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Early MacMillan Goal Leads U.S. to 1-0 Win Over Norway, Top of Group A Standings in Algarve Cup


FERREIRAS, Portugal (Sunday, March 16, 2003) - The U.S. Women's National Team put forth a gritty and professional performance under incredibly difficult conditions to defeat Norway, 1-0, at the 2003 Algarve Cup. Shannon MacMillan celebrated her 150th cap for the USA, scoring in just the 4th minute of the match that was played in high winds and on a bumpy field, making every ball in the air an adventure and the game extremely combative.

"It was a full-on 90-minute committed and concentrated, aggressive game for us," said U.S. head coach April Heinrichs. "I think we are the most consistent team in the world and part of that is our mental preparation for every practice and game. We rarely have a let down because we respect every opponent we play. We were a little timid in our first game (against Canada), a little rusty perhaps, but tonight their touch was magic."

With the win, the USA takes control of Group A with four points from two games thus far. Sweden and Canada tied, 1-1, in the first Group A match of the afternoon, meaning a U.S. win over Sweden on Tuesday in the final group game will put them in the Algarve Cup championship for just the fourth time in eight trips to this tournament on the southern coast of Portugal. The U.S. could advance with a tie against Sweden if Norway wins or ties against Canada.

The flags were blown stiff under the windiest conditions in recent memory for a U.S. Women's National Team game as a blustery gale blew in off the Atlantic for the entire match. The Americans attacked into the teeth of it in the first half and got an opportunistic goal from MacMillan, who raced at Norway goalkeeper Ingrid Hjelmseth as she collected a back pass at the top of the penalty area, and blocked her clearance. MacMillan ran down the spinning ball on the left end line, turned to face the goal, and seeing Hjelmseth cheating off her line for the cross, pulled off a crafty piece of inventiveness, bending her 12-yard shot from a near impossible angle between the Norway goalkeeper and the near post.

"We knew that with the wind, if we went high pressure (defense), the ball was going to be unpredictable out there," said MacMillan. "I think the 'keeper took a longer touch than she wanted to and I was able to get a foot on it. When I looked up, I saw some space between the goalkeeper and the post."

For MacMillan, who scored seven of the USA's eight goals at last year's Algarve Cup, it was her 10th career goal in this tournament and 53rd of her career. The win marked the first time in the 18-year history of the U.S. Women's National Team that the USA has beaten Norway three consecutive times. The win also moved the U.S. to within two games of leveling the all-time series, which currently stands at 16 wins for the USA, 18 wins for Norway and 12 draws.

Both teams were entirely committed to aggressive nature of the match and the game was played at a wicked pace, but the U.S. back line of Brandi Chastain, Joy Fawcett, Kate Sobrero and Christie Pearce, later joined by Cat Reddick who replaced Pearce and Danielle Slaton who replaced Sobrero, was phenomenal in winning air balls and tackles. The composure of the two veteran center backs, Chastain and Fawcett, was also remarkable as the two thwarted countless Norwegian attacks and held the Scandinavians to just two shots as the Americans dictated play throughout.

"In the first half, we were nervous, and I said to them at halftime that to be up 1-0, playing against those kinds of winds was a victory in itself," said Heinrichs. "The game was not over, but the challenge was with the wind at our back, to play smart, hang onto the ball and pick and choose when we went forward."

The Americans were patient and composed in a game that ran 97 minutes with stoppage time, and possessed the ball well despite the adverse conditions, putting together some great combination play from MacMillan, Mia Hamm and Aly Wagner. Hamm put on an inspiration performance, especially on defense, as her chasing and ball winning caused Norway problems all afternoon. Julie Foudy and Kristine Lilly were also crucial in midfield, showing their experience by playing smart defense, settling the ball and keeping the U.S. attack in a good rhythm.

Norway had trouble with the wind at their back in the first half, sending numerous passes over the end line or into the waiting arms of U.S. goalkeeper Briana Scurry, who was quick off her line to grab bouncing balls.

While the Americans produced just eight shots, they had a few chances to add to their lead. In the 56th minute, second half substitute Angela Hucles took a pass from Foudy, drove to the net and rolled a perfect pass into the path of Hamm, who was making a run into the right side of the penalty area. Hamm cracked a shot that hit of the Norwegian goalkeeper, then the right post, before bouncing back past the crashing Hucles to Hamm, who sailed the ball over the net.

Two minutes later, Hamm closed fast on Hjelmseth who had the ball at her feet and blocked the goalkeeper's clearance, leaving the Norwegian 'keeper injured on the ground. Hjelsmeth had to be replaced by Astrid Johannessen, whose booming punts and goal kicks against the wind gave Norway a glimmer of hope in the remaining minutes.

Lilly had a chance in the 75th minute when she picked off a Norway back pass and fired from 18 yards out, but the wind took the ball and pushed it high over the goal.

Playing with the wind in the second half, the U.S. did well to send long balls over the Norway defense, keeping them pinned back in their half, while the midfield and defense gutted out the game, winning floating services that held up in the wind.

Norway had its first shot in the 77th minute and it was a dangerous one, as a free kick from the left sideline found the head of Anita Rapp, but Scurry dove to her left to make a solid save. Norway had one last opportunity for an equalizer in the 86th minute as Rapp pushed past Fawcett on the left flank and sent a tantalizing cross scooting through the U.S. goal mouth, but a sliding Trine Ronning couldn't reach the ball.

