Solo Rescues U.S. In 0-0 Tie With China

March 9, 2006

FARO, Portugal - The U.S. Women's National Team opened the 2006 Algarve Cup with a 0-0 draw vs. China. With France tying Denmark, 2-2, in the other match in Group B, the U.S. now has major work in front of them to make the championship game.

The USA controlled the play for most of the match - China had just one shot in the first half - and the Americans dominated the first 30 minutes of the second half, but could not find a way past Chinese goalkeeper Han Wenxia despite a thrilling last 10 minutes in which the teams traded close chances.

After taking just four shots in the first half, the USA fired 12 after the break, and came closest to scoring on an 87th minute 20-yard rocket from midfielder Aly Wagner that slammed off the crossbar at the upper left corner. Abby Wambach had the last chance of the game after running onto a long punt from U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo in the 89th minute. She powered her way through two defenders in the right side of the penalty box and slid to hit a shot that just slipped outside the left post.

Moments earlier, China had produced its best two chances of the game, both on the same sequence and both thwarted by goalkeeper Hope Solo. In the 86th minute, midfielder Bai Lili smacked a dipping shot from just inside the penalty area. Solo flew to get a hand on the ball, deflecting it off the underside of the crossbar. The ball bounced down hard and right into the path of Chinese legend Sun Wen, who sent a volley toward the right corner, only to see Solo regain her feet quickly and fully extend to her left to snag the shot.

U.S. head coach Greg Ryan put out 10 of the 11 players who started the USA's last match against China at the Four Nations Tournament on January 22, a 2-0 U.S. win, with forward Heather O'Reilly replacing Christie Welsh for the only change.

O'Reilly made an impact early, getting behind the Chinese defense down the right flank in the fourth minute, but her cross on the ground eluded the on-rushing Wambach.

In the 10th minute, Wambach pushed between two defenders in the left side of the penalty area and fired a shot from 16 yards out. O'Reilly crashed the net in an attempt to re-direct the shot, but the ball hit Han and was cleared as O'Reilly collided with the Chinese goalkeeper.

In stoppage time of the first half, O'Reilly took a long ball from Heather Mitts down to the ground with her chest and volleyed it over Han from the right corner of the penalty area. The shot beat Han, but flew just over the bar.

Ryan made two substitutions at halftime, sending on Cat Whitehill for Tina Frimpong in the center of the defense and Carli Lloyd for Lindsay Tarpley in the center of the midfield. Both players had solid second halves as the USA turned up the pressure, pinning the Chinese in their own half for long stretches. Still, the U.S. put only four shots on frame after the intermission.

In the 56th minute, the USA earned a chance off a long throw-in from Whitehill that was flicked on by Wambach. The ball bounced off a Chinese defender to O'Reilly, who was cramped for space, but managed to strike a volley while falling that stuck right Han's Belly from six yards.

Until China's late flurry, which also included several driven shots from distance that failed to find the target, the most dangerous chances for the perennial Asian champs came from counter-attacks out of their low-pressure defense. The U.S. defense was ready for the tactic, and despite several quality sequences from the Chinese, the U.S. back line, and especially center back Amy LePeilbet, did well to defuse the attacks.

The U.S. team could have done better running at the organized Chinese back line, which managed to catch the Americans offside eight times during the match.

The Chinese certainly lost points in the Fair Play Award category with blatant time-wasting tactics during the second half, purposely slowing the game down which eventually earned several warnings from the referee, a yellow card for a much-delayed throw-in and six minutes of extra time at the end of the match.

Solo made five total saves and corralled several high looping crosses to earn the 12th shutout of her career, and 10th in her last 11 starts. The draw was the 11th tie with China in U.S. history, by far the most against any team. The U.S. still has yet to allow a goal from the run of play in the last 1,288 minutes, dating back to the end of 2004. The team has also yet to lose under Ryan, moving to 10-0-3 since he took over the team at the 2005 Algarve Cup.

In the other games already completed on the first matchday, Group A saw Germany thrash Finland, 5-0, while in Group C Ireland nipped host Portugal, 1-0.

Visit the 2006 Algarve Cup competitions page at ussoccer.com for a complete schedule and standings, plus features, podcasts, and exclusive all-access video coverage of the WNT in Portugal.

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