WAMBACH, WHITEHILL & LILLY SCORE IN WILD FINISH
- Three Goals Scored After 89th Minute as Lilly Gets Stoppage Time Winner
- U.S. Defense Limits Sweden to Three Shots, but Allows Two Goals
BLAINE, Minnesota (July 15, 2006) – The U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team opened its 2006 domestic schedule with a wild 3-2 win over Sweden on an oppressively hot day at the National Sports Center as U.S. captain Kristine Lilly scored the dramatic winning goal in the second minute of stoppage time. Temperatures soared as high as 99 degrees with a strong, hot wind blowing the entire match, but the pace of the game was remarkably good despite the conditions.
The USA opened the scoring in the 38th minute off an excellent finish by Abby Wambach and looked to be cruising to a one goal win. Sweden had taken just one shot through the first 71 minutes of the game before the visitors struck for an equalizer in the 72nd minute. That set the stage for a crazy last four minutes.
In 89th minute, Leslie Osborne was fouled 10 yards behind the midfield stripe, earning the USA a free kick. Defender Cat Whitehill stepped up and blasted an improbable 70-yard service that flew over charging Swedish goalkeeper Sofia Lundgren, who was being challenged hard in the air by Wambach. The ball bounced once inside the penalty box and then sailed over the goal line and into the roof of the net.
Pandemonium broke out in the stands and on the U.S. bench, but that was quickly silenced as Sweden scored an unlikely blast of their own in the first minute of stoppage time as substitute Elin Ekblom lifted a cross deep from the right corner. In the swirling winds, the ball flew over U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo and settled into the left side netting at the far post.
The USA was not done, however, and earned the winning goal just seconds before the final whistle off a throw-in from the right side. Whitehill’s long throw was met by Wambach at the near post and she flicked the ball perfectly into the middle with her head. Carli Lloyd battled with a couple of Swedish defenders to keep the ball alive and the ball bounced perfectly to the lethal left foot of Lilly, who drove her first-time shot just under the crossbar from 12 yards out. Sweden didn’t even have time to kick off before referee Rachel Woo blew the final whistle.
“It was a tough day for both the Swedes and us,” said U.S. head coach Greg Ryan. “What was the temperature today? One hundred? Ninety-nine? We play with a lot of pressure, and it was hard to keep our shape today. Our forwards were so tired it was hard for them to get back. The backs were tired, so it was hard for them to get up. The only way you can play pressure is if you can get up and back as a group, but I am really proud of the players. They made such a great effort today, and didn't give up.”
The goal for Lilly was the 110th of her career, second all-time behind only Mia Hamm (158). Wambach’s score was her 55th in 73 career games, the best strike rate in U.S. history so far, while Whitehill scored her seventh career goal, tying her with 2006 National Soccer Hall of Fame inductee Carla Overbeck for third all-time among U.S. defenders.
“It's really important to know that the team can give up an equalizer in the 90th minute and actually come out ahead,” said Wambach. “That's all heart. Tactics and everything aside, that's Kristine Lilly, having played on this team for almost 20 years, having won multiple world championships. Who else do you want to have the ball at their feet in the 90th minute to win the game?"
The USA lost the last meeting between these two teams at the 2004 Algarve Cup by a 3-1 score, and while the Americans were in control most of this match, out-shooting Sweden 12-3, the Swedes held up remarkably well in the stifling heat.
Sweden started in a 4-4-2 with forwards Therese Lundin and Victoria Svensson up top but most of the danger from the 2003 FIFA Women’s World Cup runner-ups was produced by flank midfielders Lotta Schelin coming from the left and Josefine Oqvist from the right.
The USA had some good possession in the match, but heavy legs and over-extended lungs made most of the game a bit scrappy and sluggish.
The first U.S. goal was a thing of beauty, with Osborne starting the play by sending Lilly down the left flank with a nice spinning pass. Lilly busted through into the penalty box and fought off a tackle from Marlene Sjoberg before cutting a short pass back to O’Reilly. The young U.S. forward had her back to the goal and laid a perfect pass back to Wambach, who ran onto the ball and crushed her shot first-time into the upper right corner from 12 yards out.
Sweden’s tying goal came off a set play as they chipped a short pass into the U.S. penalty area from about 30 yards out. In the ensuing scramble, the USA couldn’t clear and Anna Sjostrom had enough time to strike a shot that deflected off a U.S. defender and bounced past the wrong-footed Solo and into the net.
