With a shot advantage of 34-4, how United States Women’s National Team managed to remain deadlocked in a scoreless draw with Mexico in the 92nd minute is anyone’s guess. Thankfully for the U.S., Lauren Cheney turned misfortune into elation in second half stoppage time when she rifled a 25 yard shot into the upper corner to beat Mexican goalkeeper Ceci Santiago. The goal came after a long evening of blown chances for the U.S. and gave the Americans a 1-0 victory in front of 5,852 fans at Red Bull Arena in the team’s last match before the Women’s World Cup.
“I don’t know if there was necessarily frustration but I did feel a lot of energy on the field,” said Cheney, who entered the match for Amy Rodriguez in the 61st minute. “When I came on I could tell everybody was anxious to get a goal and I think once you are knocking at the door that long you have to get a little bit frustrated but also excited just to know you could get one.”
The chances came early and often for the U.S. with Abby Wambach beating Mexican center back Natalie Vinti three times in the opening 25 minutes but failing to finish on each occassion. The best chance for Wambach came in the 25th minute, when she intercepted an errant back pass from Vinti that was intended for Santiago. Wambach touched the ball around Santiago but her shot went wide of the near post and into the side netting.
Rodriguez also blew several chances. Carli Lloyd served up a ball on a golden platter for Rodriguez in the 37th minute, but after Lloyd beat two defenders in the box, Rodriguez skied the ball over the top of the bar from 14 yards out. She would again put the ball over the crossbar in the 44th minute and the frustration seemed to build for the United States’ two strikers. But frustration is not the right word, Rodriguez said.
“Frustrating? No,” she said. “I look back and I am like, ‘oh man I should of put those away and ended this game a little bit earlier than the 91st minute or whatever it is that we scored.’ But at the end of the day this game was important to us as a team, and so for me to be frustrated personally about it is wrong.”
The anticipation only seemed to build in the second half as the U.S. got closer to scoring. Lloyd looked like she scored in the 48th minute only to seed Mexico defender Kenti Robles clear the ball off the line. It seemed like it just was not meant to be for the U.S., but Cheney changed that with one moment of brilliance on the verge of the final whistle. With her back to goal from 30 yards out, Cheney collected the ball, turned and, seeing no options, decided to crack a shot. There was nothing Santiago – the 16-year-old goalkeeper who made eight saves in the game – could do about the shot.
“Once I got the ball I was actually looking it to find Alex (Morgan) or Abby (Wambach) but their back line had dropped so far that I just picked my head up and took a shot.
The match was the official send-off for the U.S., which heads into the June 28th Women’s World Cup opener against North Korea riding a three game winning streak.
Meanwhile, Mexico will have to sort out a way to generate more offense than the two shots on goal the team produced. Mexico was pinned back in its own end all game and failed to produce any threatening scoring chances. Mexico opens its Women’s World Cup on June 27 against England, led by Head Coach Hope Powell, who was in New Jersey scouting the match.
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