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Wambach hurts toe in 4-0 romp over Finland in final Cup tune-up.

Wambach hurts toe in 4-0 romp over Finland in final Cup tune-up.

Wambach nets pair, UNC quartet adds four in 6-2 rout of Canada.

Schedule for World Cup prep matches is set.

Ryan, Lilly to visit China for Women's World Cup draw.

Lilly scores two more in U.S.'s 5-0 rout of Mexico.

Wambach's two goals, Lloyd strike beat Sweden 3-2, earn Algarve final.

Lloyd's second straight winner downs Finland 1-0 in Algarve Cup.

Lloyd goal is winner in 2-1 Algarve opening win over China.

Chalupny, Kai power Americans past China 2-0, to Four Nations crown.

Solo stops help save 0-0 draw with Germany to open Four Nations Cup.

Wambach finds net twice, U.S. defeatd Mexico 2-0, qualify for Women's World Cup.

Pardoned Lilly scores, Americans edge Canada to take Peace Cup title.

Lilly equalizes for 1-1 draw with Denmark to open Peace Cup.

Wambach scores three, assists three in 10-0 rout of Taiwan.

Peace Cup event is added to WWC preparation.

Wambach, Kai provide winning margin in 2-0 win over Canada.

O'Reilly, Whitehill help post familiar 5-0 triumph over Ireland.

Germany blanks U.S. 2-0 in U-21 Nordic final.

Reserve Kai nets winner in 1-0 decision over Japan.

Wambach's three strikes lead 3-1 comeback victory over Japan.

Visit to Japan is scheduled, qualifying road is set.


Despite being dominated, U.S. rallies to draw North Korea 2-2 in Women's World Cup.

By Robert Wagman

(Tuesday, September 11, 2007) -- The United States was fortunate to emerge from its opening Women's World Cup Group B match against North Korea with a 2-2 draw. The Americans were outplayed throughout and struggled to contain their quick and aggressive opponent.

The match in Chengdu, China, was played in a driving rain and conditions deteriorated as the match wore on.

The big question going into the match was exactly how good was North Korea, a team certainly more worthy of the slogan "the greatest team you've never heard of," a marketing motto that sponsor Nike has hung on the U.S. women for this World Cup. The Koreans, who finished third in the 2006 Asian championships, seldom play friendly matches or wander outside their borders, except to compete in regional competitions.

The previous two meetings between the U.S. and North Korea came in group play during the last two World Cups -- the Americans won both 3-0 in 1999 in Foxborough, Mass., and 2003 in Chicago -- but U.S. coach Greg Ryan said his staff had scouted the Koreans at the Asian championships.

If Ryan hadn't sufficiently informed his team the quality of today's opponent, then maybe North Korea's No. 5 world ranking should have, but the Americans seemed unprepared for the skill and intensity of the opposition. Whether the Koreans can replicate their performance in their next two group matches remains to be seen, but the U.S. has to improve its effort or risk an early return home.

Ryan chose to go with the same setup that has been so successful for him in amassing a 40-0-7 record since taking over the U.S. women's program from April Heinrichs in early 2005, a 4-3-3 with the three midfielders playing in an inverted triangle anchored by Shannon Boxx. Tonight, the midfield was simply overwhelmed by the four and sometimes five players the Koreans flooded into the middle.

It seemed that every time an American defender cleared a ball, a Korean would get to it first in the midfield and send it back toward the U.S. goal. Likewise, the three women on the U.S. front line, led by Abby Wambach, rarely got much in the way of good service.

The American defense was constantly forced to scramble. Under Ryan, this back-line seldom has faced the level of consistent pressure it saw today and, resultantly, it looked disorganized and sometimes barely holding on.

In the 54th minute and the U.S. leading 1-0, Ryan was faced with the one of the biggest decisions as head coach. Wambach came away from a clash of heads with a deep cut on the back of her head and came off the field. Ryan had to decide whether to substitute for his offensive star or play one down while she was receiving two stitches to close the wound. He chose the latter course and, before Wambach returned nine minutes later, the U.S. surrendered two goals and suddenly trailed 2-1.

One might argue that neither of the Korean goals was the result of the manpower advantage. On the other hand, the U.S. shifted into a 4-4-1 formation and there was clearly some level of confusion that might well have allowed both the scoring plays to proceed.

