- Wambach Scores 133rd Career Goal; Sydney Leroux Adds Game-Winner Off the Bench
- Norway Scores in Final Seconds
- U.S. WNT Will Face Japan on March 5 in Faro at 9:10 a.m. ET on ussoccer.com’s MatchTracker
LAGOS, Portugal (March 2, 2012) – The U.S. Women’s National Team scored two second-half goals to defeat Norway 2-1 in its second group match at the 2012 Algarve Cup. After a scoreless first half, Abby Wambach broke through in the 51st minute with her 133rd career international goal and then 21-year-old Sydney Leroux tallied what turned out to be the game-winner in the 81st.
The USA will next meet Japan on March 5 at Estadio Algarve in Faro with a kickoff of 9:10 a.m. ET. It will be the first meeting between the teams since the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup Final on July 17 last summer. Fans can follow the action on ussoccer.com’s MatchTracker and on Twitter @ussoccer_wnt.
The USA heads into the match against the Japanese needing a victory or a tie to win the group and qualify for the championship game, which will be played on March 7.
Japan defeated Denmark 2-0 in the other Group B match, giving both the USA and Japan the full six points from two group matches. The USA holds the advantage in the first tiebreaker – goal difference – having scored seven and allowed just one for a plus-six, while the Japanese have scored four and allowed one for a plus-three.
The USA once again played in 4-4-2 formation but U.S. head coach Pia Sundhage made three changes from the starting lineup that faced Denmark on Feb. 29. Sundhage inserted Becky Sauerbrunn in the center of the defense to pair with Christie Rampone and started Stephanie Cox at left back with Tobin Heath at left midfield. Heath played with a light cast on her left arm after breaking a small bone in her wrist during a fall against Denmark.
While neither team could find the net in the first half – Norway had just one shot and it wasn’t on goal – the Americans could have scored several goals early. In just the 8th minute, Morgan picked off a Norway pass in the midfield, touched the ball around a defender and raced toward the goal down the left side. She had Wambach making a run up the middle but chose to shoot, and Norwegian goalkeeper Caroline Knutsen was able to dive to parry the near-post drive away for a corner kick.
About five minutes later, Morgan burst through the center of the Norway defense on a breakaway. She ran 40 yards with three players chasing but then cut her left-footed shot wide right of the goal from the top of the penalty area.
Morgan played distributor in the 23rd minute after a nice combination of passes down the right wing got her free to chip a cross into the middle. The ball was headed up in the air by a Norwegian defender and it fell to the leaping Heath at the far post, but her sharp header was pushed away by Knutsen.
Norway played in a 4-5-1 formation that made the midfield quite crowded and possessing the ball in the center of the field difficult, but U.S. center midfielders Shannon Boxx and Carli Lloyd did a fine job of keeping the U.S. team linked together while helping keep the attacking rhythm going.
On the other end, Norway did create some danger during the game, mostly through quick counter-attacks and set plays but put together its most effective sequences early in the second half.
Besides the goal, Norway’s two most dangerous chances came just after the break. In the 48th minute, Lindy Melissa Wiik got free into the right side of the U.S. penalty area and she fired at Hope Solo, but Solo held her ground and pushed the shot away. Just a few minutes later, Solo had to make a similar save at the left post on Elise Thorsnes, but this one she caught.
With those bullets dodged, it was Wambach who put the USA ahead on the next U.S. attack. Wambach started it with a cross from the left side. The ball skipped through the penalty area and out to the right, where Heather O’Reilly ran it down. She played it back into Boxx, who was dispossessed, but the ball rolled right to second half substitute Heather Mitts on the right side. Wambach’s former teammate at the University of Florida spun a perfect cross over the pack of players to the left side of the penalty box. Wambach’s first touch settled the ball and then she laced a 16-yard shot across the face of the goal, off the right post and in.
It was Wambach’s 133rd career international goal and second of the tournament. Mitts became the second U.S. outside back to record an assist in the tournament after Cox got one in the victory against Denmark.
Norway pushed hard for an equalizer, but the U.S. back line in the second half – Cox, Sauerbrunn, Rachel Buehler (who replaced Rampone at halftime) and Mitts did a stellar job of breaking up one Norway counter-attack after another.
Sundhage sent on Amy Rodriguez for O’Reilly in the 58th minute and Sydney Leroux for Morgan in the 77th minute, and the two would combine for the winning goal.
