Jan. 26, 2007
Story courtesy of U.S. Soccer. More information can be accessed at www.ussoccer.org
GUANGZHOU, China - The U.S. Women's National Team, playing with a lineup of numerous young players against a Germany team doing the same, battled to a 0-0 tie in its opening game of the 2007 Four Nations Tournament at Guangdong Olympic Stadium.
With key veterans absent from both teams, the world's top two women's soccer powers played an evenly-contested match, so much so that each country fired eight shots, putting three on goal. The USA had a slight edge in corner kicks, 7-4, while the Germans served a few more dangerous crosses from the flanks.
"On the whole, I thought the young players played well, but I think it takes time to develop consistency and I think that's what you saw in the game," said U.S. head coach Greg Ryan. "We would play some good soccer and then the level would drop, and we'd revert to just kicking balls instead of really just being composed, possessing, supporting each other and communicating. I'd say the main thing is putting together a more consistent performance over 90 minutes. That's just part of being young. It's the part you have to go through and we are happy to be in that process with them."
Both goalkeepers - Hope Solo for the USA and Silke Rottenberg for Germany - played squeaky clean matches between the posts for their countries, but Solo was called upon to do some more difficult work in the penalty area.
The USA and Germany also drew 0-0 during the last meeting between the two teams in the 2006 Algarve Cup Final last March, a match that eventually went to overtime and penalty kicks.
The physical game was played at a brisk pace in unseasonably mild temperatures, but with both back lines featuring several experienced players, neither side could create much attacking fireworks.
U.S. defender Cat Whitehill earned her 100th cap while captaining the USA to mark the occasion. The match was also the first career cap for forward Lauren Cheney, who played the first 45 minutes before giving way to Natasha Kai. Defender Stephanie Lopez got just her second career start and performed admirably against the reigning Women's World Cup champions, going the entire 90 minutes at left back.
Lori Chalupny made her first start for the USA at the attacking midfield slot after playing in the back for most of her 29 caps, and had a solid match, almost getting the USA on the board in the seventh minute. She deftly slipped through two players in the right side of the penalty area, squared up on Rottenberg, but fired high from a sharp angle. Cheney had a chance in the 15th minute as she ran onto a cross from the left flank at the near post, but Rottenberg was right on her feet to deflect the ball away from danger.
Each team had one real chance in the first half and the USA's came in the 19th minute. Forward Heather O'Reilly wiggled free of her defender on the left wing and her cross fell to Lindsay Tarpley just inside the six-yard box. The U.S. forward got off a good strike on the volley, but stretching German defender Ariane Hingst was able to deflect the ball away for a corner kick.
On the ensuing service, Whitehill rose high in the middle of the penalty box to power a header into the net, but the goal was waved off due to a dubious foul on O'Reilly.
Germany's best chance came in the 30th minute when Anja Mittag ripped a right-footed shot from the left elbow of the penalty area. The shot seemed destined for the upper left corner before Solo went full extension to palm the ball away for a corner kick.
The Americans had to play with two players down for several minutes at the beginning of the second half after center backs Kate Markgraf and Whitehill cracked heads as they both jumped to head a bouncing ball back to Solo. Both players had to come off the field for treatment, the trauma resulting in a fat lip and swollen nose for Whitehill and a bloody Rocky Balboa-type gash above the right eye for Markgraf that required four stitches to close.
Whitehill was able to return, but Markgraf had to leave the match, and the USA played four minutes with nine players. Germany had one good chance against the depleted U.S. team and another after Whitehill came back on, but none before Tina Frimpong could get subbed in for Markgraf.
The USA managed just four shots after halftime while Germany took six of their eight in the second half. In the 69th minute, Solo launched herself to spectacularly punch away a nasty looking cross from Petra Wimberksy. The ball bounced out to the left flank and was re-served into the middle, where Linda Bresonik powered a well-struck header just over the goal.
The USA struggled all match to play balls behind the very organized German defense, getting caught offside six times. In the 74th minute however, O'Reilly finally found a gap with a perfectly weighted pass. On the sprint, Tarpley took the ball down well off her chest, but it ran away from her before she could let fly with a shot and Rottenberg was right at the top of the penalty area to scoop it up.
Despite her sore face, Whitehill had a game-saving play in the 81st minute as Wimbersky burst behind the U.S. defense on a counter attack. Wimbersky seemingly had a free volley at Solo before the U.S. captain recovered extremely well to knock ball over the end line.
The USA had a golden chance to win the game in the second minute of stoppage time after Kai dug out a ball on the right flank and then nutmegged a defender down the end-line. She tried to cut the ball back to a crashing Tarpley at the six-yard line, but instead pushed her pass right into the path of a retreating German defender.
With the draw, the USA begins a 2007 schedule that will consist of about 15 matches before the 2007 FIFA Women's World Cup, being staged in China from September 10-30. The tie also kept Ryan undefeated as head coach of the USA, moving his record to 26-0-6.
In the first match of the day, host China registered a convincing 2-0 victory over England, getting a goal in the fourth minute from Zhang Ying on a well struck shot from 20 yards and one in the final minute of the first half as forward Han Duan sliced through the penalty box to head home a corner kick from the left side.
The USA faces England on Sunday, January 28, in its second match of the Four Nations Tournament. Kickoff is 4 p.m. local / 3 a.m. ET.