U.S. ties without Pia Sundhage

October 20, 2012
By Associated Press

BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. -- Even Pia Sundhage would have had a tough time getting her team ready for Germany in two days.

Abby Wambach scored in the second minute, but the Americans were forced to settle for a 1-1 tie with the world's No. 2 team Saturday night after squandering several chances in the second half. Germany's Anja Mittag scored the equalizer in the 14th minute.

"It didn't feel funny without Pia," Wambach said. "What did feel funny is we haven't played much together. The fact we could get this result against a good German team is a credit to us."

Playing for the first time in a month, the Americans had several chances to score the go-ahead goal in the second half, including a short volley by Heather O'Reilly in the 75th minute that went over the crossbar. Alex Morgan played a ball in to an onrushing Wambach in front of the goal in the 80th, but defender Saskia Bartusiak stepped in front and headed it clear.

A minute later, Carli Lloyd was in great position on a corner kick, but no one could get the ball to her through the scrum in front of the goal.

"If you're not as sharp, some of those things don't fall for you," said Jill Ellis, the development director for the U.S. women's national team, who is serving as interim coach. "But the fact we created them is fantastic."

The draw in the matchup between the world's top two teams snapped a 14-game winning streak for the U.S. Six of those victories came at the London Olympics, where the Americans beat Japan 2-1 to win their third straight gold medal.

The Americans are 17-4-5 against the Germans, the only other team to win two World Cups or be ranked No. 1. The Americans are 6-0-3 in matches involving the world's top two teams.

"Our rhythm was a little bit off tonight," U.S. captain Christie Rampone said. "Hopefully, we'll get that in the second game."

The teams play again Tuesday in East Hartford, Conn.

This was the Americans' first game without Sundhage, who stepped down in September after five years as coach. Sundhage, now coaching her native Sweden's national team, led the U.S. to back-to-back Olympic titles, as well as their first World Cup final in 12 years. She finished with a 91-6-10 record, including 23-1-1 this year alone.

U.S. Soccer Federation president Sunil Gulati said this month that he hoped to select the new coach by late October or November, though it's possible the new coach might not start until January -- especially if the coach is involved in an NCAA tournament.

But a lack of training time was a bigger challenge than the lack of a permanent coach.

The Americans normally would have had a training camp to prepare for a game like this. But the players have been on their own for most of the past month, since beating Australia on Sept. 19 in the third game of their post-Olympic victory tour. They only got back together Thursday, and had two days of practice before the game.

Germany, meanwhile, is in prime form as it gets ready for next year's European championships.

"In a game, it comes down to fitness, preparation and sharpness," Ellis said. "The reality is, we're in different phases of the cycle."

The Americans came out aggressive, testing German goalkeeper Nadine Angerer with a deep run in the first minute. She barely had time to tell her defense to pull it together when Morgan played a cross from the left side in to Wambach, who was wide open in front of the goal. Wambach poked the ball past Angerer, giving the Americans the lead and delighting the sellout crowd of 19,522.

It was Wambach's 147th career goal and 22nd this year.

Germany wasted little time responding back. Simone Laudehr chipped the ball over the defense to Mittag, who beat two defenders and drew Hope Solo out on the breakaway. That left her an easy shot over Solo's raised hands for the goal.

Germany also had several chances in the second half, sending at least two shots wide from close range and another over the crossbar.

"I'm not going to lie, I'm a little bit frustrated with the end result," Morgan said. "But the good thing is we have a game in a couple of days. I'll take my frustrations out then."