Solo Named Best Goalkeeper of 2006 Algarve Cup

March 16, 2006

FARO, Portugal - The U.S. Women's National Team dominated Germany in scoring chances during the championship game of the 2006 Algarve Cup, but could not manufacture a goal through 120 minutes and fell in a penalty kick shootout, 4-3, at Stadium Algarve. Former Husky goalkeeper Hope Solo was named the tournament's Best Goalkeeper.

The U.S. out-shot Germany, 16-8, earned 13 corner kicks to Germany's three and hit the crossbar twice in the first half, but German goalkeeper Silke Rottenberg pulled off a handful of spectacular saves to get her team to the shootout.

In the penalty kick shootout, Aly Wagner, Cat Whitehill and Kristine Lilly converted for the USA, but Shannon Boxx and Abby Wambach missed the second and fourth attempts while the Germans took four excellent penalties with the final kick from Petra Wimbersky ending the match.

'It was a good game by both teams,' said U.S. head coach Greg Ryan. 'I think we played much better this year (than in last year's 1-0 win against Germany in the 2005 Algarve Cup title game). Last year, I thought Germany dominated the game and we were fortunate to score the goal and defend well. Tonight, I think we were the more aggressive team, (constantly) attacking throughout the game. The chances we created, the shots on goal, the corner kicks, we dominated this match, but some days, you don't get a goal.'

The game went back-and-forth for 120 minutes with the world's top two teams counter-attacking at speed, but the USA team was far more dangerous in the attacking third. Despite some extremely tired legs on a U.S. team playing its fourth match in seven days, the Americans put forth a monumental effort to create chances and it was remarkable that they did not score in the first half.

In the 15th minute, forward Heather O'Reilly sent a cross from the left wing that flew into the right side of the penalty area to Wagner. She brought the ball down perfectly and beat a player to the inside with a nifty dribble. With an open look at the goal, she tried to bend a shot into the left corner, but it went just wide from 14 yards out.

Carli Lloyd slipped a short pass behind the German defense to Wambach in the 22nd minute, but the U.S. forward took her first touch too hard and Rottenberg was able to come sliding out to knock the ball away.

The USA hammered two shots off the crossbar in a span of five minutes, the first coming in the 30th minute. Wagner received a square ball across the top of the penalty area from Lilly, who had countered well down the left flank, but the midfielder spun her right-footed blast off the bar at the upper left corner.

In the 34th minute, Lloyd cranked a 30-yarder with her left foot off the crossbar at almost the same spot that Wagner had tattooed moments earlier. The rebound came back to Lilly, who was open for a moment in front of the net, but she couldn't settle the ball before it was swept away by a retreating defender.

Right at the end of the half, the USA caught Germany by surprise on a quickly taken free kick that saw Wagner play Lilly into the right side of the penalty area. The U.S. captain cut towards the near post and found Lloyd perfectly in the slot, but her shot was blocked by a defender and bounced out for a corner kick.

On the ensuing kick, the ball was cleared up in the air by the Germans, and came down at the feet of Boxx, who was inside the six. She didn't get a solid piece of the ball on her shot, but it still forced Rottenberg into a great point-blank reaction save.

The USA put together another flurry at the 58-minute mark, as Wambach held the ball well before putting Lilly behind the defense on the left flank. Lilly raced towards goal and had O'Reilly open in the middle for an instant, but her driven cross was re-directed out of danger by defender Stephie Jones.

One minute later, Wagner received a short pass off a free kick from the right flank and turned toward goal to strike her shot. The ball took a deflection, and was heading into the upper left corner before the scrambling Rottenberg was able to push it outside the left post.

Two minutes later, Wambach bullied into the right side of the penalty area with Jones on her left shoulder and hit a bouncing shot from 12 yards out that struck the shoulder of Rottenberg before the German defense cleared the rebound.

In the 75th minute, substitute Lindsay Tarpley came close to scoring after winning the ball in a scramble in front of the net. She jumped to get a foot on the bouncing ball as Rottenberg closed on her just outside the six-yard line, but sent her spinning shot just outside the right post.

Despite the U.S. dominance in corner kicks, they did not produce much danger from them, either due to sub-par services or good clearances from the Germans.

