USWNT forced to settle for draw after allowing late equalizer to New Zealand

Sydney Leroux

Photo by ISIPhotos.com

By DAN KARELL

Just three days removed from these two nations dueling it out in San Francisco, the U.S. Women’s National Team took on New Zealand once again on Wednesday night. This time however, the outcome wasn’t what they had hoped for.

Though the U.S. took a lead three minutes before the break through Sydney Leroux, the normally high-scoring squad couldn’t find another goal on the night and allowed New Zealand to come into the game and score a late equalizer, finishing as a 1-1 draw at Crew Stadium in Columbus, Ohio, in front of a crowd of 15,139.

“We really needed to score the second goal when we were dominating the game but we didn’t do that,” U.S. head coach Tom Sermanni told U.S. Soccer after the match. “At 1-0 there’s always a danger you’ll give something up and that’s what happened tonight. It’s a very tight game at times and a good lesson for us to learn about being able to keep a 1-0 lead and finish teams off.”

Due to an ankle injury suffered last week, Alex Morgan was unavailable to play as Sermanni chose to play a 4-3-3 formation with Abby Wambach up top flanked by Leroux on the left and Heather O’Reilly on the right. Yael Averbuch returned to the starting lineup in central midfield.

“We didn’t just change the lineup tonight, we changed the formation slightly,” Sermanni said. “It takes time and takes time for players to adjust to things. It’s a good time for us in the cycle because there’s stuff to work on.”

The Americans will feel that they missed a number of chances to score during the evening, starting in the 10th minute when New Zealand defender Ria Percival was whistled for a handball in the box. However, Wambach’s subsequent penalty kick was hit too close to the middle and Football Ferns goalkeeper Erin Nayler made a terrific save to keep the U.S. off the board.

It wasn’t until the 42nd minute that the U.S. found their breakthrough. Leroux received a pass along the left side of the field and turned inside, with plenty of space in front of her. Once Leroux found herself outside the box, she ripped a low drive across goal that Nayler couldn’t get a hand on, giving the U.S. a 1-0 lead late in the first half.

The goal was Leroux’s eighth in 2013, tying her with Christen Press for second place on the squad.

Even New Zealand changing goalkeepers at halftime didn’t change the fortunes of the U.S. squad, as Wambach was again denied on a header by substitute Jenny Bindon, one of two U.S.-born players on the Kiwis.

“We kind of wanted to pressure New Zealand and match up with them in midfield,” Sermanni said. “We wanted to dominate the game. We did at times but at other times we weren’t quick enough to transition when we won the ball or lost the ball.”

New Zealand finally earned their reward for their strong defensive work in the 87th minute. Defender Rebekah Stott drove through the center of the field unimpeded, playing Hannah Wilkinson into space before Wilkinson sent a looping drive over U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo’s head to tie the match.

The final result ends a ten-game winning streak for the U.S. over New Zealand. The draw did, however, extend the Americans’ 76-game home unbeaten streak.

“We expect to win games, particularly at home,” Sermanni said. “With a home crowd like this, we want to dominate games and we didn’t do that as well tonight as some of our games during the year.”

The U.S. return to action with a Nov. 10 match against Brazil in the Florida Citrus Bowl in Orlando.

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11 Responses to USWNT forced to settle for draw after allowing late equalizer to New Zealand

  1. jones says:

    Thanks for the recap. I tried to watch the ussoccer webcast, but it was very wonky (in addition to very blurry) – it kept cutting out back to the beginning of the match or something.

    Really pumped for the Brazil match, though I wonder how much Brazil has actually been training together in the past year or so.

  2. AlexH says:

    One week they are on NBC the next they are on some crummy internet feed. The soccer federation needs to find a reliable broadcast partner for the women

    • EspinDOHla says:

      ^this. Especially since it is the USSF that is pouring money into the new women’s league. You’d think they would want to make the USWNT stars, the majority of whom play in the WPS, more visible.

  3. Rory says:

    So was this the full team or a lot of subs?

    • AlexH says:

      It was mostly a first choice team playing an unusual formation if the formation chart published by the soccer federation is to be believed.

  4. dan says:

    I was gonna watch the team and then I realized who cares unless its a wcup

    • Love it or leave it says:

      Crazy

      Beside this game, the WNT score a lot of goals. Its great to watch.

    • AlexH says:

      You should give it a watch. It’s is not quite at the level of the men’s game but it is getting better all the time. The women play with a lot of passion, and there are so many players fighting for roster spots that the games are always intensly fought. The USWNT is definately a team you can get behind more than once every 4 years if you give it a try.

  5. What me worry? says:

    Was at the game and seriously, people should come to these and see women’s soccer live as it is quick, skilled, physical and exciting. Rapinoe was amazing and looked like Messi dribbling around the New Zealand players with ease. Think some of the NZ players went through training with the All Blacks but Leroux and Rapinoe and Wambach gave it right back. Ref blew a call in the box giving a foul on a play costing us a goal. Think the formation would work with Leroux, Wambach, and Morgan up front. Not impressed with Averbuch as she has little range or speed that I saw and couldn’t win or hold a ball. Caused problems for the U.S. in trying to link the play from the backs. .
    NZ were better than I thought and the left back (#7) made dangerous run after run up the side. Woulld have liked a win but still am glad I went.

    • jones says:

      Thanks for the review. Too bad I couldn’t watch the crappy feed – I was curious to see how Averbuch is doing. She is skilled on the ball and has good passing vision (at least on her club teams/UNC). I really hope she steps it up/gets used to the national team because she could potentially be a decent replacement for Boxx.

    • Ezra says:

      #7 is Ali Riley. She’s a great player. It’s too bad for the US that she chose to play for New Zealand as she’d definitely be starting for the US now, but it’s great for New Zealand. They’ve improved a lot since she joined.