ICELAND UP FIRST AS U.S. WOMEN OPEN ALGARVE CUP: The U.S. Women’s National Team opens play at its 15th Algarve Cup on Wed., Feb. 24 against Iceland in a match that will kick off at 3 p.m. local / 10 a.m. ET. Fans can follow the action on ussoccer.com’s MatchTracker. This will be the first international game of the year for the USA, which has opened its schedule at the Algarve Cup three times before, including last year when the U.S. defeated Denmark, 2-0. The USA is a six-time champion of this tournament, having raised the trophy in 2000, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2007 and 2008, but did not win last year, falling in penalty kicks to Sweden in the championship game. The USA has made seven consecutive Algarve Cup finals, a tremendous accomplishment considering teams have to win the group to qualify for the title game and one draw or a subpar goal difference can often relegate a team to the third or fifth place matches. The USA compiled an overall record of 7-0-1 in 2009, with the penalty kick shootout in the Algarve Cup Final counting as the lone tie. Fans can follow all the Algarve Cup matches on MatchTracker, and keep up with standings and other U.S. content, by clicking on the Algarve Cup link on ussoccer.com.
ROAD TRIP: At this tournament, the USA always sets up base camp pretty much in the center of the Algarve region, thus making its first match in Vila Real de San Antonio the most distant of the venues. It will take about an hour to get to VR de SA, which sits right on the Spanish border and so close to the ocean that a lighthouse is visible from the stadium. The drive has not seemed to negatively impact the U.S. team, which is 5-0-1 in VR de SA during its Algarve Cup history. In addition to the USA-Iceland game, there are some other enticing opening matches as long-time rivals Sweden and Norway square off after the U.S. match and Germany takes on Denmark in Group A.
17th Annual Algarve Cup
The Algarve, Portugal
Germany, Demark, China, Finland
USA, Norway, Sweden, Iceland
Portugal, Austria, Romania, Faroe Islands
U.S. WNT 2010 Algarve Cup Schedule
Kickoff (Local/ET) Feb. 24
VR de SA
3 p.m. / 10 a.m. Feb. 26
Estadio Jose Arcanjo
3 p.m. / 10 a.m. March 1
Parque Desportiva da Nora
3 p.m. / 10 a.m. March 4
LAST YEAR AT THE ALGARVE: The USA swept its group matches at the 2009 Algarve Cup, defeating Denmark by a 2-0 score, and downing Iceland and Norway by 1-0 margins. The USA was outplayed in the Algarve Cup Final against Sweden, but managed to tie the game at 1-1 in the 90th minute, sending it directly to penalty kicks. Sweden won the tournament in an exciting seven-round shootout.
CAPTAIN AMERICA: In the absence of Christie Rampone (who is due to have her second child very soon) and Lori Chalupny, Shannon Boxx will captain the USA against Iceland. It will be the third time that Boxx has worn the armband to start a match, including the game when she was honored for earning her 100th cap. It is traditional in the U.S. WNT program for the 100-capper to captain the team.
ALGARVE DEBUTS: The Algarve Cup has proven to be a fine starting point for a U.S. WNT career as several players debuted here in Portugal. In 2005, Stephanie Cox came off the bench against Denmark for her first cap in what was her only match of the year. She now has 55 caps. Amy Rodriguez also made her WNT debut at the 2005 Algarve Cup, playing in two matches off the bench, which were her only two caps of the year. Natasha Kai made her WNT debut at the Algarve Cup in 2006, scoring in her first two matches, against Denmark and France. Lori Chalupny didn’t make her debut at the Algarve Cup, but she did get her second, third and fourth caps at this tournament in 2001. Goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart got her first cap in goal at the Algarve Cup in 2005. She famously earned her first cap as a field player in 2004 when she had to play forward after the U.S. ran out of subs during a Fan Celebration Tour match following the 2004 Olympics. There are two uncapped players on the roster in goalkeeper Jill Loyden and defender Megan Schnur. Loyden, who was brought along for training purposes, is not likely to get a match, but the Algarve very well could mark the debut for Schnur, who played in one match for the USA at the 2004 Under-19 Women’s World Cup in Thailand. Schnur finished her Under-23 WNT career with seven international appearances.
ROOKIES: While there are just two uncapped players on the U.S. roster, several more are “cap-poor” and looking to get a chance to impress U.S. head coach Pia Sundhage. Midfielders Lori Lindsey and Casey Nogueira have just one appearance each at the senior team level, earned in 2005 and 2007, respectively. Lindsey’s first cap actually came against Iceland. Midfielder Yael Averbuch has just three caps, but played a big role in the USA’s 1-0 victory over Germany last October when she was pressed into duty on the flank in place of Tobin Heath who had taken ill the day before the game. Even though it seems like Megan Rapinoe has been around for years, she has just 11 caps. She scored a big goal for the USA at least year’s Algarve Cup in a 1-0 win over Norway.
