MacMillan, Hamm score to lead 2-0 victory over China for Algarve Cup crown.
LOULÉ, Portugal (Thursday, March 20, 2003) -- Striker Mia Hamm and midfielder Shannon MacMillan scored within a four-minute span early in the second half -- each assisted by the other -- giving the United States a 2-0 victory over China for the 10th Algarve Cup championship before an estimated 1,000 at Municipal Stadium this afternoon.
The U.S. won the Algarve title for the second time after four final appearances in eight trips here. The Americans also won in 2000 in coach April Heinrichs' first visit here.
"Tonight's performance from start to finish was phenomenal," Heinrichs said. "Every player was tied into our tactical scheme and was committed to playing the way the coaching staff asked them to play. Every player was allowed to be a personality within our system and they absolutely stepped up. We played a different system, and we wanted to sit back in a low-pressure style and explode out of that."
Aided a strong defense, the U.S. held China to a few dangerous chances while avenging a 2-0 loss in the Four Nations Tournament last January. The Americans hold a 13-8-9 advantage in the series
Both teams played 4-5-1 formations, a lineup unique for the U.S. which employed Hamm as the lone forward and midfielders Kristine Lilly and MacMillan attacking down the flanks,.
China played uncharacteristically direct, sending numerous long balls sailing into the U.S. defensive third, but center backs Brandi Chastain and Joy Fawcett were up to the task, winning most balls in the air while beating the Chinese to balls over their heads. Outside backs Cat Reddick and Kate Sobrero also did well, digging balls out of the corners and winning numerous headers.
Sobrero even came close to scoring her first international goal, banging a cross off the left post after an aggressive run in the second half.
"Obviously, people want to pay attention to our attacking personalities, but I'll tell you what, Brandi Chastain and Joy Fawcett were two of our most valuable players for the second tournament in a row," said Heinrichs, referring to the Four Nations and Algarve events. "Joy's consistency and mentality is the best of all the players on our team."
After a first half in which the Americans took five shots and China had just one, the U.S. struck for its two-goal lead. Hamm was at the heart of both goals.
Center midfielder Aly Wagner was having trouble finding space to distribute in the first half, but found more room after intermission. In the 52nd minute, she sent Hamm behind the Chinese defense. Hamm headed the bouncing ball down to herself then accelerated into the penalty area for a one-on-one with Chinese goalkeeper Zhao Yan.
The world's all-time leading scorer tried to bend a shot around Zhao, but she got a piece of it. The ball spun behind the keeper and toward the goal where MacMillan, following the play, thundered in to slam the ball home from one yard. Tumbling into the net in a cloud of dirt, MacMillan had her 54th international goal and a 1-0 advantage
Four minutes later, MacMillan returned the favor, slipping a great pass to Hamm cutting into the right side of the penalty area. Hamm shot from 16 yards out to the far post. Zhao got a piece of this one too, but couldn't keep it out of the net as it bounced off the left post and caromed in to make it 2-0.
"We were able to get that goal early in the half and then the second one right after, and it took some of the spirit out China, but we never expected China to give up and they didn't," said Hamm who now has 138 career goal.
A bumpy field made holding the ball difficult for both teams, but the U.S. had much better possession in the second half. While China took seven of its eight shots after the break, most did not trouble U.S. goalkeeper Briana Scurry who made three saves and picked up her 60th career shutout.
Scurry was excellent coming out of her goal to grab long balls and twice, in the first half, left her penalty box to safely clear balls away with her feet.
"We are very happy with the win," Hamm said. "To play four games in seven days and to end with the second half that we did, especially against a Chinese team that is extremely talented, was great for us. But I have to hand it to our defense. They played great the entire tournament and today was no different. They just played phenomenally and that allowed us in midfield and up top to take a few more chances."
The U.S. outshot China 10-8, 6-3 on frame.
In the first half, MacMillan produced the best American chances, but Zhao dove to save a 35-yard free kick in the 21st minute and stopped a dipping shot 15 minutes later.
The U.S. had a great chance to add a third goal in the 77th minute when reserve midfielder Heather O'Reilly raced in on a breakaway, but Zhao held her ground and stuffed the 18-year-old's shot.
"I really thought either team could win it until it was 2-0, even though that is certainly not a safe lead against China," said Heinrichs. "But with the way we were playing, with the system we were playing and with the veteran leadership on the field, I felt secure with the 2-0 lead."
Midfielder Julie Foudy and Fawcett played all 90 minutes in all four matches over the seven days.
Norway defeated France 1-0 for third place on Dagny Mellgren's third goal of the tournament. Sweden hammered Finland 5-0 for fifth place with the Fins finishing sixth despite not scoring a goal in the tournament.
Canada blasted Greece 7-1 for seventh place with Christine Sinclair scoring three times. Denmark used an own goal to defeat Portugal 1-0 for ninth place. Wales scored a dramatic equalizer in stoppage time to tie Ireland 2-2 in regulation, but Ireland took 11th place 4-2 in penalty kicks.
United States 2, China 0
Lineups: United States - Briana Scurry, Cat Reddick, Joy Fawcett, Brandi Chastain, Kate Sobrero, Lorrie Fair, Julie Foudy (captain), Kristine Lilly, (Heather O'Reilly 73), Aly Wagner (Angela Hucles 66), Shannon MacMillan (Tiffany Roberts 76), Mia Hamm. China - Zhao Yan (captain), Sun Rui, Li Jie, Zhou Xiaoxia (Chen Jinyu 66), Liu Yali, Zhao Lihong (Han Duan 66), Pu Wei, Ren Liping (Zhang Ouying 57), Liu Ying, Sun Wen (Teng Wei 88), Bai Jie.
Shots: United States 10, China 8. Shots on goal: United States 6, China 3. Saves: United States 3, China 4. Corner kicks: United States 5, China 6. Fouls: United States 16, China 12. Offside: United States 4, China 1. Yellow card cautions: China - Zhao L. 7, Zhou 21.
Referee: Eva Odlund (Sweden). Assistant referees: Susanne Borg (Sweden), Hege Steinlund (Norway). Attendance: 1,000 at Municipal Stadium in Loulè, Portugal. Weather: Chilly, light breeze, 58 degrees.