Dynamic U.S. offense too much for China
ALBUFEIRA, Portugal -- Most of the faces were the same, but the U.S. women's national team that took the field against China Wednesday looked different. It dominated the Chinese, pinging the ball around the field with one-touch passes and exploiting opportunities to go one-on-one. An uninspired Chinese team seemed content to play low pressure and wait for opportunities to counter but had neither the speed nor the will to be successful against the U.S.
Coach Pia Sundhage has added some new faces to the mix and the youngsters blended well with their veteran teammates.
Newcomer Tobin Heath made the most of her third appearance. The 19-year-old midfielder subbed in for Lindsay Tarpley at halftime and scored her first international goal within minutes. Heath was dangerous throughout the second half and just missed converting two chances late in the match.
"I was really excited to get into the game, especially at halftime. The team was already playing extremely well and the momentum was going for us. It was fun to be able to play out wide, get the ball at my feet, and being able to contribute a goal was an added bonus," Heath said.
If Rachel Buehler was nervous about her first appearance with the full team, it didn't show. The former Stanford captain put in a composed 90 minutes at right back.
"Just being out there with this team and representing my country at this level, tackling people, getting down the flank it was really fun," Buehler said.
Veteran midfielders Carli Lloyd and Shannon Boxx were singled out for praise by Sundhage, who was pleased with her team's play.
"I'm happy that we tried to knock it around a little bit, not playing that direct. Carli Lloyd and Boxx did a tremendously good job in the middle," she said.
|U.S. women's schedule|
|U.S. vs. Italy
Restinga Stadium, Alvor, Portugal
8:45 a.m. ET
U.S. vs. Norway
U.S. vs. TBD
Lloyd was named Sierra Mist Woman of the Match for an active performance on offense and defense that included a goal in the 69th minute. Boxx tallied an assist on Abby Wambach's strike and her play was reminiscent of her pre-ACL injury days.
Tarpley's first-half goal was her fifth goal of the 2008 campaign, but though it topped her total of four in 2007, Tarpley was unfazed.
"Goals are goals, they happen when they happen," she said. "If I can just continue to work hard and get better, it will come. What's exciting right now is that everyone is contributing on our team. We have a lot of different options and we're very dynamic right now."
The Algarve Cup will be the last opportunity for Sundhage to experiment with her team before the U.S. attempts to qualify for the Olympics in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, in April. She indicated that the heart of her Olympic roster is with her in Portugal.
"It will come out of these players," she said. "There might be one, maybe two. I don't know. There are a couple of camps left. I'm happy with the team I have right now."
Gayle Bryan is the publishing director of Fair Game Magazine.