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Kai's 90th-Minute Winner Puts U.S. Into 2009 Algarve Cup Final


FERREIRAS, Portugal (March 6, 2009) – Forward Natasha Kai scored a spectacular goal in the last minute of regulation time to give the U.S. Women’s National Team a dramatic 1-0 victory over Iceland in the second group game for both teams at the 2009 Algarve Cup.

The U.S. victory, combined with Denmark’s 2-0 win against Norway, clinched Group B and a berth in the championship game on March 11 at Stadium Algarve in Faro against the winner of Group A. The U.S. will face Norway in its final group match on March 9 in Ferreiras (10 a.m. on ussoccer.com’s MatchTracker), but that result will have no impact on the USA’s standing in the group.

The USA is currently first in Group B with six points, followed by Iceland and Denmark with three each. Norway has zero points after losing to both Iceland and Denmark. Even if the USA were to lose to Norway and either Iceland or Denmark picked up three points in its final match, both would still finish behind the USA on the first tiebreaker – the head-to-head result – as the USA has already defeated both the Danes and the Icelanders.

Germany has control of Group A after a dominating 3-0 victory against China PR today. The Germans need a win or a tie against Sweden on the final match day to take the group title and earn a match-up with the USA at the beautiful 30,000 seat Stadium Algarve, which was built for the 2004 European Championship. Sweden defeated Finland 1-0 today to keep its championship hopes alive, but it must defeat Germany to book its place in the final.

The USA advances to its unprecedented seventh straight Algarve Cup championship game, having won the tournament in 2003, 2004, 2005, 2007 and 2008. The USA fell in penalty kicks to Germany in the 2006 final. The USA won the Algarve Cup for the first time in 2000 and will be going for its sixth overall title. This is the first time in 14 Algarve Cup appearances that the USA has earned a berth to the championship match after two group games.

The wind played a major factor against Iceland with the USA attacking into the teeth of it during the first half. With the wind at its back in the second half, Kai’s goal came after an extended period of U.S. chances during the last 45 minutes.

Iceland was just hanging on at the end of the game, but surely its players were thinking that they had earned a point when a desperate clearance was settled by U.S. captain Christie Rampone on the left edge of the center circle in the USA’s attacking half. She spied Kai making a run into the penalty area and drove an inch-perfect pass over the top of the Iceland defense to the U.S. forward. Kai brought the ball down on her chest just a step inside the penalty area, let it bounce once and then lifted it over an onrushing Iceland defender. Kai then darted past the defender and ripped a left-footed half-volley into the right corner from 12 yards out. A frenzied U.S. celebration ensued.

The Americans struggled mightily in the first half as they tried to create an attacking rhythm, but a committed Iceland team in a compact 4-5-1 formation combined with the swirling winds forced numerous errant passes from the U.S. team.

Iceland took advantage of the wind to create some shots in the first half as both teams fired five with just one on goal, but once the second half started, it was pretty much one-way traffic for the USA.

At halftime, Sundhage sent on Heather O’Reilly at right midfield and Lindsay Tarpley on the left, moving Megan Rapinoe from the outside into the withdrawn forward slot, where she played well, and the Americans started to find the width and create more chances. The USA earned seven of its 10 corner kicks after the break as well sending numerous services into the penalty box after Iceland fouls on the wings.

The match was certainly physical, and at times a bit nasty, but full credit goes to Iceland for staying organized and blocking at least a dozen dangerous-looking U.S. shots and crosses.

Iceland was unwilling to come out of its defensive shell during the first 30 minutes of the second half as the USA pounded away unsuccessfully at their bunker, but then the Europeans put together a few counter attacks that almost won the game.

Iceland got its first chance of the second half in the 72nd minute after stripping the ball from the U.S. midfield, which led to a Dora Maria Larusdóttir hitting a blistering drive from the right side of the penalty area. U.S. goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart had to tip the ball over the crossbar, leading to the first of two consecutive Iceland corner kicks that were successfully defended by the USA.

Shannon Boxx and Heather Mitts both made timely tackles inside the U.S. penalty area in the last 15 minutes to defuse Iceland counter-attacks.

