Wednesday, October 06, 2010

U.S. Women salvage 1-1 draw with China

By John McMullen

Chester, PA (The Phanatic Magazine) -  It was a historic night in the Philadelphia area.

A half-hour down I-95 Roy Halladay became just the second pitcher in Major League Baseball history to throw a no-hitter in the postseason as the Phillies took care of the Cincinnati Reds in the opener of the National League Division Series at Citizens Bank Park.

Meanwhile here in Chester, Alex Morgan's first international goal in the 83rd  minute salvaged a 1-1 draw for the mighty United States Women's National Team against China in its final tuneup before the start of the CONCACAF Women's World Cup qualifying in Mexico from Oct. 28 to Nov. 9.

A loss by the U.S. might not have been akin to Halladay's gem but it would have been rare nonetheless. Since coaching her first game as the U.S. mentor in January of 2008 Pia Sundhage has compiled an overall record of 49-1-5 with the only loss in coming in the first game of the 2008 Olympics. The U.S. had also not lost to the Chinese since 2003 and had not dropped  a match on American soil since a 3-1 loss to Denmark in November of 2004, which was also in Philadelphia at Lincoln Financial Field.

The U.S., which is ranked No. 1 in the FIFA women's world rankings, squandered a number of scoring opportunities early and China, which is just 14th in the world, took advantage in the 37th minute when Zhou Gaoping lofted a beautiful crossing pass into the box that found Ma Jun, who blasted it over the left
shoulder of U.S. goalkeeper Nicole Barhnart.

China was content to play keepaway from there and survived a pair of Carli Lloyd free kicks from just outside the box along with a number of American setups that seemed just a step or two off. Chinese netminder Zhang Yue also stoned a big blast from the 21-year-old Morgan in the 77th minute.

Finally, with the pressure mounting American superstar Abby Wambach headed a pass to Morgan, who had a step on her defender in the box and the young forward was able to beat Zhang to keep the U.S. undefeated in its 11 international matches this year (9-0-2).

“I think we got some good answers today and I’m very happy,” said Sundhage. “If you look at the first half, I thought we couldn’t connect and China made us look not so good. We struggled a little bit, but even a goal down, the attitude was to come back. Having players come of the bench and change the game like Yael Averbuch and Alex Morgan was a good thing and that was a big goal to tie the game late.” 

The U.S. will open the CONCACAF tournament on Oct. 28 against Haiti, face Guatemala on Oct. 30 and finish Group B play against Costa Rica on Nov. 1.

The top two teams in each group advance to the all-important semifinals as the two finalists will automatically qualify for the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Germany. The third-place team will compete in a playoff against the fifth-place finisher from Europe for the final berth to the Germany.

The 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup will take place from June 26-July 17 in nine venues across Germany: Berlin, Frankfurt, M√∂nchengladbach, Sinsheim, Wolfsburg, Augsburg, Bochum, Dresden and Leverkusen. 

Notes:

*The U.S. topped China 2-1 in Kennesaw, Georgia over the weekend thanks to goals by Megan Rapinoe and Heather O'Reilly. Rapinoe scored the first goal in that one during the 22nd minute and O'Reilly answered a 35th- minute goal by China's Qu Shanshan with the game-winner in the 38th.

*The U.S. outshot China 16 to eight tonight but just three of those were on net. The Americans also had a 9-4 edge in corner kicks and committed just six fouls to 13 for the Chinese. All in all the U.S. team was trying to be too precise instead of just pressuring Zhang on a consistent basis.

*Overall the American women are now 23-8-12 versus China in international competition.

*The U.S. men take on Columbia at PPL Park next Tuesday.

*PPL Park showed the final out of Halladay's no-hitter halftime.

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