March 14, 2007
SANTA CLARA, Calif. - Two all-time Santa Clara women's soccer greats culminated their run with the U.S. Women's National team in Portugal by helping the American side to a 2-0 win over Norway on Wednesday to clinch the Algarve Cup. With the victory, the U.S. claimed its fifth Algarve Cup title.
The United States got an early goal from captain Kristine Lilly and a second-half blast from midfielder Carli Lloyd in the win.
The tournament marked a breakout performance for Lloyd, who came into the competition having scored just once in her previous 24 international appearances. Lloyd is the third U.S. player to score in all four Algarve Cup games, joining Shannon MacMillan (2002) and Christie Welsh (2005), and walked away with the tournament's Top Scorer and MVP awards.
Lloyd's fourth goal of the tournament may have been the most spectacular. With the USA leading 1-0 on a 12th minute goal from Lilly, Lloyd doubled the margin six minutes into the second half. She latched onto a loose ball 30 yards from the net, turned toward goal and hit a left-footed screamer from 24 yards out. The ball hit the bottom of the crossbar so hard that it bounced down over the goal line and then up into the roof of the net. Denmark goalkeeper Heidi Johansen made a lunge for the shot, but had no chance, and could only shake her head in disbelief as she sat crumpled on the turf.
Lloyd becomes the third U.S. player to win the MVP award at the Algarve Cup, joining Shannon Boxx (twice) and Tiffeny Milbrett.
The win increased the U.S. women's unbeaten streak to 39 matches, 38 of them under head coach Greg Ryan, who has yet to lose a match in regulation time in two years at the helm. It was the USA's fifth Algarve Cup title in 12 appearances at this tournament, which has developed into one of the top women's international competitions in the world. The five titles is the most for any country, moving the American women out of a tie with Norway, which has won the tournament four times in 14 appearances. The USA also won the Algarve Cup in 2000, 2003, 2004 and 2005, before falling in penalty kicks to Germany last year.
The USA's first goal came courtesy of a perfect through ball from Abby Wambach. The U.S. striker collected a ball with her back to the goal at the bottom of the center circle on the USA's side of the field, then turned around a Danish defender before putting a perfect chip over the defense to a streaking Lilly, who had gotten a step on Mia Olsen. Johansen came charging out of her goal, but Lilly deftly lifted the ball over the Danish `keeper her with her left instep, depositing the shot into the left side of the net from 24 yards out. It was the 119th goal of her brilliant career and second of the Algarve Cup.
After scoring the first goal, Lilly created the USA's second best chance of the first half as she ran onto a wonderful 50-yard weak-side pass from Cat Whitehill on the left wing, then twisted Olsen inside-out as she ran to the end line before sending a perfectly chipped service to the far post. Wambach had the kind of look at goal that she rarely misses, but uncharacteristically sent her open header just past the right post.
While both teams seemed to have tired legs as they were playing their fourth match in eight days, the USA dominated the game, out-shooting Denmark, 19-4. The USA had eight corner kicks to none for the Danes.
Denmark's only dangerous scoring chance of the game came after 22 minutes when midfielder Anne Dot Eggers Nielsen raced into the penalty box on the left side and cracked a left-footed shot across the face of the goal. U.S. `keeper Hope Solo, who was super-solid during the match patrolling the air in her penalty box, came up with the one big save she was called upon to make, palming the ball away with a dive to her left.
The U.S. defense of right back Heather Mitts, center backs Christie Rampone and Whitehill, and left back Stephanie Lopez, never let the Danish attack get going. Mitts in particular had an excellent match shutting down talented winger Joanna Rasmussen. The tired Danes were reduced to sending long balls over the top for much of the match, often leaving powerful center forward Maiken Pape running by herself, and she had no chance against the organized U.S. backline.
Forward Lindsay Tarpley came on for Natasha Kai at halftime and immediately gave the U.S. some attacking spark. Tarpley finished a rebound off a Lloyd header in the 57th minute, but was flagged for offside. Replays showed Tarpley was in an onside position when Lloyd's header smacked off the hands of Johansen.
Ryan's second change at the half brought Boxx on for Leslie Osborne in the midfield. Boxx, who was playing her first games back for the national team after recovering from ACL surgery, played in the final three matches and is no doubt on her way to regaining the form that saw her finish third in the voting for FIFA Women's World Player of the Year in 2005.