CHICAGO (Wednesday, July 3, 2002) - Following a 10-day training camp in San Diego, Calif., U.S. Under-21 Women's National Team head coach Jerry Smith has chosen the 18 players will represent the United States at the 2002 Women's U-21 Nordic Cup Championships, being contested in Finland from July 22-28, 2002. Without a sanctioned FIFA championship for U-21 women, the Nordic Cup serves at the top competition in the world for this age group.
The U.S. U-21s have achieved tremendous success at the Nordic Cup since 1997, winning the tournament, which is played annually in Northern Europe, in four of the past five years. The eight competing teams are divided into two groups of four, with first-round play consisting of round-robin matches within the group. The group winners will then play for the championship. The two second-place group finishers will play for third place, the third-place finishers for fifth and the last-place finishers will play for seventh. The USA is in Group A along with host Finland, the full Greece Women's National Team and Denmark, while a stacked Group B features Sweden, Germany, Iceland and Norway. All the matches will be played in and around the city of Turku on the southwest tip of Finland, about 90 miles west of the Helsinki. An always physically taxing Nordic Cup schedule features four matches in seven days for all eight teams, with the group winners meeting for the championship on July 28 in Turku.
"This event has been great for us," said Smith, who guided 24 players through the final U-21 camp of the year at the U.S. Olympic Training Center. "Perhaps we had better preparation in the lead-up to last year's Nordic Cup, but the team is starting to come together and develop a good chemistry. We know we are bringing over a very capable group to defend the title."
They may not be bringing over the entire group at the same time, however. It is likely that several members of the Nordic Cup roster will miss the first match against Finland as they will be with the full U.S. Women's National Team in Blaine, Minn., for the exhibition against Norway on July 21. Those players would then fly to Finland to join the U-21s. U.S. head coach April Heinrichs will likely name her roster for the Norway match at the end of this week.
Prior to 1997, the USA had won just one Nordic Cup in five attempts. Former coach Lauren Gregg took over the U-21 program in 1997 and won championships that year and in '99, while finishing second in '98. Jillian Ellis led the USA to a 1-0 victory over host Germany in 2000 to capture the USA's third Nordic Cup title and last year Smith led the team to the most dominating effort yet, defeating Sweden, 6-1, in the championship game. Last year's Nordic Cup team featured eight players who are playing in the WUSA this season, five players who are on this year's Nordic Cup roster and two players - Jill Oakes and Lori Chalupny - who were unavailable for the U-21s as they are busy with the U.S. U-19 National Team as they prepare for the first-ever FIFA Under-19 Women's World Championship being contested in Canada later this summer.
The USA opens the 2002 tournament against Finland on Monday, July 22, in Kaarina (6:00 p.m. local/11:00 a.m. ET). The USA will then play Denmark on Wednesday, July 24, in Kaarina (6:00 p.m. local/11:00 a.m. ET) and finish group play on Friday, July 26, in Turku against the full Greek Women's National Team that is trying to get some international seasoning in preparation for their first foray into big-time international women's soccer at the 2004 Olympics. That match will kickoff at 5:00 p.m. local (10:00 a.m. ET).
Players born after Jan. 1, 1981, are eligible for this year's Nordic Cup team. However, each team is allowed two "overage" spots on its roster for players born after Jan. 1, 1978. Smith will fill his two "overage" spots with midfielders Aly Wagner and Devvyn Hawkins, both of whom played major roles in helping Smith's Santa Clara University team win the 2001 NCAA title. The roster represents some of the finest young talent in the United States who come from 11 different universities. Of the 18 players chosen to the roster, just five were on the Nordic Cup team last year. Nine of the 18 players have earned caps with the full U.S. National Team and seven of the players represented the USA at the 2001 Algarve Cup in Portugal.
