WNT Feb 22, 2012
Lauren Cheney, here talking to Asst. Coach Jill Ellis, had a breakout tournament at the Algarve Cup in 2010
Considering the U.S. WNT has played 63 matches all-time at the Algarve Cup, it's no surprise that more than a few young players have made their debuts at this annual tournament in Portugal. Several have had breakout tournaments here while the tournament has also been a launching pad of sorts to great international careers.
Here are just a few examples...
In 2002, Heather O'Reilly made her debut at the Algarve Cup against Sweden. Since then, she has put together one of the best careers in U.S. history, playing 156 times while scoring 34 goals, and has been a part of every U.S. world championship team since the 2004 Olympics. She has five career goals at the Algarve Cup.
Also in 2002, Shannon MacMillan set a U.S. Algarve Cup record with seven goals in the tournament, scoring in every game, and in fact, scoring all but one of the USA's goals in the tournament. She scored a hat trick in the USA's 3-2 victory over Denmark in the fifth place match.
In 2004, Abby Wambach scored a hat trick in a 4-1 demolition of Norway in the Algarve Cup Final. The goals were just the 21st, 22nd and 23rd of her career but foreshadowed greatness. She now has 131, 15 of which have come at the Algarve Cup.
In 2005, defender Stephanie Cox made her debut at the Algarve Cup against Denmark (the USA's first opponent in this year's tournament). Cox has gone on to play 78 times for the USA so far and has played for the USA in two Women's World Cup Tournaments and one Olympic Games.
Also in 2005, Amy Rodriguez made her WNT debut, earning her first two caps, including her first against Finland. She would earn another three caps in 2006, did not play for the USA in 2007, but then broke into the team full-time in 2008 -- playing in 26 games -- and now has 79 caps and 23 goals.
Also in 2005, forward Christie Welsh had her best performance with the U.S. team during a career that spanned 39 caps, scoring in all four games, including the lone goal in the 1-0 championship game victory over Germany.
Also in 2005, Nicole Barnhart got her first cap in goal, earning a 1-0 shutout against France. (Of course, Barnhart had famously earned her first actual cap the year before as a field player, coming on at forward in the final minutes against Mexico during a 1-0 victory during the Fan Celebration Tour. The USA, which was already short of players for that match, had run out of subs, hence the Barnhart career stat anomaly.)
In 2006, Natasha Kai scored in her first two caps, a 5-0 win over Denmark and a 4-1 win over France, in a career that would span 67 caps and 30 goals, including perhaps her biggest, the game-winner against Canada in overtime in the 2008 Olympic quarterfinal. Kai would go on to score three more goals at the Algarve Cup, including the first in a 2-1 victory over Denmark in the 2008 championship game.
In 2007, Carli Lloyd had a breakout tournament, scoring in all four games -- several on spectacular strikes from distance -- while earning tournament MVP honors. Lloyd has scored in four of the past five Algarve Cups for the USA. Lloyd's nine career Algarve Cup goals are fourth all-time for the USA.
In 2008, U.S. defender Rachel Buehler made her WNT debut at the Algarve Cup against China and has since played 72 times for the USA, including appearances in the 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup and the 2008 Olympics. She has also scored three goals.
Also in 2008, Tobin Heath scored her first career goal on a spectacular strike against China. She had earned her first cap in January of that year, and her performance in the Algarve Cup certainly helped her win a spot on the 2008 Olympic Team. She's earned 36 caps so far as well as a key role off the bench at the 2011 FIFA WWC.
In 2010, Lauren Cheney had a breakout tournament, scoring four goals, including the game-winner in the 3-2 championship game victory against Germany. Of course, she would go on to be one of the USA's best players at last summer's Women's World Cup.
In 2011, Alex Morgan came off the bench to score three times, foreshadowing the talent that has made her one of the most dangerous young players in the world. While several players in the tournament scored three times, Morgan tallied her trifecta in the least amount of minutes and therefore earned the Algarve Cup top scorer award.
Also in 2011, Carli Lloyd scored three goals in four games, including the first in the 4-2 victory over Iceland in the championship game.
Also in 2011, defender Whitney Engen earned her first two and thus far only career caps at the Algarve Cup. She is back again this year looking for number three.