WASHINGTON -- In a battle between the two top teams in women's soccer, an unlikely hero emerged for the U.S. national team.
Making her international debut, substitute forward Tammy Pearman took advantage of a costly error by the Norwegian goaltender and scored the winning goal in the Americans' 2-1 sudden-death win over rival Norway in the U.S. Cup championship game at RFK Stadium yesterday.
In the 92nd minute, defender Jenny Grubb kicked a long pass from midfield toward the goal. Norwegian goaltender Bente Norby, who had five saves and disrupted numerous U.S. scoring opportunities, came out to the top of the penalty box to catch Grubb's pass. As the ball landed, Pearman came sprinting up, stealing the ball from underneath Norby and raced to an open net for the win.
"I was actually expecting to get hit by [Norby]," Pearman said. "But I just sort of snuck it past her. It's an incredible feeling, especially against Norway. [Tony DiCicco, U.S. coach] had confidence in me. He wasn't quite sure if I would see time against Norway. But he put me in and I did what I had to do."
Said Grubb: "I was really surprised. After I hit that ball, I was saying, 'Sorry, Tammy.' I was trying to turn around and get back on defense but Tammy got there."
DiCicco said his strategy was to go to Pearman in overtime.
"In the overtime, we said we would play direct to Tammy," DiCicco said. "I didn't think it would work straight into the goal because the goalkeeper was eating those up. But her speed surprised the goalkeeper."
Before the largest crowd to see a U.S. women's soccer game (7,083), the United States rallied from a 1-0 deficit against the reigning World Cup champion.
It took a team effort from the Americans to overcome the more physical Norwegian team. Tournament Most Valuable Player Mia Hamm, who had five goals for the tournament, was surrounded by a suffocating Norwegian defense that was called for 15 fouls. They repeatedly tripped her up and shoved her down. But the American defense held strong behind Joppatowne's Thori Staples and goaltender Mary Harvey.
After a scoreless first half, Norway struck first, taking advantage of the damp field conditions. Behind deft passing, forward Linda Medalen found forward Marianne Pettersen open in the middle of the penalty box and Pettersen booted a low kick that bounced off Harvey's hand into the net.
Hamm evened things on her free kick in the 62nd minute. Hamm found an opening in the Norwegian wall and scored on a line-drive kick from about 35 yards out.