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U.S. Women Kick Off Algarve Cup Preparations at The Home Depot Center

February 16, 2007
U.S. Women’s National Team
Notes from Carson, Calif.

U.S. WOMEN HIT THE FIELD FOR ALGARVE CUP PREPARATION: The U.S. Women’s National Team hit the field on Valentine’s Day under glorious sunshine that much of the country has not been fortunate enough to enjoy as preparations for the 2007 Algarve Cup got underway at The Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif. With the U.S. Under-23 Men’s National Team in training camp prior to a trip to Japan, the U.S. Under-21 women starting camp on Feb. 17, and the Los Angeles Galaxy and Chivas USA beginning their pre-season training, The HDC is alive with the sounds of soccer. The U.S. women will train through to the morning of Feb. 21 before taking a week off and then re-grouping in New Jersey for the annual jaunt over the Atlantic to southern Portugal for the always competitive Algarve Cup, this year being held March 7-14. U.S. head coach Greg Ryan will name the 20-player roster for the Algarve Cup following this camp. The USA opens the tournament on March 7 against China and will also play Finland (March 9) and Sweden (March 12). Fans will be able to follow all the U.S. games as they happen on’s MatchTracker.

VETERANS RETURN TO SQUAD: There were five smiling and familiar faces on the field for the USA’s first practice session as veterans Abby Wambach, Kristine Lilly, Aly Wagner, Christie Rampone and Shannon Boxx returned to training. The first four players were not at the Four Nations Tournament in China in January after U.S. head coach Greg Ryan gave them the month off to rest and re-charge. They had not been with the National Team since late November of last year. For Boxx, this is the first training camp in which she is cleared for all activity since major knee surgery last July. The midfielder, however, will take it slow as she works her way back into game shape with the hopes of seeing some action at the Algarve Cup. The return of those five players to the U.S. camp brings 727 combined career international appearances (319 by Lilly) and 222 career goals back into the fold. While those numbers are remarkable, the importance to the U.S. team of that kind of experience and goal scoring cannot be underestimated.

SWIFTER, HIGHER, STRONGER: The U.S. opened training camp on the evening of Feb. 14 with some light possession and small-sided games, but hit the field on the morning of Feb. 15 for some more intense fitness testing. The team ran through timed 20 and 40-yard sprints, measured their vertical jumps and stutter-stepped through the agility drill known as the “T-Test”. Several players who had missed the “Beep Test” during the January camp also ran that endurance test. The afternoon session featured one of the team’s favorite games, “5-v-5 plus two,” meaning two all-time attackers creating a seven-on-five for every attack. The games were played attacking at big goals and also included a major fitness component as the attacking team had to always have all of their players inside their attacking half for a goal to count. If the defensive team didn’t have all their players back inside their defensive half, the other team’s goal counted for two.

PUT ME IN COACH: The U.S. Under-21 Women’s National Team will get a chance to scrimmage against the full Women’s National Team in a pair of matches on Sunday, Feb. 18, as both teams will split squads for matches at The HDC. About a third of the U-21 roster played for the USA at the 2006 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Championship in Russia.

STREAK CONTINUES: The USA will head into the Algarve Cup having not lost a match in regulation time over 2005, 2006 and through the start of 2007. The unbeaten stretch corresponds with the time Greg Ryan has been the head coach. Under Ryan, the USA is 27-0-7 and he has the best winning percentage ever (.897) for a U.S. coach through his first 34 matches.

ALL ABOARD FOR THE ALGARVE: The annual Algarve Cup is certainly one of the favorite trips of the U.S. team, partly for the location on the scenic southern coast of Portugal, partly for the tasty food and excellent restaurants close to the hotel, partly for the popular ice cream and crepe shop just down the road from the team hotel, but mostly for the quality of matches. This year’s Algarve Cup features the top four teams in the world in the latest FIFA rankings: Germany, USA, Norway and Sweden respectively, as well as 10 of the top 21 teams in the world.

CLASS OF ‘02: The U.S. team that won the 2002 FIFA Under-19 Women’s World Championship in Canada was a special squad. That group of players never lost a match to a team in their age group and several players from the world championship winners have made major impacts on the full National Team. In this training camp alone there are six alumni of that historic team: two defenders in Rachel Buehler and Keeley Dowling, two midfielders in Leslie Osborne and Lori Chalupny (who also plays in the back for the senior side) and two forwards in Lindsay Tarpley and Heather O’Reilly.

TRAVEL OVER-LLOYD: U.S. midfielder Carli Lloyd had an eventful trip to California for this training camp as she was one of thousands of travelers from the midwest and east coast effect by the chilling weather. Her journey started at 5:45 a.m. ET Wednesday morning when she awoke to prepare for her flight from Philadelphia to Los Angeles. Due to the snow in Philly, she crept along at no more than 20 MPH on the way to the airport for her 8:30 a.m. flight. It never left the ground. She sat on the plane for six and half hours, first waiting for weather to clear but, due to the rain-snow mixture, the plane couldn’t even taxi to the tarmac. When they finally decided to de-ice the plane, there were a dozen other planes in line. By the time the de-icing took place, the flight crew had been up too many hours and the plane couldn’t take off. An attempt to get a new flight crew failed and the flight was finally cancelled. The passengers wearily filed off the plane to collect their bags, except Lloyd’s never came back, despite her waiting in baggage claim for another two and half hours. That’s almost 10 hours at the airport. Turns out they had sent her bag on to Los Angeles. She finally went home, arriving at 5:30 p.m. She got up at 5:45 a.m. the next morning to try it again. Fortunately, her flight got out and she arrived in Los Angeles in time to rush to the USA’s afternoon training and play in the small-sided games. In a silver lining to the story, she did get to fly first class.

Stat of Note
The first-ever Algarve Cup match for the U.S. women was on March 16, 1994, a 5-0 win over Portugal that was also goalkeeper Briana Scurry’s first-ever cap.

Quote of the Week

U.S. forward Kristine Lilly when asked if she’d heard anything funny today for Quote of the Week:

“Today just wasn’t that funny of a day.”