The USA advances to the championship game of the world's top competition for Under-21 women for the third straight year. And for the third year in a row, the USA will face arch-rival Norway. In 1997, the Americans defeated Norway for the title, winning 1-0 in sudden death overtime on a 100th minute goal by Streiffer. Last year, Norway took revenge, wining 2-1 in regulation.
The USA entered the game against Denmark needing just a tie, or even a one-goal loss, to make the championship game. The Danes, needing a win, came out hard and fast, but the U.S. women dominated play in the scrappy match.
"It was a great team win," said U.S. Head Coach Lauren Gregg. "Our team is evolving every time we step on the field and is committed to being the best. Once again, we had significant contribution from all the players, including the subs. This team effort has been a consistent theme and critical to our success."
Like last Wednesday's match against Germany, also a 3-0 victory, the USA scored once in the first half and twice in the second to seal the victory, this time with three different players. With time winding down in the first half, Danielle Slaton (Santa Clara/San Jose, Calif.) hit a driven free kick from just outside the penalty box on the left side. Slaton's low liner was dummied by Lauren Orlandos (Univ. of Portland/Lake Forest, Ca.) and skimmed across the turf to McDonald, who slotted her shot into the right corner from five yards out.
Also like the match against Germany, the USA got its second goal in the 62nd minute, this time from Streiffer, who was in the right place at the right time when Meredith Florance's (North Carolina/Dallas, Tex.) shot from 10 yards out was blocked by the back of a Danish defender. The ball ricocheted at an angle and fell to Streiffer, who jumped to head the rebound into the net from just three yards into the upper left corner.
"It's nice that the pressure of the first round is off of us," said Streiffer. "Now we only have one game to focus on. Norway is always a challenge that we look forward to and we're glad to have the opportunity to reclaim the championship from the team we lost to last year."
Bush, who suffered a strained MCL in her right knee during pre-Nordic Cup training camp, saw her first action of the tournament when she replaced Florance in the 77th minute and almost immediately made an impact. In the 85th minute, Aly Wagner (Santa Clara/San Jose, Calif.) lobbed a cross from the left wing that Danish goalkeeper Tina Cederkvist misjudged. She let the hanging cross bounce under her to Bush, who ran onto the ball, took a touch around the 'keeper and slotted her shot into the open net from close range.
"My objectives with this team are to win the tournament, establish a winning tradition at all levels and develop players for the full national team while instilling the necessary training habits in our next National Team players," added Gregg. "I couldn't be more pleased with the investment by this group of young women to all of these goals."
A win for the USA in the Nordic Cup Final would complete an unprecedented "triple" for the U.S. Women's National Teams program. The full national team is coming off the 1999 FIFA Women's World Cup victory while the Under-18 Women's National Team won the Pan Am Games gold medal yesterday with a 1-0 victory over Mexico in a competition in which all other countries sent their Under-20 national teams.
In the other final group games, Germany and Finland tied 2-2, Sweden defeated Iceland, 1-0 and Norway came back from a goal down to defeat Australia, 3-1. Finland will face Sweden for 3rd place, Iceland plays Denmark for 5th and Australia will take on Germany for 7th.