March 14, 2003
OLHÃO, Portugal - The U.S. Women's National Team played a hard working 90 minutes in its opening match of the 2003 Algarve Cup against an organized and physical Canadian defense before earning a 1-1 draw on an 85th minute goal from second-half substitute and former Bronco standout Aly Wagner.
Canada took the early lead, scoring off a corner kick in just the 7th minute, and spent the rest of the match defending, content to launch long-ball after long-ball in an attempt to grab another off the counter attack. The U.S. back line of Joy Fawcett, Brandi Chastain, Christie Pearce and Kate Sobrero, held tough, repelling the Canadian aerial assault while clamping down on the physical Canadian striking duo of Christine Latham and Charmaine Hooper.
"We always feel that if there is time on the clock, we have a chance to win, regardless the score," said U.S. head coach April Heinrichs. "I was pleased to see the team stick with it and we got better during the course of the game. We created enough chances to win, and while I'm not pleased that we didn't win, a point will help us with advancement."
Canada's goal was a scrappy one, coming off a Kristina Kiss service from the left side. She curled her cross to the near post, where it was flicked into a mad scramble in front of the goal. Midfielder Randee Hermus bundled the ball across the goal line before the U.S. cleared, but the assistant referee raised her flag signaling a goal.
The Americans spent the rest of the game searching for an equalizer and got it five minutes from time. The goal also originated off a corner kick as Mia Hamm's dangerous cross from the right bounced around in the penalty area before a sliding Canadian cleared the ball. It went straight to Wagner, who was standing just to the left of the penalty arc. She took a great settling touch and drilled a 22-yard shot into the upper left corner past flying Canadian goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc.
"It was exciting to get back on the board and know that we could win the game," said Wagner, who scored her ninth international goal. "I felt like the momentum was changing and were going to put another one in."
The Canadians, playing a lineup with five WUSA players and three veterans of their under-19 team that lost to the USA in the final of world championship last fall, exerted some pressure in the early going, but the goal constituted their only real dangerous chance of the first half, and it came off their only corner kick of the match. The U.S. also struggled to create shots before the break, with the best chance coming in the 15th minute when a sprinting Hamm dispossessed LeBlanc in the penalty area as she was trying to clear a bouncing ball. Hamm dribbled around LeBlanc and played a short pass to Tiffeny Milbrett in the left side of the penalty box. Milbrett's shot was deflected by Lindsay Tarpley and was heading into the net before it was cleared off the line by a defender. It was the first of numerous times the U.S. had LeBlanc out of position, only to find too many Canadian defenders blocking the net.
In the Group B matches, France dominated Denmark, 3-0, as WUSA MVP Marinette Pinchon scored twice, while China was shockingly held to a 0-0 draw by Finland. In Group C, Wales tied Portugal, 1-1, and Ireland drew with Greece, 0-0. The USA faces Norway in its next Group A match on Sunday, March 16, in Ferreiras, Portugal. Kickoff is at 4:15 p.m. local / 11:15 p.m. ET. Fans can follow the game online at www.ussoccer.com's MatchTracker presented by Philips Electronics.