March 9, 2006

U.S. Women Play to Scoreless Draw In Algarve Cup Opener

March 9, 2006

FARO, Portugal - The U.S. Women's National Team, which includes former Santa Clara stars Aly Wagner and Leslie Osborne, opened the 2006 Algarve Cup with a 0-0 draw vs. China. With France tying Denmark, 2-2, in the other match in Group B, the U.S. now has major work in front of them to make the championship game.

The USA controlled the play for most of the match - China had just one shot in the first half - and the Americans dominated the first 30 minutes of the second half, but could not find a way past Chinese goalkeeper Han Wenxia despite a thrilling last 10 minutes in which the teams traded close chances.

After taking just four shots in the first half, the USA fired 12 after the break, and came closest to scoring on an 87th minute 20-yard rocket from midfielder Aly Wagner that slammed off the crossbar at the upper left corner. Abby Wambach had the last chance of the game after running onto a long punt from U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo in the 89th minute. She powered her way through two defenders in the right side of the penalty box and slid to hit a shot that just slipped outside the left post.

Moments earlier, China had produced its best two chances of the game, both on the same sequence and both thwarted by goalkeeper Hope Solo. In the 86th minute, midfielder Bai Lili smacked a dipping shot from just inside the penalty area. Solo flew to get a hand on the ball, deflecting it off the underside of the crossbar. The ball bounced down hard and right into the path of Chinese legend Sun Wen, who sent a volley toward the right corner, only to see Solo regain her feet quickly and fully extend to her left to snag the shot.

U.S. head coach Greg Ryan put out 10 of the 11 players who started the USA's last match against China at the Four Nations Tournament on January 22, a 2-0 U.S. win, with forward Heather O'Reilly replacing Christie Welsh for the only change.

O'Reilly made an impact early, getting behind the Chinese defense down the right flank in the fourth minute, but her cross on the ground eluded the on-rushing Wambach.

In the 10th minute, Wambach pushed between two defenders in the left side of the penalty area and fired a shot from 16 yards out. O'Reilly crashed the net in an attempt to re-direct the shot, but the ball hit Han and was cleared as O'Reilly collided with the Chinese goalkeeper.

In stoppage time of the first half, O'Reilly took a long ball from Heather Mitts down to the ground with her chest and volleyed it over Han from the right corner of the penalty area. The shot beat Han, but flew just over the bar.

Ryan made two substitutions at halftime, sending on Cat Whitehill for Tina Frimpong in the center of the defense and Carli Lloyd for Lindsay Tarpley in the center of the midfield. Both players had solid second halves as the USA turned up the pressure, pinning the Chinese in their own half for long stretches. Still, the U.S. put only four shots on frame after the intermission.

In the 56th minute, the USA earned a chance off a long throw-in from Whitehill that was flicked on by Wambach. The ball bounced off a Chinese defender to O'Reilly, who was cramped for space, but managed to strike a volley while falling that stuck right Han's Belly from six yards.

Until China's late flurry, which also included several driven shots from distance that failed to find the target, the most dangerous chances for the perennial Asian champs came from counter-attacks out of their low-pressure defense. The U.S. defense was ready for the tactic, and despite several quality sequences from the Chinese, the U.S. back line, and especially center back Amy LePeilbet, did well to defuse the attacks.

The U.S. team could have done better running at the organized Chinese back line, which managed to catch the Americans offside eight times during the match.

The Chinese certainly lost points in the Fair Play Award category with blatant time-wasting tactics during the second half, purposely slowing the game down which eventually earned several warnings from the referee, a yellow card for a much-delayed throw-in and six minutes of extra time at the end of the match.

Solo made five total saves and corralled several high looping crosses to earn the 12th shutout of her career, and 10th in her last 11 starts. The draw was the 11th tie with China in U.S. history, by far the most against any team. The U.S. still has yet to allow a goal from the run of play in the last 1,288 minutes, dating back to the end of 2004. The team has also yet to lose under Ryan, moving to 10-0-3 since he took over the team at the 2005 Algarve Cup.

In the other games already completed on the first matchday, Group A saw Germany thrash Finland, 5-0, while in Group C Ireland nipped host Portugal, 1-0.

Visit the 2006 Algarve Cup competitions page at ussoccer.com for a complete schedule, scores and standings, plus features, podcasts, and exclusive all_access video coverage of the WNT in Portugal.

