ALGARVE CUP: Great test for American women

BY SCOTT FRENCH Fourteen of the WUSA's Americans, and about a dozen of its foreigners, are on Portugal's resort coast for the March 1-7 Algarve Cup, the annual fling that brings the world's top teams together to compete before crowds sometimes topping 100. The lack of local interest notwithstanding, the Algarve Cup -- in its ninth year -- is like an unofficial world championship, and April Heinrichs' U.S. squad is looking to triumph for only the second time. The usual suspects (a group now including Danielle Slaton, Boston's Jena Kluegel and San Jose's LaKeysia Beene) are joined by defenders Kylie Bivens (Atlanta) and Thori Bryan (San Jose), forward Danielle Fotopoulos (Carolina), five top collegians (Santa Clara's Devvyn Hawkins and Aly Wagner, North Carolina's Catherine Reddick, Washington's Hope Solo and Texas' Kelly Wilson) and forward Heather O'Reilly, a 17-year-old high school junior from East Brunswick, N.J. O'Reilly is one of the standouts on the U.S. U-19 team; she got her first U.S. callup because Mia Hamm (knee) is out. Wilson, a U-19 star who set nearly every Longhorn offensive record during her freshman season in Austin, replaces injured Brandi Chastain (knee) on the roster. "She's phenomenal, so dangerous," U-19 coach Tracey Leone says of O'Reilly. "You can see her intensity, her competitiveness on her face from a million miles away. She's an extraordinary athlete, her mental and psychological dimension matches her physical dimension. Her intensity and competitiveness is so beyond her years." The Americans face Sweden (Friday), England (Sunday) and tournament favorite Norway (Tuesday) in Group B play, with a placement game on March 7. Group A features China, Denmark, Finland and Germany. Canada is battling Portugal, Scotland and Wales in Group C, an Algarve underclass that is not playing for the title. Even Pellerud left the WUSA's Canadians off his roster, but called in former CyberRays and Beat midfielder Amy Walsh and five U.S. collegians: goalkeeper Erin McLeod (SMU), defender Sasha Andrews (SMU), midfielders Candace Chapman (Notre Dame) and Clare Rustad (Washington), and forward Christine Sinclair (Portland).
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