Held annually in Northern Europe, the Nordic Cup brings together the world's best under-21 women's national teams for the most important women's youth tournament in this age group.
A tie or a loss would have relegated the Americans to the 3rd place match, or worse, but the U.S. took care of business early. Christie Welsh (Massapequa, N.Y./Penn State) scored in the 9th and 12th minutes, followed by a Jena Kluegel (Mahtomedi, Minn./North Carolina) score in the 28th minute and a Nandi Pryce (Casselberry, Fla./UCLA) head goal just before halftime.
"I told them that we needed nothing less than a win, and they responded from the opening whistle," said U.S. Under-21 head coach Jillian Ellis. "We played some dynamic soccer and scored some tremendous goals. Our speed of play was better than in the first two games and we definitely showed better composure with our finishing."
Finland came into the match with wins over Switzerland and Sweden in group play and needed just a tie to advance to the championship game after the Americans beat the Swiss but drew with Sweden. The Fins, however, were never in the match as the U.S. team outclassed them in ever aspect of the game while piling up a 20-3 shot margin.
The USA repeatedly got behind the Finnish defense on the flanks as center-midfielders Aleisha Cramer (Lakewood, Colo./Brigham Young) and Aly Wagner (San Jose, Calif./Santa Clara) fed a steady diet of penetrating passes to Klugel, Susan Bush (Houston, Tex./North Carolina) and Michelle French (Kent, Wash./Portland) on the flanks.
Welsh, who has scored 11 goals for the full Women's National Team this year, had yet to score in the Nordic Cup, but changed that in a hurry, after Bush crossed on the ground to her inside the penalty box. Welsh received the ball with her back to the goal, cut past a player and buried her shot into the upper left corner from 18 yards out.
Welsh brought out the artillery again just three minutes later as this time Kluegel provided the service from the right flank. Welsh had enough time to settle the ball inside the penalty box and then lashed a volley into the right corner from 12 yards out.
"Christie is a pure goal scorer," added Ellis. "I knew it was only a matter of time before she buried a few chances."
Kluegel scored the third goal with a darting run up the middle, sliding to power the ball into the net off French's driven service from the right flank. Pryce added a fourth goal in the 42nd minute, leaping high to head Bush's corner kick over the leaping goalkeeper and just under the cross bar.
The early U.S. goals rendered the Finnish bunker useless as the Scandinavians were forced to attempt to attack, but every foray was shut down by the back line of Pryce, Anna Kraus (Mountain View, Calif./Santa Clara) and Catherine Reddick (Birmingham, Ala./North Carolina). The three backs and the hard-working U.S. midfield kept Finland bottled inside its half for the first 70 minutes.
The half ended in bizarre fashion as U.S. midfielder Mary Frances Monroe (East Northport, N.Y./UConn) was shown a red card. Monroe had received a caution in the 10th minute for what referee Rebbeka Kirchner thought was an intentional hand ball after a Finnish clearance had struck Monroe on the upper arm. Just before halftime, Monroe attempted a chest trap near midfield and the ball once again grazed her upper up. To the amazement of everyone in attendance, Kirchner pulled out a second yellow card and then ejected Monroe.
The U.S. team appealed the ruling, which would mean that Monroe would be suspended for the championship match, but will not find out her fate until tomorrow morning when the disciplinary committee meets.
Playing with 10 women, the U.S. team still controlled the match with quality possession and smart running, but with 20 minutes remaining Cramer injured her ankle and had to leave the match. Having already used its five allowed substitutes, the USA was forced to play the remaining of the game with nine players, becoming the first team in history to win a Nordic Cup match playing a 3-4-1 formation.
With lone forward Kim Patrick (Pleasanton, Calif./North Carolina) running from sideline to sideline, and Veronica Zepeda (Riverside, Calif./Santa Clara) keeping possession in the midfield, the USA salted the time away. All three of Finland's shots came in the last 10 minutes, two of which were saved by Jenni Branam, who picked up her second shutout of the tournament.
The USA launched several "power-play" attacks toward the end of the match, one of which earned a corner-kick. Caroline Putz (Bountiful, Utah/Washington) played a bending ball to the near post and Marcia Wallis (Los Gatos, Calif./Stanford) deftly flicked it to the back post were a Finland defender failed in her lunge to keep the ball out of the net.
