March 11, 2006

U.S. WNT Defeats Denmark In 2006 Algarve Cup

March 11, 2006

QUARTEIRA, Portugal - The U.S. Women's National Team, which includes former Santa Clara stars Aly Wagner and Leslie Osborne, needed a big win in its second match of the 2006 Algarve Cup, and got it with a dominating 5-0 victory over Denmark.

The five-goal margin is the largest ever in an Algarve Cup match against an opponent other than Portugal. Heather O'Reilly scored twice, the first two-goal game of her career, while Abby Wambach, Kristine Lilly and Natasha Kai also tallied for the U.S.

Lilly's goal was the 108th of her legendary career, moving her into sole possession of second-place on the women's all-time international scoring list behind former teammate Mia Hamm (158 career goals). Kai meanwhile, became the first Hawaiian to play for the full Women's National Team and the 15th woman in U.S. history to score in her first-ever cap.

France defeated China, 1-0, in the other Group B match, meaning a win or a tie for the USA in its final group match against France on Monday, March 13, will earn the Americans a berth in the championship game against Germany. The match will take place at the beautiful Stadium Algarve in Faro. Fans can follow the match live on ussoccer.com's MatchTracker with kickoff set for 3:30 p.m. local time / 10:30 a.m. ET.

The first half could not have gone much better for the U.S. team, which outshot the Danes 15-1. Along with scoring four goals, the U.S. put two in the net that were called back for offside. Over the course of the game, Wambach had three separate goals called back for offside.

"We kept Denmark under pressure constantly, and as soon as we won (the ball), we were into the attack and looking to play behind them early," said U.S head coach Greg Ryan. "I think the quality of service from Aly (Wagner) and all the midfielders was fantastic today. We had more runs in behind them and that gave us more chances to get in on a first-ball situation. Once we stretched them, we had room to play underneath, so I think we had a lot of variety in our attack today. It was great."

The USA was playing with a stiff wind at its back in the first half and needed to capitalize before switching sides. The Americans got three goals in a six-minute burst starting in the 26th minute. The goal sequence began when the U.S. sent a ball deep into the Denmark defensive third just outside the penalty area on the right flank. Denmark goalkeeper Heidi Johansen was unable to grab it, so a defender had to clear it, and against the stiff wind, the ball held up in the air. Midfielder Shannon Boxx came flying through the middle to take the ball down off her chest before lifting it over the back line to Wambach. She took a swing at the bouncing ball and got just enough to cut her shot past Johansen into the lower left corner from eight yards out. It was the 51st goal of her career.

O'Reilly, who had several good chances against China without reward, broke through for her first goal in the 29th minute. Midfielder Carli Lloyd, who was making her first-ever start in just her fourth cap, dribbled into the left side of the penalty box, cut back into the middle and bent her rolling shot off the outside of the right post from 15 yards out. The ball bounced to Aly Wagner, who also cut back into the middle before firing a left-footed shot at net that was re-directed off the goalkeeper by Wambach at point blank range. As Wambach crashed into the `keeper, the ball momentarily bounced loose in front of the net before O'Reilly came crashing through at the far post to finish from two yards out.

O'Reilly earned her second goal just two minutes later after streaking behind the Danish back line to run onto a perfect over-the-top pass from Lilly. She saw Johansen off her line and lifted the bouncing ball over her head and into the net from 25 yards out. The goals upped her international total to seven.

The USA added one more before the end of the half, courtesy of a world-class strike from Lilly. Wagner sent one of her many dangerous passes at the Danish restraining line and Wambach jumped to flick the ball behind her into the left side of the penalty area. The ball took one bounce before Lilly hit a laser-beam left-footed volley into the right side of the net from 16 yards out and Johansen did not move.

Goalkeeper Jenni Branam played her first match for the full National Team since July of 2000, and picked up her first shutout since June of that year. Branam earned her first-ever cap against Denmark at the Algarve Cup in 2000, a 2-1 U.S. win. She grabbed several crosses in heavy traffic and in the second half, was called upon to make two big saves. She tipped Maiken Pipe's header off a free kick over the bar and in the 65th minute and denied Lene Jensen on Denmark's most dangerous chance of the game. With Cat Whitehill in pursuit, Jensen got behind the U.S. defense and fired a well-struck shot from 15 yards out that Branam caught solidly with a dive to her right.

The shutout extends an impressive defensive streak for the U.S, as the team has not allowed a goal from the run of play in the last 1,378 minutes dating back to the end of 2004. In fact, the current streak began after Denmark scored against the USA on Nov. 6, 2004. The team has also yet to lose under Ryan, moving to 11-0-3 since he took over the team at the 2005 Algarve Cup.

Denmark, which took just one shot in the first half, didn't get a chance until the 35th minute as Nanna Johansen lifted a shot harmlessly over the net.

O'Reilly, who went the entire 90 minutes, had several chances for the hat trick, none better than in the 39th minute when she ran under a great ball from Wagner in the box. She brought it down beautifully with her laces, but couldn't get off a shot as a defender closed.

