U.S. Women's National Team Falls to Norway, 2-1; 18-year-old Christie Welsh Tallies Lone Goal for USA
With the score tied at 1-1 just seven minutes into the second half, Norwegian defender Bente Kvitland launched a ball from near midfield. The wind carried the ball into the penalty box where the sprinting Riise hit a near-impossible volley, gathering herself under the ball and striking it with the inside of her right foot from eight yards out, sending a rocket over goalkeeper Siri Mullinix, who replaced Briana Scurry at halftime.
"Obviously, we are disappointed in the result," said U.S. captain Carla Overbeck. "It's not the Olympics, but we still want to win every game. Still, it's a great experience every time, especially for the young players, to play against such a quality team like Norway."
The entire match was played in winds that gusted up to 15-20 miles per hour and made each flighted ball an adventure. Playing with the wind in the first half, the USA dominated territorially, but as was the theme for the game, couldn't bust through a tough Norway back line. While Tiffeny Milbrett shot wide left on a quality chance just four minutes into the game, those kind of chances would be rare for the USA on a day when Norway out-shot them 8-6.
It was the U.S. that opened the scoring on a corner kick in the 13th minute. Shannon MacMillan's bullet cross flew over the goal mouth traffic and to Jena Kluegel in the left side of the penalty box. The 20-year Kluegel, playing in her first game for the national team, beat her defender to the end line and crossed to Christie Welsh at the far post. The 18-year-old forward met the ball and bounced her shot back across the goal into the left corner from eight yards out for her second international goal.
Unfortunately, the lead was short-lived as Norway equalized just three minutes later. Star forward Marianne Pettersen won a ball from defender Michelle French in the USA's defense third and raced in on goal. With French in tow, she poked the ball past Scurry into the near post to tie the game. The goal was the 51st of Pettersen's international career, two of which came in a 4-1 victory over the USA at the Algarve Cup in 1998.
At the end of the physical match which saw Norway commit 19 fouls to the USA's 11, there were just three players from the 1999 Women's World Cup Team on the field.
"The slower you integrate the new players, the more you prolong the decisions," said Heinrichs, who used 25 players over the two matches as she continues the evaluation process to chose her 18-player Olympic Team. "The fact that we have a light at the end of the tunnel gives us some urgency, which is good. We are just a little bit vulnerable right now and are having too many lapses in concentration."
Playing against the wind in the second half, the USA combined well in the midfield but once again struggled to complete a final pass that would have led to a goal. With the lead, Norway was content to sit back and look for the counter-attack. In the 75th minute a Norway corner-kick led to a goal mouth scramble which produced two close-range shots, both of which were cleared off the goal line by Kluegel.
The USA has two quality chances to tie the game at the end. Kluegel's driven shot from a sharp angle in the 86th minute was easily snagged by Norwegian goalkeeper Bente Nordby, while Sara Whalen's stoppage time rush at goal ended in a pass just a little bit too far in front of 17-year-old forward Alyssa Ramsey.
The loss marked the first time since 1993 that the USA has lost two games in a row and the first time since 1992 that the Americans have lost two in a row on home soil. Coincidentally, both of the losses in 1992 were to Norway.
The USA will have several weeks off before regrouping in Orlando, Fla., on March 2 for a week-long training camp in preparation for the 2000 Algarve Cup in Portugal, taking place from March 12-18. The USA's Algarve Cup opponents will be announced in the near future.