BEST OF THE BEST COME TO PORTUGAL: The Algarve Cup has long staked a claim as the world’s top women’s international tournament outside of the Women’s World Cup, the Olympics and the European Championships, and that is backed up by the participation of five of the top-10 teams in the world according to the most recent FIFA Women’s World Rankings. Group A features No. 2 Germany, No. 10 Denmark and No. 13 China as well as No. 16 Finland. Group A features the top-ranked United States, No. 4 Sweden, No. 7 Norway, No. 10 Denmark and No. 18 Iceland. In Group C, host Portugal is No. 41 while Austria is No. 39 and Algarve debutantes Romania and Faroe Islands check in at Nos. 36 and 61, respectively. The Faroe Islands are the lowest ranked team ever to participate in the tournament.
17th Annual Algarve Cup Participants
FIFA Women’s World Rankings
World Rank Country
61 Faroe Islands
Current FIFA World Ranking: 18
All-Time Algarve Cup Results: 8-9-3
Overall Record vs. USA: 0-9-1
Iceland record vs. the USA at Algarve Cup: 0-0-1 (March 6, 2009, a 1-0 U.S. win)
Last Meeting vs. USA: Oct. 8, 2006, in Richmond, Va. (2-1 U.S. win)
Coach: Siggi Eyjolfsson
Algarve Cup Finals: None
Key Players: G Thóra Helgadóttir, D Ólina Gudbjörg Vidarsdóttir, D Katrin Jónsdóttir, M Hólmfridur Magnusdóttir, M Dóra Maria Larusdóttir, M Sara Björk Gunnarsdóttir, F Margrét Lára Vidarsdóttir
USA vs. Iceland Fast Facts: Iceland started off with a bang at last year’s Algarve Cup with a 3-1 victory over Norway, but then fell to the USA 1-0 and to Denmark 2-0 … Iceland lost to China 1-0 in the match for fifth place, tying its best-ever finish (sixth) at the Algarve Cup … Iceland started its World Cup qualifying campaign last August with a 5-0 win over Serbia and a 12-0 victory over Estonia … In October, Iceland lost 2-0 in France in a huge match and then got a 1-0 win over Northern Ireland … Iceland has important Women’s World Cup qualifiers coming up in late March against Serbia and Croatia, which are must wins if they want to keep pace with the French, who they will host next August … Iceland participated in its first-ever UEFA Women’s Championships last year in Finland, but finished last in a very difficult group, losing 3-1 to France and 1-0 to Norway and Germany, showing they are far from pushovers … Iceland forward Margret Lara Vidarsdottir is her country’s all-time leading scorer at the Algarve Cup with 10 goals … No one else has more than three … Vidarsdottir also scored her country’s lone goal in the USA’s 2-1 win in Richmond, Va., in 2006, the last meeting between these two teams in the USA … Iceland has an excellent goalkeeper in Thora Helgadottir, a Duke graduate who played her college soccer for the Blue Devils and who has had several world class matches against the USA in the past … Both of Iceland’s goalkeepers play their club ball in Sweden along with two field players … Defender Sif Atladottir plays in Germany with Saarbrucken, the one-time and brief club of U.S. midfielder Shannon Boxx … Iceland also features a future WPS player in new Philadelphia Independence signing Hólmfrídur Magnúsdóttir, who will no doubt be traveling to the USA soon after the Algarve Cup … Sara Bjork Gunnarsdottir, who scored two of Iceland’s goals against Norway last year, is also on the roster … The previous eight of the 10 games between the teams were played in the United States with the two others in Portugal.