The final goal came off a blunder by Danish defender Janne Madsen, who topped a pass back to her goalkeeper. Kai intercepted the rolling ball, dribbled into the left side of the penalty area and lifted a perfect right-footed chip from a fairly sharp angle over Johansen, just under the crossbar and into the net.

Ryan made all six allowed substitutes in the second half, getting some quality minutes for his bench and some important rest for the starters. At the end of the game, the U.S. front line consisted of Kai (22 years old), O'Reilly (21) and Amy Rodriguez (19), who had several chances on goal and a few darting runs during her 26 minutes of action.

The U.S. won almost every head ball during the game, which became even more important during the second half when the Danes were playing with the wind. Denmark took five shots after the break and earned all four of their corner kicks in the second half, but the match was long decided by then.

Two Danish players suffered game-ending injuries during the match. Betinna Hansen may have dislocated her elbow after colliding with Abby Wambach and Marie Herping got the worst of a head-to-head collision with Marci Miller, and may have suffered an injury to her cheek.

In other MatchDay 2 action, Norway tied Finland, 0-0, in Group A. Norway, struggling without forward Dagny Mellgren (retirement) and their other top player Solveig Gulbrandsen (pregnancy), has yet to score in the tournament. Germany continued its dominance of Group A with a 3-0 win over Sweden (which has also yet to score) and has already booked its place in the championship with one group game against Norway remaining. In Group C, Ireland and Mexico tied 0-0. Visit the 2006 Algarve Cup competitions page at ussoccer.com for a complete schedule and standings, plus features, podcasts and exclusive all_access video coverage of the WNT in Portugal.

U.S. WOMEN'S NATIONAL TEAM GAME REPORT

Match-up: USA vs. Denmark
Competition: 2006 Algarve Cup
Venue: Municipal Stadium; Quarteira, Portugal
Date: March 11, 2006; Kickoff – 3:00 p.m. local / 10:00 a.m. ET
Attendance: 500
Weather: Sunny, windy – 78 degrees

Scoring Summary:
             1      2     F

USA      4     1    5
DEN      0     0    0

USA – Abby Wambach (Shannon Boxx) 26th minute.
USA – Heather O’Reilly (Abby Wambach) 29.
USA – Heather O’Reilly (Kristine Lilly) 31.
USA – Kristine Lilly (Abby Wambach) 41.
USA – Natasha Kai (Unassisted) 71.

Lineups:
USA: 1-Jenni Branam; 2-Heather Mitts, 4-Cat Whitehill, 14-Amy LePeilbet, 3-Christie Rampone (21-Stephanie Lopez, 57); 7-Shannon Boxx (15-Marci Miller, 57), 11-Carli Lloyd (12-Leslie Osborne, 73), 10-Aly Wagner (5-Lindsay Tarpley, 46); 9-Heather O’Reilly, 20-Abby Wambach (16-Amy Rodriguez, 64), 13-Kristine Lilly – Capt. (6-Natasha Kai, 46)
Subs not used: 8-Tina Frimpong, 18-Hope Solo, 19-Christie Welsh.
Head Coach: Greg Ryan

DEN: 16-Heidi Johansen; 3-Katrine Pedersen – Capt., 14-Dorte Jensen, 15-Bettina Hansen (18-Maiken Pape, 54), 19-Malene Olsen (4-Christina Ørntoft, 46); 6-Louise Hansen, 8-Nanna Johansen (10-Anne Nielsen, 46), 9-Julie Bukh (13-Johanna Rasmussen, 46), 17-Marie Herping (5-Mariann Knudsen, 75), 20-Jane Madsen; 12-Lene Jensen.
Subs not used: 1-Mette Christensen, 2-Mia Olsen, 7-Cathrine Sørensen, 11-Merete Pederson.
Head Coach: Peter Bonde

Statistical Summary:
USA / DEN

Shots: 22 / 6
Shots on Goal: 9 / 2
Saves: 2 / 2
Corner Kicks: 6 / 4
Fouls: 12 / 5
Offside: 6 / 2

Misconduct Summary:
DEN – Abby Wambach (caution) 52nd minute.

Officials:
Referee: D’Coth Bentla (IND)
Asst. Referee: Lu Lijuan (CHN)
Asst. Referee: Yoshizama Hisae (JPN)
4th Official: Kamnueng Pannipar (THA)

ussoccer.com Woman of the Match: Heather O’Reilly

U.S. WOMEN'S NATIONAL TEAM QUOTE SHEET

U.S. HEAD COACH GREG RYAN
On scoring goals:
“It’s sometimes hard to get confidence back, but once one or two go in, then everybody has a feeling they can score.”

On Abby Wambach getting the first goal:
“I was just excited it went in. She had a few good chances before that and finally broke the seal, so it’s great for her and great for the team.”

