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Hamm's 135th goal, in third minute, provides 1-0 victory over Iceland.

CHARLESTON, S.C. (Sunday, February 16, 2003) -- Striker Mia Hamm's goal in the third minute was enough for the United States women to defeat Iceland 1-0 before 3,170 who braved the cold and a steady drizzle tonight.

The Americans could have scored several more, but were thwarted by the outstanding goalkeeping of Thora Helgadóttir who made 10 saves, several sensational.

Hamm was making her first international appearance of 2003. She and midfielders Kristine Lilly and Julie Foudy were absent from the U.S. side that won the Four Nations Cup in China last month.

Midfielder Aly Wagner spotted Hamm 30 yards out with plenty of room between two defenders and sent a lead pass which Ham tracked down eight yards from the right post. With her first touch, Hamm drilled a low shot that beat Helgadóttir on the short side for a 1-0 lead with 135 seconds elapsed.

Hamm's goal was the 137th of her career. Wagner's assist was her team-leading fourth of the year for the U.S. which is 3-1-1 in 2003.

"Against a team like this, you're hoping to get one early because the longer they ride it, the more they feel like they're in the game," Hamm said. "If you have a mental lapse, they'll put one in. I think that early goal gave us some confidence. We probably could've put another one away, but probably the biggest strength on their team was their goalkeeper. She keeps them in the game, and she played exceptional."

The U.S. nearly expanded its advantage to 2-0 two minutes later after Kristine Lilly, the recipient of a right side cross from forward Cindy Parlow, was robbed when her low shot from seven yards was turned away point-blank by Helgadóttir.

Iceland should have been, but wasn't awarded a penalty kick in the 10th minute. Helgadóttir lofted a free kick two yards beyond the center stripe into the American penalty area and U.S. keeper LaKeysia Beene knocked over Iceland striker Olga Faerseth, as well as teammate Kate Sobrero, going for the ball. Then, as U.S. defender Christie Pearce went to clear the ball from the right side of the box, it bounced up and hit her in the right hand before she booted it away.

Helgadóttir, who played a brilliant match during a 0-0 tie the last time these two nations met in 2000, pulled off two more great saves in the first half. In the 18th minute, Hamm held off a defender to win a bouncing ball in the penalty area and struck a hard volley, but Helgadottir parried the shot to her right with a flying dive. A few minutes later, Wagner curled a free kick from 25 yards towards the left post, but Helgadottir dove to knock it away.

"I was very pleased with the way we started the game," U.S. head coach April Heinrichs said. "We came out dynamic, fresh, excited and passionate. We had lots of good combination play, but I thought Helgadóttir saved two brilliant goals, and those two saves really kept them in the game." Helgadóttir, who will be a senior at Duke University next fall, denied Wagner in the 53rd minute, pushing a curling shot headed for the top right corner from 16 yards over the crossbar. Nine minutes later, Wagner sliced through two defenders at the top of the box and struck a left-footed shot that forced a diving save from Helgadóttir.

In the 67th minute, Helgadóttir smothered a breakaway attempt from Hamm, just beating the forward to a skidding ball.

"I've played them several times before, so I know that the U.S. game is a little bit different than the European game," Helgadóttir said. "Fortunately, I've been able to adjust to that over time. It's just really fun to play against Mia Hamm and the rest of the gang."

Iceland spent most of the match packed back on defense. The U.S. outshot its opponent 27-4, 12-2 on frame.

"I think we got a little frustrated against their 5-4-1 (formation)," Heinrichs said. "I don't think we should underestimate how difficult it is to beat a team when they're sitting eight in the back. That is really tough. But to be fair, I told the team afterwards, they can't be pleased with that second half or our performance."

The match was played in a constant drizzle with temperatures that dipped into the mid-40s, but the expected thunderstorms never materialized.


United States 1, Iceland 0

Lineups: United States LaKeysia Beene (Siri Mullinix 46), Christie Pearce, Kate Sobrero, Brandi Chastain, Jenny Benson, Angela Hucles (Lindsay Tarpley 46), Julie Foudy (captain), Kristine Lilly, Aly Wagner (Jena Kluegel 74), Cindy Parlow (Heather O'Reilly 46), Mia Hamm. Iceland - Thora Helgadóttir (Maria Agustsdottir 87), Audur Skuladóttir, Rosa Steinthorsdóttir (Malfridur Sigurdardottir 92+), Rakel Logadottir (Holmfridur Magnusdottir 65), Elin Thorsteinsdottir (Eva Gudbjornsdottir 89), Iris Andresdottir, Asta Helgadóttir (captain), Dora Stefansdottir (Laufey Johannsdottir 65), Erla Hendriksdóttir (Elfa Erlingsdottir 92+), Hrefna Johannesdottir, Olga Faerseth.

Scoring:
United States - Hamm (Wagner) 3.

Shots: United States 27, Iceland 4 Saves: United States 2, Iceland 11. Corner kicks: United States 9, Iceland 0 Fouls: United States 6, Iceland 18. Offside: United States 1, Iceland 3. Yellow card cautions: United States - Parlow 10, Benson 77; Iceland - Hendriksdóttir 30.

Referee: Jennifer Bennett (United States). Assistant referees: Ronnie Canales (United Statse), Sandra Serafini (United States). Attendance: 3,170 at Blackbaud Stadium in Charleston, S.C. Weather: Cold, wet, 45 degrees.

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