U.S. Under-21s Defeat Germany, 3-0 at Nordic Cup.

July 27, 2004

DALVIK, Iceland (July 27, 2004) - Needing just a tie to advance to the championship game of the 2004 Nordic Cup, the U.S. Under-21 Women's National Team took no chances, taking care of business with a 3-0 pounding of Germany to win Group B on two second half goals from star striker Natasha Kai and one from midfielder Sarah Huffman.

The USA will face Group A winner Sweden in the championship game of the top competition in the world for U-21 women on Thursday at 4 p.m. local time / 12:30 p.m. ET at Akureyrarvollur Stadium in Akureyri. The USA will be going for its unprecedented sixth straight Nordic Cup title and seventh in the last eight years since winning its first in 1997.

Although the USA has had great success in this tournament for five consecutive years, the 2004 squad has racked up one of the most dominating first-round performances in Nordic Cup history, putting together three consecutive 3-0 wins, marking the first time the U.S. has ever shut out all three opponents in first round play since it started its streak of Nordic Cup triumphs in 1997.

The USA faced a difficult first half in which it was forced to attack into the face of 40 mile-per-hour winds, but still managed to create four great chances. It was U.S. goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart however, who made the biggest play early in the game, stuffing a breakaway chance from German striker Shelley Thompson that would have no doubt changed the complexion of the match. Barnhart would go on to earn her third shutout of the competition..

Germany goalkeeper Ursala Hall would then come up big, saving three breakaways in the first half, one each off the feet of the USA's three strikers -- Kai, Carli Lloyd and Kelly Wilson - as all three tried to round the German 'keeper before being robbed of the ball by the sliding Hall. Hall also came up with a huge save on a point blank header from midfielder Lori Chalupny.

The USA played in a 4-3-3 formation as U.S. head coach Chris Petrucelli started the same 11 for the third straight match while Germany sat back most of the match in a 4-5-1, giving the U.S. defenders a bit of time and space. The Germans pushed another player forward only after going down.

'We controlled the ball and pace of the game (in the first half),' said U.S. head coach Chris Petrucelli, who will be going for his second straight Nordic Cup title. 'We felt pretty good about the way we were playing. We were still tied, and we knew a tie would get us through, but we were very confident going into the second half especially as we had the wind at our backs.'

The USA finally broke through in the 56th minute and it came after a Lindsey Huie corner kick from the left side was cleared out. The ball fell to Huffman, who played Huie back on the flank and she served the ball into the middle. The darting Kai beat Hall to the ball and drove a header into the net from six yards out.

'The competition in this tournament is really good,' said Kai, who was the nation's leading goalscorer last season for the Rainbow Wahines. 'But we've been in China and Brazil and faced some great teams, so that really prepared us for the Nordic Cup.'

Kai helped created the second goal as well as she got a ball wide on the right flank in the 64th minute and served a great ball to Lloyd. Her header was well-saved by Hall, but the rebound bounced right to Huffman, who hit her first-time shot from 12 yards out into the right side of the net for her second goal of the tournament.

'It was pretty crazy in the first half, because everyone was trying to figure out how to deal with the wind,' said defender Jill Oakes, who once again marshaled the center of the defense with Keeley Dowling. ''We had to be prepared for their long balls to go flying over us. A ball could go in any direction at any moment. We couldn't hit any long balls and we had to try to possess the ball through then, which we did, and got some chances, but we couldn't capitalize. In the second half, we took over, picked up the pace and played like we wanted to. With the wind in the second half, we could be more versatile.'

Kai added her second goal in the 78th minute, making a slashing run above the right side of the penalty area to receive a well-weighted pass from Manya Maksoki. The speedy University of Hawaii striker got a step on her defender, turned the corner into the penalty area and blistered a shot from a tough angle across the 'keeper's body. The wind-aided shot kissed the left post before plowing into the side netting, a strike that even drew applause from Germany head coach Helmut Horsch. Kai has a team-leading 12 goals on the year.

'It's been an outstanding team performance so far,' said Petrucelli. 'We were basically in the toughest group and the players have dominated it. The big thing for us is that everyone has stepped up. A number of people have scored goals and our back four has been really good. The few times they have gotten in, Barnie has been great.'

The championship match will mark the third time in the last four years that the USA has faced Sweden in the title game, winning 6-1 in 2001 and 2-1 last year. Sweden actually won the annual Nordic Cup four out of the first five times it was played, starting in 1990, but has not won it since 1994.

'Definitely, I think the team is in a good state of mind,' said Oakes, who helped the U.S. U-21s win the 2001 Nordic Cup over Sweden. 'We are really confident and focused and that confidence will be a big factor in the final. We know we can win if we play the way have been so it's just a matter of going out and doing that.'

In a shock result in the other Group B match, Finland defeated Norway, 4-0, pushing Germany to third place in the group a spot in the match for 5th. In the Group B matches, Sweden and Iceland tied, 2-2, while Denmark beat England, 2-1. Norway was the only team to lose all three first-round matches while host Iceland tied all three of its first-round matches. England will face Norway for 7th place, Iceland faces Germany for 5th while Finland and Denmark square in the third-place match.

Scoring Summary:
USA - Natasha Kai (Lindsey Huie) - 56th minute
USA - Sarah Huffman (Carli Lloyd) - 64th minute
USA - Natasha Kai (Manya Makoski) - 78th minute

USA: 1-Nicole Barnhart; 2-Lindsey Huie, 14-Jill Oakes, 12-Keeley Dowling, 5-Jenny Farnenbaugh; 3-Joanna Lohman-C, 8-Sarah Huffman (9-Kacey White, 74), 16-Lori Chalupny (4-Nikki Thaden, 66); 17-Kelly Wilson (6-Hayley Hunt, 83), 7-Natasha Kai (15-Julianne Sitch, 78), 10-Carli Lloyd (13-Manya Makoski, 66).Subs not used: 12-Esmeralda Negron, 18-Kati Jo Spisak.Head coach: Chris Petrucelli.

GER: 1-Ursala Hall, 3-Aferdita Kameraj (Annelie Brendel, 78), 5-Alexandra Stegmann, 6-Christina Zerbe, 16-Marina Himmighofen; 7-Katrin Kliehm (2-Finni Derda, 78), 8-Verena Hogedorn, 9-Andrea Wilkins (15-Silva Lone Salander, 66), 11-Christine Schoknecht, 4-Kerstin Boschert (17-Jennifer Zietz, 61); 18-Shelley Thompson (13-Barbara Muller, 78).Subs not used: Annie-Katrin Sabel, Nadine Richter.Head coach: Helmut Horsch

Story courtesy of U.S. Soccer

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