March 7, 2007
SANTA CLARA, Calif. - Former Santa Clara women's soccer standout Leslie Osborne ('05) played the full 90 minutes Wednesday to help the U.S. Women's National Team put together an energetic performance in its opening game of the 2007 Algarve Cup, getting goals from Kristine Lilly and Carli Lloyd to defeat China, 2-1.
Most of the match was played under brilliant sunshine, but on a windy day both teams battled the conditions to produce some decent ball possession against good defensive pressure. The USA created far more scoring chances, with numerous shots coming from Sierra Mist Woman of the Match Carli Lloyd, but China made the most of their limited opportunities, scoring on its only dangerous shot of the game.
The USA ran up a 15-4 shot advantage with the Chinese putting just two of their shots on frame. The USA came out in a 3-4-3 formation with Cat Whitehill sweeping behind markers Christie Rampone and Tina Ellertson, with Stephanie Lopez and Lori Chalupny deployed on the flanks. Up front, the USA started with Abby Wambach and Lilly, who were playing in their first matches of 2007, alongside Heather O'Reilly.
The first U.S. goal came in the 19th minute after Whitehill's long free kick was cleared over the sideline on the left flank. She took the throw-in herself, looping it to the posted-up Wambach at the edge of the six-yard box. Chinese defender Li Jie was draped all over Wambach before hauling down the powerful U.S. forward as Hungarian referee Gyongyi Gaal pointed to the penalty spot. The two players have a history as Li was also whistled for a penalty when she took down Wambach at the 2006 Four Nations Tournament in China, that time on a corner kick. Wambach returned the favor late in the match, earning a yellow card when her tough challenge forced the Chinese defender out of the match.
Lilly stepped up and hammered her spot kick into the right corner to give the USA the 1-0 lead. It was the U.S. captain's 118th career goal, coming in her world record 320th international match.
China answered back almost immediately, tying the game inside of two minutes on a brilliantly executed free kick. Chinese forward Liu Sa bent the cross from the left flank into the U.S. penalty area and the cutting Han Duan got the slightest touch to the ball, re-directing her seven yard header low inside the far post. It was just China's second goal against the USA in the teams' last six meetings.
Lloyd, who was playing in her 25th game, has had a slew of near misses in her international career so far, with her only goal prior to this match coming in a route of Chinese Taipei. Against China, Lloyd's world-class finish came at a crucial time, giving the USA the lead just seven minutes before halftime.
The scoring sequence started off a Wambach cross from right side that flew over the penalty area and rolled into the left corner. Lopez ran the ball down, nutmegged her defender towards goal, then toe-poked a pass back to Lloyd. The U.S. attacking midfielder side-stepped a defender to the inside and cracked a right footed shot from just left of the penalty arc, plowing the ball into the net at the upper left corner from 25 yards out.
Lloyd had four chances to score before bagging her goal. In just the third minute, her left-footed screamer from the top of the box just missed wide right. In the 25th minute, she had a chance at a knock down from Whitehill free kick, but her half-chance was cleared off the line for a corner kick.
Two minutes later, her strike from the top of the box took a huge hop in front of the goal and seemed to be heading into the net before Chinese goalkeeper Zhang dove fully to her right and shot her left hand up, somehow palming the ball away for a corner kick on one of the best saves one will ever see in women's soccer. In the 32nd minute, Chalupny whipped in a cross from the right side that Lloyd could only get a piece of as she slid hard at the six-yard line.
The skillful Chinese managed to string together a few impressive attacks, but on the whole, the U.S. defense never let them get into dangerous positions. The one Chinese shot on goal that didn't go in bounced harmlessly to U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo from 25 yards out.
Whitehill made two big defensive plays in the waning minutes as the Chinese made a last push for an equalizer. She cleared one dangerous free kick with her head and swept away an attempted counter attack with a timely tackle that helped stretch the USA's unbeaten streak in regulation play to 36 matches.
In the Group A matches, Norway upset world number-one Germany, 2-1, while Denmark walloped France, 4-0. In Group C, host Portugal tied Ireland, 1-1, and Italy defeated Iceland, 1-0.
The USA will next face Finland, a 3-0 loser to Sweden in the other Group B match, at Ferreiras on March 9. Kickoff for that match is 4:15 p.m. local / 11:15 a.m. ET. Fans can follow the match live on ussoccer.com's MatchTracker.