Tuesday, March 6, 2007
U.S. Women’s National Team
Notes from The Algarve, Portugal
U.S. TEAM PREPARES TO FACE CHINA IN ALGARVE CUP OPENER: The U.S. Women’s National Team will kick off its 2007 Algarve Cup against China on March 8, in a match that can be followed live on ussoccer.com’s MatchTracker at 4:15 p.m. local / 11:15 a.m. ET. The match will be played at Municipal Stadium in Silves, a venue that has not played host to a U.S. game in the Algarve Cup since 2001, when the USA defeated Portugal, 2-0. It was the last time the USA played Portugal at the Algarve Cup as the change in the tournament format six years ago created a third group, and Portugal now always plays in Group C. This will be the fourth match of this Women’s World Cup year for the USA after having played three games at the Four Nations Tournament in China in January. The USA went 1-0-2 to win that tournament with the one victory coming against China, 2-0, in the final match of the competition. Visit the Algarve Cup competitions page at ussoccer.com for a complete schedule and standings, plus features, podcasts, and exclusive all_access video coverage of the WNT in Portugal.
LET THE GAMES BEGIN: The USA arrived in Portugal on March 1 and will have had seven training sessions before the opening match against China. The U.S. team has been together for five weeks already this year and following the Algarve Cup, will have two weeks off before starting a four-month Residency Training Camp at The Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif. The USA had intense double-days of training on March 2 and 3, but the squad was given Sun., March 4, off by head coach Greg Ryan and had two lighter trainings on March 5 and 6 leading into the China match, mostly featuring finishing and set plays.
U.S. WNT 2007 Algarve Cup Schedule - Full Schedule
USA vs. China
Estadio Municipal - Silves
4:15 p.m. / 11:15 a.m.
Finland vs. USA
Estadio da Nora - Ferreiras
USA vs. Sweden
Estadio Municipal - VRS Antonio
Lilly is playing in her 11th Algarve Cup, four more than any other player on the roster. Last year at this tournament, Lilly scored 30 seconds into the match against France and has 11 total goals in the Algarve Cup. She scored her first in her Algarve Cup debut in 1994 against Portugal. In 2005 against Denmark, she scored directly off a corner kick, one of her two goals in the match.
Wambach is playing in just her fourth Algarve Cup, but already has seven goals in the tournament. She registered a memorable hat trick against Norway in the 2004 title game as the USA won, 4-1. She also scored in her first Algarve Cup game against France in 2004.
The midfielder has 21 goals in her 109 career games, and three came at the Algarve Cup. Two of those came in 2003 when she scored the lone goal in 1-1 ties with Canada and Sweden, both on blasts from the outside. They were two of her most important goals for the USA. The draws helped the USA qualify for the final, where the Americans defeated China, 2-0.
Rampone will be playing in her seventh Algarve Cup, tied for second most on the team. Her first came in 1998, when she came into the tournament with just 18 career caps. She has been one of the USA’s most consistent defenders through the years both at this tournament, and overall.
Boxx, who didn’t debut for the USA until 2003, will be playing in her fourth Algarve Cup. Boxx has won two Best Player awards at the Algarve Cup, taking the honor in 2006 and 2004, with play at defensive midfield so impressive that she was voted as the MVP without ever scoring a goal.
TWELVE ALGARVE CUPS: This will be the 12th Algarve Cup for the U.S., who have gone 6-1-4 in openers of this annual March tournament. The only opening game loss came in 2001 when the USA brought a very young team to the Algarve during WUSA pre-season camps. In 2005, the USA won all four games of the tournament for only the second time in nine previous appearances, a testament to the difficulty of this competition, as the team amazingly went through all four games without allowing a goal. It was the first time the U.S. team had accomplished that feat and the first matches under current head coach Greg Ryan, who coached that tournament with an “interim” tag before earning the job full time. The USA is on a nine match unbeaten streak at the Algarve Cup, last losing to Sweden in 2003, a match that did not keep the Americans out of the final, where they crushed Norway, 4-1, on a hat trick from Abby Wambach.
ALGARVE CUP QUICK HITS:
• The USA is 27-9-7 all-time in the Algarve Cup.
• The USA has scored 90 goals while allowing 40 at the Algarve Cup.
• The most goals the USA has ever scored in an Algarve Cup game is seven, achieved against Portugal in 2000.
• The most goals the USA has ever scored in an Algarve Cup game not against Portugal is five, scored against France in a 5-1 win in 2004 and against Denmark in a 5-0 win in 2006.
