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U.S. WNT Ready for March 9 Algarve Cup Opener vs. China

U.S. TEAM PREPARES TO FACE CHINA IN ALGARVE CUP OPENER: The U.S. Women’s National Team will kick off the 2006 Algarve Cup against China on Thursday, March 9, in a match that fans can follow live on’s MatchTracker at 2 p.m. local time / 9 a.m. ET. The match will be played at the antiquated São Luis Stadium in Faro, the largest city in the Algarve. The USA last played at São Luis in the 2000 Algarve Cup, a 2-1 win over Denmark. Visit the 2006 Algarve Cup competitions page at for a complete schedule and standings, plus features, podcasts, and exclusive all_access video coverage of the WNT in Portugal.

PLAYED IN AND READY: By the time the Americans kick off against China, the USA will have had eight training sessions in Portugal, practices that have gotten progressively lighter and shorter as the team tapers into the first match of the grueling four-games-in-seven-days tournament. The U.S. attackers have spent a great deal of time in the Algarve perfecting their finishing, with the team playing 10-20 minute, full-field scrimmages almost every day. The U.S. team also had the benefit of three games at the Four Nations Tournament in China in January and a two-week training camp in February (photos). Last year, the Algarve Cup matches were the first of the year for the American team. Abby Wambach scored twice in that tournament and earlier this year scored her 50th career goal in less matches (66) than any U.S. player besides Michelle Akers (48). She talks about her goal-scoring prowess and much more, in this exclusive Q&A with

LILLY ON 107 GOALS: U.S. captain Kristine Lilly heads into the Algarve Cup with 107 career goals, tied for second place on the all-time goal-scoring list for women’s international soccer. With one more goal, she will move into sole possession of second-place behind former teammate Mia Hamm, who scored 158 goals during her legendary career.

Top-Five All-Time Female Goal Scorers:
1. Mia Hamm, USA                158
2. Kristine Lilly, USA              107
2. Elisabetta Vignotto, Italy   107
4. Michelle Akers, USA          105
5. Carolina Morace, Italy        104

O’REILLY FACTOR: U.S. forward Heather O’Reilly, who turned 21 at the beginning of this year, is not what you would call shy. Listen in as chats with the effervescent and well-spoken O’Reilly for the first podcast from Portugal.

ELEVEN ALGARVE CUPS: This will be the 11th Algarve Cup for the U.S. women, who have gone 6-1-3 in openers of this annual March tournament. The USA has won two consecutive Algarve Cup openers after failing to win an opener for three years in a row from 2001-2003. Last year, the USA won all four games of the tournament for only the second time in their 10 previous appearances, a testament to the difficulty of this competition. Even more impressive, the USA went through all four games without allowing a goal, the first time the U.S. team had accomplished that feat.

• The USA is 25-9-5 all-time in the Algarve Cup
• The USA has scored 81 goals while allowing 39 at the Algarve Cup
• The most goals the USA has ever scored in an Algarve Cup game is seven, achieved against Portugal in 2000
• The most goals the USA has ever scored in an Algarve Cup game against an opponent other than Portugal is five, scored against France in a 5-1 win in 2004
• The USA is 2-1-0 all-time at São Luis Stadium in Faro, site of their first match, 3-1-1 in Quarteira, where the U.S. will play Denmark in their second match, and 2-0-0 at Stadium Algarve in Faro, the venue for their third match
• The USA is a combined 8-2-0 all-time at the Algarve Cup against its three first-round opponents
• The USA has been shutout in just four of its 39 all-time Algarve Cup games, but two of those came in 2001 when the USA brought a young team during the startup of the WUSA. The American women have not been shutout at the Algarve Cup since then, a streak of 17 straight games
• There will be four awards presented at the end of the competition: Best Scorer, Best Goalkeeper, Best Player and The Fair Play Award
• Each team is allowed six substitutions per game
• In the event that teams are tied at the end of Group play, the first tiebreaker is the result of the matches between the two teams (head-to-head), the second is goal difference and the third is goals scored