The roster also features six players who have seen significant action with the full U.S. Women's National Team, including defender Cat Reddick (17 caps/1 goal), midfielder Aly Wagner (24/6), goalkeeper Hope Solo (11/0), midfielder Devvyn Hawkins (7/0), forward Christie Welsh (21/12) and defender Nandi Pryce (7/0). For Pryce, the Nordic Cup represents a major milestone in her comeback from a broken leg that knocked her out for most of her freshman season at UCLA in 2000.
"We had some impact players at the Nordic Cup last year, most of whom are playing in the WUSA, so they will be missed, but that's the nature of the U-21 team," added Smith. "This year's Nordic Cup will be challenging. Nerves for the first game, combined with playing the host country, combined with not having some real leaders who may be with the full team makes that first match against Finland a tricky one."
The USA won the Nordic Cup in 1997 in Denmark, defeating arch-rival Norway, 1-0, in the championship game in sudden death overtime on a goal from Jen Mascaro, now of the San Diego Spirit. The USA fell to Norway in 1998 in Holland, 2-1, with Atlanta Beat star Cindy Parlow tallying for the USA. The USA recaptured the title in 1999 as Lauren Orlandos scored in sudden death overtime to defeat Norway, 2-1. In 2000, it was Jena Kluegel, now of the Boston Breakers, who scored the winning goal in a 1-0 victory over Germany. Last year, midfielder Aleisha Cramer had two goals and forward Anne Morrell scored a hat trick while forward Laura Schott picked up three assists as the USA took apart Sweden, 6-1, in the title game.
U.S. Under-21 Women's National Team Roster
|Barr, Betsy||D||5'6"||04/29/81||Granite Bay, Calif.||Portland|
|Barnhart, Nicole||GK||5'9"||10/10/81||Gilbertsville, Pa.||Stanford|
|Crumpton, Abby||F||5'6"||04/09/81||Rochester Hills, Mich.||Michigan|
|Hawkins, Devvyn||M||5'8"||11/29/80||Olympia, Wash.||Santa Clara|
|LePeilbet, Amy||D||5'5"||03/12/82||Crystal Lake, Ill.||Arizona State|
|Lloyd, Carli||M||5'6"||07/16/82||Delran, N.J.||Rutgers|
|Lohman, Joanna||M||5'5"||06/26/82||Silver Spring, Md.||Penn State|
|Marquand, Ally||D||5'6"||07/01/81||Irvine, Calif.||Stanford|
|McDowell, Mary||F||5'6"||07/25/82||Lakewood, Colo.||North Carolina|
|Pryce, Nandi||D||5'10"||05/30/82||Casselberry, Fla.||UCLA|
|Ramsey, Alyssa||F||5'9"||09/12/82||Charlotte, N.C.||North Carolina|
|Reddick, Cat||D||5'7"||02/10/82||Birmingham, Ala.||North Carolina|
|Solo, Hope||GK||5'9"||07/30/81||Richland, Wash.||Washington|
|Wagner, Aly||M||5'5"||08/10/80||San Jose, Calif.||Santa Clara|
|Wallis, Marcia||F||5'7"||03/31/81||Los Gatos, Calif.||Stanford|
|Welsh, Christie||F||5'10"||08/10/80||Massapeaqua Park, Pa.||Penn State|
|Yokers, Kim||M||5'6"||05/24/82||Seattle, Wash.||California|
|Zepeda, Veronica||F||5'2"||06/11/82||Riverside, Calif.||Santa Clara|
- July 22: United States vs. Finland (Kaarina)
- Greece vs. Denmark(Paimio)
- Sweden vs. Germany (Raisio)
- Iceland vs. Norway (Turku)
- July 24: Finland vs. Greece (Turku)
- Denmark vs. United States (Kaarina)
- Germany vs. Iceland (Paimio)
- Norway vs. Sweden (Raisio)
- July 26: Greece vs. United States (Turku)
- Denmark vs. Finland (Raisio)
- Iceland vs. Sweden (Kaarina)
- Norway vs. Germany (Paimio)
- July 28: 7th-8th Place (Paimio)
- 5th-6th Place (Raisio)
- 3rd-4th Place (Kaarina)
- 1st-2nd Place (Turku)