U.S. WOMEN PREPARE FOR ALGARVE CUP: The U.S. Women's National Team arrived on Saturday, Feb. 23, in the familiar surroundings of Albufeira, Portugal, its home base for the Algarve Cup for the last three years. The U.S. team was greeted by hot weather and bright sunshine during a late afternoon training on Saturday, and Sunday and Monday morning practices in this popular tourist destination on the southern coast of the country. The team hotel owns and maintains two quality training fields which are just a five-minute drive away, making the Algarve Cup one of the most convenient events of the year for the U.S. women, who will spend a total of 12 days in Albufeira. After an intense training on Monday that featured a fitness test and a highly-competitive 3 v. 3 tournament, U.S. head coach April Heinrichs gave the players a day off today, which was spent a variety of different ways, including, but not limited too, sleeping, shopping, café-sitting, sunbathing, weight lifting and sightseeing.
USA FACES THREE TOUGH FIRST-ROUND MATCHES:
The USA was drawn into Group B at this year's Algarve Cup, where the team faces three intriguing match-ups. The USA opens with defending Algarve Cup champ Sweden on Friday, March 1. Sweden has experienced a rebirth of late after being one of the top teams in Europe, and the world, in the early 1990s. Sweden won the 2001 Algarve Cup and made it to the final of last year's European Women's Championships, where it fell to Germany. Sweden is a team playing with confidence and won the most recent meeting with the USA, 2-0, at last year's tournament, albeit against a young U.S. team. Sweden is comfortably in first place in Group 2 of European Women's World Cup qualifying, having won all three matches played so far by a 17-2 margin. England presents an interesting challenge, as it is a team rarely seen on the world's stage and eager to test themselves against its Algarve Cup opponents. England is in a bit of trouble in its Women's World Cup qualifying campaign, earning just two points from three games so far in Group 4, having tied
Holland 0-0 and Portugal 1-1. The Norway game promises, as always, to be a war. Norway is comfortably in first place in European Qualifying Group 1, having yet to be scored upon or won by less than three goals. The USA's archrivals have consistently frustrated the Americans over the years, especially in the last three meetings - the Olympic Final, the 5th place match at last year's Algarve Cup where Norway overcame a 3-1 deficit to win, and the opening game of the Four Nations Tournament in China, a 1-0 U.S. loss - and the USA is eager for some redemption as part of its goal of winning the tournament. Much documented is the fact that Norway is the only team in the world with a winning record against the U.S. women, which stand at 13-17-2 against the Scandinavians. The USA will try to chip away at that here in Portugal.
U.S. ROSTER BREAKDOWN: U.S. head coach April Heinrichs has brought a roster of 20 players to the Algarve Cup, 14 of whom will return from the tournament directly to their WUSA clubs, who begin pre-season training on March 1. Of the remaining six players, five are collegians and one, forward Heather O'Reilly, is still in high school. Included in the 20, are several players who have played more than one position for the USA, giving Heinrichs a myriad of options over the four the matches. Heinrichs will be allowed five substitutes per match.
2002 ALGARVE TOURNAMENT SCHEDULE: The Algarve Cup tournament is perhaps the world's most competitive women's international event outside of the Women's World Cup, the Olympics and the European Championships. All the matches will be played at small stadiums in the Algarve region. The 12 teams have been split into three groups of four, with first-round play consisting of round-robin matches within the group. The teams in Group A and B will compete for the title, as those group winners will play in the championship game. 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 7-12 as the winner of Group C will play the fourth place team in Group A, the second place team in Group C will play the fourth place team in Group B and the third and fourth place finishers in Group C will play each other again. Following are the groupings, the U.S. schedule and the overall 24-game tournament schedule.