The U.S. defense, consisting of center-backs Amy LePeilbet and Whitehill, along with outside backs Heather Mitts and Christie Rampone, did a fine job keeping the Germans in front of them while slowing the ball on their many counters. Germany put just four shots on goal during the match and none seriously troubled Solo, but they did produce a flurry in the 19th minute as captain Birgit Prinz latched on to a cross from the right, only to send her shot high over the goal. One minute later, midfielder Conny Pohlers pulled off a quasi-bicycle kick in the middle of the penalty area, but the ball flew right into Solo's hands.

Each team had promising chances to win the game in the waning moments. Prinz struck a free kick from 25 yards out in 88th minute, but hit her shot weakly into the U.S. wall. Solo also had to catch a few dangerous services in the last five minutes of regulation.

In the second minute of stoppage time, Lilly almost pulled out the U.S. victory after Wagner played her a diagonal ball out to the left flank. She got a step on right back Kerstin Stegemann inside the penalty area and cracked her shot across the face of the goal. It was headed into the lower right corner before the pesky Rottenberg got a touch to it, pushing it just outside the left post.

With both teams exhausted, the overtime did not produce many chances, although Germany did come closest in the 96th minute. Wimbersky hit a dangerous cross from the right wing that forced Solo to venture far out of her net to punch away. The ball bounded out to Celia Okoyino da Mbabi at the top of the penalty area and she looped a shot toward goal. Solo had to scramble back to her left to parry it around the post.

At the end of the first 15-minute overtime period, Wambach out-muscled Sandra Minnert down the right flank. As the German defender fell, Wambach dribbled towards the near post and cut a pass back to substitute forward Natasha Kai, but her shot was blocked by a defender.

The match was physical, but not dirty, with 31 total fouls being called as both teams went at each other with tremendous conviction. The Germans, who were fortunate the game reached penalties, ultimately took care of business in the shootout.

Wagner started the USA off with goal from the first kick. Melanie Behringer took her team's first shot and blew it past Solo into the left corner. Boxx then saw her shot to the lower right corner easily saved by Rottenberg. Germany took the lead with its next kick as Conny Pohlers drilled her shot into the lower left corner. Whitehill kept the USA in the game with an excellent finish into the upper right corner before Prinz skied her shot over the goal to leave the shootout tied, 2-2, after three kicks each.

Wambach then gave the Germans new life, pounding her shot off the bottom of the crossbar and away. Okoyino da Mbabi then coolly slotted her shot into the right corner. Lilly needed to convert to keep the USA alive, and she did, but Wimbersky finished smartly into the left corner on the next kick to give Germany the Algarve Cup title.

The USA had to make two substitutions for players who suffered minor head injuries, as Tarpley and Kai, who both had come into the game in the second half, had to leave the match during overtime.

It was the first loss for the U.S. women since Nov. 6, 2004, when they fell to Denmark, 3-1, but the U.S. team has still yet to lose a match in regulation under head coach Greg Ryan, who took over the team at the 2005 Algarve Cup. The loss also broke a streak of three straight Algarve Cup titles for the USA.

The U.S. team now heads home for a two-week break before beginning a six-month Residency Training Camp at The Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif. in early April.

The USA did pick up two of the tournament's four awards, as Shannon Boxx was named Best Player of the tournament and Solo was named Best Goalkeeper.

In the other placement games, Denmark salvaged its Algarve Cup with a 4-0 win against Ireland to take ninth, Finland (which won the tournament's Fair Play Award) out-slugged Mexico in a goal-fest, 4-3, to finish seventh, while Norway defeated China, 1-0, for fifth. In the third place match, Sweden got a second-half goal from forward Lotta Schelin to defeat France, 1-0. In that match, French goalkeeper Sarah Bouhaddi sent Swedish star striker Hanna Llungberg to the hospital with a vicious clothesline hit as they met for a 50-50 ball about 30 yards from the goal. Bouhaddi was red-carded for the foul.

Visit the 2006 Algarve Cup competitions page at for a complete recap of this year's tournament, plus features, podcasts, and exclusive all_access video coverage of the WNT in Portugal.

On the defense:
'In this game, I think we got (the defensive organization) down. We were organized, we were dropping well together and Cat (Whitehill) and Amy (LePeilbet) worked well to cover one another. I felt the confidence today in the defense. It was the best since we've been together since 2005.'

Solo on the penalty kick shootout:
'I thought I had (a save) in me, I did. I should have just guessed on the last one. I would have guessed that way, too.'

On the team's performance:
'We left it all out on the field today. I really believe we outplayed the Germans. Their `keeper played amazing. She always tends to do that. She made great saves, but we hit good crosses, we were attacking, we were just unfortunate not to get one today.'

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