May 15, 2011

US Takes First Match Against Japan

The United States Women's National Team has won the first of two friendlies with Japan by a score of 2-0. Abby Wambach led the way with a goal and an assist.

The United States started slowly as they struggled with Japanese pressure on the ball. Japan was able to create a few half chances early in the contest, including a long, speedy run by Shinobu Ohno in the 23rd minute, which looked dangerous but did not end in a goal.

The United States' attack began to show signs of life in the 25th minute as Carli Lloyd hit a brilliant back heel pass to Stephanie Cox, who in turn sent the ball through to Wambach. Her shot from 12 yards on the left side gave Japanese keeper Ayumi Kaihori trouble, but the US was unable to pounce on the rebound and the Japanese eventually cleared.

The USWNT finally broke through in the 29th minute. Ali Krieger placed a 40-yard free kick well into the box, where Wambach soared easily above the Japanese defenders and headed the ball in with good pace to put the United States up 1-0. It was the first goal for Wambach since the Concacaf tournament last fall.

The United States doubled their lead in the 37th minute. Heather O'Reilly dribbled in before sending the ball wide to Wambach. She hit a perfect cross into an onrushing Amy Rodriguez who's shot hit the inside of the right post before spinning across the line for the goal.

The US played a fairly strong second half, but were unable to add to their lead and the match finished in a 2-0 victory. Hope Solo, who played her first full match for the USWNT since last summer, earned the shutout.

The victory did not come without a price, however, as Lindsay Tarpley tore her ACL late in the second half and will unfortunately miss the World Cup. It was a tough blow for Tarpley who had suffered a serious injury to end the 2009 WPS season as well.

On the positive side, Wambach looked as good as ever after spending much of the winter and spring bothered by a heel injury. She was a dominant factor in this win for the US.

The two teams will meet again in Cary, North Carolina on Wednesday evening.

Other scores involving World Cup bound teams:
May 12 - Australia 3 (Foord, Simon, Khamis), New Zealand 0
May 14 - Brazil 3 (Aline Pelligrino, Marta, Rosana), Chile 0
May 15 - Australia 2 (Cannuli, McCallum), New Zealand 1 (Wilkinson)
May 15 - Ghana 2, Nigeria 1

De Vanna Withdrawn from Squad for Friendly

According to the Football Australia website, Matilda's striker Lisa De Vanna was withdrawn from the squad before a friendly with New Zealand due to "a breach in team rules." No word yet on how this affects her status for the upcoming World Cup in Germany.

This follows the loss of Kate Gill who recently suffered a severe injury while playing for Swedish club Linkopings two weeks ago.

De Vanna had missed considerable time with the Matildas due to a serious injury she suffered while playing for Australia in the Asian Cup in May, 2010.