"I'm proud of the way our team played today," said Welsh, who also hit the post twice before coming out at halftime. "We needed a win and we went out there and put the game away early. We stayed calm even when Mary got ejected and showed great composure even with nine players."
The USA has now advanced to the Final of the Nordic Cup in each of the past four years, the first three against Norway, and won the tournament in 1997 and 1999. The USA will be going for its fourth Nordic Cup title, also having won in 1993. A slightly banged-up U.S. team will play its fourth match in seven days when it faces Germany on Thursday.
"We showed great mentality and resolve when we went down players to not only earn a shutout, but also score a goal," added Ellis. "Still, the victory was bittersweet because of losing Mary to the red card. But if we have to play without her in the Final, I know the players will respond."
2000 U.S. UNDER-21 WOMEN'S NATIONAL TEAM GAME REPORT
|Participants:||U.S. U-21 Women's National Team vs. Finland U-21 National Team|
|Competition:||2000 Under-21 Nordic Cup|
|Venue:||Volkspark Stadium (Bamberg, Germany)|
|Date:||August 1, 2000 - Kickoff 7 p.m. local (1 p.m. ET)|
|Weather:||78 degrees - Sunny, warm|
USA - Christie Welsh, (Susan Bush), 9,
USA - Christie Welsh, (Jena Kluegel), 12,
USA - Jena Kluegel, (Michelle French), 28,
USA - Nandi Pryce, (Susan Bush), 42,
USA - Marcia Wallis, (Caroline Putz), 82.
USA - 24-Jenni Branam, 4-Anna Kraus (15-Danielle Borgman, 57th), 2-Nandi Pryce, 8-Catherine Reddick, 11-Michelle French - Capt., 17-Aleisha Cramer (Injured, 70th), 7-Aly Wagner (21-Veronica Zepeda, 65th), 9-Jena Kluegel (14-Marcia Wallis, 57th), 13-Christie Welsh (10-Kim Patrick, 46th), 2-Mary Frances Monroe (Ejected, 44th), 23-Susan Bush (5-Caroline Putz, 63rd).
FIN - 12-Satu Peltonen, 2-Petra Vaelma (15-Anu Eskelinen, 46th), 4-Hanna Kaaranen (8-Tiina Saario, 55th), 6-Saria Ahlroos, 7-Pia Silander, 9-Laura Kalmari (13-Minna Tuominen, 46th), 10-Milla Mattila, 14-Salla Ranta, 16-Elisa Simonen, 17-Eveliina Sarapaa (11-Linda Lindqvist, 46th), 18-Pia Lehtimaki (5-Heidi Lindstrom, 61st).
|Mary Frances Monroe (caution)||10,|
|Mary Frances Monroe (caution/ejection)||44,|
|Catherine Reddick (caution)||49.|
|2000 Nordic Cup|
|Germany||3||2||0||1||11||3||7 (+8 GD)|
|Norway||3||1||1||1||7||4||4 (+3 GD)|
|Iceland||3||1||2||0||4||7||3 (-3 GD)|
|Denmark||3||1||2||0||3||11||3 (-8 GD)|
|2000 Nordic Cup|
|United States||3||2||0||1||11||2||7 (+9 GD)|
|Finland||3||2||1||0||2||5||6 (-3 GD)|
|Sweden||3||1||1||1||3||3||4 (0 GD)|
|Switzerland||3||0||3||0||0||6||0 (-6 GD)|
July 28 Norway 4, Denmark 0
July 30 Iceland 2, Norway 1
August 1 Denmark 3, Iceland 1
|Date||Match||Time (local)||Time (ET)||Venue|
|August 3||7th Place: Denmark vs. Switzerland||Noon||6:00 a.m.||Coburg|
|5th Place: Sweden vs. Iceland||2:00 p.m.||8:00 a.m.||Coburg|
|3rd Place: Finland vs. Norway||3:15 p.m.||9:15 a.m.||Weisman|
|1st Place: USA vs. Germany||5:30 p.m.||11:30 a.m.||Weisman|