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June 5, 2011
Cheney’s late goal lifts US over Mexico in WWC sendoff match

Lauren Cheney reacts after scoring in stoppage time to give the U.S. Women a 1-0 win over Mexico on Sunday.
Lauren Cheney reacts after scoring in stoppage time to give the U.S. Women a 1-0 win over Mexico on Sunday.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
HARRISON, NJ---It seemed like a goal would never come. When Lauren Cheney finally connected two minutes into stoppage time, it had to provide some relief for the United States Women’s National Team, as it gave them a 1-0 win over Mexico in their sendoff game at Red Bull Arena as they head to the Women’s World Cup.

The result should not have required heroics. The USA outshot their CONCACAF rivals 34-4, but were obviously frustrated by the time Cheney put the game away. Controlling the ball in the midfield, the Boston Breakers forward cut to the right and fired a rising right footed shot from near the penalty arc into the upper left corner of the net, leaving Mexican goalkeeper Ceci Santiago no chance.

The 16-year-old Mexican keeper made several excellent saves to keep the U.S. off the scoreboard for more than 90 minutes, but the Americans were their own worst enemy, with the vast majority of shots off target.

The United States dominated possession in the game, but as has been the case in the other two games leading up to the trip to Germany, the finishing touch has not been there. Though still ranked #1 in the world, the U.S. struggled to qualify, losing 2-1 to Mexico in the CONCACAF Final last November before winning a two-game playoff with Italy.

The U.S. started the shooting gallery early in the game, with Abby Wambach missing on a left footed volley from inside the area in the sixth minute. Seven minutes later, Wambach’s header off a cross from Megan Rapinoe also went wide right.

Santiago was put to her first real test in the 16th minute, when Heather O’Reilly sent a chip into the area for an onrushing Amy Rodriguez, but the Mexican ‘keeper charged out to grab the ball.

A poor backpass by defender Natalie Vinti in the 25th minute almost cost the Mexicans when Wambach managed to intercept it, but her shot went into the left side netting.

Carli Lloyd tried from distance, but her 32-yard shot in the 30th minute went wide to the left.

Five minutes later, Rapinoe battled the ball away from a Mexican defender, cut into the area and blasted an on-target shot, which Santiago sent over the top of the bar with the palm of her hand.

Overall, however, accuracy was at a premium for the U.S. Women. In the 37th minute, Lloyd worked her way into the right side of the area before centering a short pass to Rodriguez, who sent her shot over the net. After a big buildup two minutes later, Rapinoe’s effort from out on the left went high.

Santiago came up with another big save in the 41st minute. O’Reilly sent a cross to Shannon Boxx, who was on the left side of the six-yard box. Santiago extended to parry away the veteran’s header.

Rodriguez, who was the third leading scorer in Women’s Professional Soccer last year, had a brilliant opportunity in the 44th minute. Running onto a ball over the top, she chested it down at the top of the penalty area, but got too much on her shot, sending the ball over the goal. A few moments later, in stoppage time, Rapinoe was farthest from the target sending the ball into the empty stands behind the goal.

The second half was just as frustrating as the first, although a higher percentage of the U.S. chances were closer to the mark. In a span of two minutes, after scrambles in front of the net, Mexico cleared two balls out of the penalty area.

A header by Wambach in the 65th minute was grabbed by Santiago, who came up with another brilliant stop just five minutes later. Lloyd got the ball a the corner of the six yard box and tried to slip it inside the near post, but Santiago made a diving save.

U.S. substitutes in the second half got into the act, but were no more accurate than the starters, until Cheney’s goal.
In the 81st minute, Alex Morgan sent a shot off to the right and in the 85th minute, Stephanie Cox tried from distance missing to the left.

The Mexicans did not test U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo, created very few chances. In the 25th minute, Fany Mayor sent a 25 yarder wide. Two other chances were broken up by the defense. In the 57th minute, Maribel Dominguez made a nice run into the area, but didn’t get off a shot.

Monica Ocampo made a slashing run up the left wing in the 79th minute, beating second-half sub Heather Mitts to get into the penalty area. The veteran defender could have fouled her, but didn’t, and the play was broken up in the area.

For Mitts, who has been suffering with hamstring problems, Sunday’s 45 minutes will determine if she remains on the World Cup roster.

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