A win or a draw against Sweden in the final Group A match on Thursday, March 16, will send the USA to the Algarve Cup Championship game as the two group winners play for the title on Saturday, March 18.
With the score knotted at one and the USA pressing hard for a winning goal, MacMillan came to the rescue in spectacular fashion. She received a pass just inside the Denmark half on the left side of the field, penetrated to beat a player and struck a screaming shot that flew over startled Denmark goalkeeper Lone Larsen and just under the crossbar. The goal came at the end of a dominating second half in which the USA out-shot Denmark 14-0 and created numerous chances while peppering the Danish goal area.
"I picked up the ball around midfield, cut back on a defender, then took a little peak at the goalkeeper," said MacMillan, who entered the game in the 67th minute for Sara Whalen. "I didn't see a forward checking so I just ripped it. I knew it was in as soon as I saw the flight of the ball."
The Americans had struggled in the first half against Denmark's 4-5-1 formation that put nine players behind the ball, setting up a tough bunker to penetrate. Denmark's tactics were bolstered by an 8th minute goal from star striker Gitte Krogh, who scored on her team's first shot of the game. Larsen sent a long clearance into the teeth of the U.S. defense and the ball was headed into the USA's defensive third. Krogh ran onto the bouncing ball, side-stepped a defender with a smooth touch and hit a looping volley from 18-yards out that flew over U.S. goalkeeper Jen Branam, who was caught slightly off her line. Cindy Parlow saved the USA more blushes in the 35th minute when she headed a Danish shot off the line after a corner kick. It would be Denmark's last quality chance.
The half ended with the USA down 1-0 and holding just a 5-4 shot advantage over the Danes, who last beat the U.S. here at the Algarve Cup in 1995. U.S. Head Coach April Heinrichs did not start Kristine Lilly, Tiffeny Milbrett or Brandi Chastain, but inserted all three into the lineup at halftime, along with Christy Welsh, while switching from a 4-4-2 formation to a 3-4-3, and the Americans were off and running.
With a forward line of Milbrett, Welsh and Mia Hamm, with Kristine Lilly at left flank midfield and Whalen on the right, the USA ran relentlessly at Denmark in search of the an equalizer, but fell victim to Denmark's offside trap six times. Each of the three forwards had chances in the first part of the second half, but Larsen was up the challenge on Welsh, making a fine kick-save while Hamm and Milbrett shot just wide.
"In the first half, we were too content to play backwards and square, and that allowed them to get settled behind the ball," said Heinrichs. "At halftime, we talked about our transition and getting forward much quicker. We came out and were spraying the ball all over the field and it was tough for Denmark to keep up with us."
The goal finally came in the 67th minute when Hamm made a heady play and found Milbrett open at the top of the penalty box on a corner kick, which Lilly had earned with one of her thundering runs around the left side of the defense. Hamm played the ball on the ground to Milbrett, whose shot was deflected into in the air, before falling to Lorrie Fair in the middle of the goal. Fair's falling volley from 10 yards found the right corner for her second international goal. The 21-year-old Fair went the distance at defensive midfield for the second straight match.
The USA seemingly scored the winning goal in the 74th minute, but a questionable offside call nullified Milbrett's follow-up off a rebound from Welsh's shot, setting the stage for MacMillan's heroics. It was the second match in a row in which MacMillan scored from distance, also striking in the USA's opening game win over Portugal.
"April almost put me in at halftime, but told me to keep warming up," added MacMillan. "Just watching I could tell it was a physical game, but I saw that they had weakness on the outside. So I wanted to get in, take some players on and use the fresh legs to create some chances. I didn't realize how far out I was when I hit. Michelle Akers scores goals like that, not Shannon MacMillan."
The 19-year-old Branam made her debut in the nets for the USA, and played a solid match after giving up a goal on the first shot she faced in her international career. She was not forced to make a save, but was sharp coming off her line to cut off through balls, made several catches off crosses in traffic and displayed a most impressive kicking game, consistently sending services deep into the Danish half.
"The USA really competed for the ball today," said U.S. Assistant Coach John Ellis. "We know our players are very skillful, but you've got to be able to deal with the physical aspect of the game, every game. We dealt with that in the second half and got the result. Denmark is a good defensive team, but they simply could not withstand the pressure we put on them in the second half and coming through like that is another step forward in our development as a team."
Nineteen-year-old defender Danielle Slaton contributed greatly at left back and earned her seventh cap. Julie Foudy was the engine in the midfield for the USA while Fair and Sobrero won numerous air balls in the middle.
"I was very pleased with urgency and composure in the second half," added Heinrichs, whose team played Denmark for the first time since the opening game of the 1999 Women's World Cup. "We created some great chances and scored two great goals."
In the other Group A match, Sweden defeated Portugal, 5-1. In Group B, Norway edged Canada, 2-1, as 1995 Women's World Cup champion coach Even Pellerud coached Canada against his old team for the first time. China defeated Finland, 4-1, setting up a clash with Norway on Thursday for a berth in the final.
2000 U.S. WOMEN'S NATIONAL TEAM GAME REPORT
|Participants:||U.S. Women's National Team vs. Denmark National Team|
|Competition:||7th Algarve Cup|
|Venue:||San Luis Stadium (Faro, Portugal)|
|Date:||March 14, 2000 - kickoff 2:00 p.m. local (9:00 a.m. ET)|
|Weather:||78 degrees - Sunny, Breezy|
DEN - Gitte Krogh, (n/a), 8,
USA - Lorrie Fair, (Tiffeny Milbrett), 67,
USA - Shannon MacMillan (Unassisted), 86.
USA - 24-Jen Branam, 3-Christie Pearce (22-Christy Welsh, 46th), 4-Carla Overbeck (6-Brandi Chastain, 46th), 20-Kate Sobrero, 19-Danielle Slaton, 11-Julie Foudy, 2-Lorrie Fair, 15-Tisha Venturini (13-Kristine Lilly, 46th), 7-Sara Whalen (8-Shannon MacMillan, 67th), 12-Cindy Parlow (16-Tiffeny Milbrett, 46th), 9-Mia Hamm.
DEN - 1-Lone Larsen, 3-Malene Kristensen (15-Marianne Lovendorf, 63rd), 4-Lene Terp, 5-Gitte Andersen, 12-Mitzi MÃ¸ller, 11-Merete Pedersen (6-Nadia Kjeldaard, 77th), 7-Janni Lund Johansen (2-Anne Ulnitz, 90th), 8-Signe Andersen (14-Catrine Paske Sorensen, 76th), 9-Lene Jensen (13-Dorte Dalum Jensen, 83rd), 10-Gitte Krogh, 18-Merete Jokumsen.
|Merete Jokumsen (caution)||7,|
|Julie Foudy (caution)||40,|
|Lene Terp (caution)||44,|
|Nadia Kjeldgaard (caution)||78.|