March 4, 2009
Story courtesy of U.S. Soccer. For more information, please log on to www.ussoccer.com
LAGOS, Portugal - The U.S. Women's National Team got its 2009 Algarve Cup campaign off to a rousing start, defeating Denmark 2-0 in nasty weather conditions as midfielders Angie Wonzuk and Tina DiMartino tallied in the first half.
With the wind whipping through the small stadium and a drizzling rain falling almost the entire match, the U.S. played the first 20 minutes on shaky legs before warming up to the task.
The first U.S. score came in the 22nd minute on the USA's first shot on goal as Woznuk scored her second career goal in just her seventh career cap and second start. The scoring sequence started with an attack down the left flank as midfielder Angela Hucles rolled a pass to Woznuk on the wing and she hit a looping cross. The ball was punched to the other side of the penalty area by Denmark goalkeeper Heidi Johansen but Heather O'Reilly ran it down. O'Reilly's cross was also punched by Johansen, and this time the ball fell to Woznuk near the left post. She settled the ball quickly and while standing just a few paces from the end line, blasted a sizzling half-volley into the roof of the net over the Danish goalkeeper.
The goal energized the U.S. team, which started connecting passes and getting numbers into the attack. Thirteen minutes after the first score, the Americans got another.
This one came off a corner kick from the left side as Christie Rampone looped her cross to the far post. U.S. forward Natasha Kai jumped high to win the ball, heading it hard off the arm of a Danish defender who was protecting the left post. The ball spun out front of the goal and DiMartino, the smallest player on the field at 5 feet 2 inches, found space to slide and smash a left-footed shot through that same defender's legs and into the net from just a few yards out.
The goal was DiMartino's first for the full U.S. National Team, and it came in just her second cap and first start.
"It's a special feeling to score a goal and, for Woznuk and DiMartino, who are fairly new to the team, it shows that on this team anyone can score," said U.S. head coach Pia Sundhage. "Everyone is happy when anyone scores a goal, but especially the new players." [More quotes]
Lindsay Tarpley replaced DiMartino at halftime and immediately added a spark to the U.S. attack, which was also bolstered later in the match by the fresh legs of Megan Rapinoe and Amy Rodriguez. But as it turned out, the U.S. got all the goals it would need before the break.
That was partly due to the excellent match played by U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo, who saved two breakaways in the first half from Danish winger Johanna Rasmussen, pushing the first away with a dive to her right in the 26th minute before securing the second with a dive to her left about 10 minutes later.
Solo made her biggest save just a minute before halftime when Rasmussen's cross from the left wing was allowed to fall in a dangerous area inside the U.S. penalty box. Danish forward Merete Pedersen got a great strike on the ball from just six yards away, but Solo stuck out her right arm to make a great reaction save and then pounced on the ball before it could spin over the goal line.
Rasmussen created danger down the flanks the entire match and almost pulled a goal back in the 61st minute after Rampone was stripped at midfield, leading to a Denmark counter attack. With the recovering Rampone on her hip, Rasmussen slapped her shot wide right of the goal from the left side of the penalty area.
The match marked the debut of Shannon Boxx in the center of the U.S. defense, where the USA's usual defensive midfielder performed extremely well next to Rampone. The U.S. team received three uncharacteristic yellow cards in the match. The first was to Woznuk for a cleats-up tackle, the second to Buehler for a powerful slide that was just a second too late and the final caution went to Rapinoe for kicking the ball away after a foul late in the game. The cautions were just a side note however as accumulated yellow cards do not lead to suspension in the Algarve Cup.
Solo made several secure catches in the rainy conditions, but her best play on a cross may have been a punch with about eight minutes left that keep a wicked service from Rasmussen moving across the goal and away from danger.
The victory marked the sixth straight Algarve Cup where the USA has started off with a win. The American women are looking for their third straight Algarve Cup title after defeating Denmark in the championship game the past two years. The win also reversed a strange trend for U.S. matches in Lagos, Portugal, where the U.S. Women won for just the second time in its history after coming into the match with a 1-5-0 record at the venue.
"Even though it was raining the field was pretty good," said Sundhage. "So we tried to play through the midfield and at times we managed to do that, especially after the first 20-25 minutes. Then every single player in the midfield got involved in every attack and I was very pleased with that."