It started when Buehler struck a fantastic weak-side pass from the center to the left wing, covering about 50 yards in the air. Rodriguez collected and ran at her defender down the line before cutting the ball back inside and hitting a cross to the far post. The crashing Leroux jumped over a Norway defender to pound a header into the net from three yards out as both went down in a heap.
It was Leroux’s seventh international goal in just seven career games and her second of the tournament.
Norway got on the board with just seconds left after the U.S. let Thorsnes get free in the left side of the penalty area. She did well to keep her composure and power a shot past Solo from close range. The USA didn’t even have time to kick off before the final whistle blew. It was the first goal Solo has allowed in 2012 and only the second the U.S. has allowed in its first eight games of the year.
Additional Match Notes:
U.S. captain Rampone came off at halftime, the first time in a year that she had been substituted (the last time was March 7, 2011 vs. Finland at the Algarve Cup) and Wambach wore the armband until she also came off in the 65th minute and passed it on to Boxx.
Wambach’s goal was her 17th in the Algarve Cup, most all-time for any U.S. player, and two behind Portugal’s Carla Couto for the all-time tournament lead.
In Group A Germany defeated China 1-0 for its second consecutive 1-0 win and Sweden routed Iceland 4-1.
Germany and Sweden will meet for the Group A title on March 5 with Sweden needing just a tie to make the Algarve Cup Championship game.
In Group C, Portugal beat Hungary 4-0 and Wales and Ireland tied 0-0.
The USA out-shot Norway 17-5 for the match.
Sundhage made all six of her allowed substitutes, also sending on Lauren Cheney for Wambach in the 65th minute.
The match against Japan will be played at the beautiful Estadio Algarve which was built for the 2004 European Championships. It is the venue that often hosts the championship game of this tournament.
- U.S. Women’s National Team Match Report -
Match: U.S. Women’s National Team vs. Norway
Date: March 2, 2012
Competition: 2012 Algarve Cup – Group B
Venue: Municipal Stadium; Lagos, Portugal
Kickoff: 3 p.m. Local / 10 a.m. ET
Weather: 63 degrees, sunny, partly cloudy
Scoring Summary: 1 2 F
USA 1 1 2
NOR 0 1 1
USA – Abby Wambach (Heather Mitts) 51st minute
USA – Sydney Leroux (Amy Rodriguez) 81
NOR – Elise Thorsnes 90+3
USA: 1-Hope Solo; 6-Amy LePeilbet (2-Heather Mitts, 46), 4-Becky Sauerbrunn, 3-Christie Rampone (capt.) (19-Rachel Buehler, 46), 14-Stephanie Cox; 9-Heather O’Reilly (8-Amy Rodriguez, 58), 7-Shannon Boxx, 10-Carli Lloyd, 17-Tobin Heath (15-Megan Rapinoe, 46); 13-Alex Morgan (11-Sydney Leroux, 77), 20-Abby Wambach (12-Lauren Cheney, 65)
Subs not used: 5-Kelley O’Hara, 16-Lori Lindsey, 18-Nicole Barnhart, 22-Whitney Engen
Head coach: Pia Sundhage
NOR: 12-Caroline Knutsen; 2-Madeleine Gisk, 5-Toril Akerhaugen, 7-Trine Rønning, 14-Marita Skammelsrud; 4-Ingvild Stensland (capt.), (15-Nora Holstad Berge, 30), 6-Maren Mjelde, 13-Gry Tofte Ims (17-Ingrid Mo Wold, 80); 9-Isabell Herlovsen (19-Emilie Havvi, 83), 10-Lindy Melissa Wiik (20-Caroline Hansen, 65), 18-Cecilie Pedersen (16-Elise Thorsnes, 46)
Subs not used: 1-Ingrid Hjelmseth, 3-Kristine Hegland, 8-Ingvild Isaksen, 11-Leni Larsen Kaurin, 21-Christine Nilsen
Head coach: Eli Landsem
Statistical Summary: USA / NOR
Shots: 17 / 5
Shots on Goal: 7 / 4
Saves: 3 / 5
Corner Kicks: 4 / 6
Fouls: 7 / 5
Offside: 6 / 3
Referee: Jesica Salom Di Iorio (ARG)
Assistant Referee: Nadia Weiler (PAR)
Assistant Referee: Luzmila Gonzalez (COL)
4th Official: Carina Vitulano (ITA)
Bud Light Woman of the Match: Carli Lloyd