July 22, 2009
Last-minute goal lifts US Women
CHARLESTON, S.C.– Christine Nairn, the youngest player on the U.S. roster at 18 years old, scored in the 89th minute as the U.S. Women’s National Team defeated Canada 1-0 on a humid night at Blackbaud Stadium.
Nairn entered the game in the 81st minute to earn just her second career cap, and tallied on a wild scramble in front of the Canadian net. With the U.S. pushing for a winning goal, midfielder Angela Hucles spun a hard cross from the wing to the near post where Abby Wambach jumped high to flick the ball in the air as Canadian goalkeeper Erin McLeod, her teammate on the WPS’ Washington Freedom, plowed into her from behind.
The ball bounced up in the air and back toward the goal where U.S. forward Lauren Cheney kept it alive, jumping over a Canadian defender to head the ball toward the net. McLeod recovered to get a slap at the ball, but Nairn was crashing the goal and knocked it into the net from close range with her hip. It was Cheney’s second assist in as many games -- she also set up Wambach’s 100th career goal in the 1-0 victory against Canada July 19 in Rochester.
Nairn, who turns 19 on Sept. 25, is the youngest player to score for the USA since Heather O’Reilly tallied her first career goal in a 4-0 win over Italy on Oct. 6, 2002, when she was 17 years and 277 days old.
Nairn was a member of the U.S. team that won the 2008 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup last fall and is eligible for the 2010 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup in Germany. She enrolled at Penn State in the middle of the last academic term due to her commitment to the U-20s and will play her first college match this August as a freshman.
“I was first of all excited to get in the game, but Cheney did all the hard work and I was just there to make sure it went in the goal,” said Nairn, who debuted for the USA in its 4-0 victory against Canada on May 25. “I’ll take it if I can. If Abby didn’t make that run and that touch, and Cheney didn’t follow it up, I wouldn’t have made it. It’s awesome. I can’t even explain how I feel right now its awesome to even be on this team and be considered for this team so to put one away like that and win the game is a great feeling.”
U.S. head coach Pia Sundhage made five changes to the lineup that defeated Canada in Rochester, inserting Heather Mitts at right back and Stephanie Cox at left back, giving Carli Lloyd the start in center midfield and putting Lindsay Tarpley up top with Abby Wambach. Hope Solo got the start in goal and picked up her 44th career shutout.
As they did against the USA three days ago in Rochester, the Canadians sat back in a defensive shell and relied on counterattacks for offense, a tactic which found greater success than in the last match.
The USA outshot Canada 18-8, firing seven shots in the first half, all from Tarpley and Megan Rapinoe. McLeod kept the game scoreless with a couple of key saves, denying Tarpley from 15 yards straight-away and then tipping Rapinoe’s blast over the top. Both Tarpley and Rapinoe exited at halftime as Sundhage sent on 21-year-olds Cheney and Tobin Heath.
Canada produced four very dangerous chances in the second half, the first coming just seconds after the restart. Christine Sinclair, who is on the verge of scoring her 10th goal, picked off a pass by U.S. center back Rachel Buehler, then burst through the U.S. defense and shot low to the left corner. Hope Solo snagged the ball with her right hand.
A few minutes later, Sinclair played the ball into the right side of the penalty box for Jonelle Filigno, but with only Solo to beat she launched her shot over the bar. In the 60th minute, Sinclair got in behind the U.S. defense again off a nice pass from Diana Matheson, only to be thwarted by Solo again. Solo also tipped a shot from Christina Julien around the right post in the 87th minute, but the referee missed the touch and the USA was awarded a goal kick.
Overall, however, Canada tired in the second half and played more than a few searching balls over the U.S. backline that were run down by Buehler and Amy LePeilbet.
Sundhage inserted Leslie Osborne into the match in the 62nd minute, giving the midfielder her first cap since recovering from reconstructive ankle and knee surgery in the middle of last year. Osborne played at defensive midfield as Heath moved into the middle, pushing second half sub Hucles wide left and Lloyd wide right. When the left-footed Nairn entered the match, Hucles switched to the right side and sent in the cross which produced the game-winner.
“I think this game was very important because of the way we have been playing and working on the attacking third,” said Sundhage. “We didn’t score that many goals, but we scored a goal. And we gained some confidence by that and we will continue to work on the attack, especially in the attacking third.”