Ellis Leads U.S. to Seventh-Straight Nordic Cup Title

July 26, 2005

Story courtesy of U.S. Soccer

KARLSKOGA, Sweden - The U.S. Under-21 Women's National Soccer Team rolled to its unprecedented seventh consecutive Nordic Cup title with a dominating 4-1 win over arch-rival Norway as the young Americans got goals from four different players.

Seventeen-year-old forward Lauren Cheney scored her second of the tournament, midfielder Carli Lloyd got her third, forward Heather O'Reilly notched her fourth and midfielder Lori Chalupny added the capper with a blast from distance for her first goal of the competition.

'Overall, it was a great finish to what has been a six-month journey and I told the team we needed to end it by getting the hardware,' said U.S. head coach Jillian Ellis, who won her second Nordic Cup after also leading the USA to victory during the 2000 tournament in Germany. 'Lindsay Tarpley was a fantastic leader for us. She played anywhere I asked her to play, motivated the team and led by example. Chalupny and Heather were great today as well, their flank play was special, but everyone contributed and played very well. We got a lot of compliments from all the teams and coaches here.'

With the victory, the USA has remarkably won eight of the last nine Nordic Cup tournaments dating back to 1997. The Nordic Cup, held every summer in northern Europe, is the world's premier competition for U-21 women. The USA defeated Norway in the championship game in 1997 and 1999, but lost in the 1998 final. Since that loss, the USA has dropped just one match in the Nordic Cup in the last seven years. The Nordic Cup has been staged since 1990 and no team besides the USA has won it more than twice in a row, which Sweden accomplished twice in the early 1990s.

'The tournament was just a lot of fun,' said Cheney, a top candidate for a spot on the U.S. team that will compete for a berth in the 2006 Under-20 FIFA Women's World Championship, being held that fall in Russia. 'Sweden is beautiful and the town we stayed in was very cute. Soccer-wise, the atmosphere was just great. To be able to play with Carli, Tarp and Heather, all these awesome players, was just so fun. As the youngest player on the team, it's been neat how they carried me along and helped me out. They were always talking to me an encouraging me and letting me know what I can do better.'

The U.S. defense was stellar as center backs Jill Oakes and Rachel Buehler, and outside backs Stephanie Lopez and Kendall Fletcher, anchored a U.S. side that allowed just two goals in the tournament, both after the games had been decided, while the USA scored 15. That topped the 12 goals the Americans scored last year in Iceland while winning all four games by 3-0 scores.

'Norway played fairly direct, and our back line was challenged a lot,' said Ellis. 'Our shape was excellent and they won lots of balls in the air. (Goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart) came up with couple of big saves, but overall our team defense was great.'

O'Reilly led the USA in scoring during the Nordic Cup with four goals in four games while Lloyd scored three. Cheney, Tarpley and Megan Rapinoe had two goals apiece, while Jen Buczkowski and Lori Chalupny had one each.

'I felt it was a really good game,' added Cheney. 'It was a tough battle and technically they were very good. They were in the game, we just really executed our game plan and did a lot of things well.'

As the U.S. team has done throughout the tournament, it scored an early goal, getting on the board just 15 minutes into the game. The goal was created by left midfielder Chalupny, who dribbled down the left flank, beat a defender and hit a driven cross on the ground to the near post. The charging Cheney won the race to the ball, opened her hip and side-footed the ball into the net from six yards out.

'Going into the match, I thought it could be a 1-0 game,' said Ellis. 'Everybody in our group lost their placement games so I knew Norway was legit. In the first 25 minutes we played very well and we executed extremely well, as our back line dropped early and we were very condensed. We really needed to get around the outside, and that's how we scored the first goal.'

The USA made it 2-0 just four minutes into the second half. After winning possession at midfield, Lloyd fed the ball to O'Reilly, who took four touches, threw a hesitation stutter-step move at the top of the penalty area to lose another defender and drove her left-footer into the right side netting from 12 yards out.

'The cohesiveness of this team was really good,' said O'Reilly. 'After the big win against Germany (in the final group match) we didn't let down and we knew we had to finish it off. I felt that we had each other's backs in this tournament. The success is a testament to the hard work by the players and staff.'

The USA's third goal came in the 65th minute off a throw-in from the left side. Cheney received the ball while posting up a defender at the edge of the six-yard box. She spun around her defender towards the end line and cut a cross back into the middle where Lloyd split two defenders and came crashing through to toe-poke the ball into the net from nine yards.

'The game was pretty stretched, so we were pretty tired at halftime,' said Ellis. 'I told the team to take the game in 15 minute increments, and just focus on winning the first one. The second goal took the steam out of Norway a bit and then it was a matter of possession for us. It was an impressive win.'

The goal of the tournament, however, came from Chalupy, who sealed the deal in the 73rd minute after collecting a ball 32 yards out and spinning towards the net before hitting a blast on a line into the upper right corner. Norwegian goalkeeper Christine Nilsen could only stand and watch.

Norway scored its lone goal with five minutes left on a fluke play as a long ball bounced off the head of Norwegian forward Lindy Wiik, over substitute goalkeeper Erika Bohn, and into the net.

In the other placement matches, England earned its highest finish every at the Nordic Cup, defeating Germany in penalty kicks after tying (1-1) during regulation. Finland beat Iceland (4-1) for fifth place and host Sweden beat Denmark (2-1) for seventh.

Most of the U.S. players will now have a few weeks off before entering their college pre-season camps, while several will be playing with USL W-League teams in the playoffs and Cheney will be prepping for her senior year of high school.

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