Welsh's goal in the 62nd minute ended a 315-minute scoreless streak for the U.S. women stretching over four matches and dating back to a 1-1 tie with China in January. Rigamat, who entered the game in the 63rd minute just after Welsh's tally, added her first international goal three minutes from the end of the game.
Heinrichs started perhaps the youngest lineup in U.S. history, with no player older than 20 and with an average age of barely over 18 years, leaving college All-Americans Aleisha Cramer, Christie Welsh, Jena Kluegel and Mary-Frances Monroe on the bench. Goalkeeper Emily Oleksiuk earned her first cap. First career starts went to 16-year-old Amy Steadman, 18-year-old Sara Randolph, 17-year old Lori Chalupny and 16-year-old Kristen Weiss.
The young U.S. team fought hard throughout the game, but made the mistakes of inexperience, which were exacerbated by the physical style of play from the Portuguese. The USA dominated territorially for most of the match, and aside from an occasional counter attack, the game was played in the USA's attacking half.
"We showed signs of a lack of confidence at the beginning of the game, which is not surprising when you go two games without scoring a goal," said Heinrichs. "But our competitiveness during the course of the game got a little bit better and spirit with which we played forced the game to get stretched out, which was to our advantage."
Catherine Reddick, who captained the USA for the first time, was stellar in the center of the defense with Anna Kraus. Outside backs Steadman and Randolph also shined brightly for the future, playing tough defense while contributing to the attack on the flanks.
The USA got its first chance of the game in just the 5th minute when Marcie Ward crossed from the right side after collecting a throw-in, but Laura Schott headed the ball over the top of the goal.
Portugal had its only chance of the first half in the 8th minute, when aided by several U.S. miscues in the back, Edite Fernandes burst through the middle, only to run out of gas and trickled a shot to Oleksiuk. Outside of that moment of danger, Oleksiuk was reduced to a spectator in the first half, as the USA back line won almost ever ball. The USA wore Portugal down in final 25 minutes of the first half, but poor service from the flanks combined with an inability to get on the end of crosses, killed numerous American forays.
In the 33rd minute, Ward crossed from the left side to Weiss, who was unmarked in front of the goal, only to whiff on her header attempt. In the 43rd minute, Reddick put Sara Randolph behind the defense with a long ball. Randolph fought past her defender to get a foot on the ball, but Portuguese goalkeeper Ana Santos came out and deflected the shot. Just before the halftime whistle, Schott popped free inside the penalty area after a quick series of passes, but Santos was quicker to the ball and smothered the shot.
Heinrichs inserted Kluegel and Welsh at halftime, but it was Portugal that went on the offensive, pinning the U.S. down for the first 10 minutes. Portugal's best chance came when Maria Xavier pinged a 30-yard shot off the crossbar. The flying Oleksiuk barely got a glove on the ball to force a corner kick, Portugal's only one of the match. Oleksiuk was busier in the second half, making five of her seven saves to earn her first shutout.
In the 55th minute, Weiss received a ball with her back to the goal, spun around her defender and pushed into the box, only to see her cross headed away for a corner kick. On the ensuing kick, the hard-luck Schott almost dropped a header into the upper left corner, but the ball was cleared away.
"Our goal for this team on this tour has been to get better every half," added Heinrichs. "Winning is important but it's not the sole priority. Playing to win and playing 90 minutes of intense is soccer is what I've asked for from these players. What we'll find is that we'll take the lessons learned and put them together in hopes of a peak performance in our last two games."
The USA finally broke through when Reddick won tackle in midfield and took off the other way, taking a touch before sending Welsh free behind the defense with a perfectly weighted pass. Welsh outran the two defenders and pounded her shot underneath the charging Santos, then celebrated with a fist pump that was as much relief as it was celebration.
From there, Santos pulled off a series of tough saves. Welsh got a head on a Chalupny cross from the right side, but Santos extended to push the ball off the right post.
