U.S. WNT Arrives in Portugal in Advance of March 9 Algarve Cup Opener vs. China
U.S. TEAM ARRIVES IN PORTUGAL: The U.S. Women’s National Team arrived in Lisbon, Portugal, on Thursday morning, March 2, after an overnight flight from Newark, N.J., then hopped on a bus for the four-hour drive south to the scenic Algarve region. The USA arrived in the Algarve to glorious weather and clear skies for their first training session at 5:30 p.m. Many players had to rouse themselves for training after succumbing to a bad case of the “naps,” but the short practice, featuring some spirited 5 v. 2 keep-away games and two 4 v. 4 plus-2 scrimmages on small goals, was perfect to get the legs moving and the hearts pumping (photos). In order to stay up and get adjusted to the time difference as quickly as possible, most of the U.S. team indulged that evening in a walk to the corner pizza/ice cream parlor to enjoy some crepes and ice cream, two of the great treats of the Algarve Cup trip. Needless to say, the sweet shop has become a regular hangout for the U.S. team over the years at the Algarve Cup. Look for an all_access video featuring the USA’s crepe addiction later in the week on ussoccer.com.
HIT THE GROUND RUNNING: The U.S. team will go through two “double-days” of practice sessions on Friday and Saturday, March 2 and 3, before beginning to taper into its first match on March 9, against China. At the end of Friday’s second session, the U.S. team played a 20-minute 11 v. 11 full-field scrimmage, with midfielder Aly Wagner scoring the lone goal of the game, bending a shot into the right side of the net from just inside the penalty area.
BATTLE OF ATTRITION…WITH THE LEGS: The Algarve Cup is a grueling tournament that features four world-class games in seven days. In Group B, the U.S. team will be facing three teams ranked in the world’s top-10 in the latest FIFA Women’s World Rankings, taking on China (9th), Denmark (8th) and France (7th). The U.S. is the first team (aside from host Portugal) of the 11 participating in the tournament to arrive in the Algarve. Eight games of the tournament will be broadcast live in Europe on Eurosport, which necessitated changes to venues and kickoff times from the originally release schedule. The change for television moved the USA’s third match against France to the beautiful 30,000-seat Stadium Algarve, built for the 2004 European Championships.
13th Annual Algarve Cup
Norway, Finland, Sweden & Germany
USA, Denmark, China & France
Ireland, Portugal & Mexico
U.S. GAMES ON MATCHTRACKER: U.S. fans can cozy up to their computers on the mornings of March 9, 11 and 13, to follow all the U.S. games live on ussoccer.com’s MatchTracker. Usually a 12-team tournament, only 11 teams will compete in 2006, as Group C contains just three nations. The 11-team Algarve Cup will feature four match days – March 9, 11, 13 and 15 – with five matches each day. Group A features Germany, Sweden, Finland and Norway. Host Portugal, second-time participant Mexico and Ireland make up Group C. All the games are played at venues spread out over the Algarve region on the southern coast of the country with the placement matches being contested on Wednesday, March 15. After expanding from eight to 12 teams five years ago, the 2006 Algarve Cup takes on a slightly different format. With the field cut by one, it no longer becomes necessary to play an 11th place match. The teams in Group A and B will compete for the title as the group winners will play in the championship game. The two second-place finishers in Groups A and B will play for third place while the third-place finishers will play for fifth. The Group C teams will be competing for a chance to play for spots 7-11 as the winner of Group C will play the best fourth place team from Groups A and B. The second place team in Group C will play worst fourth place team Groups A or B. The third and final finisher from group C earns 11th place.
ALGARVE QUICK HITS:
• This is the 13th annual Algarve Cup, which has become the most competitive yearly women’s international tournament in the world
• This is the USA’s 11th time participating in the Algarve cup. The USA competed in the inaugural tournament in 1994, played in 1995, but skipped 1996 (an Olympic year on U.S. soil) and 1997. The USA has competed in the tournament every year since
• The USA has recorded four first place finishes at the Algarve Cup, two second places, one third, one fourth, one fifth and one sixth
• The USA has impressively won the last three Algarve Cups. The only other team to have won three in a row is Norway, who did it from 1996 – ‘98. The USA did not compete in the 1996 and 1997 tournaments
• Fives teams have played in all 12 Algarve Cups: Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden and host Portugal. The Nordic countries are the co-organizers of the tournament
• Denmark, one of the USA’s opponents in Group B, has finished twice three times, while France, which is playing in just its fourth Algarve Cup, has logged impressive third places finishes the last two years after finishing second behind the USA in group play both times
• The 20 matches of this year’s Algarve Cup will be played in 12 different venues ranging from tiny stadiums that seat several thousand to the state-of-the-art Stadium Algarve
“EXPERIENCING” THE ALGARVE: While the U.S. roster features numerous veterans with a wealth of international experience, the 10 least-capped players on the roster have combined for just 46 appearances, led by “veteran” Leslie Osborne, who has played 14 times for the USA. Eight players have less than 10 caps and six have fewer than three: Carli Lloyd (3 caps), Marci Miller (2), Amy Rodriguez (2), India Trotter (1), Stephanie Lopez (1) and Natasha Kai (0). Last year’s Algarve Cup saw breakout tournaments from several U.S. players, including forward Christie Welsh, who scored five goals, goalkeeper Hope Solo, who recorded three shutouts, and defender Lori Chalupny, who is back in the United States recovering from the effects of a concussion. In addition, Rodriguez and Lopez earned their first-ever caps for the full National Team at last year’s tournament. Heather O’Reilly made her first appearance at the Algarve Cup in 2002 while goalkeeper Jenni Branam debuted at the 2000 Algarve Cup.
U.S. Women's National Team Roster
2006 Algarve Cup
KAI LOOKING TO MAKE HISTORY FOR HAWAI’I: As close as we can tell, 29 states have produced players who have registered at least one cap for the U.S. Women’s National Team. That number could move to 30 next week. As the only uncapped player on the Algarve Cup roster, forward Natasha Kai will make history for her home state if she gets into a game, becoming the first-ever player from Hawai’i to play for the full U.S. Women’s National Team. Visit ussoccer.com next week for a feature on Kai, a former star for the University of Hawai’i Rainbow Wahines.
RAMPONE IS IN AFTER ALL: U.S. defender Christie Rampone joined the U.S. squad at the airport in Newark, N.J., on Wednesday afternoon (March 1), just in time to make the trip to Portugal. Rampone, who fortunately lives in New Jersey and could rush to the airport to make her flight, was medically cleared earlier that morning. She had suffered a migraine headache at the U.S. training camp in Carson, Calif., in February. She had been replaced on the roster by defender Stephanie Lopez, who also traveled to Portugal, giving the U.S. a squad of 21 players. Head coach Greg Ryan will have to name 20 eligible players for the matches.
Stat of Note
Who is the favorite to win the Algarve Cup?
Only four teams have ever won the Algarve Cup. Both the USA and Norway have won four Algarve Cups while Sweden and China have each won the tournament twice.
Quote of the Week:
U.S. midfielder Shannon Boxx after getting nailed in the back of her thigh at close range on a thunderous shot from Cat Reddick, who has one of the hardest shots in the world.
“That definitely left a mark.”
Editor’s note: Boxx currently has a soccer ball-sized welt on the back of her thigh, complete with Nike logo and hexagon panels.
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