MacMillan scores early, good for 1-0 decision over Norway and Algarve Cup Group A lead.
FERREIRAS, Portugal (Sunday, March 16, 2003) -- Striker Shannon MacMillan celebrated her 150th appearance for the United States women by scoring an unassisted goal in the fourth minute, enough for a 1-0 triumph over Norway in Group A of the 10th Annual Algrave Cup before 300 at Ferreiras Stadium this afternoon.
The U.S. (1-0-1, 4 points) can clinch first place and participation in Thursday's Algarve title match by defeating Sweden on Tuesday in Villa Real de San Antonio. The Americans could also win their group with a tie depending on the results of Tuesday's Group A meeting between Norway (0-1-1, 1) and Canada (0-0-2, 2).
In today's Group A opener, Canada and Sweden (0-0-2, 2) played a 1-1 draw.
The U.S. is trying to make the final for the fourth time in eight Algarve Cup visits. The Americans finished fifth a year ago and sixth in 2001.
"It was a full-on 90-minute committed and concentrated, aggressive game for us," said U.S. coach April Heinrichs of today's performance. "I think we are the most consistent team in the world and part of that is our mental preparation for every practice and game. We rarely have a letdown because we respect every opponent we play. We were a little timid in our first game (against Canada), a little rusty perhaps, but tonight (the Americans') touch was magic."
Playing into a blustery wind for the first 45 minutes, the U.S. jumped ahead early on MacMillan's opportunistic effort. On a Norway back-pass, MacMillan raced at goalkeeper Ingrid Hjelmseth as she prepared to play the ball at the top of her penalty area. Blocking the attempted clearance, MacMillan ran down the spinning ball on the left end line, turned to face the goal, and seeing Hjelmseth cheating off her line for the cross, bent a 12-yard shot from a difficult angle between the keeper and the near post.
"We knew that with the wind, if we went high pressure (on defense), the ball was going to be unpredictable out there," MacMillan said. "I think the keeper took a longer touch than she wanted to and I was able to get a foot on it. When I looked up, I saw some space between the goalkeeper and the post."
For MacMillan, who scored seven of the U.S.'s eight goals at last year's Algarve Cup, it was her 10th career goal in this tournament and 53rd of her career. With the victory, the U.S. women defeated Norway for a third consecutive time for the first time in the 18-year series. Norway remains the only nation with a winning record against the Americans at 18-16-12.
While both teams attacked aggressively, neither side produced an abundance of scoring opportunities. The U.S. outshot Norway 8-2, 4-1 on frame.
The U.S. back line, led by central defenders Brandi Chastain and Joy Fawcett, tackled hard and won a considerable majority of balls in the air, allowing the Americans to dictate play through much of the proceedings. MacMillan, forward Mia Hamm and midfielder Aly Wagner displayed some nice combination play in their attacking half of the field. Midfielders Julie Foudy and Kristine Lilly augmented this with some intelligent defense, settling the ball so the U.S. could go forward.
"In the first half, we were nervous, and I said to them at halftime that to be up 1-0, playing against those kinds of winds was a victory in itself," Heinrichs said. "The game was not over, but the challenge was with the wind at our back, to play smart, hang onto the ball and pick and choose when we went forward."
In the 56th minute, reserve midfielder Angela Hucles took a pass from Foudy, drove to the net and rolled a perfect pass into the path of Hamm. Making a run into the right side of the box, Hamm cracked a shot that hit Hjelmseth and then the right post, before bouncing back past Hucles to Hamm, who sailed her shot over the crossbar.
Two minutes later, Hamm closed fast on Hjelmseth who had the ball at her feet and blocked the clearance, leaving the keeper injured on the ground. Hjelsmeth needed to be replaced by Astrid Johannessen, whose booming punts and goal kicks against the wind gave Norway a glimmer of hope in the remaining minutes.
Lilly had a chance in the 75th minute when she picked off a Norway back pass and fired from 18 yards out, but the wind took the ball and pushed it over the goal.
Norway's first shot came in the 77th minute and it was a dangerous. A free kick from the left sideline found the head of striker Anita Rapp, but Scurry dove to her left to make a solid save. Norway had one last opportunity to equalize in the 86th minute when Rapp pushed past Fawcett on the left flank and sent a tantalizing cross scooting through the U.S. goal mouth. Trine Ronning, a late substitute forward, could not reach the ball.
In today's other game, Canada went ahead 1-0 in the 81st minute when defender Sharolta Nonen smacked a wind-aided free kick into the net from 40 yards out. Two minutes later, Sweden pulled even at 1-1 on a header from Hanna Ljungberg.
In Group B, China rebounded from its disappointing 0-0 draw with Finland to roll past France, 3-0. Finland and Denmark tied 0-0 and neither nation has scored in this event. In Group C, Ireland defeated Wales 3-1 while Portugal needed a tally in stoppage time to tie Greece, 1-1. Eight of the 12 Algarve Cup games thus far have ended in draws.
United States 1, Norway 0
Lineups: United States - Briana Scurry, Christie Pearce (Cat Reddick 46), Joy Fawcett, Brandi Chastain, Kate Sobrero (Danielle Slaton 80), Lorrie Fair (Angela Hucles 46), Julie Foudy (captain), Aly Wagner, Kristine Lilly, Mia Hamm, Shannon MacMillan (Heather O'Reilly 73). Norway - Ingrid Hjelmseth (Astrid Johannessen 61), Brit Sandaune (Marit Fiane Christensen 84), Monica Knudsen, Marianne Paulsen, Ane Stangeland, Hege Riise - captain (Kristine Edner 68), Lise Klaveness, Solveig Gulbrandsen, Anita Rapp, Unni Lehn (Trine Ronning 75), Dagny Mellgren.
Shots: United States 8, Norway 2 Shots on goal: United States 4, Norway 1 Saves: United States 1, Norway 3. Corner kicks: United States 2, Norway 2 Fouls: United States 9, Norway 11. Offside: United States 8, Norway 4. Yellow card cautions: United States - Lilly 81; Norway - Gulbrandsen 76.
Referee:Katriina Elovita (Finland) Assistant referees: Emilia Parvianen (Finland), Kirsi Savolainene (Finland). Attendance: 300 at Ferreiras (Portugal) Stadium. Weather: Overcast, cold, high winds, 62 degrees.