The match marked the 2000 domestic debut of the veteran players who charmed a nation last summer in their run to the World Cup title, but new Head Coach April Heinrichs chose to start several young talents in her first game on the U.S. bench.
"They lost, but they learned," said U.S. Head Coach April Heinrichs. "Every player made some mistakes today, but I also saw a lot of positives. I saw some things in the game today that we worked on in training. Both our goals came from flank service and I was very pleased with that. No one is ever satisfied after a loss, but integrating the young players and growing as a team is the priority."
Two 17-year-olds got starts in defender Nandi Pryce and midfielder Aleisha Cramer, but aside from the two high school seniors, the lineup featured nine 1999 Women's World Cup veterans. A U.S. team playing together for the first time since Oct. 10. 1999, and in a 4-4-2 formation for the first time in recent memory, tried to shake off the rust against a Norwegian team showing more dedication to possession than their direct teams of the past.
Norway got on the board in the 20th minute after two U.S. defensive errors led to a penalty kick. Pryce attempted to pass a loose ball back to goalkeeper Saskia Webber, but hit the ball too softly, putting Webber in a foot race with Norwegian forward Marianne Pettersen. Webber got the ball, but slid to get a piece of Pettersen, sending the forward sprawling, and referee Sandra Hunt pointed to the penalty spot. Midfielder Hege Riise converted smartly into the left corner for her 47th international goal.
It took the USA just five minutes to pull back the equalizer and it came through a brilliant individual effort from Shannon MacMillan. Kate Sobrero won a ball at midfield on the right side of the field and the ball bounced forward to MacMillan who was pressed tight to the sideline. MacMillan back-heeled the ball through her defender's legs, spun around her and then raced in on goal before sending a cross to the cutting Hamm at the far post. Hamm dove and bounced her header over the diving Bente Nordby to tie the game on the bang-bang play.
"It was a battle out there," said Hamm, who scored her world record 115th career goal. "But we can't have tunnel vision and just look at the result. It's great that the young players get to play against Norway, which is one of the best teams in the world. It's much different than practice and they need to experience this environment."
The U.S. defense looked shaky at times and allowed numerous Norwegian penetrations up the middle. Most of those attacks were defused at the last moment by the retreating Pryce and Sobrero, both whom were rock-solid on tackles and air balls, but who anchored the central defense with just 38 caps among them. Still, Norway earned 11 corner kicks to the USA's two in one of the rare instances that the Americans were on the short end of that statistic.
Both teams hit the crossbar in the first half as Julie Foudy's 30-yard blast bounced off the top of bar in the 34th minute before Nordby snagged the rebound while Pettersen's deflected shot hit the outside of the right post in the 36th minute.
Both teams traded attacks in the second half with Pettersen's solo runs particularly dangerous, but it was the USA which took the lead after Heinrichs made two substitutes in the 67th minute, bringing in Susan Bush for MacMillan and Aly Wagner for Cramer. The goal came in the 71st minute when Bush ran down a ball in the right corner and got into a wrestling match with a Norwegian defender to keep the ball in bounds. With Bush locked up with the Norwegian, halftime substitute Christy Welsh raced over and jarred the ball loose. Bush recovered to pounce on the loose ball, beat her defender down the end line and crossed into the middle. Wagner won the loose ball, then got dispossessed, but the rebound bounced to Lilly, who stuck the ball in the net from six yards out for her 82nd international goal.
Norway equalized 10 minutes later after Webber misjudged a cross from the left flank and let the ball bounce under her. Carla Overbeck was retreating at pace and the skipping ball bounced off her shoulder and toward the goal. Overbeck gave chase but couldn't turn the ball away from the goal and it skimmed off the left post and fell into the net.
With the remarkably even match seemingly headed for a tie, Mellgren struck one minute into injury time, blasting a 25-yard screamer from the right wing that beat Webber into the upper left corner of the goal. The top-shelf cracker was unassisted after a through ball from the right flank was deflected out of the penalty area by U.S. defender Brandi Chastain to the onrushing Mellgren, who is Norway's brightest young star at 21 years old.
Overbeck entered the match in the 77th minute, marking the first time in 61 appearances since July 4, 1996, that she did not start. Seventeen-year-old Alyssa Ramsey earned her first cap after entering the game in the 74th minute for Mia Hamm. The young trio of Ramsey, Welsh and Bush ran at the Norwegian defense with intensity and enthusiasm, but couldn't break through for a goal.
"I think these young players are very talented," said midfielder Julie Foudy, who captained the U.S. team. "We talk about what (the U.S. veterans) were like when we were 17. Anson Dorrance gave us a chance back then and what did he see in us? Hopefully it is the same qualities we are seeing in this new group of players. We need a big player pool and some of these youngsters have a very bright future."
The U.S. team will return to training tomorrow morning in Ft. Lauderdale in preparation for Wednesday's closed-door match with Norway at Florida Atlantic University. The match is closed to the public, but open to the media.
2000 U.S. WOMEN'S NATIONAL TEAM GAME REPORT
|Participants:||U.S. Women's National Team vs. Norway National Team|
|Venue:||Lockhart Stadium (Ft. Lauderdale, Florida)|
|Date:||February 6, 2000 - kickoff 2:00 p.m. (ET)|
|Weather:||72 degrees - Sunny, Breezy|
NOR - Hege Riise, (Penalty Kick), 20,
USA - Mia Hamm, (Shannon MacMillan), 25,
USA - Kristine Lilly, (Unassisted), 71,
NOR - Own Goal, (Carla Overbeck), 81,
NOR - Dagny Mellgren, (Unassisted), 91+.
USA - 18-Saskia Webber, 14-Joy Fawcett, 20-Kate Sobrero, 4-Nandi Pryce, 6-Brandi Chastain, 8-Shannon MacMillan (2-Susan Bush, 67th), 10-Aleisha Cramer (7-Aly Wagner, 67th), 11-Julie Foudy (C) (Carla Overbeck, 77th), 13-Kristine Lilly, 16-Tiffeny Milbrett (12-Christy Welsh, 46th), 9-Mia Hamm (17-Alyssa Ramsey, 74th).
NOR - 1-Bente Nordby, 2-Bente Kvitland, 3-Goril Kringen, 4-Anne Tonnesen, 5-Brit Sandaune, 6-Hege Riise, 15-Anita Rapp (7-Siljie Jorgensen, 89), 8-Monica Knudsen, 9-Unni Lehn (13-Dagney Mellgren, 69), 10-Ingrid C.F. Saethe (18-Kjersti Thun, 61), 11-Marianne Pettersen.
|Anne Tonnensen (caution)||39.|