• The USA has never lost a match at the three venues in which it will play first round games. The USA is 3-0-1 at Silves, 4-0-0 at Ferreiras and 2-0-1 at Vila Real de San Antonio.
• The USA is a combined 9-3-3 all-time at the Algarve Cup against its three first-round opponents.
• The USA had been shutout in just four of its first 39 all-time Algarve Cup games (with two of coming in 2001 when the USA brought a young team during the startup of the WUSA), but were shutout in two matches last year, both ending 0-0 in regulation against China and Germany. The tie against China in last year’s opener broke a streak of 17 straight games in which the USA has scored at this tournament.
• There will be four awards at the end at the end of the competition: 1) Best Scorer, 2) Best Goalkeeper, 3) Best Player and 4) The Fair Play Award. Boxx and Tiffeny Milbrett have won best player awards in the past.
• Each team is allowed six substitutions per game.
• In the event that teams are tied at the end of group play, the first tiebreaker is the result of the matches between the two teams (head-to-head), the second is goal difference and the third is goals scored.
• Defender Stephanie Lopez got her first cap at the Algarve Cup in 2005, playing against Denmark, and didn’t get another until the Algarve Cup in 2006, once again playing against Denmark. She also got her first start in that tournament, going 90 minutes against France.
TOURNAMENT FORMAT: Since the expansion from eight to 12 teams six years ago, the Algarve Cup format has been as follows. The teams in Group A and B will compete for the title as the group winners will play in the championship game. The two second-place 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 7-11 as the winner of Group C will play the best fourth place team from Groups A and B while the second place team in Group C will play the other fourth place finisher. The third and last place finishers from Group C play again for 11th place.
WORLD POWERS MEET IN PORTUGAL: The Algarve Cup has staked a claim as the top women’s international tournament in the world outside of the Women’s World Cup, the Olympics and the European Championships, and that is backed up by the participation of seven of the top-10 teams in the world according to the most recent FIFA Women’s World Rankings. Group A promises six world championship-caliber games as No. 1 Germany, No. 3 Norway, No. 7 France and No. 8 Denmark square off. The USA’s Group B features No. 2 USA, No. 4 Sweden, No. 9 China and No. 16 Finland. Group C, whose members are playing for seventh place at best, features No. 13 Italy, No. 21 Iceland, No. 32 Ireland and No. 46 Portugal. From the world’s top-10 teams, only Brazil (No. 4), North Korea (No. 6) and Japan (No. 10) are missing from the 2006 Algarve Cup.
Algarve Cup Participants – FIFA Women’s World Rankings
Rank - Country
1 - Germany
2 - USA
3 - Norway
4 - Sweden
7 - France
8 - Denmark
9 - China
13 - Italy
16 - Finland
21 - Iceland
32 - Ireland
46 - Portugal
USA vs. CHINA PREVIEW: Like last year, the USA and China open the Algarve Cup after meeting in the final game of the Four Nations Tournament in China. The match at the 2006 Four Nations ended 2-0 for the USA and the match at the 2006 Algarve Cup was a 0-0 draw. The two teams played on Jan. 30, 2007, with the USA again winning, 2-0, and the Americans will for sure be looking for better than a scoreless tie this time around in Portugal. The USA got goals from Lori Chalupny and Natasha Kai in the match in China, but the five key players who were not at the Four Nations will definitely give the USA a different look while the Chinese roster is much the same. China seems to be transitioning coaches from Ma Liangxing, who did not coach at the Four Nations due to illness, to Wang Haiming, who coached China’s U-19 team to the championship game of the 2004 FIFA U-19 Women’s World Championship in Thailand. According to Chinese media, Ma is in a conflict with the Chinese Federation and may not be back. The USA’s win at the Four Nations moved its all-time record against China to 17-8-11. The USA’s record against China on neutral soil is 3-2-5 all-time and 2-1-2 in the Algarve Cup. The USA came out and attacked China with fervor in the match at the Four Nations, playing a 3-4-3 formation for the first time under head coach Greg Ryan, before dropping into a more defensive formation once the Americans had the lead. The match in China, on a large, flat field, will likely contrast the Algarve Cup game, which will feature a smaller pitch and a bumpier surface. The Chinese will have to create more opportunities for their featured striker Han Duan, who was largely marked out of the match in January. The USA will be looking to continue to tap the rich scoring vein of Lilly and Wambach, while continuing to get goals from more attacking players, as they did in China when Heather O’Reilly, Chalupny and Kai each bagged a goal.
LAST YEAR AT THE ALGARVE: The Algarve Cup opening between the USA and China last year was a strange one, with the USA dominating play and China instigating time-wasting tactics starting in the first half. The USA out-shot the Chinese, 16-8, but could only put four shots on goal on a horribly bumpy field as the Chinese were able to weather the storm to earn a draw.