TOURNAMENT FORMAT: Since the expansion from eight to 12 teams five years ago, the Algarve Cup format has been as follows, although with just 11 teams this year, there will be no 11th place match. The teams in Group A and B will compete for the title as the group winners will play in the championship game on Wednesday, March 15. The two second-place group finishers in Groups A and B will play for third place while the third-place finishers will play for fifth. The Group C teams will be competing for a chance to play for spots 7-11 as the winner of Group C will play the best fourth place team from Groups A or B, the second place team in Group C will play the worst fourth place team from Groups A or B. The third-place finisher in Group C will not play a placement match.

WORLD POWERS MEET IN PORTUGAL: The Algarve Cup is regarded as the top women’s international tournament in the world outside of the Women’s World Cup, the Olympics and the European Championships, a claim reinforced by the participation of seven of the top-10 teams in the world according to the most recent FIFA Women’s World Rankings. Group A promises six world championship-caliber games as three of the top-five teams square off in Germany (1), Norway (3), Sweden (5) and Finland (16). Second-ranked USA’s Group B features France (7), Denmark (8) and China (9). Group C, whose teams are playing for 7th at best, features Mexico (26), Ireland (32) and Portugal (40). Only Brazil (4), North Korea (6) and Italy (10) are missing from world’s top-10.

Algarve Cup Participants – FIFA Women’s World Rankings
Rank    Country
1           Germany
2           USA
3           Norway
5           Sweden
7           France
8           Denmark
9           China
16         Finland
26         Mexico
32         Ireland
40         Portugal

USA vs. CHINA PREVIEW: The USA and China met 46 days ago in the final game of the 2006 Four Nations Tournament in China. The USA came away with a 2-0 win that clinched the tournament championship, with both goals scored by Lilly. This will be the USA’s first match since then, while China has played one match each against Holland and Germany, and a scrimmage against Mexico in Portugal. The USA’s win at the Four Nations Tournament moved the series to 15-8-10 in favor of the American women. No team has tied the USA more than the Chinese. In fact, the 10 ties are five more than the next closest country, Sweden with five draws against the USA. The USA’s record against China on neutral soil is 3-2-4 all-time and 2-1-1 in the Algarve Cup. The always-technical Chinese had a difficult time breaking down the U.S. defense in the most recent match, but the return of Chinese legend Sun Wen should certainly help. The co-FIFA Player of the Century (along with Michelle Akers) was retired for two years before making a comeback in January, but did not play in the Four Nations Tournament while continuing to work her way back into shape. As of now, China’s most dangerous player may be speed forward Han Duan, who scored twice at the Four Nations Tournament. China must be filled with confidence after coming off a 1-0 victory over Germany in Hamburg, but the Chinese have not defeated the USA since 2003, a 2-0 win in Wuhan. As always, the Steel Roses are stocked with talented midfield players, including Bai Li Li, Pu Wei and Pan Li Na. Chinese goalkeeper Han Wen Xia is tall, has great hands and is extremely composed. China’s Li Jie is one of the best central defenders in the world, but was called for mugging the USA’s Abby Wambach in the penalty area during the last meeting, setting up a penalty kick and the USA’s first goal of the game.

13th Annual Algarve Cup
Algarve, Portugal
Group A
Norway, Sweden, Finland & Germany
Group B
USA, China PR, Denmark & France
Group C
Ireland, Portugal & Mexico

Algarve Cup MatchDay 1 Schedule:
March 9, 2006

Group A                          Kickoff                                            City       Venue
Germany vs. Finland   4 p.m. local / 11 a.m. ET            Loulè    Estádio Municipal
Norway vs. Sweden     7:30 p.m. local / 2:30 p.m. ET   Loulè   Estádio Municipal

Group B
USA vs. China              2 p.m. local / 9 a.m. ET                 Faro    Estádio Sao Luis
France vs. Denmark   4:15 p.m. local / 11:15 a.m. ET   Faro     Estádio Sao Luis

Group C
Ireland vs. Portugal     4 p.m. local / 11 a.m. ET                Alvor    Estádio da Restinga

USA ALGARVE CUP SCORERS: Players on the 2006 U.S. Algarve Cup roster have accounted for 33% of the 81 goals scored in the USA’s Algarve Cup history, led by Lilly’s nine goals.