Also, one might wonder why, with a number of experienced players on the bench, Ryan did not make a substitution until stoppage time, especially in a match being played in such taxing conditions.

An oddity of this game was that both teams' goals almost exactly mirrored their opponents'. The U.S. scored when goalkeeper Jon Myong Hui let a Wambach shot through her hands. The Koreans leveled when U.S. keeper Hope Solo got two hands on a bullet from Kil Son Hui, but had the shot slip through her hands.

North Korea then went ahead when the U.S. controlled a ball in its own penalty area, but could not clear it. Then, American Heather O'Reilly tied matters at 2-2 on an identical situation at the other end.

Maybe when this tournament ends, everyone will look back at this match as a clash of titans with two of the best three teams (along with Germany) in the tournament playing to a draw in very difficult conditions. But until things play out, it looks like a U.S. was not mentally ready to play and was out-dueled by an opponent, which was quick and physical, and was very ready to go. Time will tell.

U.S. player ratings


Goalkeeper Hope Solo - 5.5: Had she not let in the first goal on a shot that a keeper must save, she would have been the "Player of the Match." Yet she squandered a lead, though she atoned for the error with two great saves in stoppage time.

Defender Christie Rampone - 5.5: Was often called upon to defend one-on-one against speedy opponents and she made few errors.

Defender Catherine Whitehill - 5: Was forced into making several lunging saves and seemed to have difficulty with the pace. To her credit, she always seemed to manage to get there in time. Did some good work on free kicks, sending balls well into the opposing penalty area.

Defender Kate Markgraf - 5.5: Like Rampone, she bore the brunt of defending against fleet attackers and generally did very well.

Defender Stephanie Lopez - 5: Was not under as much pressure as others in the back. Could probably have done a bit better.

Midfielder Lori Chalupny - 6: The one bright spot in the U.S. misfield. She played with tremendous energy, running long distances to make plays at both ends.

Midfielder Shannon Boxx - 4.5: Just seemed not to be able to ever get into the match. Was outrun and outfought in the middle. Her failure to clear was responsible for second Korean goal.

Midfielder Carli Lloyd - 5.0: Never got into the midfield flow. Often had to deal with two opponents and shouldered the responsibility of the U.S. being overmatched and outnumbered in the middle.

Forward Heather O'Reilly - 6: Kept plugging away under difficult circumstances and showed a lot of poise, lacing a perfectly placed tying goal when the opportunity presented itself.

Forward Kristine Lilly - 5.5: Had some very good moments, but was often forced deep into the midfield to play defense. Received little service, but her deft pass set up Wambach's opening goal.

Forward Abby Wambach - 7: Scored the key goal, came close twice and then shook off a bloody gash to her head to come back and finish the match, including heading the ball away from danger near the end. An inspiring performance.


Midfielder Natasha Kai (90th minute for O'Reilly) - no rating: Made one good defensive stop, but never figured into the attack. .

SoccerTimes Player of the Match: Abby Wambach.

The U.S. roster for the 2007 Women's World Cup:

Goalkeepers (3): Nicole Barnhart (Gilbertsville, Pa.), Briana Scurry (Dayton, Minn.), Hope Solo (Richland, Wash.).

Defenders (6): Marian Dalmy (Lakewood, Colo.), Tina Ellertson (Vancouver, Wash.), Stephanie Lopez (Elk Grove, Calif.), Kate Markgraf (Bloomfield Hills, Mich.), Christie Rampone (Point Pleasant, N.J.), Catherine Whitehill (Birmingham, Ala.).

Midfielders (7): Shannon Boxx (Redondo Beach, Calif.), Lori Chalupny (St. Louis), Angela Hucles (Virginia Beach, Va.), Marci Jobson (St. Charles, Ill.), Carli Lloyd (Delran, N.J.), Leslie Osborne (Brookfield, Wisc.), Aly Wagner (San Jose, Calif.).

Forwards (5): Natasha Kai (Kahuku, Hawai'i), Kristine Lilly (Wilton, Conn.), Heather O'Reilly (East Brunswick, N.J.), Lindsay Tarpley (Kalamazoo, Mich.), Abby Wambach (Rochester, N.Y.).

Robert Wagman is SoccerTimes senior correspondent.

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