As the U.S. Women’s National Team heads into its 15th Algarve Cup, it’s a good time to look back at the top performances in the history of the tournament. There have been plenty of U.S. players and teams that have had standout games or tournaments. U.S. legend Kristine Lilly scored in seven different Algarve Cups and has scored the most goals at 13. Mia Hamm scored a huge goal in the final group game against Sweden in 2000, a 1-0 win that sent the USA to its first Algarve Cup championship game which resulted in the USA’s first title. Hamm scored eight goals in the tournament.
In 2003, Aly Wagner scored goals in two 1-1 ties as the Americans scored just three times in group play, but still made the championship game. Shannon Boxx has twice been named tournament MVP for her stellar work in the midfield for the USA. Still, the filed had to be narrowed down, and the chosen five all had spectacular runs during the tournament.
5) Hope Solo – 2009 Algarve Cup
The U.S. goalkeeper showed without any doubt that she was performing at the highest of levels, owning her penalty box, kicking with accuracy and power, and making goal-saving stops in each game. She earned two shutouts in group play -- 2-0 against Denmark and 1-0 against Norway – (Nicole Barnhart played in a 1-0 win against Iceland) and then almost single-handedly kept the Americans in the championship game with numerous breakaway stops and one impossible reaction save. She also made a save in the penalty kick shootout on a shot that would have won the game for Sweden, but the USA eventually fell after seven kicks. For her stellar work, Solo became the first goalkeeper to win the tournament’s Most Valuable Player Award.
4) Abby Wambach – 2004 Algarve Cup
Wambach scored in two of the USA’s four games, but she makes the list for her hat trick against Norway in the title game, the only championship game hat trick in tournament history. Wambach scored in the USA’s first match, a dominating 5-1 win against France and assisted on Angela Hucles’ game-winner in the 1-0 victory against Denmark in the second game. The USA fell to Sweden, 3-1, in its third group match, but the goals piled up against France were enough to put the Americans into the title game on goal difference. Against Norway in the championship game, the first played at the beautiful Stadium Algarve built for the 2004 European Championships, Wambach scored in the 30th, 39th and 51st minutes to put the match away. The USA eventually won 4-1 (current U.S. assistant coach Hege Riise scored for Norway). The goals were just the 21st, 22nd and 23rd of Wambach’s career which has seen her score 101 for the United States.
3) Carli Lloyd – 2007 Algarve Cup
Four goals in four games, the top scorer in the tournament, and the tournament MVP award, Carli Lloyd was on fire at this tournament in 2007. Not only that, but three of her four goals were spectacular blasts from distance and the other, which came in a 1-0 win against Finland, was an excellent and opportunistic finish. The USA also beat China 2-1 and Sweden 3-2 in group play before downing Denmark in the championship game, 2-0. Lloyd’s goal in the final was one she called her best-ever for the national team before she scored in Olympic gold medal game in 2008. She latched onto a loose ball about 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. Amazingly, Lloyd has scored just once in 24 games heading into the tournament before her breakout performance.
2) Christie Welsh – 2005 Algarve Cup
Christie Welsh didn’t have an extensive national team career (just 39 caps), but her performance at the 2005 Algarve Cup was perhaps the highlight. Combining some quality finishing with some excellent passing from her teammates and the breaking down of defenses by the other forwards, Welsh scored in all four matches. She got the winner in the 1-0 victory against France, notched two goals in the 3-0 win against Finland, scored in the 4-0 win against Denmark and then the coup de grace came in the championship against Germany when she scored the USA’s lone goal in the 1-0 victory. Aly Wagner sent a point-perfect long ball just over the head of the German center back and Welsh had a one-v-one chance with the German goalkeeper. She hit her first shot right at the ‘keeper, but fortunately the rebound came right back to her and she knocked it into the net to cap a tournament in which she won the Best Scorer award.
1) Shannon MacMillan – 2002 Algarve Cup
That Shannon MacMillan was chosen as the best performance in Algarve history despite that fact the USA did not win this tournament, and actually finished fifth, marking the last time the U.S. did not make the championship game at the Algarve Cup, just highlights what kind of tournament she had. She was pretty much a one-woman goal-scoring show, finding the net seven times, the most goals ever for a single player at the Algarve Cup. She only got better as the tournament progressed. She scored the USA’s lone goal in a 1-1 tie with Canada to open the tournament. She scored the game-winner in the 1-0 victory against Norway in the second game and then scored twice in the 3-2 loss to Norway that relegated the USA to the match for fifth place. She wasn’t done yet. She scored all three goals in the USA’s 3-2 victory against Denmark. The seven goals were a part of the 17 she scored in 2002, her career high in a calendar year during her 13 years playing for the USA.