USA vs. Sweden in Albufeira, Portugal -- (2 p.m. Local/9 a.m. ET)
USA vs. England in Ferreiras, Portugal -- (4:15 p.m. Local/11:15 a.m. ET)
USA vs. Norway in Lagos, Portugal -- (4:15 p.m. Local/11:15 a.m. ET)
USA vs. TBD in TBD
Friday, March 1
Denmark vs. Germany
China vs. Finland
USA vs. Sweden
Portugal vs. Wales
Scotland vs. Canada
Sunday, March 3
Finland vs. Denmark
Germany vs. China
Sweden vs. Norway
USA vs. England
Scotland vs. Portugal
Canada vs. Wales
Tuesday, March 5
Denmark vs. China
Finland vs. Germany
England vs. Sweden
USA vs. Norway
Portugal vs. Canada
Wales vs. Scotland
Thursday, March 7
3rd Group C vs. 4th Group C 11th Place Match
4th Group B vs. 2nd Group C 9th Place Match
4th Group A vs. 1st Group C 7th Place Match
3rd Group A vs. 3rd Group B 5th Place Match
2nd Group A vs. 2nd Group B 3rd Place Match
1st Group A vs. 1st Group B Championship Match
U.S. REFS GET A RUN IN THE ALGARVE: Two U.S. officials will work the Algarve Cup. Sandra Hunt will work the middle, getting her first assignment in the Germany-Denmark game on March 1, while Sharon Wheeler will serve as an asst. referee, running the line in the Norway-England match on March 1.
UNDER-19 STANDOUTS WILSON AND O'REILLY GET CALLED TO "THE SHOW": With Brandi Chastain undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery last week and thus scratched from the Algarve Cup roster, U.S. head coach April Heinrichs called in forward Kelly Wilson, a freshman at the University of Texas, to fill her spot. The 19-year-old Wilson is a top forward on the U.S. Under-19 Women's National Team and a likely choice for the qualifying roster that will head to Trinidad & Tobago in May in an attempt to qualify for the first-ever FIFA Under-19 Women's World Championship. The speedy 5-foot-6 striker out Odessa, Texas, in the Permian Basin at the base of the panhandle, led UT in every offensive category as a freshman last season, earning NSCAA Second-Team All-American honors while scoring 13 goals and helping the Longhorns to their first-ever NCAA tournament appearance. The Big-12 Rookie of the Year also has a banner year with the U-19s, playing in 13 matches in 2001 and scoring 12 goals, including eight in full U-19 internationals. She scored four of those against Canada on July 2, 2001 in an 11-1 thrashing. Heinrichs had earlier added another U-19 National Team standout to the roster in 17-year-old Heather O'Reilly, who replaced Mia Hamm, who also had arthroscopic knee surgery. A junior at East Brunswick High School in New Jersey, O'Reilly is also likely to be a member of the qualifying squad in T & T. A relentless attacker, the 5-foot-4 O'Reilly scored six goals in 12 matches for the U-19s in 2001.
KIDS R' U.S.: As usual, U.S. defender Joy Fawcett packed for four, throwing in toys, diapers and coloring books with her cleats and shin guards, as she is traveling with her three daughters. Husband Walter is serving as the nanny on this trip. In a new addition to the U.S. Women's National Team Romper Room, the 15-month-old daughter of Danielle Fotopoulos also came to Portugal. Fotopoulos' mother is serving as her nanny, taking care of little Alexia during training, games and team meetings.
STAT OF NOTE: It came to light this week that 17-year-old forward Heather O'Reilly, a high school junior, is far closer in age to Joy Fawcett's seven-year-old daughter, Katey, than she is to Fawcett herself. O'Reilly, who got asked to her senior prom just before she left for Portugal and recently received her driver's license, is 10 years older than Katey Fawcett and 17 years younger than Joy Fawcett, who at 34 is twice the age of O'Reilly. No word on if Katey is sharing her coloring books with Heather.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK:
"I'm looking forward to playing Sweden. It seems like we haven't faced them in a while and I know they raised their game a few notches. We're expecting a closely played game and I know they'll have a good part of the match. They connect passes very well and create chances that way, plus they have a great goalkeeper."
--U.S. forward Tiffeny Milbrett on the USA's opening Algarve Cup match against Sweden