FOLLOW THE U.S. WOMEN ON USSOCCER.COM'S MATCHTRACKER: The USA will open the Group A competition at the Algarve Cup on Friday, March 14 against Canada, face Norway on Sunday, March 16, and finish first-round play against Sweden on Tuesday, March 18. The placement games will take place on Thursday, March 20, making for a grueling schedule of four games in seven days, the first three, and maybe a fourth, against teams that have qualified for the 2003 Women's World Cup. Fans will be able to follow all the U.S. games online at ussoccer.com's MatchTracker, presented by Philips Electronics.
BEAUTIFUL WEATHER GREETS USA: After a chilly Algarve Cup last year, which was played one week earlier in March, the U.S. team was greeted with hot, beautiful weather in this coastal region that looks out over the Atlantic Ocean, a welcome change for the U.S. players who came from the East Coast of the United States and freezing temperatures. The Algarve, with its many white-washed buildings and apartments with red clay tile roofs, spread over a countryside of green rolling hills, shrubs and vineyards, is a popular vacation spot for Northern Europeans. The familiarity of the setting (some U.S. players have been to the Algarve Cup seven times), the warm climate and the close proximity of the training site (the team hotel owns two nice fields just a five-minute drive away), as well as the multitude of local shops and eateries within short walking distance, make the Algarve Cup an extremely user-friendly tournament.
ALGARVE CUP CELEBRATES 10th ANNIVERSARY: The first Algarve Cup in Portugal took place in 1994 and the tournament has developed into one of the premier women’s soccer competitions in the world. The invitational tournament started with six teams, grew to eight the following year, and was upped to 12 in 2002. The USA has played in seven of the nine Algarve Cups contested so far, playing in 1994 and 1995, before skipping the tournament in 1996, an Olympic year, and in 1997, but returned to play in the last five events leading up to this year. The tournament is played at small venues up and down the Southern coast of Portugal, some as close as 10 minutes from the U.S. hotel and some an hour away.
ALGARVE CUP RECORDS: The USA is 16-8-3 all-time in the Algarve Cup but has won the tournament just once, that coming in 2000 when a Brandi Chastain penalty kick at the end of the first half held up for a 1-0 victory over Norway. The USA qualified for the final by winning its final group game, 1-0, over Sweden as Mia Hamm scored the winner. The USA has scored 56 goals in the Algarve Cup and allowed 32. In its history, the USA has averaged 3.27 goals per game over 291 full international matches and given up 0.71 goals per game. In the 27 Algarve Cup matches, granted usually against the best teams in the world, the USA's has averaged 2.07 goals a game and given up 1.18 goals per game.
Following are the USA's all-time scorers in the Algarve Cup. [Note: With seven goals in last year's tournament, Shannon MacMillan took over the all-time lead. The highest amount of goals scored by a U.S. player in one player was previously four, by Tiffeny Milbrett in 1999, when she was named MVP of the tournament]:
U.S. Algarve Cup All-Time Scorers
Shannon MacMillan 9
Kristine Lilly 7
Mia Hamm 6
Tiffeny Milbrett 6
Brandi Chastain 5
Carin Gabarra 4
Julie Foudy 4
Cindy Parlow 4
Michelle Akers 2
(Nine players with one goal, including from this year's roster: Joy Fawcett, Lorrie Fair and Cat Reddick)
All-Time Algarve Cup records against individual countries
2003 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.
*Qualified for 2003 Women's World Cup
U.S. ALGARVE CUP SCHEDULE
USA vs. Canada in Olhão (2 p.m. local / 9 a.m. ET)
USA vs. Norway in Ferreiras (4:15 p.m. local / 11:15 a.m. ET)
USA vs. Sweden in Vila Real San Antonio (4:15 p.m. local / 11:15 a.m. ET)
Placement Match vs. TBD in TBD (Time TBD)
COMPLETE ALGARVE CUP SCHEDULE
Fri., March 14
USA vs. Canada
Sweden vs. Norway
Denmark vs. France
China vs. Finland
Portugal vs. Wales
Ireland vs. Greece
Sun., March 16
Sweden vs. Canada
USA vs. Norway
Denmark vs. Finland
China vs. France
Portugal vs. Greece
Ireland vs. Wales
Tues., March 18
Norway vs. Canada
USA vs. Sweden
France vs. Finland
China vs. Denmark
Greece vs. Wales
Portugal vs. Ireland
Thursday, March 20
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)
O'REILLY BOWS OUT OF HOOP CAREER WITH CLUTCH FREE-THROWS: U.S. forward Heather O'Reilly, a high school senior at East Brunswick High School in New Jersey, was also the starting point guard for the Lady Bears basketball team this season. Although she missed several games due to national team duty, the 5-foot-5 O'Reilly ended her high school hoops career on a high note. With 15 seconds remaining in the quarterfinals of the state tournament against Hunterdon Central High School, the Lady Bears held a two-point lead when O'Reilly was fouled, sending her to the line for two free throws. Admittedly a poor free throw shooter ("I am awful. I shoot like 40% from the line," said O'Reilly), the youngest player on the USA's Algarve Cup roster stepped up and drained both to seal the victory. The Lady Bears, sans O'Reilly, lost in the semifinal to a heavily favored team. O'Reilly has no plans to play basketball at North Carolina next fall, unless she says, "they need a short point guard who can only dribble with her right hand and prays that her threes hit the rim."
FAWCETT FAMILY SEES THE WORLD: Most kids have to wait until they are a teenager, or in college, to travel to Europe. Eight-year-old Katey Fawcett, daughter of U.S. defender Joy Fawcett, made her sixth trip to Portugal for the Algarve Cup this year, along with her two younger sisters and dad, Walt, who serves as team nanny. In her eight years, Katey has been to Europe on nine separate occasions with her mom, who has played 207 times for the United States. Katey and sisters Carli and Madi are always finding news things to do. One of the many amenities at the team hotel is an oversized chessboard laid out by the swimming pool, with oversized chess pieces featuring two-foot tall King and Queen pieces. U.S. midfielder Kristine Lilly was challenged to a chess match by Katey, and survived being "in check" several times, before rallying to defeat the third-grader. Said Katey: "I want a rematch."
STAT OF NOTE: Defender Christie Pearce and midfielder Tiffany Roberts both have 94 career caps, just six away from 100. Forward Tiffeny Milbrett has 96 career goals, just four away from 100.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
"Our group presents great match-ups for us. It's very similar to what we could be facing in the opening round at the Women's World Cup. It will be wonderful challenge for us to play four games in seven days against opponents of the highest caliber."
- Julie Foudy on Group A at the Algarve Cup, which contains the USA, Canada, Norway and Sweden.