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Milbrett’s Goals Help U.S. Relax

TIMES STAFF WRITER

All that was needed was a little laughter, or at least a smile, and Tiffeny Milbrett was happy to oblige.

Her two goals--the first a long-range rocket, the second a piece of close-in opportunism--helped power the United States to an impressive 4-0 victory over Finland on Tuesday and restored the Americans’ chance of winning the sixth Algarve Cup women’s soccer tournament.

“I think sometimes our team is a little too serious, to the point where we’re a little hard on ourselves,” Milbrett said. “We need to relax a little bit and remember that, first and foremost, we play this game because we love to. Everybody forgets that once in a while.”

A 1-1 tie against Sweden in Silves on Sunday had dented U.S. confidence, or at least left the players frowning, but Milbrett didn’t take long to put matters right.

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She scored her first goal, in the 14th minute, on a fierce shot from about 25 yards when she found herself momentarily free of defenders after taking a pass from Julie Foudy.

“I didn’t have a clear view [of the net],” Milbrett said. “But nobody was stepping on me, I was in fairly close range, so why not just have a whack at it?”

Milbrett got her second--the 50th of her international career--in the 33rd minute when she pounced on a loose ball in front of the Finnish net and hooked a shot into the upper right corner.

Having also scored against Sweden, Milbrett clearly is out of her mini-slump. She had gone without a goal this year until coming here.

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“Sometimes when you feel you’re slumping a little bit, you’re getting better and you don’t even know it,” she said.

Coach Tony DiCicco was not about to argue.

“Millie’s kind of broken loose here a bit,” he said. “And it’s good to see because when she’s scored a few, that goal [net] seems to get bigger and bigger for her. So we’re hoping that she scores a hat trick on Thursday.”

That would be when the U.S. plays world champion Norway for a place in Saturday’s Algarve Cup final. The U.S. has to win Thursday to reach the championship game. Norway, which Tuesday added a 2-1 victory over Sweden to its earlier 1-0 win over Finland, needs only a tie.

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China is already assured its place in the final, having shut out Denmark, 2-0, Tuesday while Australia and Portugal played to a 0-0 tie that knocked both of them out of title contention.

DiCicco juggled his lineup against Finland and switched to a 3-4-3 formation, using only three defenders in order to bolster his attack. The move paid off.

Besides Milbrett’s goals, the U.S. got one from Cindy Parlow in the 28th minute and one on a header by Brandi Chastain in the 71st. Both were set up by winger Shannon MacMillan of Escondido.

“It was a good performance,” DiCicco said. “Finland has proven itself to be an outstanding defensive team and I was very pleased with the way we played. We played with great discipline, great ball movement, great mobility. We were unlucky not to score more.

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“I think today they played for each other a bit. They weren’t satisfied with the last couple of games. They . . . played a little freer, without as much baggage. It was fun to see and that’s what they wanted to do. They wanted to have fun, and they did.

“So it was a good team victory. We know what the score is. We have to win on Thursday and Norway’s going to be a battle. We’re at least in position to determine our own destiny, so we’re happy.”

Algarve Cup

Tuesday’s results in the Algarve Cup women’s soccer tournament in Portugal:

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GROUP A

United States 4, Finland 0

Norway 2, Sweden 1

GROUP B

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China 2, Denmark O

Australia 0, Portugal 0


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