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U.S. women dominate in Algarve Cup opener. Akers and Chastain find net in victory.

OLHÃO, Portugal (Sunday, March 15, 1998) -- The United States women dominated Finland today, using Michelle Akers’ goal in the 51st minute and Brandi Chastain’s penalty kick in the 76th to record a 2-0 victory today in its opening game of the Fifth Algarve Cup before 250 at Jose Arcanjo Stadium.

In this eight-team tournament taking place in nine cities on the Southern tip of Portugal, Finland countered the large U.S. advantages in territory and possession by dropping its entire team into the defensive zone for long stretches.

"A solid effort by the United States," said U.S. coach Tony DiCicco, who picked up his 59th career win. "It was difficult to break down an organized bunker that the Fins created around their goal, but we played with discipline and stayed within our game plan. We avoided any defensive breakdowns and didn't allow any counter attacks."

The Americans finally broke the deadlock just after halftime when an American cross was poorly punched by Finland goalkeeper Johanna Lindell. U.S. midfielder Julie Foudy ran down the ball in the right side of the penalty box and hit a short but hard cross that was knocked down by Lindell. Michelle Akers tapped in the rebound past a sprawling Lindell from five yards out.

"It's fun to be playing and back in the lineup," said Akers, who scored her 94th career international goal in her first match outside the United States in two years after battling back from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. "But obviously, we have to be better if we're going to win this tournament.As a team, we need capitalize on our scoring opportunities, have sharper focus and be more creative in the final third because we play China and Norway next, two of the best teams in the world."

After the first U.S. goal, the game was never in doubt, but the Americans continued to methodically attack the Finish bunker. In the 57th minute, Mia Hamm sent a hard cross on the ground that flashed by a sliding Shannon MacMillan before being met by a streaking Kristine Lilly, who smacked her shot inches wide of the right post.

In the 65th minute, Hamm's free-kick from a sharp angle on the left side of the penalty box was stopped by Lindell, but again the Finish goalkeeper couldn't hold on. The ball bounded into the middle where Lilly's volley forced the keeper to make a point-blank save.

Chastain added the second U.S. goal in the 76th minute after Finland defender Kaisa Mustonen took down a streaking Hamm in the penalty box. Chastain drilled her shot into the left corner for her 12th international goal.

The U.S. registered its fourth consecutive shutout and is currently riding a streak of 430 minutes without allowing a goal. Tracy Ducar played the entire game in the U.S. net, picking up the shutout without having to make a save.

"We played a pretty solid game all around, but had a little trouble finishing against their bunker," said Foudy, who moved into third place on the U.S. all-time caps list with her 118th appearance. "It's good for us to play against different styles and learn to finish effectively even if the other team packs their defense. We've been playing great coming off our last training camp and winning the tournament in China (in January). We're looking to carry that momentum through to win this tournament."

Lilly made her 143rd international appearance for the United States as she continues to close in on the all-time world record of 151 by the now-retired Heidi Stoere of Norway.

Finland featured 5-foot-10 central midfielder Anne Makinen, the consensus college freshman of the year last season for Notre Dame. Makinen battled in the midfield, but without support, was ineffective as Finland produced almost nothing on offense.

Perhaps the most prestigious and competitive international women's tournament outside of the World Cup and the Olympics, the U.S. team has failed to win the Algarve Cup in three previous attempts.

In other Group A action on the opening day, China defeated Norway 1-0 on a 51st minute goal from Jin Yan.

In Group B play in Villa Real Santo António, Denmark and Sweden tied 0-0 while Holland defeated host Portugal 2-1 on two goals by Miranda Noom.

The U.S. will face China on Tuesday at 17 in Loulé at 9:30 a.m. (ET). The Americans finish group play against Norway Thursday in Lagos at 9:30 (ET). The Americans must win Group A to play for the championship on March 21 against the Group B winner.

United States 2, Finland 0

Lineups: United States - Tracy Ducar, Carla Overbeck (Sara Whalen, 60), Brandi Chastain, Lorrie Fair, Joy Fawcett (Christie Pearce 73), Julie Foudy, Tisha Venturini (Justi Baumgardt 60), Michelle Akers (Debbie Keller 60), Kristine Lilly, Shannon MacMillan (Tiffany Roberts 67), Mia Hamm. Finland - Johanna Lindell, Jessica Julin, Anne Parnila (Hanna Laine 63), Sanna Räsänen, Anne Mäkinen, Laura Kalmari (Elisa Simonen 81), Terhi Uusi-Luornalahti, Christina Forsell, Hanna Ekström, Kaisa Mustonen, Sanna Valkonen.

Scoring: United States - Akers (Foudy), 51st minute; United States - Chastain (penalty kick) 76. Shots: United States 13, Finland 1. Saves: United States 0, Finland 6. Corner kicks: United States 11, Finland 1. Fouls: United States 7, Finland 9. Offsides: United States 0, Finland 0. Yellow card cautions: Finland - Ekström 18.

Referee: Ingrid Johnsson (Denmark) Assistant referees: Sandra Mira (Portugal), Eurico Santos (Portugal). Attendance (Jose Arcanjo Stadium): 250. (weather: sunny, breezy, 79 degrees.)