(February 28, 2013)-The U.S. Women’s national team headed to Portugal earlier this week to take part in their 18th Algarve Cup. Despite a third place finish last year the reigning gold medalists will undoubtedly be strong favorites as they seek their 9th win at the international soccer tournament.
It will be the first true test for new coach Tom Sermanni who took over the team at the beginning of the year. Sermanni easily guided the team to two wins against Scotland earlier this month but now the U.S. Women will have the opportunity to test their skills against stronger competition when the tournament kicks off on March 6.
Sermanni has brought 23 players into his training camp that will be conducted this week as preparation for the tournament. It already is evident that he is looking to develop a younger team as the push for the 2015 World Cup begins next year.
Christen Press who scored three goals in her first two games with the national team against Scotland was an obvious inclusion to the list of forwards placed on the roster. With her is veteran Abby Wambach, Alex Morgan, Sydney Leroux and Lindsey Horan.
Horan has had much success with the U-20 Women’s national team but this will be her first invite to play at the senior level. Horan, only 18 years of age is playing for Paris Saint-Germain and bypassed playing for UNC last fall in order to sign a lucrative deal with the French club.
The midfield has a lot of familiar faces and a couple that soccer fans may not be used to with Shannon Boxx, Lauren Cheney, Tobin Heath, Megan Rapinoe, Carli Lloyd, Heather O’Reilly, Yael Averbuch and Kristie Mewis on the roster. Mewis also just received her first cap earlier in the month against Scotland though the 22 year old has plenty of experience playing for the U-20 and U-17 U.S. national teams. Averbuch did not play with the national team last year but does have 17 appearances over the past five years. Not invited to Portugal was veteran midfielder Lori Lindsey who has been a steady player with the squad the past few years. At this point it does not appear that she is in Sermanni’s immediate plans to be a part of the team.
The defense is the one area that may see the most change under the direction of Sermanni as this has proven to be the Achilles heel for the Americans. The back line features captain Christie Rampone, Ali Krieger, Kelley O’Hara, Rachel Buehler, Whitney Engen, Becky Sauerbrunn and Crystal Dunn. Dunn was invited to her second consecutive training camp with the squad after earning her first cap against Scotland. Only 20 years old she is still only a junior in college but has starred at every level she has played so far.
One familiar name that is missing is Amy LePeilbet who started for the U.S. throughout their Olympic campaign and is currently rehabbing from ACL surgery. While Krieger has returned this year after her own ACL tear sidelined her for all of 2012. Also absent from the team is veteran Heather Mitts who like Lindsey may be seeing her time with the national team slipping by as Sermanni seeks to bring a few younger players into the fold.
Another notable name not in Portugal is Hope Solo who has a wrist injury that may require her to have surgery. It is Solo’s right wrist and the concern is that there may be some ligament damage. Though she sustained the injury some time ago and has been playing through it, she has been advised by U.S. Soccer that now would be the best time to undergo surgery if necessary. Jill Loyden, Nicole Barnhart and Ashlyn Harris have been placed on the roster and will compete for the goalkeeper spot.
March 6 vs. Iceland (9am ET)
March 8 vs. China (9am ET)
March 11 vs. Sweden (10am ET)
March 13 opponent unknown
There are a total of 12 teams taking part in the Algarve Cup and they include Germany, Norway, Japan, Denmark, Portugal, Hungary, Wales, Mexico, China, Iceland, Sweden and the U.S.
A couple of landmarks are expected to take place during the Algarve Cup. Rachel Buehler is set to play in her 100th game for the national team. Buehler began her career in 2008 and will become the 29th player to earn 100 caps with the U.S.
Abby Wambach is also poised to have a memorable tournament as she currently sits five goals behind Mia Hamm and her 158 career goals. Wambach, one of the most decorated players in U.S. history was recently awarded the prestigious honor of FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year and had 27 goals in 2012.
Fans accustomed to having to keep track of the Algarve Cup via internet will now have the option of watching each match live on television thanks to Integrated Sports Media. These games will be offered in a pay-per-view format and more information can be obtained on their website.