All-time U.S. Scorers at the Algarve Cup
Player                             Goals
Shannon MacMillan    11
Kristine Lilly                 9
Mia Hamm                    8
Tiffeny Milbrett              6
Abby Wambach          6
Christie Welsh            6   
Brandi Chastain          5
Julie Foudy                   4 
Carin Gabarra             4
Cindy Parlow               4
Angela Hucles            3
Michelle Akers             2
Cat Whitehill                2
Lindsay Tarpley          2

Aly Wagner                  2
Joy Fawcett                  1
Lorrie Fair                    1
Ally Marquand             1
Stephanie Rigamat   1
Laura Schott                1
Tisha Venturini            1
Kelly Wilson                 1

FINAL ROSTER SET: Just nine of the 20 players on the Algarve Cup roster were on the 2004 Olympic Team with the other 11 having never played in a world championship at the senior level. Those 11, however, have played in quite a few Algarve Cups. The USA came to Portugal with 21 players, as defender Christie Rampone received medical clearance on the morning of the flight to Europe, necessitating U.S. head coach Greg Ryan to choose 20 to suit up for the matches. Young defender India Trotter, who has one cap, will not dress during the tournament unless there is an injury that warrants a roster change. Of the 20 players on the USA’s Algarve Cup roster last year, 12 have returned for this tournament.

U.S. Roster By Position: 
GOALKEEPERS (2): 1-Jenni Branam, 18-Hope Solo;
DEFENDERS (6): 8-Tina Frimpong, 14-Amy LePeilbet, 21-Stephanie Lopez, 2-Heather Mitts, 3-Christie Rampone, 4-Cat Whitehill;
MIDFIELDERS (7): 7-Shannon Boxx, 13-Kristine Lilly, 11-Carli Lloyd, 15-Marci Miller, 12-Leslie Osborne, 5-Lindsay Tarpley, 10-Aly Wagner;
FORWARDS (5): 6-Natasha Kai, 9-Heather O’Reilly, 16-Amy Rodriguez, 20-Abby Wambach, 19-Christie Welsh.

U.S. head coach Greg Ryan on the return of China’s Sun Wen:
“Sun Wen is a very, very smart player who can get the ball to other players running through. As you get older, you let the other players do the running, and she can be very effective in that role.”

Ryan on the rematch of the USA’s last match against China, a 2-0 U.S. win:
“That game is certainly going to give them motivation. They should be very confident coming off a win against Germany and will certainly want to beat the USA. It is always difficult to beat the same team twice in a row, so we will have to work very, very hard in this match.”

SEITZ IS USA’S REPRESENTATIVE IN FIFA WOMEN’S REFEREE WORKSHOP: U.S. Soccer Referee Kari Seitz will be the USA’s lone representative for the second year in a row at FIFA’s Women’s Referee Workshop, being held in conjunction with the 2006 Algarve Cup. Seitz, one of three female FIFA certified referees in the USA, will participate with 25 referees from 28 different countries. They are joined in the workshop by 19 assistant referees from 17 different countries. The Women’s Referee Workshop was established to prepare women referees for the 2007 FIFA Women’s World Cup in China. It is designed to resemble the approach being implemented on the men’s side for the 2006 FIFA World Cup, which includes workshops and camps where FIFA instructors can train and evaluate officials. There are five other referees from CONCACAF participating. Seitz participated in the 2004 Athens Olympics, where she officiated the Bronze medal match between Germany and Sweden while the U.S. played Brazil for the Gold Medal. Seitz also officiated at the 1999 and 2003 FIFA Women’s World Cups and the 2004 FIFA U-19 Women’s World Championship in Thailand. 

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