U.S. U-21s Win Fifth Consecutive Nordic Cup Title
July 27, 2003
RANDERS, Denmark - The U.S. Under-21 Women's National Team won its fifth consecutive Nordic Cup championship, and sixth in the last seven years, with a 2-1 victory over Sweden in the title game of the world's top competition for U-21 women. Team captain Joanna Lohman (Penn State) scored both goals for the USA, including the game-winner in the 55th minute, as the Americans continued their amazing streak on European soil.
U.S. head coach Chris Petrucelli won his first Nordic Cup and becomes the fourth U.S. coach to win the tournament.
'It wasn't a pretty game,' said Petrucelli, whose team was playing its fourth match in seven days. 'It was two tired teams sort of slugging it out.. It was a physical battle, but we did what we had to do to win.'
The USA opened the scoring in the 14th minute as 18-year-old Sheree Gray (Toms River, N.J.) crossed from the right side to Lindsey Huie (Portland), whose shot was knocked down by the Swedish goalkeeper Hedvig Lindahl. Lohman pounced on the rebound to finish from five yards out. Sweden came back quickly and right after the kickoff earned a corner kick, on which they scored to tie the game.
'We had a let down right after the goal,' said Petrucelli. 'But after they scored, I felt we started to take the game over. Up until then it was more of a 50/50 game.'
Lohman, a strong skillful midfielder who is a rising senior for the Nittany Lions, would prove to be the hero. In the 55th minute, she rose above the Swedish defense to head in a perfectly struck free kick from Cat Reddick (UNC) for the winning goal, sending the ball into the upper right corner from 12 yards out.
'It was great to end my U-21 career on a high note,' said Lohman, who was playing in her second Nordic Cup. 'I'm just happy that the team won. I had a great time playing with this group and we worked really hard to win this tournament which is our ultimate goal with the U-21 National Team.'
'Joanna came up big for us today,' said Petrucelli. 'We've been looking for players to step up and score some goals for us, and it was great to have her score two out of midfield.'
U.S. goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris (Satellite Beach, Fla.), just 17 years of age and a veteran of the USA's U-19 World Championship team, picked up the win and made several quality plays, including a big punch off a corner kick in the first half and a sweeping save with her legs at the top of the penalty area in the second half to deny a breakaway attempt.
'The players in the back - Cat Reddick, Amy LePeilbet (Arizona State) and especially Nandi Pryce (UCLA) - were great during the whole tournament,' said Petrucelli. 'It was difficult to score against us, and ultimately that's why we won.'
It was the second time the USA has defeated Sweden in a Nordic Cup championship game. The USA defeated Norway for the title in 1997 and 1999, downed Germany in 2000 and 2002, and beat Sweden in 2001. Even more impressive is that the Americans won this year's tournament without several key players who were out due to injuries, including four members of the 2002 U-19 World Championship team in forwards Heather O'Reilly, Kelly Wilson and Manya Makoski and midfielder Jill Oakes.
'It was a great experience for all of us to come over to Europe and win a big tournament,' added Lohman. 'The coaching staff was wonderful and I know this experience will help all of us in our future soccer careers, whether it's with our colleges, in the WUSA or the full national team.'
The U.S. team featured six players with full national team caps and two players - Cat Reddick and Lindsay Tarpley - who are in the running for a spot on the 2003 Women's world Cup Team. The U.S. players will now return to their college teams, or in the case of Harris and Gray who are still high school students, their club teams. Twelve of the 18 players on the U.S. roster are eligible for the Nordic Cup next year.
In the other placement games, Denmark picked up a big win for their program, defeating Germany, 3-2, for third place. Norway defeated Greece, 2-1, for fifth place and Finland took seventh place, defeating Iceland, 8-7 in penalty kicks after a 2-2 draw in regulation time.
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