With three minutes left, the USA added to its lead as Kluegel got the ball on the left flank. She played a pass to Weiss at the top of the penalty area, who hit a one touch back to Cramer, who in turn hit a brilliant first-time pass into the area for Rigamat. The stocky forward spun around her defender with the ball and slammed her shot into the left corner from 16 yards away for her first international goal.
Chalupny had two chances at the end of the game to get her first international goal, but was denied by Santos both times. In the 80th minute, Welsh hit a cross that was deflected into the air. Chalupny gathered herself and whipped off a side volley that was headed for the right corner before Santos dove to knock it away.
At the end of regulation, Kluegel sent a cross from the left flank to Chalupny at the far post. She settled the ball, then popped it over the defender and hit a flying side volley that once again drew a diving save from Santos. In the 89th minute, Devvyn Hawkins skied to head a corner kick just over the crossbar.
The USA played the last 12 minutes with a one-woman advantage after Sandra Caires was shown a second yellow card and ejected. The young U.S. team stood up to the combative Portuguese, tackling hard and giving as much as they received in the match that saw five yellow and one red card. By the end of the 90 minutes, play had been stopped no less than six times as Portuguese players rolled around on the ground in apparent agony.
In the other Group A game, Canada, which was clearly playing with fire against the USA on Tuesday, got burned by Sweden, losing 5-2 as Sweden blew the game open with three goals in a four-minute span in the first half. Group B is shaping up as the more intriguing foursome with Norway, China and Denmark still in the running for a place in the final, but with Norway and China having to make up a massive goal difference on the Danes. China rebounded from its upset to Denmark and blanked Olympic champion Norway, 2-0. Denmark continued its run to the final with a 6-0 trouncing of Finland.
The USA now faces a near impossible task to make the Algarve Cup final as the Americans must defeat an in-form Sweden on Thursday and make up a substantial goal difference between the two teams. The USA has a more realistic chance of making the 3rd Place match, where a meeting with Norway or China likely awaits.
2001 U.S. WOMEN'S NATIONAL TEAM GAME REPORT
|Participants:||U.S. Women's National Team vs. Portugal|
|Competition:||2001 Algarve Cup|
|Venue:||Francisco Vieira Stadium (Silves, Portugal)|
|Date:||March 13, 2001 - Kickoff 4:30 p.m. local (11:30 a.m. ET)|
|Weather:||75 degrees (Warm, Breezy)|
USA - Christie Welsh (Catherine Reddick), 62.
USA - Stephanie Rigamat (Aleisha Cramer), 87.
USA - 1-Emily Oleksiuk, 7-Sara Randolph (15-Devvyn Hakwins, 63rd), 3-Anna Kraus, 4-Katherine Reddick - Capt., 19-Amy Steadman, 10-Joanna Lohman (17-Aleisha Cramer, 63rd), 14-Marcie Ward (Jena Kluegel, 46th), 13-Lori Chalupny, 9-Laura Schott (20-Stephanie Rigamat, 63rd), 16-Kristen Weiss, 8-Alyssa Ramsey (Christie Welsh, 46th).
POR - 12-Ana Sofia Santos, 20-Carla Monteiro, 6-Maria Joao Xavier - Capt., 13-Paula Mesquita, 14-Rita Morgado (5-Oliva Marinho, 46th), 15-Sandra Marina Caires (9-Carla Couto, 46th), 17-Susy Cova (4-Ana Rita Gomes, 46th), 18-Silvia Brunheira (8-Susana Martins, 61st), 19-Beta Matos (11-Paula Santos, 67th), 16-Edite Fernandes, 7-Patricia Sequeira.
|Amy Steadman (caution)||23.|
|Paula Mesquita (caution)||26.|
|Sandra Caires (caution)||28.|
|Joanna Lohman (caution)||53.|
|Sandra Caires (caution)||78.|
|Sandra Caires (ejection)||78.|