U.S. WOMEN'S NATIONAL TEAM MATCH REPORT

Match-up: USA vs. China
Competition: 2006 Algarve Cup
Venue: Sao Luis Stadium; Faro, Portugal
Date: March 9, 2006; Kickoff - 2:00 p.m. local / 9:00 a.m. ET
Attendance: 250
Weather: Cloudy, sunny - 70 degrees

Scoring Summary:
            1      2     F

USA    0      0    0
CHN   0      0    0

Lineups:
USA: 18-Hope Solo; 2-Heather Mitts, 8-Tina Frimpong (4-Cat Whitehill, 46), 14-Amy LePeilbet, 3-Christie Rampone; 7-Shannon Boxx, 5-Lindsay Tarpley (11-Carli Lloyd, 46), 10-Aly Wagner; 9-Heather O'Reilly (19-Christie Welsh, 61), 20-Abby Wambach, 13-Kristine Lilly - Capt.
Subs not used: 1-Jenni Branam, 6-Natasha Kai, 12-Leslie Osborne, 15-Marci Miller, 16-Amy Rodriguez, 21-Stephanie Lopez.
Head Coach: Greg Ryan

CHN: - 1-Han Wenxia; 16-Liu Yali, 18-Pu Wei - Capt., 20-Liu Huana, 26-Yaun Fan (3-Li Jie, 76); 8-Zhang Ying, 11-Bai Lili, 13-Zhao Xiaoyan (25-Zhang Na, 54), 17-Pan Lina, 9-Han Duan, 19-Ma Xiaoxu (10-Sun Wen, 58).
Subs not used: 2-Wang Kun, 5-Bi Shuai, 6-Shi Mengyu, 12-Qu Feifei, 22-Xiao Zhen.
Head Coach: Ma Liangxing

Statistical Summary:
USA / CHN

Shots: 16 / 8
Shots on Goal: 4 / 5
Saves: 5 / 4
Corner Kicks: 7 / 1
Fouls: 12 / 9
Offside: 8 / 1

Misconduct Summary:
CHN - Liu Huana (caution) 68th minute.

Officials:
Referee: Sarah Girard (FRA)
Asst. Referee: Karine Solana (FRA)
Asst. Referee: Vivian Peeters (NED)
4th Official: Sandra Bastos (POR)

ussoccer.com Woman of the Match: Hope Solo

U.S. WOMEN'S NATIONAL TEAM QUOTE SHEET

U.S. HEAD COACH GREG RYAN
On similarities between the USA's last match vs. China at the Four Nations and today's:
"In the game in Guangzhou (a 2-0 U.S. win on Jan. 22), China could have scored two goals as well. I felt like in the second half today, we were better than we were in that last match. In the first half (today), we were struggling to get a rhythm in the game, but in the second half we did a very good job playing the way we want to play. We were very aggressive in defending and aggressive in attacking."

On the match:
"I'm looking at the chances and there were enough good chances to score goals. It's early in the year, the team hasn't been together very much, and right now, it's just the technique of finishing over and over again to get the team confident. I think we created all the chances we needed to win the game today, but you have to score the goals."

On the second half:
"I think the second half was a good indication of what we are working towards. Our understanding of how to attack quickly was good and in the second half, we got more players into the attack. The backs were coming forward and all three midfielders - Shannon Boxx, Carli Lloyd and Aly Wagner -- had important roles coming forward in the attack. What we have to focus on is playing that way the next time we step on the field."

U.S. MIDFIELDER KRISTINE LILLY
On the game:
"It was a hard game, and early on, neither team really had possession. The ball was constantly moving around, but towards the end of the game, we started playing out wide a bit more and created some good chances. It was an exciting game. They hit the crossbar, we hit the crossbar, but in the end I think we created a few more chances than them."

On the rest of the tournament:
"Anytime you put a U.S. team out on the field, we can win, it's just a matter of how we play and come together. Both groups are tough and we are going to play three tough games in span of five days, so it's not going to be easy, but if we step out there and play good soccer, we have a good chance to win (the tournament)."

U.S. MIDFIELDER CARLI LLOYD
On the game:
"I thought we all came together as a team as the game went on. We connected well and that led to some good chances. I think we deserved a goal, but China is a tough team and their goalkeeper is very solid."

U.S. MIDFIELDER Aly Wagner
On the game:
"We were able to settle the ball more in the second half. The field was so bumpy, it was tough to get a rhythm, but in the second half, we weren't so reactionary. We were moving better than the Chinese and put them under pressure with some good through balls and passes down the flanks."