June 5, 2011

US Squeaks Past Mexico 1-0

It took nearly 92 minutes, but Lauren Cheney's strike gave the United States a 1-0 victory over Mexico. The goal came in spite of a brilliant effort by 16 year old goalkeeper Celia Santiago.

The United States dominated almost from the opening whistle, unlike the match last November where Mexico took it to the US early in the match. But a combination of missed opportunities and some great saves by the Mexican teenager kept the United States off the scoreboard until second half stoppage time.

The winning goal started with Heather O'Reilly's long pass up the center of the field to Abby Wambach who received the ball 10 yards outside of the penalty area. She dropped the ball back to Cheney, who worked her way to her right before releasing a blistering shot from 30 yards out into the upper left corner of the net, just beyond the outstretched arms of Santiago.

The United States outshot Mexico 34-4 for the match, but far too many of those were not on frame. They still put enough on goal to keep Santiago busy for most of the match. The US thought they surely had a goal in the 70th minute when Stephanie Cox sent a perfect pass to a cutting Carli Lloyd. Lloyd's shot had good pace and was heading just inside the near post before Santiago was able to reach out and deflect the ball away at the last possible moment.

Mexico found it very hard to muster any kind of an attack, unlike the Concacaf semifinal when they were consistently able to find space between the US defense. The US passing game was much improved from their two recent matches with Japan. Mexico did show some improvement in the attack later in the match, but were unable to produce any chances beyond a few shots from distance.

Hope Solo got the shutout for the United States, but was tested with very few chances.

Heather Mitts, who has been suffering from injuries for most of the past few months, saw her first action in the second half. It was later confirmed that Mitts will keep her roster spot for the World Cup.

The United States will next head to Austria for training camp before arriving in Germany for their first round match on June 28.

Before the match, Kristine Lilly was honored for her extraordinary USWNT career, which include 352 caps and 130 goals.