ALBUFEIRA, Portugal (Friday, March 1, 2002) - The U.S. Women's National Team got a first-half goal from Shannon MacMillan, but allowed an equalizer midway through the second half and was forced to settle for a hard-fought 1-1 draw with Sweden in the opening game of Group B at the 2002 Algarve Cup.
While the USA out-shot Sweden 16-12, and perhaps had more quality scoring chances, it was the Europeans who controlled most of the match, building a 10-7 margin in corner kicks. In fact, a talented Swedish team put more pressure on U.S. goalkeeper LaKeysia Beene in the second half than she saw in three full matches at the Four Nations Tournament in China in January.
"We did enough to win the game," said U.S. head coach April Heinrichs. "We started off much better than we did at the tournament in China, but we always take a tie as a loss and that's what separates us from the rest of the world, our standards are higher. But we also always build on the positives. The defense played very well and we strung some passes together to create some very good chances."
The U.S. had the first chance of the game in the 8th minute as Cindy Parlow played Shannon MacMillan down the right wing with a perfectly weighted pass. MacMillan got a step on her defender, but sliced her shot wide left of the goal after long run. Sweden's best chance of the first half was a header from captain Malin Mostrom in the 15th minute that bounced just wide left of the goal.
But while Sweden controlled most of the first 30 minutes as the U.S. team lacked a bit of sharpness on the ball, it was the Americans who struck first on a lightning counter-attack. Once again Parlow was the catalyst, shaking free of a defender at midfield before chipping a pass over the defense to Milbrett, who cut to goal inside the penalty area and then unselfishly played a square ball into the middle for the streaking MacMillan, who touched the ball into the net from eight yards out as she was hammered by a Swedish defender.
The USA caught a rhythm in the last 15 minutes of the first half and took the game at Sweden, getting MacMillan's goal as well as numerous other chances. In the 40th minute, Kristine Lilly floated beautiful weak-side pass to MacMillan in the right side of the penalty area, but Swedish goalkeeper Caroline Jonsson, who is always quick to cut down angles, smothered the driven shot. Sweden almost tied the game just before halftime against the run of play on a counter-attack, but Hanna Ljungberg shot wide right from 14 yards out.
The second half belonged to Sweden, who played a sharp 45 minutes in putting eight of its nine shots on goal, while controlling the midfield through Mostrom and forcing Beene to make all of seven of her saves, plus several catches in traffic off crosses.
While Sweden perhaps deserved a goal, it did not deserve the one they got, as it came from a miscommunication between Joy Fawcett and Beene, who did a "you-got-it-I'll-take-it" on a long through ball, and the moment's hesitation by both players allowed Victoria Svensson to sneak in and roll her shot into the open goal from 30 yards out.
"I don't remember a game with this team that I didn't expect to win," said Beene. "I thought we had the better of the chances and it was a bit of a heartbreaker to give up a goal like that."
Seventeen-year-old forward Heather O'Reilly, a high school junior, earned her first cap for the full national team and added a spark to the attack with her hard running in an impressive debut. After coming on in the 61st minute, she immediately sprung Milbrett with a nifty pass behind the Swedish defense. Milbrett hit her shot well, but once again Jonsson made the goal small, saving the ball with her body.
Sweden had a chance to get a second goal soon after as a turnover in the midfield set Svensson free on a breakaway and only a desperate lunge by the recovering Danielle Slaton deflected the ball away for a corner kick.
In the 69th minute, Mostrom spearheaded another counter-attack and then played Therese Sjogran in the right side of the penalty area, but Beene pushed the shot away for a corner kick.
Cindy Parlow played a fine match for the USA on the forward line, keeping possession well, winning air balls and taking defenders on, but it was Milbrett who had the last gasp at a winner, running onto a looping Swedish clearance in the 88th minute and striking a volley from 16 yards that Jonsson dove left to turn away.
It was a landmark day for Sweden, which was quite pleased with the tie, as it marked the first time in history that they had gone unbeaten in two straight matches against the USA after winning last year's Algarve Cup clash, 2-0. In the other Group B match, Norway defeated a gritty England squad, 3-1, in one of the best efforts ever for England against the Olympic champions. In Group A, Germany handled Denmark 3-0 and China hammered Finland, 4-1. In Group C, Canada picked up a big 3-0 win over Scotland, as Andrea Neil registered a hat trick, and Wales won its first-ever Algarve Cup match, beating host Portugal, 1-0.
The USA faces England in its next Group B match on Sunday, March 3, in Ferreiras, Portugal.U.S. WOMEN'S NATIONAL TEAM GAME REPORT
Participants: United States National Team vs. Sweden National Team
Competition: 2002 Algarve Cup
Venue: Municipal Stadium - Albufeira, Portugal
Date: March 1, 2002 - Kickoff 2:00 p.m. Local (9:00 a.m. ET)
Weather: Sunny, breezy - 72 degrees
Scoring Summary: 1st - 2nd - Final
USA 1 - 0 - 1
SWE 0 - 1 - 1
USA - Shannon MacMillan (Tiffeny Milbrett) 31st minute.
SWE - Victoria Svensson (Unassisted) 63.
USA - 24-LaKeysia Beene, 19-Danielle Slaton, 4-Cat Reddick, 14-Joy Fawcett, 15-Kate Sobrero (21-Kylie Bivens, 61), 11-Julie Foudy - Capt., 2-Lorrie Fair (10-Aly Wagner, 81), 13-Kristine Lilly, 16-Tiffeny Milbrett, 12-Cindy Parlow, 8-Shannon MacMillan (9-Heather O'Reilly, 61).
SWE - 1- Caroline Jonsson, 4-Kristin Bengtsson, 2-Karolina Westberg, 4-Hanna Marklund, 7-Sara Larsson, 3-Anna Sjostrom (8-Frida Nordin, 89), 6-Malin Mostrom - Capt., 9-Malin Andersson (14-Linda Fagerstrom,46), 15-Therese Sjogran, 11-Victoria Svensson (17-Therese Lundin, 88), 10-Hanna Ljungberg (16-Elin Flyborg, 63).
Statistical Summary: USA - SWE
Shots 16 - 12
Shots on Goal 6 - 8
Saves 7 - 5
Corner Kicks 8 - 10
Fouls 8 - 14
Offside 4 - 4
Referee: Craig Thomson (Scotland)
Asst. Referee: Eivor Lehtiheimo (Finland)
Asst. Referee: Jose Lamy (Portugal)