Wednesday, March 3, 2005
U.S. Women's National Team
Notes from The Algarve, Portugal
U.S. TEAM ARRIVES IN PORTUGAL: Sixteen members of the Women's National Soccer Team gathered at the Newark International Airport on the evening of March 1, with all the players and staff arriving on time despite the massive snowstorm that hit the Northeast the day before. The team then caught an overnight flight to Lisbon, Portugal, arriving on the morning of March 2, before hopping a bus for the four-hour drive south to the scenic Algarve region. Almost all the players snoozed during the entire drive, but roused themselves from their slumber to check into the hotel, eat lunch and then prepare for the first U.S. Women's National Team training session since Aug. 10, 2004, the day before the Olympic gold medal game. The four players currently playing in France - Lorrie Fair, Hope Solo, Aly Wagner and Christie Welsh - flew directly into Faro, the largest city in the Algarve, and met the rest of the team at the training field. The U.S. team went through a quick hour session under overcast skies before heading back to hotel for dinner and a meeting, followed by the inevitable excursion to a store near the U.S. hotel that serves a tantalizing array of ice creams on fresh-made crepes. Needless to say, the sweet shop has become a regular hangout for the U.S. team over the years at the Algarve Cup. The U.S. is the first team (aside from Portugal) of the 12 participating in the tournament to arrive in the Algarve, and maybe wish they had waited a few more days as the temperature has not risen above the mid-50s since arrival. A full roster for the trip is available here.
CHILLY ALGARVE: The U.S. team awoke on Wednesday to rain, which continued through its morning training. The practice was cold and wet with the field slick from the steady, misting rain, but players were in a jovial mood despite the chill as the team was clearly happy to be back together again and playing in a team environment after a long layoff. The spirited session saw the team play 5 v 5 games on big goals after an extended warm-up. The U.S. team then did some finishing and ended training with a few set plays as they jump into preparations for the Algarve Cup opener against France on March 9 in Ferreiras. Following are the groupings and the USA's schedule for the 12th Annual Algarve Cup. All the U.S. matches can be followed live online with ussoccer.com's MatchTracker, presented by Philips Electronics.
12th Annual Algarve Cup
Norway, China PR, Sweden & Germany
USA, Denmark, Finland & France
England, N. Ireland, Portugal & Mexico
March 9, 2005
France v USA in Ferreiras (Estadio da Nora) 4:15 p.m. local / 11:15 a.m. ET
March 11, 2005
USA v Finland in Guia (Complexo Desportivo Arsènio Catuna) 1:45 p.m. local / 8:45 a.m. ET
March 13, 2005
USA v Denmark in Vila Real de San Antonio (Estadio Municipal) 1:45 p.m. local / 8:45 a.m. ET
March 15, 2005
Placement Match (TBD) TBD
FULL-FIELD FUN: The afternoon practice on Wednesday featured a full-field 11 v. 11 scrimmage for 45 minutes, divided into three periods of 15 minutes each. The rain tapered off as the training progressed, but the slick field made for a high-paced game. The U.S. team looked fairly sharp despite the long layoff. Highlights included two goals from Christie Welsh, one from Abby Wambach and a bulldozing solo run and some exquisite creative play in the midfield from Aly Wagner and Lindsay Tarpley, who banged the last shot of the match off the outside of the upper left post from 25 yards out.
UNCAPPED, BUT NOT UNEXPERIENCED: The USA's 20-woman roster features some new faces as four players are uncapped and one, goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart, has just one appearance for the USA, that coming ironically as a forward. (See ussoccer.com later in the week for more on Barnhart's "debut.") The roster is split evenly between 10 players who were on the Olympic roster and 10 that were not, with the non-Olympians averaging just 21 years of age. But despite the youthful team, only four players on the roster have never played in a FIFA world championship (U-19 Women’s World Championship, Women’s World Cup or Olympics), those being goalkeepers Hope Solo and Nicole Barnhart, defender Lindsey Huie and forward Christie Welsh. The uncapped players are a pair of 18-year-olds in Portland defender Stephanie Lopez and USC-bound forward Amy Rodriguez, and two rising college seniors in defenders Jill Oakes of UCLA and Huie of the University of Portland. All four have extensive youth national team experience as Lopez and Rodriguez were starters on the USA's 2004 U-19 Women's National Team that finished third at the FIFA U-19 Women’s World Championship in Thailand. Just last week, Rodriguez, a high school senior and the only prep on the roster was named the 2004 Gatorade Girl's High School Player of the Year. Oakes was a starter on the 2002 U.S. U-19 squad that won the world championship and has played on two U-21 Nordic Cup championship teams. Huie was a starter on the USA's last two U-21 Nordic Cup title teams.
WILSON RETURNS: Forward Kelly Wilson is back with the full Women's National Team after a three-year absence. Wilson rocked the 2002 U-19 FIFA Women's World Championship with nine goals, earning her the Bronze Ball as the third Most Valuable Player and the Silver Shoe as the tournament's second leading scorer. Brazil's Marta, Canada's Christine Sinclair and the USA's Lindsay Tarpley were the other players winning hardware at the tournament as four of the top young players in the world enjoyed their coming out party in Canada. Wilson had a down year as a junior at the University of Texas, but rebounded with a great senior year that followed a rejuvenated performance at the Nordic Cup with the U-21s that summer. She scored 16 goals with 14 assists for the Longhorns last fall, including six game-winning scores, several of which were dramatic overtime strikes. Wilson has three caps for the senior national team and all were earned at the 2002 Algarve Cup, where she also scored her first goal at the full international level, scoring against England in a 2-0 win. It was the only U.S. goal at the tournament not scored by Shannon MacMillan, who pounded in seven scores over the four games.
LILLY, BOXX, MARKGRAF LEAD USA INTO ALGARVE CUP: With the retirement of long-time captain Julie Foudy, and the co-captain of the last few years, Joy Fawcett, the oldest players on the U.S. roster will take over the leadership roles as Kristine Lilly (33), Shannon Boxx (27) and Kate Markgraf (28) now serve as the veterans. Lilly, the world's all-time caps leader with 291, will captain the USA during the Algarve Cup tournament, a role she served more than a few times when Foudy and Fawcett were not on the field.
Stat of Note
Midfielder Aly Wagner has the third most career international goals of all the players on the Algarve Cup roster with 18 in 80 games. Abby Wambach is second with 45 goals in 55 games, behind team leader Kristine Lilly with 101 goals in 291 appearances.
Quote of the Day:
Defender Kate Markgraf, the second oldest and second most capped player on the Algarve roster after signing the oldest and most-capped Kristine Lilly up for a massage after the team's 11 v. 11 scrimmage.
"As the mom of the team, I have to look after Grandma 'Lil."