U.S. Women’s National Team
The Algarve, Portugal
Feb. 27, 2009
U.S. TEAM ARRIVES IN PORTUGAL TO PREPARE FOR ALGARVE CUP: The U.S. Women’s National Team arrived on the beautiful southern coast of Portugal on the afternoon of Feb. 26 to prepare for its first international matches of 2009, which will come at the always competitive Algarve Cup. The reigning Olympic champions kickoff the 2009 schedule on March 4 against Denmark in what could be the USA’s most difficult Algarve Cup opening match in years. During the last three tournaments the USA has opened against China, a team that has struggled in recent years. In the two years before that, the USA opened against France, which is certainly a strong side but not among the current European elite. This time the opening match of Group B will pit the countries who have met in the last two Algarve Cup Finals, both won by the USA (2-0 in 2007 and 2-1 in 2008). The Danes were certainly not favored to win their group the last two years over Germany and Sweden, but did so both times to earn a place in the championship game. Denmark will likely have to slay the U.S. team this time to keep their title hopes alive, and vice-versa. The USA-Denmark clash kicks off at Noon local time (7 a.m. ET) in Lagos, a venue that has not been kind to the USA. You will be able to read more about the Curse of Lagos in the pre-game notes before the match. Fans can follow USA-Denmark and all the U.S. games at the Algarve Cup on ussoccer.com’s MatchTracker.
KICKOFF TIME: The U.S. Women will play their first match of the year at the Algarve Cup for only the second time in history. In the past few years, the team has traveled to China in January in preparation for World Cups and Olympics Games, but with those tournaments now left to the history books, the Americans will focus more on matches in Europe, the continent that will host the next Women’s World Cup in Germany in 2011 and Olympics in England in 2012. The last time the USA kicked off its schedule in Portugal was in 2005, when the team won all four matches at the tournament for the first time and earned shutouts in all four matches, also a first for the Algarve Cup. With the start of the new WPS, the U.S. team will only play about a dozen full international matches this year with the Algarve Cup set as the only major tournament competition in 2009.
16th Annual Algarve Cup
Germany, Sweden, China, Finland
USA, Norway, Demark, Iceland
Portugal, Poland, Wales, Austria
U.S. WNT 2008 Algarve Cup Schedule
|Date||Opponent||Venue||Time (Local / ET)|
|March 4||Denmark||Municipal Stadium; Lagos||12 p.m. / 7 a.m.|
|March 6||Iceland||Parque Desportiva da Nora; Ferreiras||3 p.m. / 10 a.m.|
|March 9||Norway||Municipal Stadium; Albufeira||3 p.m. / 11 a.m.|
|March 11||Placement Match||TBD; TBD||TBD|
14 YEARS IN PORTUGAL: This will be the 14th Algarve Cup for the U.S. women, who have gone 8-1-4 in openers of this annual March tournament. The only opening game loss came in 2001 when the USA brought a very young team to the Algarve during WUSA pre-season camps. In 2007, the USA won all four games of the tournament for only the third time in 12 previous appearances, a testament to the difficulty of this competition. The USA then came back in 2008 and won all four games again, giving the Americans an eight-game Algarve Cup winning streak, matched only by China over 1998, 1999 (when China beat the USA in the final) and 2000 tournaments, and Norway over the 1996 and 1997 tournaments, which just happened to be the only two Algarve Cups in which the USA did not participate.
RIISE ADDED TO U.S. COACHING STAFF: U.S. Women’s National Team head coach Pia Sundhage has added former Norwegian star Hege Riise to her coaching staff. The central midfielder was considered one of the best in the world at her position during her 14 years playing for her country. Riise joins a coaching staff that also includes UCLA head coach Jillian Ellis, Penn State head coach Erica Walsh and Syracuse head coach Phil Wheddon, who trains the USA’s goalkeepers. All three coaches were on Sundhage’s staff for the 2008 Olympics. The long-time captain for Norway, Riise made her international debut in 1990 and played in four Women’s World Cup tournaments (1991, 1995, 1999 and 2003), helping Norway to the title in 1995 as well as an Olympic gold medal in 2000. She also played in the 1996 Olympic Games.