USA ALGARVE CUP SCORERS: Of the 90 goals scored in the Algarve Cup, players on the 2007 U.S. Algarve Cup roster have accounted for 34%, led by Lilly’s 11 goals. Following are all the U.S. all-time scorers at the Algarve Cup (players on 2007 roster in bold):
Player - Goals
Shannon MacMillan - 11
Kristine Lilly - 11
Mia Hamm - 8
Abby Wambach - 7
Tiffeny Milbrett - 6
Christie Welsh - 6
Brandi Chastain - 5
Julie Foudy - 4
Carin Gabarra - 4
Cindy Parlow - 4
Angela Hucles - 3
Lindsay Tarpley - 3
Aly Wagner - 3
Michelle Akers - 2
Natasha Kai - 2
Heather O’Reilly - 2
Cat Whitehill - 2
Joy Fawcett - 1
Lorrie Fair - 1
Ally Marquand - 1
Stephanie Rigamat - 1
Laura Schott - 1
Tisha Venturini - 1
Kelly Wilson - 1
FRESH AND FOCUSED: Just 11 of the 20 players on the Algarve Cup roster were on the 2004 Olympic Team with the other nine having never played in a world championship at the senior level. Three of the nine have played in a FIFA youth world championship in Stephanie Lopez (2004, 2006), Leslie Osborne (2002) and Lori Chalupny (2002) as Ryan seems to have an abundance of players with the extremely valuable combination of youth and international experience.
GOALKEEPERS (2): 1-Briana Scurry, 18-Hope Solo;
DEFENDERS (7): 17-Lori Chalupny, 8-Tina Ellertson, 14-Stephanie Lopez, 2-Heather Mitts, 3-Christie Rampone, 22-India Trotter, 4-Cat Whitehill;
MIDFIELDERS (6): 7-Shannon Boxx, 16-Angela Hucles, 11-Carli Lloyd, 19-Marci Jobson, 12-Leslie Osborne, 10-Aly Wagner;
FORWARDS (5): 6-Natasha Kai, 13-Kristine Lilly, 9-Heather O’Reilly, 5-Lindsay Tarpley, 20-Abby Wambach
GOALKEEPERS (2): 1-Han Wenxia, 18-Zhang Yanru;
DEFENDERS (7): 3-Li Jie, 4-Weng Xingzhi, 5-Pu Wei, 6-Zhang Ying, 11-Wang Kun, 13-Sun Lin, 16-Liu Yali;
MIDFIELDERS (8): 2-Song Xiaoli, 7-Bi Yan, 8-Zhang Na, 12-Zhang Tong, 17-Li Dongling, 19-Qu Feifei, 23-Li Dongna, 24-Lou Xiaoxu;
FORWARDS (3): 9-Han Duan, 20-Liu Sa, 21-Guo Yue
U.S. head coach Greg Ryan on facing the Chinese:
“This will be our eighth game, including closed door scrimmages, against China in the past 14 months. The thing in this game is that the two teams know each other so well, we are not anticipating any surprises. Because of that, it comes down to execution. In a World Cup year, that’s going to be the difference. It’s not who tactically out-plays the other team, but who executes better.”
On the Algarve Cup as preparation for the Women’s World Cup:
“Our top players over the last couple of years are here, minus Kate Markgraf, who is still getting healthy with some physical therapy back home. A great thing for us is that we have most of our team in place. Now, we are working on executing our game plan against the top teams in the world. This Algarve Cup is very important for us because it’s very close to what the World Cup will be like as far as opponents, the players we will be playing against and a simulation of a first-round format. We haven’t made final decisions on our World Cup roster, but this is very close and this tournament is as close to the World Cup as we are going to get between now and the actual event in China.”
U.S. midfielder Leslie Osborne on facing the Chinese:
“I’m excited to play them again, play them in a big tournament like this and play them with all of our players back. It’s usually a good game tactically as I think we know how to play against each other’s systems, so then it becomes a battle of effort. Both teams have really hard working midfields so it’s usually a fun game to play in.”
Stat of Note
Five of the USA’s nine losses at the Algarve Cup over the last 11 tournaments have come in Lagos. The USA will not play in Lagos this year.
Quote of the Week
Rylie Rampone, the 16-month old daughter of U.S. defender Christie Rampone, spoke her first full sentence here at the Algarve Cup. It was a question.
“You want water, momma?”
Said Christie Rampone:
“She won’t let me sleep, but at least she wants me to stay hydrated.”