On Friday, the United States defeated Norway 2-0 in the Algarve Cup to secure a spot in Wednesday’s final with a game still remaining in group play. Lindsay Tarpley scored the game-winning goal in the 34th minute when she got on the end of an Amy Rodriguez back-heel for the finish.
The goal was her second game-winner of the year (the other coming in a 2-1 win over Canada on Jan. 23). For Tarpley, those two game-winning goals represent much more than just statistics. They are symbols of Tarpley’s long comeback, one that is just now hitting full-stride ahead of the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup.
Friday was Tarpley’s first start for the U.S. since July 22,2009, a 1-0 win over Canada in Charleston, S.C. Just two weeks after that match, Tarpley cruelly tore her right ACL while training with the Chicago Red Stars – a team already eliminated from the WPS playoffs – in its final training session of the year.
It was a long road to recovery for Tarpley. She began 2010 with Saint Louis Athletica, where she played in five games and scored a goal as she inched toward regaining her form.
But Athletica folded mid-season and Tarpley became a free agent. She landed in Boston, where she helped the Breakers turn around a dismal nine-game winless streak into a Super Semifinal appearance. With Boston, Tarpley scored three goals and added three assists in Tony DiCicco’s 4-3-3 formation.
The final piece to the comeback puzzle was working her way back into Pia Sundhage’s plans ahead of the Women’s World Cup. Friday may have affirmed that.
“It’s been a long road, but I have grown a lot as a person and as a player,” Tarpley said prior to departing for Portugal. “I feel the best I have ever felt in my career and it has also helped me appreciate the things that maybe I kind of took for granted before. I think I am training smarter now and I feel the best than I ever felt.”
Tarpley earned just one cap in 2010, playing 45 minutes in a 1-1 draw with China at PPL Park on Oct. 6. She did not feature in a single Women’s World Cup Qualifying match. But 2011 looks to be different. She already scored two critical goals just over a month apart.
As Tarpley said, she feels better than ever. She has changed her training routine to put a heavier emphasis on weight lifting to improve strength and agility. “Less is not always more,” said Tarpley, who replaced longer conditioning routines with shorter, more efficient training. Now, her focus is on being in Sundhage’s plans in any way possible.
“It took me a while to get back to where I wanted to be,” Tarpley said. “I feel like I am in a good place now and looking forward to being able to help the team in whatever way I can.”
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