2010 U.S. Algarve Cup Roster:
GOALKEEPERS (3): 18-Nicole Barnhart (FC Gold Pride), 24-Jill Loyden (Chicago Red Stars), 1-Hope Solo (St. Louis Athletica)
DEFENDERS (6): 26-Rachel Buehler (FC Gold Pride), 14-Stephanie Cox (Boston Breakers), 6-Amy LePeilbet (Boston Breakers), 2-Heather Mitts (Philadelphia Independence), 17-Meghan Schnur (Sky Blue FC), 4-Cat Whitehill (Washington Freedom)
MIDFIELDERS (6): 12-Yael Averbuch (Sky Blue FC), 7-Shannon Boxx (St. Louis Athletica), 5-Lori Lindsey (Philadelphia Independence), 10-Carli Lloyd (Sky Blue FC), 9-Heather O’Reilly (Sky Blue FC), 13-Megan Rapinoe (Chicago Red Stars)
FORWARDS (4): 11-Lauren Cheney (Boston Breakers), 15-Casey Nogueira (Chicago Red Stars), 8-Amy Rodriguez (Philadelphia Independence), 20-Abby Wambach (Washington Freedom)
2010 Iceland Algarve Cup Roster
GOALKEEPERS (2): 1-Thóra Helgadóttir (Malmö, SWE), 12-Gudbjörg Gunnarsdóttir (Djurgården, SWE)
DEFENDERS (5): 2-Sif Atladóttir (FC Saarbrücken, GER), 3-Ólína Gudbjörg Vidarsdóttir (KIF Örebro, SWE), 8-Katrín Jónsdóttir (Valur), 19-Mist Edvardsdóttir (KR), 29-Thelma Björk Einarsdóttir (Valur)
MIDFIELDERS (10): 4-Rakel Hönnudóttir (Thór), 5-Erna Björk Sigurdardóttir (Breidablik), 6-Hólmfrídur Magnúsdóttir (Philadelphia Independence, USA), 7-Katrín Ómarsdóttir (KR), 10-Dóra María Lárusdóttir (Valur), 11-Sara Björk Gunnarsdóttir (Breidablik), 13-Gudný Björk Ódinsdóttir (Kristianstads, SWE), 14-Rakel Logadóttir (Valur), 18-Elínborg Ingvarsdóttir (Grindavík), 17-Dagný Brynjarsdóttir (Valur)
FORWARDS (3): 9-Margrét Lára Vidarsdóttir (Kristianstads, SWE), 15-Fanndís Fridriksdóttir (Breidablik), 16-Berglind Björg Thorvaldsdóttir (Breidablik)
WHAT’S IN AN ICELANDIC NAME?: Whenever the U.S. Women play Iceland (which is not that often, only 10 times in history in fact), we like to bring out the following explanation of the seemingly strange Icelandic names. Apologies if you’ve read this before. Contrary to most other places in the world, Iceland is not very fond of "surnames" and EVERYBODY is on a first name basis. (Yes, even with the president!) This is because there are hardly any "family names" in Iceland. No family names? How do you recognize each other and who belongs to whom? Well, it's simple really. The Icelandic people are descendants from Vikings and they kept track of people by recognizing who was their father, as in "Helgi son of Ólafur the Brave, son of Leifur the Large" (not an actual example). Thus was born the tradition of naming children after their father's first name. So the way it works in Iceland is that boys are given first names and then their father's first name + "son" as a "surname". Girls on the other hand are given first names and then their father's first name + "dóttir" (as in "daughter") as a "surname".
A hypothetical example:
Father = Ragnar Helgason
Mother = Inga Bjarnadóttir
Their son = Leifur Ragnarsson
Their daughter = Anna Ragnarsdóttir
Or, if Abby Wambach, whose dad’s name is Peter, was Icelandic, her name would be Abby Petersdottir.
Referring to the family by their "surnames" is therefore pointless and everyone goes by their first names. Women also don't take their husband's surname when they get married as it would mess everything up. It's also worth mentioning that most Icelanders can trace back their family-line to the 13th century or so (Iceland was first settled in the 9th century), so this system appears to be working.
ALGARVE CUP QUICK HITS:
- Each team is allowed six substitutions per game, just like in an international friendly. With the USA having 16 field players on its roster, all of them could see action should Sundhage decide to use all her allowed subs.
- In the event that teams are tied at the end of group play, the first tiebreaker is the result of the matches between two teams (head-to-head), the second is goal difference and the third is goals scored.
- The 24 matches of this year’s Algarve Cup will be played in eight different venues ranging from tiny stadiums that seat several thousand to the state-of-the art 30,000-seat Stadium Algarve, which will host the championship game, as well as the Group A marquee match-up between Germany and China, one of Portugal’s group games and Portugal’s placement game.
- Of the three U.S. first-round opponents, Sweden and Norway have played in every Algarve Cup and Iceland will be playing its sixth tournament.
- With a goal or an assist, Abby Wambach will move past Michelle Akers into fourth place on the all-time U.S. points list (two points for a goal, one for an assist). Both have 246 points. Wambach has 101 goals and 44 assists. Akers had 105 goals and 36 assists.
- Cat Whitehill will be playing in her ninth Algarve Cup, the most of anyone on the U.S. team.
- The USA’s Algarve Cup rookies are Lori Lindsey, Yael Averbuch, Casey Nogueira, Megan Schnur and Jill Loyden
- Hard rains have pounded the Algarve almost every night, but the days have been mostly sunny. Still, the fields should be soft for the matches.
- Seven of the eight WPS teams are represented on the U.S. roster (excluding only the Atlanta Beat) with Sky Blue FC leading the way with four players. The Philadelphia Independence has three, as do the Boston Breakers and the Chicago Red Stars. The Washington Freedom, St. Louis Athletica and FC Gold Pride have two each.
- 30 different players have scored goals for the USA at the Algarve Cup.
- The USA is currently on an Algarve record streak of 21 consecutive matches without a defeat in regulation time (the USA has lost two penalty kick shootouts during that stretch).
- In fact, the USA is 0-3 in penalty shootouts in Algarve Cup history.
Stat of Note
Of the USA’s 55 matches all-time at the Algarve Cup, 29 have been shutouts. Over the past 20 Algarve Cup matches, the USA has allowed just six goals, three of those to Sweden. The USA has been shut out just six times in the Algarve Cup.