Lackluster performance by both sides results in U.S. 0-0 draw with Japan.
Wagner's three assists, Milbrett's winner lead 3-1 victory over Norway in Four Nations Tournament.
YIWU, China (January 23, 2003) -- Striker Tiffeny Milbrett put the United States in the lead for good midway through the second half while midfielder Aly Wagner assisted all three goals as the Americans defeated Norway 3-1 to open the Four Nations Tournament on an icy cold evening before an estimated 27,000 at Meihu Sports Center Stadium tonight.
Defender Thori Brian found net in for the first time in 62 appearances over 10 years for the U.S. women while Heather O'Reilly, who replaced Milbrett in the 67th minute, also scored.
"It was a stupendous performance by Aly to get three assists against Norway, to set play the way that she did and to embrace our defensive mentality," U.S. coach April Heinrich said. "The final pass was a missing ingredient in the first half, but in the second half she was putting the ball on people's feet. It's a really good sign when players can get better during the course of a game."
On the first day of this round-robin competition, China and Germany played to a 0-0 draw.
The U.S. scored only once in the 2002 Four Nations Tournament, compiling a 1-1-1 record and finishing third. The Americans face China Sunday in Wuhan and Germany Wednesday in Shanghai.
"Any time you score three goals against Norway, you know you've stepped out on the field prepared to play and you've capitalized on the few opportunities you got," Heinrichs said. "We started off well and got better every minute during the course of the game, and finished the game with disciplined defense and confident attacking."
With two straight victories over Norway, the U.S. now has a 15-18-2 mark against its Scandinavian rival, the only nation with a winning record against the Americans. The U.S. is 12-7-9 all-time against China and 11-4-2 against Germany.
Wagner's ability to slice through Norway's defense set up Milbrett for a quick pair of good chances with Milbrett putting away the second for a 2-1 lead in the 64th minute.
In the 62nd minute, Milbrett just missed getting a toe on a Wagner feed. Two minutes later, Wagner caressed a pass over the defense that skipped off the head of Norway defender Monica Knudsen. Goalkeeper Ingrid Hjelsmeth started to come for the ball, but was caught in no-man's land when she stopped. Milbrett gathered herself in front of the bouncing ball and cracked a left-footed volley into the right corner from 12 yards out.
It was Milbrett's 96th career goal in 183 appearances for the U.S. as she closes in on becoming the fifth woman to reach the milestone of 100 goals in international competition.
U.S. keeper Briana Scurry twice came up big to deny an equalizer, first in the 68th minute when Norway's quick free kick caught the U.S. flat-footed and midfielder Dagny Mellgren raced in on goal, only to be betrayed by her touch, allowing Scurry to slide and smother the ball. In the 83rd minute, Norway midfielder Solveig Gulbrandsen finished a fine dribbling run with a swerving 25-yard shot, but Scurry dove to her right to push it away.
Scurry was sharp coming off her line to cut off the numerous Norwegian services during the match and Hjelmseth was also solid in the air in Norway's net.
Four minutes after Wagner served striker Shannon MacMillan for a one-on-one chance in the 83rd minute that was blocked by a defender, the midfielder found O'Reilly behind the defense in the left side of the penalty area. One of the stars of the U.S. 2002 under-19 world championship team, O'Reilly beat an attempted offside trap, taking Wagner's pass and calmly finishing under Hjelsmeth into the left side of the net from 14 yards out for a 3-1 advantage.
"The way in which we started to assemble our attacking play in the second half was tremendously exciting," Heinrichs said. "We had five or six players committed to the attack and we were playing in front of and behind Norway's flat back four. At the end of the game, we were playing around the outside as well. The number of players on our team who either got (to the) end line for a cross or got a shot on goal was outstanding."
O'Reilly has found net twice in her brief 10-match U.S. national career. "Our young players who came off the bench made an immediate impact," Heinrichs said. "Jena Kluegel was involved in a lot of flank play and Jenny Benson gave us tremendous composure and variety of service forward. Heather O'Reilly helped possess the ball and knew when to take a risk, or lay the ball and make a run."
Bryan elevated in traffic to pound home a header in the 24th minute off Wagner's right-side corner kick to make it 1-0.
"We made some changes on our attacking set plays and one of them was to bring Thori forward because of her leaping ability and her courage to head the ball and anything that gets between her and the ball," Heinrichs said.
In the 42nd minute, Wagner was double-teamed in the midfield and stripped by midfielder Hege Riise who made a quick, accurate through pass to Mellgren. U.S. defender Joy Fawcett gave chase, but couldn't close fast enough and Mellgren slipped the ball past an advancing Scurry and into the net's lower left corner on Norway's second shot of the game.
The U.S. outshot Norway 18-4, 9-4 on frame.
United States 3, Norway 1
Lineups: United States - Briana Scurry, Kate Sobrero, Joy Fawcett, Brandi Chastain, Thori Bryan (Jenny Benson 65), Angela Hucles (Jena Kluegel 46), Tiffany Roberts, Lorrie Fair, Aly Wagner (Devvyn Hawkins 88), Cindy Parlow (Shannon MacMillan 46), Tiffeny Milbrett (Heather O'Reilly 67). Norway - Ingrid Hjelmseth, Marianne Paulsen, Monica Knudsen, Ingvild Stensland (Elene Moseby 85), Brit Sandaune, Trine Ranning, Solveig Gulbrandsen, Hege Riise, Unni Lehn (Lise Klaveness 73), Anita Rapp, Dagny Mellgren.
Shots: United States 18, Norway 4. Shots on goal: United States 9, Norway 4. Saves: United States 3, Norway 6. Corner kicks: United States 3, Norway 5. Fouls: United States 6, Norway 7. Offside: United States 4, Norway 2. Yellow card cautions: Norway - Lehn 28.
Referee: Zhang Dongqing (China). Assistant referees: Liu Hongjuan (China), Fu Hongjue (China) Attendance: 27,000 (estimated) at Meihu Sports Center Stadium in Yiwu, China. Weather: Cold, dry, 42 degrees.