Following a 20-day training camp at The Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif., U.S. Women’s National Team head coach Pia Sundhage has named a 19-player roster for the 2010 Algarve Cup in Portugal.
This year’s tournament is being staged a week earlier than normal and will run from Feb. 24 through March 3. The U.S. team will depart for Europe on Feb. 18. The venues and kickoff times have yet to be confirmed.
All the games will be played at small venues spread across the Algarve region on the southern coast of the country, and the placement matches will take place on March 3. Fans can follow the USA’s intense schedule of four games in eight days online via ussoccer.com’s MatchTracker and watch highlights on ussoccer.com.
The U.S. team, which has been placed into Group B at the annual tournament, will open play on Feb. 24 against Iceland, face Norway on Feb. 26 and finish the first-round on March 1 against Sweden, home country of U.S. head coach Sundhage. Group A features Germany, China, Finland and Denmark. The eight teams in Groups A and B are the same as in last year’s tournament with the groupings also virtually the same, the only difference being that Denmark and Sweden have swapped groups. Group C features host Portugal, Austria and first-time Algarve Cup participants Romania and the Faroe Islands.
Since the expansion from eight to 12 teams nine years ago, the Algarve Cup format has been as follows: The teams in Group A and B will compete for the title as the group winners will play in the championship game on Wednesday, March 3. The two second-place finishers in Groups A and B will play for third place while the third-place finishers will play for fifth. The Group C teams will be competing for a chance to play for spots 7-12 as the winner of Group C will play the best fourth place team from Groups A or B for seventh place. The second place team in Group C will play the worst fourth place team from Groups A or B for ninth place, and the third and fourth place finishers in Group C will play each other for 11th place.
This will be the 15th trip to the Algarve Cup for the U.S. Women, who have won the tournament six times, including an unprecedented three straight championships from 2003-05 at what has become one of the world’s most competitive international women’s events. Last year, the USA made its seventh consecutive Algarve Cup final but after scoring a late goal in regulation to tie the match at 1-1, fell to Sweden in penalty kicks. In the two previous tournaments, the USA defeated Denmark for the title, winning 2-0 in 2007 on goals from Kristine Lilly and Carli Lloyd and 2-1 in 2008 on goals from Natasha Kai and Abby Wambach. The USA advanced to the championship game of the 2006 Algarve Cup but fell in penalty kicks to Germany.
The roster chosen by Sundhage features one of the biggest turnovers from the previous year’s Algarve Cup roster since the USA started attending the tournament in 1994. Only eight players from last year’s 18-player roster made the squad this time around, meaning there will be some new faces at the tournament. Sundhage will bring an extra goalkeeper for training purposes as the Chicago Red Stars’ Jill Loyden makes her first national team roster, where she will team with U.S. starter Hope Solo and Nicole Barnhart.
The USA scored just five goals at the Algarve Cup last year, its lowest total at the tournament in seven years, and just one of the players, Shannon Boxx, who scored in 2009 is on this year’s roster. Still, the U.S. team is stocked with veteran talent, led by Boxx (the 2004 and 2006 Algarve Cup MVP), Wambach (the USA’s leading scorer with 101 goals), and 100-plus capped defenders Cat Whitehill and Heather Mitts, as well as flank midfielder Heather O’Reilly (116 caps, 25 goals).
With Christie Rampone still sidelined while preparing for the birth of her second child, the USA’s center-back tandem of Amy LePeilbet and Rachel Buehler, who did well in last October’s 1-0 victory against Germany, should get the chance to step up again. They will be joined by 2007 FIFA Women’s World Cup and 2008 Olympic veteran defender Stephanie Cox, who makes her return to the U.S. roster after playing in just one match last year. She has 55 career caps.
The USA will be looking for goal production from Carli Lloyd, who was the MVP of the 2007 Algarve Cup after scoring in all four games, as well as from young forwards Amy Rodriguez, Lauren Cheney and Casey Nogueira, all of whom may see time next to Wambach on the USA’s front line. Flank midfielder Tobin Heath, the top pick in the 2010 WPS Draft by the Atlanta Beat, may get the opportunity to break into the first 11 after starting in just six of her 19 career caps so far.
Wambach missed the Algarve Cup last year while recovering from a broken leg but scored three times at the 2008 tournament and has 12 goals all-time during the competition, one short of Lilly’s team-record 13.
Along with the veterans, Sundhage named five players who have a combined five caps in Nogueira (1), Lori Lindsey (1), Yael Averbuch (3), Meghan Schnur (0) and Loyden (0). This will be the first Algarve Cup for all five.
O’Reilly and Solo lead the way in Algarve Cup experience as both will be playing in their eighth tournaments. This will be the seventh Algarve Cup for Boxx and the sixth for Mitts and Wambach.
The USA will be without several potential starters in Portugal. Rampone’s pregnancy will keep the U.S. captain out until perhaps this summer, midfielder Megan Rapinoe is still recovering from an illness that kept her out of the January training camp and defender Lori Chalupny is taking some time off due to concussion-related issues.
U.S. Women’s National Team Roster By Position – Detailed Roster
GOALKEEPERS (3): Nicole Barnhart (FC Gold Pride), Jill Loyden (Chicago Red Stars), Hope Solo (St. Louis Athletica)
DEFENDERS (6): Rachel Buehler (FC Gold Pride), Stephanie Cox (Boston Breakers), Amy LePeilbet (Boston Breakers), Heather Mitts (Philadelphia Independence), Meghan Schnur (Sky Blue FC), Cat Whitehill (Washington Freedom)
MIDFIELDERS (6): Yael Averbuch (Sky Blue FC), Shannon Boxx (St. Louis Athletica), Tobin Heath (Atlanta Beat), Lori Lindsey (Philadelphia Independence), Carli Lloyd (Sky Blue FC), Heather O’Reilly (Sky Blue FC)
FORWARDS (4): Lauren Cheney (Boston Breakers), Casey Nogueira (Chicago Red Stars), Amy Rodriguez (Philadelphia Independence), Abby Wambach (Washington Freedom)
17th Annual Algarve Cup
The Algarve, Portugal
Germany, China, Finland, Denmark
USA, Norway, Iceland, Sweden,
Portugal, Austria, Romania, Faroe Islands
A Germany vs. Denmark
A Finland vs. China
B USA vs. Iceland
B Sweden vs. Norway
C Portugal vs. Faroe Islands
C Romania vs. Austria
A Denmark vs. China
A Germany vs. Finland
B Norway vs. USA
B Iceland vs. Sweden
C Portugal vs. Romania
C Faroe Islands vs. Austria
A Denmark vs. Finland
A China vs. Germany
B USA vs. Sweden
B Iceland vs. Norway
C Portugal vs. Austria
C Romania vs. Faroe Islands
– ussoccer.com –