In the 87th minute, Barnhart came out to the top of the penalty area to challenge a bouncing ball and collided hard with Rakel Hönnudóttir, but while the Icelandic midfielder got a foot to the ball first, fortunately for the USA it bounced wide right of the goal.

Kai came into the match in the 68th minute and earned several corner kicks with rushes down the wings while almost scoring in the 87th minute after running onto a ball slipped into the right side of the penalty area by O’Reilly. Kai turned to smack her shot high to the near post, but Iceland goalkeeper Gudbjorg Gunnarsdottir pushed it over the crossbar.

With one minute left in regulation, substitute Rachel Buehler, who had come on just five minutes earlier, knifed through the penalty box to get her head on a Carli Lloyd free-kick from the ride side, but sent her chance skimming wide right.

One minute later, Gunnarsdóttir could do nothing with Kai’s world-class strike, her 24th international goal, and Boxx and Mitts then repelled two long Iceland services off free kicks during the three minutes of stoppage time to earn the victory.

The U.S. will now get two days of rest before facing Norway on Monday and then will begin preparing for either Germany or Sweden in the championship game which will be contested at 1:15 p.m. local / 9:15 a.m. ET. Fans will be able to follow the title match on ussoccer.com’s MatchTracker.

- U.S. WOMEN'S NATIONAL TEAM GAME REPORT  -

Match: U.S. Women’s National Team vs. Iceland
Date: March 6, 2009
Competition: 2009 Algarve Cup; Group B
Venue: Parque Desportiva da Nora; Ferreiras, Portugal
Kickoff: 3 p.m. (10 a.m. ET)
Attendance: 250
Weather: 66 degrees, partly cloudy, windy

Scoring Summary:    1    2    F
USA                               0    1    1
ISL                                 0    0    0

USA – Natasha Kai (Christie Rampone)       90th minute

Lineups:
USA: 18-Nicole Barnhart; 2-Heather Mitts, 3-Christie Rampone – Capt., 7-Shannon Boxx, 17-Lori Chalupny; 15-Megan Rapinoe, 16-Angela Hucles (4-Rachel Buehler, 84), 10-Carli Lloyd, 12-Angie Woznuk (9-Heather O’Reilly, 46), 19-Tina DiMartino (5-Lindsay Tarpley, 46), 8-Amy Rodriguez (6-Natasha Kai, 68).
Subs not used: 1-Hope Solo, 13-Kendall Fletcher, 21-Kacey White.
Head Coach: Pia Sundhage

ISL: 12-Gudbörg Gunnarsdóttir; 2-Gúdrun Gunnarsdóttir, 3-Ólina Gudbjörg Vidarsdóttir, 8-Katrin Jonsdóttir – Capt., 18-Sif Altadóttir (14-Erna Björk Sigurdardóttir, 36); 4-Edda Gardarsdóttir, 6- Hólmfridur Magnusdóttir (17-Rakel Hönnudóttir, 64), 7-Dóra Stefansdóttir, 10-Dóra Maria Larusdóttir (16-Erla Steina Arnardóttir, 91+), 11-Sara Björk Gunnarsdóttir (20-Katrin Ómarsdóttir, 45); 9-Margrét Lára Vidarsdóttir.
Subs not used: 1-María Bjorg Águstsdóttir, 5-Ásta Árnadóttir, 13-Gudný Björk Odinsdóttir, 15-Hallbera Gudný Gisladóttir, 19-Harpa Thorsteinsdóttir
Head Coach: Sigurdur Ragnar Eyjolfsson

Statistical Summary: USA / ISL
Shots: 15 / 7
Shots on Goal: 6 / 2
Saves: 2 / 5
Corner Kicks: 10 / 4
Fouls: 12 / 10
Offside: 2 / 2

Misconduct Summary:
USA – Shannon Boxx (caution)                    41st minute
ISL – Erna Björk Sigurdardóttir (caution)    71

Officials
Referee: Bibiana Steinhaus (GER)
Assistant Referee: Moiken Reichert (GER)
Assistant Referee: Marina Wozniak (GER)
Fourth Official: Kirsi Savolainen (FIN)

ussoccer.com Woman of the Match:
Natasha Kai

2009 Algarve Cup Standings and Schedule

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