YOUNG AMERICANS: The USA comes to the 2009 Algarve Cup with an 18-player roster, but with only four players aged 30 or above. The oldest is U.S. captain Christie Rampone (33 years old), followed by Shannon Boxx (31) and Heather Mitts and Angela Hucles (both 30). The U.S. will definitely be looking to the youngsters for goals as Lindsay Tarpley (25) is the top scorer on this roster with 29 all-time international goals. Heather O’Reilly (24) has 25 goals while Natasha Kai (25) has 23 goals. Of course, Boxx with 18 career goals and Carli Lloyd with 19 have shown they can provide goals from the midfield, but two of the USA’s most dynamic young attacking talents are 23-year-old Megan Rapinoe (4 caps / 2 goals) and 22-year-old Amy Rodriguez (31 caps / 6 goals). Both will be asked to step up in the absence of Abby Wambach, who is in the final stages of recovery from her broken leg. Sundhage also named uncapped defender Kendall Fletcher, midfielder Tina DiMartino (1 cap / 0 goals), midfielder Angie Woznuk (6 caps / 1 goal) and midfielder Kacey White (17 caps / 0 goals), meaning some young players may have to step up and contribute if the USA is to find its accustomed success at the Algarve Cup.
ALGARVE CUP QUICK HITS:
- The USA is 35-9-7 all-time in the Algarve Cup.
- The USA has scored 110 goals while allowing 44 at the Algarve Cup.
- Norway has scored the most goals in Algarve Cup history (121), but has also allowed 56.
- Finland has allowed the most goals, letting in 136 over the 15 years.
- 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 not against Portugal is five, scored against France in a 5-1 win in 2004 and against Denmark in a 5-0 win in 2006.
- The USA had been shutout in just four of its 51 all-time Algarve Cup games (with two coming in 2001 when the USA brought a young team during the start-up of the WUSA), but were shutout twice in 2006, with both games ending 0-0 in regulation against China and Germany. The tie against China in the 2006 Algarve opener broke a streak of 17 straight games in which the USA had scored at this tournament.
- Fives teams have played in all 15 Algarve Cups so far: Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden and host Portugal.
- Twenty-three countries have participated in the Algarve Cup over the years. Debutante Austria will make it 24 this year.
- Swedish legend Hanna Ljungberg has scored the most career goals at the Algarve Cup (14), but Kristine Lilly is right behind her with 13. Four players, including Abby Wambach, have 12 career Algarve Cup goals. Carli Lloyd and Lindsay Tarpley have the most career Algarve Cup goals of anyone on the 2009 U.S. roster with five a piece.
ALL-TIME U.S. FINISHES AT THE ALGARVE CUP: Despite the recent success for the USA at the Algarve Cup (six straight appearances in the championship game and five titles), the tournament was a bugaboo for U.S. Women when they first started participating. In fact, the USA didn’t win the tournament until its sixth try, that coming in 2000 when a Brandi Chastain penalty kick defeated Norway in the title game, 1-0, and then didn’t win again until three years later. Amazingly, Denmark has been in five championship games and lost them all.
Algarve Cup Evolution
|Year||No. of Teams||Champion||Runner-Up||U.S. Finish|
|Sweden||Norway||Did not participate|
|Norway||China||Did not participate|
TAKING HOME HARDWARE: With the success of the U.S. team in this tournament, the Americans have taken home several individual awards over the years, including four MVPs and five top scorer awards. In 1999, Tiffeny Milbrett was the best player and the top scorer with four goals. In 2002, Shannon MacMillan was the Top Scorer with seven goals (the most ever in one Algarve Cup tournament by a U.S. player). In 2004, Abby Wambach was the Top Scorer with five goals and Shannon Boxx was voted Best Player. In 2005, Christie Welsh was Top Scorer with five goals. In 2006, Hope Solo was voted Best Goalkeeper and Boxx took home her second Algarve Cup MVP award. In 2007, Carli Lloyd did the double, taking the Top Scorer (four goals) and Best Player Awards.
TOURNAMENT FORMAT: Since the expansion from eight to 12 teams seven years ago, the Algarve Cup format has been as follows. 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 12. 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 teams that finish third and four in Group C will play each other for 11th place.
She Said It
U.S. head coach Pia Sundhage, on the importance and challenge of the 2009 Algarve Cup:
“First of all, we don’t have that many games this year. But also, the European championships are in August and September, so I know all the teams that are coming here will be prepared and ready to go, which will make for some great games.”
Stat of Note
The USA has averaged the most points per game of any team in Algarve history (2.20) over its 51 matches.