The match marked the first time under U.S. head coach Greg Ryan that the USA has given up two goals in a match, and the second Swedish score was just the second goal from the run of play that Ryan’s teams have given up since he took over in March 2005. With the win, Ryan’s overall record moved to 15-0-4.
Osborne played all 90 minutes at defensive midfield and had an excellent match in place of Shannon Boxx, who is still coming back from hip surgery. Boxx may be ready for action in the USA’s match next weekend against Ireland in San Diego.
Lilly had a dangerous chance in the seventh minute as she got behind the defense, but her shot from 12 yards out was kick-saved by Jonsson, who also pushed a Lilly blast over the top in the 34th minute.
Solo saved Sweden’s most dangerous chance (not including the goals), as she denied her former club teammate Schelin with a flying tip of a shot from the left side of the penalty that hit the crossbar before bouncing away. Solo played with Schelin in Goteburg, Sweden, in 2004.
The USA had another good chance in the 54th minute as Lloyd hit her shot well from about 30 yards out, only to see it smack the outside of the right post and roll away.
Unfortunate Swedish goalkeeper Lundgren had come into the match in the 70th minute for Jonsson and gave up the final two goals, including Whitehill’s blast, which just might be a record for longest goal in U.S. Women’s National Team history.
The USA will play its second domestic match of 2006 next Sunday, July 23, at Torero Stadium on the campus of the University of San Diego. Kickoff is 1 p.m. PT. The USA finishes its July schedule against Canada at SAS Soccer Park in Cary, N.C. on July 30. Kickoff for that match is 1 p.m. ET. The USA will also play on Sept. 13 at the new PAETEC Park in Rochester, N.Y., against Mexico. That match will be kickoff at 8 p.m. ET. All three games will be broadcast live on ESPN2.
U.S. WOMEN'S NATIONAL TEAM GAME REPORT
Match-up: USA vs. Sweden
Competition: International Friendly
Venue: National Sports Center; Blaine, Minnesota
Date: July 15, 2006; Kickoff – 5:00 p.m. local / 6 p.m. ET
Weather: Very, very hot and humid – 99 degrees
1 2 F
USA 1 2 3
SWE 0 2 2
USA – Abby Wambach (Heather O’Reilly) 38th minute.
SWE – Anna Sjostrom (unassisted) 72.
USA – Cat Whitehill (unassisted) 89.
SWE – Elin Elblom (unassisted) 90+
USA – Kristine Lilly (unassisted) 90+
USA - 18-Hope Solo; 2-Heather Mitts (17-Lori Chalupny, 80), 4-Cat Whitehill, 8-Tina Frimpong (14-Amy LePeilbet, 60), 3-Christie Rampone; 12-Leslie Osborne, 11-Carli Lloyd, 10-Aly Wagner (5-Lindsay Tarpley, 73); 9-Heather O’Reilly (6-Natasha Kai, 60), 20-Abby Wambach, 13-Kristine Lilly – Capt.
Subs not used: 24-Nicole Barnhart, 15-Marci Miller, 16-Megan Rapinoe,.
Head Coach: Greg Ryan
SWE - 1-Caroline Jonsson (21-Sofia Lundgren, 70); 2-Karolina Westberg, 8-Stina Segerström, 20-Marlene Sjöberg (4-Hanna Marklund, 60), 16-Sara Thunebro; 5-Caroline Seger, 15-Therese Sjögran, 9-Therese Lundin (10-Maria Aronsson, 60), 13-Lotta Schelin (17-Anna Sjöström, 60); 19-Josefine Öqvist (6-Elin Ekblom, 67), 11-Victoria Svensson.
Subs not used: 3-Jane Törnqvist, 7-Sara Larsson, 12-Hedvig Lindahl, 14-Frida Nordin, 18-Nilla Fischer,
Head Coach: Thomas Dennerby
USA / SWE
Shots: 12 / 3
Shots on Goal: 9 / 3
Saves: 1 / 6
Corner Kicks: 5 / 4
Fouls: 12 / 12
Offside: 0 / 2
USA – Tina Frimpong (caution) 33rd minute.
USA – Abby Wambach (caution) 64.
SWE – Caroline Seger (caution) 87.
Referee: Rachel Woo
Assistant Referee #1: Sharon Wheeler
Assistant Referee #2: Kristin Lamm
Fourth Official: William Garner
Sierra Mist Woman of the Match: Kristine Lilly