Bolstered by a massive contingent of youth players from the Norway Cup, the largest youth tournament in the world, the highly partisan and energetic crowd was festive throughout the match. Playing a rare game in its national stadium, the Norwegian women came out with purpose, forcing saves from U.S. goalkeeper Siri Mullinix on their first three shots.
"I think it was wonderful environment for us," said U.S. head coach April Heinrichs. "This was the most unfriendly crowd we've played in front of all year. We're a month away from the Olympics, so a game like this reminds us that there are teams out there that can get the best of us if we don't bring every ounce of enthusiasm and a sense of urgency to score goals."
The USA created its first real chance of the game in the 20th minute when Mia Hamm stepped by Gro Espeseth in the left side of the penalty box and cut a pass back to Tiffeny Milbrett. Milbrett shot first time, but didn't get a clean strike on the ball and it bounced easily to Norwegian goalkeeper Bente Nordby.
The USA put the ball in the net at the end of the first half through a great sequence of one-touch passes down the right flank as Brandi Chastain passed to Hamm, who fed to Milbrett, who pulled off a great flick to put Kristine Lilly free in the box. But the whistle blew for offside just as Lilly poked the ball into the net on a slide.
The U.S. almost drew first blood in the 55th minute as halftime substitute Nikki Serlenga hit the outside of the left post in the 55th minute. Two minutes later, Hamm had a go from 35 yards, but the ball knuckled tantalizing over the crossbar.
"Norway likes to play a direct style and we like to play it on the ground more," said U.S. co-captain Julie Foudy. "It's always a battle of wills of who is going to dictate the style. I thought we did a better job of keeping the ball in the second half, but there wasn't an urgency to go forward. Now we have to balance our possession with an urgency to score. The last 20 minutes we turned it on after we went down 2-0, but that was too late. We need to become more consistent."
Norwegian forward Marianne Pettersen, who was so dangerous three days ago during the match in Tromso, was nowhere to be found, but this time it was the 22-year old Dagny Mellgren who proved to be a terror. Playing right midfield in Norway's 4-5-1 formation, Mellgren popped up in dangerous positions all match long, and it was the speedy forward who broke the deadlock in the second half.
The USA had come out strong after halftime, taking the game to Norway and striking 12 of its 16 shots, but Mellgren struck against the run of play to give her team the lead. The goal came off a counter-attack as Norway used just two passes to spring Mellgren behind the U.S. defense, the final one from Monica Knudsen who sent a bouncing ball over the U.S. back line. With Chastain and Danielle Slaton closing fast, Mullinix held her ground, but Mellgren cracked a volley into the left corner from 15 yards out.
The Americans found it extremely difficult to create chances against the highly organized Norwegian back four, but finding themselves a goal down, the USA turned up the energy as Norway settled in to protect the lead. When Sara Whalen entered the game in the 72nd for Chastain, the USA switched to a 3-4-3 formation and ran at Norway, with Kristine Lilly moving to forward with Hamm and Cindy Parlow.
The USA fired several shots from distance, but they were no challenge for the talented Nordby, and then Norway scored again against the flow of the match. Norway earned a corner kick on the left side, but Foudy headed it clear. The ball bounced out to Hege Riise on the left flank and she sent a spinning cross into the middle. As Mullinix charged out to meet the ball, Joy Fawcett tried to clear, but the ball spun off her foot, over Mullinix and was skidding toward the goal. Christie Pearce tried to clear it away with a last ditch slide, but couldn't turn the ball outside the net, and instead stuck into the left corner.
The U.S. pressure finally paid off, but not until two minutes into stoppage time. Foudy fired a shot off pass from Hamm that Parlow, standing in front of the goal, re-directed with a deft touch. Nordby made the save with her legs, but Parlow latched onto the rebound and kicked the ball in from three yards, bouncing it off the sprawled Nordby's hands and into the net.
"We played well, better in the second half, and certainly played our best soccer in last 20 minutes," added Heinrichs. "There was a sense of urgency to score in the last 20 minutes that wasn't there in the first 70 minutes. The final piece is to have that for the whole game. And you can see when this team has that sort of commitment, it's exciting, it's attacking, it's fun and it's dominating."
The USA ended the five-game European tour with a 2-1-2 record, as well as the championship in the DFB Jubilee Tournament in Germany, and moved to 20-4-5 on the year. The U.S. once again failed to even the score with Norway in the all-time series, dropping to 12-14-2 against the Scandinavian power. The two teams have met an incredible six times this year, with the USA going 2-3-1 in 2000. The next time the USA and Norway meet will be Sept. 14 at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in the first match of the 2000 Summer Olympics.
"It was a long trip, but a good trip," said U.S. co-captain Julie Foudy, who along with her teammates return home tomorrow after 20 days in Europe. "Losing is good sometimes. We hate it, but you learn a lot of things from it. We made some mistakes tonight and they punished us. They are excellent team playing in their national stadium, so we just walk away and ask ourselves, 'how can we get better.' I think it will be a good thing for us."
The USA begins the NIKE Road to Glory on Aug. 13, facing Russia in Annapolis, Md. The U.S. then travels to Kansas City, Mo. to take on Canada on Aug. 20th at Arrowhead Stadium before taking a week, then regroups for its final match before the Olympics, taking on Brazil on Sept. 1 at Spartan Stadium in San Jose, Calif.
2000 U.S. WOMEN'S NATIONAL TEAM GAME REPORT
|Participants:||U.S. Women's National Team vs. Norway National Team|
|Venue:||Ullevaal Stadium (Oslo, Norway)|
|Date:||July 30, 2000 - Kickoff 8 p.m. local (2 p.m. ET)|
|Weather:||80 degrees - Sunny, Warm|
NOR - Dagny Mellgren, (Hege Riise), 62,
NOR - Own Goal, 81,
USA - Cindy Parlow (unassisted), 92+.
USA - 26-Siri Mullinix, 3-Christie Pearce, 14-Joy Fawcett, 6-Brandi Chastain (7-Sara Whalen, 72nd), 19-Danielle Slaton, 13-Kristine Lilly, 2-Lorrie Fair (8-Shannon MacMillan, 65th), 11-Julie Foudy, 10-Michelle Akers (5-Nikki Serlenga, 46th), 16-Tiffeny Milbrett (12-Cindy Parlow, 60th), 9-Mia Hamm.
NOR - 1-Bente Nordby, 17-Gro Espeseth (15-Silje Jorgensen, 60th), 3-Goril Kringen - Capt., 2-Brit Sanduane, 4-Anne Tonnessen, 7-Solveig Gulbrandsen (19-Christine Boe Jensen, 55th), 8-Monica Knudsen (8-Unni Lehn, 85th), 6-Hege Riise, 9-Anita Rapp (16-Margunn Haugenes, 66th), 11-Marianne Pettersen, 14-Dagny Mellgren (18-Ragnild Gulbrandsen, 90th).
|Brandi Chastain (caution)||38.|