A win or a tie in the USA's final Group A match against Germany on Sunday (4:30 p.m. local/10:30 ET) will put the Americans in the Nordic Cup championship game for the fifth consecutive year. The U.S. and Germany entered today's games with identical points and goal differences. Germany downed Iceland, 3-1, the first game of the day, meaning that Americans needed to win by more than two goals against Denmark to gain the advantage in goal difference, the first tiebreaker should the teams draw on Sunday, and the USA got started on that task early.
With just seconds gone in the game, Aleisha Cramer (Lakewood, Colo./BYU) swung a pass to Jena Kluegel (Mahtomedi, Minn./UNC) on the left flank. The speedy left back blew by her defender to the end line and swung a hard cross into the goalmouth that was inadvertently kicked into the net by Danish defender Mia Pedersen.
U.S. forward Abby Wambach (Rochester, N.Y./Florida) was once again too much to handle for an opposing defense. In the 11th minute, she turned the left corner on the dribble and rushed in on goal, bending her shot around goalkeeper Karina Jorgensen, only to have it cleared off the goal line by a defender.
One minute later, Wambach was at it again, drilling a shot off the left post that bounced to Laura Schott (Wilsonville, Ore./UC Berkeley), whose sliding shot was pushed for a corner kick by Jorgensen. The U.S. took a short corner kick and served the ball to Cramer's head about 12 yards out from the goal. With her momentum slightly backward, Cramer sent a beautiful touch header back into the middle where Wambach blasted a header of her own off the hands of Jorgensen and into the net. It was Wambach's tournament-leading third goal.
"The ball flew over me so I framed the goal and Aleisha did a great job of putting the ball back on my head," said Wambach, who left the game at halftime for Danielle Borgman (Cincinnati, Ohio/UNC).
Wambach almost added another in the 27th minute, but she was ruled offside after snapping home another header off a header pass from Lori Lindsey (Indianapolis, Ind./UVA).
"The mindset of the team, first and foremost, was to get the win and three points," added Wambach. "In that respect, we were successful. Although, tactically we could have performed better as a unit, we scored the goals we needed to and put ourselves in great position going into the game against Germany."
The USA took seven shots in the first half, amazingly all on frame. The USA scored two, hit the post on one, had one cleared off the line and Jorgensen saved the other three. Still, the USA lost some rhythm in the latter part of the first half as the game became extremely combative, but still controlled the match territorially as the midfield and back line won the majority of air balls and tackles.
U.S. head coach Jerry Smith made four changes at halftime, sending on midfielders Lori Chalupny (St. Louis, Mo./JB Marine) and Jill Oakes (West Hills, Calif./Santa Anita Strikers), and forwards Anne Morrell (Plymouth, Mich./Michigan Hawks) and Borgman. All had an impact on the match, especially the pair of 17-year old midfielders, Chalupny and Oakes.
Coming into the second half, the Americans needed that key third goal to move ahead of Germany on goal difference, and got it in the 65th minute, courtesy of another own goal, this one also created by Kluegel. Borgman was chopped down on the left flank just outside the penalty area and Kluegel took the free kick. She whipped in a cross that was flicked on by Borgman's head before hitting Lone Jacobsen on the leg and bouncing into the net.
"When you have players like Abby and our other forwards in the middle, you just have to serve quality balls in there and they'll get on the end of them, or put enough pressure so that the defense might knock it in themselves," said Kluegel. "We got a bit fortunate on the own goals, but they came from our consistent pressure."
The physical and strong Danes battled gamely, but in the end, they did not have the athleticism nor the technical ability to deal with the Americans, who added a fourth goal in the 70th minute. Devvyn Hawkins (Olympia Wash./Santa Clara), who played a superb game in the midfield, dug a ball out of the right corner, winning a wrestling match with a Danish defender, and sent a cross on the ground into the middle. Schott got a piece of the ball on a sliding shot, but sent it rolling to the far post, where Chalupny stuffed it under Jorgensen from close range.
From there, the Americans possessed the ball and took no chances in preserving its lead in the game and the group. Goalkeeper Emily Oleksiuk (Willow Grove, Pa./Penn State) replaced starter Hope Solo (Richland, Wash./Washington) with 14 minutes to play and fended off Denmark's only real chance of the game, easily gobbling up a driven 18-yard shot from Mette Jensen.
The U.S. defense earned its second shutout of the tournament as the back line of Kluegel, Cat Reddick (Birmingham, Ala./UNC), Anna Kraus (Sunnyvale, Calif./Santa Clara) and Ally Marquand (Irvine, Calif./Stanford) almost totally shut down the Danish attack. Both Wambach and Hawkins, who was cautioned in the 60th minute for a cleats up tackle, are sitting on yellow cards and must avoid another against Germany as two cautions in the tournament would mean suspension for the USA's placement game on Tuesday.
In the Group B matches, upstart Finland took another step towards a place in the championship game, tying host Norway 0-0. Sweden downed Canada, 3-1, meaning Group B is wide open as any of the four teams could theoretically win the group going into the last opening round games on Sunday.
2001 U.S. UNDER-21 WOMEN'S NATIONAL TEAM GAME REPORT
|Participants:||U.S. Under-21 Women's National Team vs. Denmark|
|Competition:||2001 Nordic Cup Championships (Group A)|
|Venue:||Raufoss Stadium (Raufoss, Norway )|
|Date:||July 27, 2001 - Kickoff 1:00 p.m. ET|
|Weather:||65 degrees (Clear, Crisp)|
USA - Own Goal (Mia Pedersen), 1.
USA - Abby Wambach (Aleisha Cramer), 12.
USA - Own Goal (Lone Jacobsen), 63.
USA - Lori Chalupny (Laura Schott), 70.
USA - 18-Hope Solo (1-Emily Oleksiuk, 76th), 5-Ally Marquand, 4-Catherine Reddick (Capt.), 3-Anna Kraus, 2-Jena Kluegel, 17-Aleisha Cramer (11-Jill Oakes, 46th), 23-Devvyn Hawkins, 14-Lori Lindsey (7-Lori Chalupny, 46th), 22-Abby Wambach (15-Danielle Borgman, 46th), 16-Katie Barnes (20-Anne Morrell, 46th), 10-Laura Schott.
DEN - 1-Karina Jorgensen, 2-Pernille Munch, 3-Sandra Jorgensen, 4-Mia Pedersen, 7-Birgitte Knop, 8-Anja Thorsen (5-Tina Petersen, 78th), 9-Mia Olsen (15-Lone Jacobsen, 37th), 10-Tina Rasmussen (14-Bettina Falk, 37th), 12-Mette Jensen, 13-Mette Jorgensen, 17-Pernille Munch.