CHARLESTON, S.C. (February 16, 2003) - The U.S. Women's National Team dominated a gritty Iceland team to win 1-0 on a cold, rainy night at Blackbaud Stadium in the second domestic match of the year for the U.S. team.
The match was played in a constant drizzle and temperatures that dipped into the mid-40s, but the expected thunderstorms never materialized and the USA rolled over the Icelanders as a third-minute goal from Mia Hamm held up.
It was the first match of the year for veterans Julie Foudy, Kristine Lilly and Mia Hamm, who did not play for the USA in the first four games of 2003. Hamm opened the scoring just 135 seconds into the game as midfielder Aly Wagner found the world's all-time leading scorer making a diagonal run into the right side of the penalty area. Wagner's perfectly-weighted pass gave the darting Hamm time to gather herself before she slotted her shot into the near post from 10 yards out past Iceland goalkeeper Thora Helgadottir. Hamm was named the Chevrolet Woman of the Match.
The USA almost added another in the 5th minute, but Helgadottir came up with a great point-blank kick save off Kristine Lilly's shot. Helgadottir, who played a brilliant match during a 0-0 tie the last time these two teams met in 2000, pulled off two more great saves in the first half. In the 18th minute, Hamm held off a defender to win a bouncing ball in the penalty area and struck a hard volley, but Helgadottir parried the shot to her right with a flying dive. A few minutes later, Wagner curled a free kick from 25 yards towards the left post, but Helgadottir flew to knock it away.
"I was very pleased with the way we started the game," said U.S. head coach April Heinrichs. "We came out dynamic, fresh, excited and passionate. We had lots of good combination play, but I thought Helgadottir saved two brilliant goals, and those two saves really kept them in the game."
Helgadottir, who will be a senior at Duke University next fall, kept the game close and finished the match with 10 saves before giving way in the game's final minutes to her back-up Maria Agustsdottir.
The match was marked by some physical play from Iceland in the first half, as the Europeans did not back down from the USA, committing some aggressive fouls, several of which felled 5-foot-11 U.S. forward Cindy Parlow. After an 18-foul first half, though, the team's combined for just six in the final 45 minutes.
Heinrichs made three substitutes at halftime, replacing LaKeysia Beene in goal with Siri Mullinix, and sending on two stars of the 2002 U-19 World Championship Team in Heather O'Reilly and Lindsay Tarpley. The two young attackers made an immediate impact, with Tarpley slipping by a defender in the 51st minute and skipping a shot off the top of the crossbar from 19 yards out. In the 53rd minute, Helgadottir again denied Wagner, pushing a curling shot from 16 yards over the top that was headed into the upper right corner.
"I've played them several times before so I know that the U.S. game is a little bit different than the European game," said Helgadottir. "Fortunately, I've been able to adjust to that over time. It's just really fun to play against Mia Hamm and the rest of the gang."
Iceland seemed to lose its legs a bit in the second half, but the U.S. game deteriorated as well in the steady rain and the Americans were not as dangerous in the second half. Of the chances that the U.S. did create, one came from Wagner is the 62nd as she sliced through two defenders at the top of the penalty area and struck a left-footed shot that forced a diving save from Helgadottir. Five minutes later, Helgadottir smothered a breakaway attempt from Hamm, just beating the U.S. forward to a skidding ball. The 19-year-old Tarpley, who played a fine match at right midfield and then at attacking midfield later in the half, headed a corner kick wide left of the goal in the 71st minute.
"I think we got a little frustrated against their 5-4-1 (formation)," added Heinrichs. "I don't think we should underestimate how difficult it is to beat a team when they're sitting eight in the back. That is really tough. But to be fair, I told the team afterwards, they can't be pleased with that second half or our performance."
Hamm's goal was the 137th of her career and first of 2003. Wagner's assist was her team-leading fourth of the year.
"Against a team like this, you're hoping to get one early because the longer they ride it, the more they feel like they're in the game," said Hamm. "If you have a mental lapse, they'll put one in. I think that early goal gave us some confidence. We probably could've put another one away, but probably the biggest strength on their team was their goalkeeper. She keeps them in the game, and she played exceptional."
The USA players now return home and will open WUSA training camps on March 1. A week after that, Heinrichs will take 20 players to the Algarve Cup in Portugal where the USA will face Canada (March 14), Norway (March 16) and Sweden (March 18) in group play during the important pre-Women's World Cup tournament. Heinrichs will announce her Algarve Cup roster in the coming weeks.
Following their annual trip to the coast of Portugal, the bulk of the U.S. roster will return home for the beginning of the WUSA season on April 5 and a slate of domestic international matches, which will include yet to be finalized games in April and May, and a match-up with South Korea on June 14 in Salt Lake City, Utah.
U.S. Women's National Team Game Report
Participants: USA vs. Iceland
Competition: International Friendly
Venue: Blackbaud Stadium - Charleston, S.C.
Date: February 16, 2003; Kickoff - 6:15 p.m. ET
Weather: Cold, wet; 45 degrees
1 2 F
USA 1 0 1
ISL 0 0 0
USA - Mia Hamm (Aly Wagner) 3rd minute.
USA: 24-LaKeysia Beene (18-Siri Mullinix, 46); 3-Christie Pearce, 15-Kate Sobrero, 6-Brandi Chastain, 17-Jenny Benson; 14-Angela Hucles (16-Lindsay Tarpley, 46), 11-Julie Foudy-Capt., 13-Kristine Lilly, 10-Aly Wagner (7-Jena Kluegel, 74); 12-Cindy Parlow (8-Heather O'Reilly, 46), 9-Mia Hamm.
Subs not used: 5-Tiffany Roberts, 19-Devvyn Hawkins, 20-Thori Bryan.
ISL: 1- Thora Helgadóttir (12- Maria Agustsdottir, 87); 2- Audur Skuladóttir, 10- Rosa Steinthorsdóttir (13- Malfridur Sigurdardottir, 92+), 11- Rakel Logadottir (17- Holmfridur Magnusdottir, 65), 5- Elin Thorsteinsdottir (16- Eva Gudbjornsdottir, 89); 4- Iris Andresdottir, 6-Asta Helgadóttir - Capt., 7- Dora Stefansdottir (14- Laufey Johannsdottir, 65), 8- Erla Hendriksdóttir (15-Elfa Erlingsdottir, 92+), 9- Hrefna Johannesdottir; 3-Olga Faerseth.
Subs not used: None.
Statistical Summary: USA / ISL
Shots 27 / 4
Saves 2 / 11
Corner Kicks 9 / 0
Fouls 6 / 18
Offside 1 / 3
USA - Cindy Parlow (caution) 10th minute.
ISL - Erla Hendriksdóttir (caution) 30.
USA - Jenny Benson (caution) 77.
Referee: Jennifer Bennett (USA)
Asst. Referee: Ronnie Canales (USA)
Asst. Referee: Sandra Serafini (USA)
4th Official: Melanie Johnson (USA)
Chevrolet Player of the Match: Mia Hamm