If I had a dime for every time we heard “just over the crossbar!” or ”it just goes wide!” during tonight’s friendly between the U.S. and Canadian women’s national teams, I’d be several dimes richer than I am right now. Before a full house of over 16,000 at LIVESTRONG Sporting Park in Kansas City for the U.S. Women’s National Team’s World Cup “Celebration Series,” the U.S. and Canada drew to a 1-1 tie, each missing numerous opportunities to put away the game-winning goal. The draw snapped the U.S. National Team’s 7-game win streak vs Canada, though Canada has still not defeated the U.S. in 23 straight matches.
Despite an early 1-0 lead, the U.S. failed to capitalize on their momentum in the first half. In their first game back together since the World Cup, the team showed flashes of the aggressive attacks and midfield creativity that took them to the Final, but then at times seemed out of sync. For example, on a play in the first half when Ali Krieger sent the ball along the right side to Heather O’Reilly at the top of the 18 yard box, O’Reilly could have stayed with it and pushed forward toward goal, but instead flipped it to Wambach, who was coming forward on her left. Wambach wasn’t expecting O’Reilly to pass off so quickly, and the ball was cleared away by Canada.
Wambach scored first for the U.S. on a penalty kick in the 10th minute, and the U.S. kept momentum through the first half, cruising toward a lead at halftime. But Canada caught them by surprise in the 42nd minute with a ball over the top from Kelly Parker to Melissa Tancredi. Tancredi raced forward into the box and struck the ball past a diving Hope Solo into the far corner to tie it up just before the half.
Playing in a new 4-2-3-1 formation, with Carli Lloyd and Lauren Cheney manning the center midfield and Rodriguez, Rapinoe and O’Reilly in front of them, the U.S. started strong with an early attack, pressing forward with the first strike by Amy Rodriguez earning a corner kick. Just ten minutes in, Lloyd sent a long ball from midfield to O’Reilly along the right flank, who had a one on one chance against goalkeeper Erin McLeod. O’Reilly’s strike from the edge of the 6-yard box was just tipped out by the keeper, but Wambach was there for the rebound. Canada came in to stop the follow-up, but ended up getting called for a handball, earning the U.S. a penalty kick. Wambach took the shot and placed it perfectly into the left corner for the 1-0 lead.
Canada grabbed the momentum in the second half, keeping the U.S. from getting many opportunities, but also unable to capitalize on their own chances against goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart, who substituted for Solo to start the half. Barnhart made a diving save of a header off a Canada corner kick in the 66th minute, and a late chance for Lauren Sesselmann, who had a wide open shot in front of the goal that would have been the game-winner, sailed just high.
The entire roster from the U.S. National Team’s World Cup run returned for the 2-game Celebration Series, including Ali Krieger, who currently plays for FFC Frankfurt in the German Frauen-Bundesliga. Krieger is the only national team member not to play in the Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS) league in the U.S. Midfielder Shannon Boxx did not play in this match due to a family commitment, as reported by the WPS magicJack Twitter account, but will be available on Thursday, September 22 when the U.S. and Canada meet again in Portland, OR for the second game of the series.
The match in Portland kicks off at 7:00pm PT and will air on ESPN2 and ESPN3.com. Follow @AerysSoccer on Twitter for live commentary during the game.