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

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.

Analysis

Still room for improvemnt, but U.S. nears Women's World Cup advancement.

By Robert Wagman
SoccerTimes

(Friday, September 14, 2007) -- Once the United States had settled down, it began to resemble the tournament favorite it is in defeating Sweden 2-0 in a Women's World Cup Group B match in Chengdu, China.

After receiving two goals from striker Abby Wambach, the U.S. is 1-0-1 with four points and a plus-2 goal differential, identical to North Korea atop Group B. North Korea was a 2-0 victor over Nigeria, which is 0-1-1 with a goal difference of minus-2 and a goal difference of minus-2, exactly the same as Sweden.

Group play ends Tuesday with the U.S. facing Nigeria and North Korea meeting Sweden. Both the Americans and Koreans will advance to the quarterfinals with a victory or draw in their finales, but also could move on with a loss.

U.S. coach Greg Ryan made two lineup changes from the team that was outplayed, but rallied to draw North Korea 2-2 in the opener. In a slightly changed formation, Leslie Osborne started as the defensive midfielder in place of Shannon Boxx, who struggled against North Korea. Lindsay Tarpley replaced Heather O'Reilly on the front line as the Americans came out in a standard 4-3-3 formation. Against North Korea, two of the four backs were used as markers while the other pair stayed home.

The strategy did not seem to make a lot of difference. On Tuesday, the Koreans overloaded the midfield and the U.S. defense was pulled far out of alignment. The Swedes obviously studied film and started today's game in much the same fashion. Again, Sweden pulled the U.S. out of shape and resultantly dominated the midfield.

Sweden dominated the first 20 minutes of play, but could not break through for a goal. The U.S. finally settled in and took over, dominating teh action for the rest of the way.

Sweden has been forced to play in this tournament with reserve keeper Hedvig Lindahl and her inability to judge how high a ball might bounce resulted in the first U.S. goal. In the 33rd minute, a long pass bounced over her leap with U.S. midfielder Lori Chalupny and Sweden defender Stina Segerstrom getting tangled as they chased the ball down in the box. Hungarian referee Gyoengyi Gaal called a foul and Wambach converted the penalty kick despite a somewhat weak effort for a 1-0 lead.

Wambach is a special player, possibly the best in this tournament, and she showed that in the 58th minute when she trapped a pass from Kristine Lilly, took it down between two defenders and struck a 12-yard half volley past Lindahl, who could do nothing.

There is no doubt the U.S. was better today than its opener, but still has not hits its stride. Against a familiar opponent who was not as fast or physical as North Korea, the Americans probably should have done better. They certainly should have started faster and an extra goal or two would have been a great help since it appears that goal differential could be a factor in who wins the group.


U.S. player ratings

Starters

Goalkeeper Hope Solo - 6 : Recovered from her soft goal Tuesday to be solid and up to the task.

Defender Christie Rampone - 5.5: After the first half hour or so, the focus of the Swedish attack shifted to her side of the field and she did very well, making few, if any, mistakes.

Defender Catherine Whitehill - 5.5: Was not required to run from sideline to sideline for throw-ins, as he was on Tuesday. That seemed to allow her to better concentrate on her defensive duties.

Defender Kate Markgraf - 6: Won every air battle as Sweden tried to drop long balls into the box. A very solid performance.

Defender Stephanie Lopez - 5.5: The young defender was put under a lot of pressure early by Swedish winger Lotta Schelin, but she held up and had a fine day.

Midfielder Lori Chalupny - 6: Another strong effort, mostly a defensive role. Worked hard and held Sweden to only a few chances.

Midfielder Leslie Osborne - 5.5: Had to do a lot of running in the middle today and was up to the job, making a number of good defensive stops.

Midfielder Carli Lloyd - 5: She seemed to tire early after a tough game against North Korea Tuesday.

Forward Lindsay Tarpley - 5.5: Was involved in the offense at times but, except by winning the ball on what ended up the second U.S. goal, really didn't create many quality chances.

Forward Kristine Lilly - 6.5: A veteran performance, solid both offensively and defensively. Was a problem for the Swedes all night, but had to go back to play a lot of defense in the midfield.

Forward Abby Wambach - 7.5: The 11 stitches in the back of her head did not slow her at all. Constantly double- or triple-marked, she managed both U.S. goals in a wonderful performance.

Reserves

Midfielder Shannon Boxx (46th minute for Lloyd) - 5.5: Came on in a defensive role to solidify the midfield and did a good job. She controlled a lot of space and gave away few opportunities.

Forward Heather O'Reilly (67th minute for Tarpley) - 5.5: Had a few openings she could have done more with but, by the time she entered, her mission was mostly to help kill off the match.

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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