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U.S. Women 2-0 Japan: Wambach, Rodriguez strike

The United States Women’s National Team defeated Japan 2-0 on Saturday in Columbus Crew Stadium.  Abby Wambach opened the scoring for the U.S. in the 29th minute and then assisted on Amy Rodriguez’s 37th minute goal.

The United States looked strong in the first half, combining well up top and using the flanks to stretch Japan’s defense. In the 25th minute, Carli Lloyd back-heeled a ball into the path of defender Stephanie Cox, who slotted Wambach through on net but her low shot was saved by Japanese goalkeeper Ayumi Kaihori.

However, four minutes later, Wambach found net on a set piece.  Defender Ali Krieger served a long free kick into the box and Wambach out-jumped Kaihori and Japanese defender Saki Kumagai to snap a header into the back of the net and give the U.S. the lead.

Wambach then showed her creativity on Rodriguez’s goal eight minutes later.  Looking to receive the ball at midfield with her back to goal, Wambach dummied the ball through her legs and into the path of Heather O’Reilly.  Wambach then turned and overlapped O’Reilly on the right wing and O’Reilly played the ball to Wambach, who sent a low cross into the pat of Rodriguez for the finish.  Rodriguez’s left-footed shot hit off the inside of the near post and spun in to give the U.S. a 2-0 lead.  That is how it would end after a slowed-down second half failed to produce goals for either teams.

Most concerning for the U.S. is the status of Lindsay Tarpley, who went down in the 75th minute grabbing her knee and immediately went to the locker room.  Initial reports indicate a sprained knee for Tarpley, who only recently fully recovered from knee surgery.  How that affects the team is still unknown.  Defenders Christie Rampone and Heather Mitts are already battling injuries.

Japan looked dangerous throughout the match but failed to finish any opportunities in the final third.  The team’s best opportunity came in the 81st minute when defender Yukari Kinga – who was active in the attack all night – forayed forward and played a ball to second half substitute Mana Iwabuchi into the box.  Iwabuchi looked to have an open chance from 12 yards out, but U.S. center back Becky Sauerbrunn slid in and blocked the shot in goal-saving fashion to preserve the 2-0 victory for the U.S.

Japan and the United States will meet again on Wednesday at 7 p.m. (ESPN2) at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, N.C.

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