Monday, April 28, 2008
Sundhage pleased with Lloyd's late strike
Gayle Bryan, Special to ESPNsoccernet
Cary, N.C. -- The U.S. women's national team carried a 2-0 lead into the final minutes of Sunday's contest with Australia and then things got really interesting. A dicey clearance by the U.S. in the 86th minute led to a corner for Australia that was headed in by Kate Gill. Two minutes later, Lori Chalupny was called for a handball in the box. Hope Solo did well to save the penalty kick by Australian captain Cheryl Salisbury, but Salisbury managed to put the rebound in to tie the match.
The U.S., however, was not to be denied and Carli Lloyd headed in the game winner off a Cat Whitehill free kick in stoppage time for a final score of 3-2. U.S. head coach, Pia Sundhage was thrilled with her team's response to the late surge by Australia.
"You could see the body language [after Australia equalized] that still we wanted to win," said Sundhage. "When we got the free kick, you could feel it and that is so important because that feeling is contagious. The goal was just huge."
Natasha Kai started the scoring for the U.S. in the first half with a relatively easy finish. Carli Lloyd did the heavy lifting on the goal, busting through the midfield to play a beautiful ball to Kai. The goal marked Kai's seventh for the year. She has been on a scoring tear since the Algarve Cup in March. The team celebrated the goal with a collective slip and slide across the drenched pitch.
The match was delayed for nearly an hour due to thunderstorms in Raleigh and much of it was played in a downpour.
Heather Mitts puts in a solid 52 minutes in her first outing since suffering an ACL injury in a match against Canada on May 12, 2007.
"I think she's [Mitts] happy," said Sundhage. "I'm happy with the way she played. It's tough. She's been away from the game for so long. Her position and her decision making, I thought was pretty good today. She doesn't last for 90 minutes, you could see that, but it was a good start for her."
Cat Whitehill was all smiles when she entered the match at the half. Minutes for Whitehill have been scarce, as she has been working on her fitness after suffering an ankle injury early in the year. She's put in extra time and is starting to reap the rewards.
"I finally passed the beep test and I've have gotten over that hump," said Whitehill "The extra training worked and a huge burden has been lifted off my back so I guess I feel a lot lighter now."
The U.S. will face Australia again at 5 p.m. ET on May 3 in Birmingham, Alabama. Gayle Bryan is the publishing director of Fair Game Magazine.