the Finland-Denmark score, knew that their 4-0 win would be enough, and whittled away the clock to earn a spot in the championship game.

"After coming off a frustrating loss to Denmark, out execution was outstanding," said U.S. assistant coach Eric Yamamoto. "We knew we needed four goals, and we did what we had to do. We were at the mercy of Finland, and they came through."

Santa Clara senior Devvyn Hawkins was also a key part of the U.S. victory, starting in midfield.

The Americans dominated the game from start to finish, knowing they needed to light up the scoreboard to have any chance of making the championship game. The USA has just two scares in the match as Maria Lazarou hit the crossbar in the 12th minute off a free kick and the Greek captain also had a near miss in the 17th minute. Greece was playing with their full Women's National Team on a special invitation to the U-21 event in order to gain some international experience in preparation for the 2004 Olympics in Athens. At least five members of the Greek team are Greek-American players who attend various U.S. colleges.

Germany earned its spot in the championship game with a big 3-1 victory over Norway, which had needed just a tie for a place in the final.

July 28 - Placement Matches
1st Place: USA vs. Germany
3rd Place: Denmark vs. Norway
5th Place: Finland vs. Sweden
7th Place: Greece vs. Iceland