In the Sweden-Canada match, Canada tallied first with under 10 minutes to go as defender Sharolta Nonen smacked a wind-aided free kick from distance that sailed into the net from 40 yards out. Sweden pulled the goal back just two minutes later on a header from Hanna Ljungberg in a game that was equally as impacted by the wind.

In Group B, China rebounded from its 0-0 draw with Finland to roll past France, 3-0, and take the control of the group. Finland and Denmark tied 0-0, meaning neither team has scored a goal yet at the Algarve Cup. In Group C, Ireland took the upper hand with a 3-1 victory over Wales while Portugal tied Greece, 1-1, with a goal in stoppage time of the second half. Eight of the 12 Algarve Cup games so far have ended in draws.

The USA faces Sweden in its final Group A match on Tuesday, March 18, in Vila Real de San Antonio, which is the most distant of the Algarve Cup venues, sitting an hour away from the U.S. hotel on the Portugal-Spain border. Kickoff is at 4:30 p.m. local / 11:30 p.m. ET. Fans can follow the game online at ussoccer.com's MatchTracker presented by Philips Electronics.

U.S. WOMEN'S NATIONAL TEAM GAME REPORT

Participants: United States vs. Norway
Competition: 2003 Algarve Cup
Venue: Ferreiras Stadium - Ferreiras, Portugal
Date: March 16, 2002 - Kickoff 4:30 p.m. Local (11:30 a.m. ET)
Attendance: 300
Weather: Overcast, cold, high winds - 62 degrees

Scoring Summary: 1st 2nd Final
USA 1 0 1
NOR 0 0 0

USA - Shannon MacMillan (Unassisted) 4th minute.

Lineups:
USA - 1-Briana Scurry; 3-Christie Pearce (4-Cat Reddick, 46), 14-Joy Fawcett, 6-Brandi Chastain, 15-Kate Sobrero (19-Danielle Slaton, 80); 2-Lorrie Fair (17-Angela Hucles, 46), 11-Julie Foudy - C, 10-Aly Wagner, 13-Kristine Lilly, 9-Mia Hamm, 8-Shannon MacMillan (7-Heather O'Reilly, 73).
Subs Not Used: 5-Tiffany Roberts, 12-Cindy Parlow, 16-Tiffeny Milbrett, 18-Siri Mullinix, 20-Lindsay Tarpley.

NOR - 12-Ingrid Hjelmseth (1-Astrid Johannessen, 61); 2-Brit Sandaune (19-Marit Fiane Christensen, 84), 3-Monica Knudsen, 5-Marianne Paulsen, 13-Ane Stangeland, 6-Hege Riise - C (18-Kristine Edner, 68), 7-Lise Klaveness, 8-Solveig Gulbrandsen, 9-Anita Rapp, 10-Unni Lehn (11-Trine Ronning, 75), 14-Dagny Mellgren.
Subs Not Used: 4-Ingvild Stensland, 15-Anne Tonnessen, 16-Leni Kaurin, 17-Heidi Pedersen, 20-Christine Nilsen.]

Statistical Summary: USA / NOR
Shots: 8 / 2
Shots on Goal: 4 / 1
Saves: 1 / 3
Corner Kicks: 2 / 2
Fouls: 9 / 11
Offside: 8 / 4

Misconduct Summary:
NOR - Solveig Gulbrandsen (caution) 76.
USA - Kristine Lilly (caution) 81.

Officials:
Referee: Katriina Elovita (Finland)
Asst. Referee: Emilia Parvianen (Finland)
Asst. Referee: Kirsi Savolainene (Finland)
4th Official: Noelle Robin (France)

10th Algarve Cup International Women's Tournament

Algarve Cup Group Standings

Group A

Team GP W L T GF GA GD PTS
USA 2 1 0 1 2 1 +1 4
Sweden 2 0 0 2 2 2 0 2
Canada 2 0 0 2 2 2 0 2
Norway 2 0 1 1 1 2 -1 1

Friday, March 14 Sunday, March 16 Tuesday, March 18
USA 1, Canada 1 Sweden 1, Canada 1 Norway v. Canada
Sweden 1, Norway 1 USA 1, Norway 0 USA v. Sweden

Group B

Team GP W L T GF GA GD PTS
China 2 1 0 1 3 0 0 4
France 2 1 1 0 3 3 0 3
Finland 2 0 0 2 0 0 0 2
Denmark 2 0 1 1 0 3 -3 1

Friday, March 14 Sunday, March 16 Tuesday, March 18
France 3, Denmark 0 Denmark 0, Finland 0 France v. Finland
China 0, Finland 0 China 3, France 0 China v. Denmark

Group C

Team GP W L T GF GA GD PTS
Ireland 2 1 0 1 3 1 +2 4
Portugal 2 0 0 2 2 2 0 2
Greece 2 0 0 2 1 1 0 2
Wales 2 0 1 1 2 4 -2 1

Friday, March 14 Sunday, March 16 Tuesday, March 18
Portugal 1, Wales 1 Portugal 1, Greece 1 Greece v. Wales
Ireland 0, Greece 0 Ireland 3, Wales 1 Portugal v. Ireland


            

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