CHARLESTON, S.C. -- Abby Wambach used her head -- and plenty of toughness -- to help the United States beat Mexico.
Elevating for a ball in the penalty box in the first half, Wambach was flattened by Mexico's goalkeeper, who punched it away. A few moments later Wambach was up again, scoring the first of two headers to lift the United States past Mexico 3-0 Sunday.
"I think one of my strong suits is my air game and my heading game," said Wambach, one of the national team's rising stars who last scored in March. "When balls are floated into the box, it's my job to put them away. It doesn't matter if it's with my head, shoulder or foot, I'll do it to get our team some goals."
The tall striker scored in the 34th minute on a cross from North Carolina star Heather O'Reilly. Wambach then knocked in a header in the 40th minute off Aly Wagner's corner kick.
"Balls were played perfectly to my head today. It was just a matter of time," said Wambach, the Americans' leading scorer in the 2003 World Cup and 2004 Olympics with three and four goals, respectively.
Kristine Lilly, who made her 299th international appearance, opened the scoring with an unassisted goal in the ninth minute. After Cat Reddick's cross, Lilly sent a deflection into the lower corner of the goal. It was the captain's 105th career goal, tying her for second with Michelle Akers. Both trail Mia Hamm, who retired in December, by 53 goals.
The bigger Americans dominated in the air and at midfield, passing with ease at times. The U.S. had numerous chances to score in the second half but couldn't convert. Goalkeeper Sophia Perez came up with several nice saves, deflecting Shannon MacMillan's powerful shot late in the game.
Before a crowd of about 4,000, including a small section of fans waving Mexico's flag, the U.S. women raised their record against Mexico to 16-0-0.
Mexico's best scoring chance came in the first half when a long ball was played to Monica Ocampo. She appeared to have goalkeeper Hope Solo beat, but her shot rolled inches wide of the far post. Ocampo gave the U.S. defenders fits and many times was swarmed by four defenders.
In the 57th minute, Mexico coach Leo Cuellar put 14-year-old Veronica Corral into the game. She didn't last long and was replaced 22 minutes later.
This performance was a stark contrast to the Americans' scoreless tie against Australia a week ago, a sign that the team perhaps was beginning to gel after another week of training.
The game was the last of the year, meaning U.S. coach Greg Ryan must wait until next year to get another look at the national team as it prepares next fall to qualify for the 2007 World Cup. The U.S. didn't allow a goal in 2005 and was 8-0-1.
Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press