On Natasha Kai scoring in her first game:
“Natasha is a goal scorer and you always need one of those. She’s young, she’s still just learning how to play with this team, but she’s very confident around the goal, and that showed today with her chipping the ‘keeper.”

On the attacking rhythm:
“It came out of our defending. We kept Denmark under pressure constantly, and as soon as we won it, we were into the attack and looking to play behind them early. I think the quality of service from Aly (Wagner) and all the midfielders was fantastic today. We had more runs in behind them and that gave us more chances to get in on a first-ball situation. Once we stretched them, we had room to play underneath, so I think we had a lot of variety in our attack today. It was great.”

On goalkeeper Jenni Branam playing her first match since 2000:
“Jenni was fantastic. She had some work to do. She had to tip that ball over the bar and had to stop a breakaway and her kicking game was fantastic for us. A great performance for a first time back.

On Kristine Lilly’s goal:
“Kristine Lilly is amazing. You give her that kind of shot, she’s scores a world-class goal. You can count on it.”

On getting to make six substitutions:
“We needed to rest some people. Boxxy does so much work in the midfield, it was great to get her some time off. Lilly is the same way. Aly will be a lot fresher and we were able to get Abby off so it’s going to help her legs. But for these young players, they came in and really went after it. They weren’t just out there to kill the game. Amy Rodriguez was taking players on, Tasha Kai scoring a goal, chipping the ‘keeper, Marci (Miller) holding the fort in the midfield and Stephanie (Lopez) at defense. It’s very important for us that we bring these players on and they start taking their place and finding their role on the team.”

U.S. FORWARD NATASHA KAI
On her first cap:
“When Coach told me that I was going in in the second half, that’s when the butterflies started, but it all went away after the whistle blew. I was a little nervous.”

On her goal:
“I was going to push out towards the side (on defense), but I heard the ‘keeper say something, so I figured that probably meant to drop the ball back because (the defender’s) back was facing me and she had no idea where I was. So I just stepped in to intercept that pass and she passed it right to me. I took a couple touches and I saw the far post open, so I kind of bent it around. The wind kind of helped it because I thought it was going to go over, but the wind pushed it down a bit and inside, so I was stoked.”

On being the first player from Hawaii to play for the U.S. Women’s National Team:
“I feel honored. Coming from Hawaii, it’s a dream come true. I never thought I would actually have the opportunity to come here, but coach Greg gave me that opportunity and right now I’m just happy for my team. It’s not where I come from, it’s who you play for, and I play for the U.S., and I’m trying to represent that well.”

U.S. FORWARD HEATHER O'REILLY
On getting two goals:
“It feels really good. I’ve been working hard these last couple of weeks. I feel myself improving as a player, but getting that last final piece I’ve been working on (is great). So it feels really good to get two in the bag and I’m looking forward to the rest of the tournament.”

On finishing:
“I think part of my game as a finisher, I just have to stay relaxed in front of the net. I think that’s what I did, especially on the second goal. I was calm and kind of used finesse rather than trying to use pure strength and emotion, and that’s just improving as a player I think.”

On her second goal:
“I caught her way off her line, I just had to use the inside of my foot and knock it right over her head. It was an open net. It’s something I’ve been working on because usually I would just sky that right over.”

On the rhythm of the forward line:
“That’s something that we’ve been really working on when we were training out in LA and now that we are training in Portugal. Sometimes in practice, it’s been frustrating, because we’ve felt like we haven’t gotten that rhythm down, but in a game like today, we were really reading each other well and the result shows it. Five goals is awesome and we have a lot of momentum heading into the next game.”

U.S. FORWARD ABBY WAMBACH
On her forward line mates:
“Heather O’Reilly played fantastic today, she played the full ninety. Tash comes in and scores in her first cap. What a brilliant goal, huge for her, and obviously Kristine Lilly’s goal…she comes to play every single time she steps on the field and that goal was a great way to step off at halftime.”

On getting five goals:
“At this point, that’s the great thing about the Algarve Cup for us. Goal differential will seed us in terms of where we get put after our first round games. It’s a do-or-die situation. We have to win these games, we have to win the next game to get to the finals, and if we don’t, we have to have more goals than everybody else in our group.”

On the scoring mentality:
“From a forward’s standpoint, scoring goals is our job. If we don’t score goals, we’ve failed. And I think we all went out on the field today having a little bit of that in the back of our minds. So to go out and score four goals in the first half was great for us.”

U.S. DEFENDER CAT WHITEHILL
On playing with the wind the first half and against it in the second:
“The biggest difference was that the ‘keeper couldn’t kick the ball as far (in the first half) and we were able to have Boxxy win those head balls. But in the second half, they put in a different core group of people and were able to send the balls over the top a lot and we were running a whole bunch.”

On continuing the streak of not allowing a goal from the run of play since late 2004:
“It’s exciting to see how team defense really works. When you transition from team defense to offense, you win 5-0. But the best part is the zero and we were able to get a big goal differential heading into the next game and hopefully make it to the final.”