July 30, 2006
CARY, N.C. - Midfielder and former Santa Clara standout Leslie Osborne was named the Sierra Mist Woman of the Match Sunday in helping the United States Women's National Team to a 2-0 victory over Canada at SAS Soccer Park in Cary, N.C.
Osborne, though, wasn't the only Bronco alum to garner attention for her play Sunday. Midfielder Aly Wagner wore the captain's armband for the American side and earned her 100th cap, becoming only the 18th player in U.S. National team history to do so.
The U.S. women improved their overall 2006 record to 9-0-3 with the win, as a first half penalty kick from Abby Wambach and a second half goal from Natasha Kai helped the Red, White, and Blue record its third domestic win of the year.
"Nobody could say that this was an artistic game today," said U.S. head coach Greg Ryan. "It was just a scrap and a battle. Credit Canada, they fought very, very hard, and I feel like our players matched their intensity and fortunately we were able to put a couple away."
The U.S. scored its first goal right before halftime after forward Heather O'Reilly got her head on a long U.S. service, directing it down the right side of the penalty area to Wambach. The U.S. forward touched the ball around Canadian defender Christine Latham to the right and then rounded the Canadian defender to the left. Latham and Wambach were battling with their arms as Wambach tried to squeeze past, but Latham perhaps got a tug on her shoulder and the U.S. forward went down hard just inside the penalty area. Referee Sandra Serefini didn't hesitate when she pointed to the penalty spot.
Wambach took the kick and slotted her shot low to the right as Canadian goalkeeper Erin McLeod went the other way. It was Wambach's 57th career goal in 75 international matches.
"In this game, Abby had to finish a PK," added Ryan. "She is our leader on the front line. She's the one that we say 'When we get a penalty, you've got to step up and take it.' She buried it, and that's great."
The USA got the clincher in the 80th minute off a nice piece of attacking soccer. Sierra Mist Woman of the Match Leslie Osborne won a header off a Canadian goal kick, sending the ball back to Wambach, who touched it to Carli Lloyd about midway into Canada's defensive half. The U.S. substitute then chipped it over the Canadian defense to the streaking Kai. McLeod saved Kai's first shot on the breakaway, but the Hawaiian pounced on the rebound and knocked the ball into the open net from four yards out. It was Kai's fifth career goal in just eight career games.
Defensive midfielders Marci Miller and Osborne played key roles in the game, winning numerous aerial battles to combat Canada's long ball style. With Canada playing a 4-3-3 like the USA, it was difficult for the Americans to build from the back against Canada's three front-runners. The USA sent numerous long balls up to their forwards as well, many that were well-won by Wambach on header flicks.
"We know what a strong, aggressive, physical team Canada is, and we had to match that today," said Ryan, who upped his record to 17-0-4 at the helm of the U.S. team. "And Abby led by example today. She is out there battling, winning all the head balls and fighting through tackles. She is the will behind our team and everyone really follows suit."
The Canadians were also good in the air, doing well to battle the U.S. forwards for high balls, but the Americans had most of the play throughout the match, out-shooting their northern neighbors, 13-5.
U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo picked up the shutout, making three saves, but was most effective while snagging about a half-dozen Canadian crosses that flew into dangerous areas. She also got the better of a hard collision with Canadian captain Charmaine Hooper in the second half after the forward had challenged her on a bouncing ball in the penalty box.
It was a physical game that might have deserved more than the three yellow cards issued as it featured 34 fouls (20 on Canada), but the visitors never really threatened the U.S. goal in the second half as the Americans pushed hard for a second score.
In the 52nd minute, McLeod dove to her right to snag a drive from Wambach and then one minute later, pushed a sizzling shot from Kai outside the left post. On the ensuing corner kick, Kai jumped high over a defender, but sent her header over the bar.
In the 67th minute, Wambach went horizontal to meet a free kick from Lloyd, but her diving header from seven yards out rolled wide left of the goal. Two minutes later, Wambach got a step on Sharolta Nonen down the right flank and sent a cross on the ground, but O'Reilly couldn't get free of her defender and McLeod was first to the near post cross, getting a hand on the ball before jumping on the loose ball.
In the 78th minute Cat Whitehill came close to scoring her fourth goal in the last three games, this time off a scramble from a corner kick when the ball went through McLeod's hands, but the Canadian goalkeeper was able to recover to grab it.
The win completed a sweep of the USA's three July matches. The American women also defeated Sweden, 3-2, in Blaine, Minnesota on July 15 and took down Ireland, 5-0, on July 23 in San Diego. The USA will return to action on Aug. 27 against China at the brand new Toyota Park in Bridgeview, Ill., with a 12 p.m. CT kickoff. On Sept. 13, the USA will play at the new PAETEC Park in Rochester, N.Y., against Mexico. That match will kickoff at 8 p.m. ET. Both games will be broadcast live on ESPN2.