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June 28, 2011
US opens World Cup with 2-0 win over North Korea

Rachel Buehler’s goal gave the U.S. Women a 2-0 win over North Korea and the early lead in WWC Group C.
Rachel Buehler’s goal gave the U.S. Women a 2-0 win over North Korea and the early lead in WWC Group C.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
DRESDEN—It wasn’t a dominant performance by any means, but the result was all the U.S. women could have hoped for – a 2-0 win over North Korea to open Women’s World Cup Group C play Tuesday at Rudolf-Harbig Stadion.

Lauren Cheney notched the game-winner in the 54th minute, but it was defender Rachel Buehler whose 17-yard shot through traffic in the 76th gave the U.S. the early Group lead on goal differential over Sweden.

Cheney, a natural forward inserted into the starting lineup at midfield for Megan Rapinoe, was the catalyst for several of the U.S.A.’s most dangerous chances, and finally connected after a beautiful sequence started by Carli Lloyd near midfield. Lloyd’s long diagonal ball found Abby Wambach near the left sideline. Wambach cut back toward the edge of the penalty area, the found Cheney at the top right corner of the six-yard box. Cheney bounced a header across the goal and into the far side netting.

Buehler doubled the U.S. lead with an off-balance shot through traffic after the rebound of Ali Krieger’s long shot off the crossbar pingponged back out to the top of the penalty area. The U.S. defender was surrounded by three Korean defenders, but managed to place a low shot just inside the left post.

Rapinoe, although relegated to a substitute’s role, was immediately dangerous on the right flank after replacing Heather O’Reilly in the 79th minute, making a dangerous dribbling run along the endline, forcing a U.S. corner kick two minutes later, and having a goal called back in stoppage time after crashing the net to follow Wambach’s shot through traffic from the left side of the box and kicking the ball out of goalkeeper Hong Myong Hui’s hands.

The untested Korean side, dominated by members of the country’s U-21 team and most with fewer than five international caps, used disciplined defense and superior speed to hold their own against a lackluster U.S. team through the first 45 minutes. Poor passing and weak shooting did as much to keep the U.S. off the board in the first half as anything else, although Cheney and Carli Lloyd both got off multiple shots that went straight to Hong. U.S. netminder Hope Solo made the save of the match in the 35th minute, launching herself left to pick off a sharp off-balance shot by Korean defender Song Jon Sun, who bedeviled U.S. defender Amy LePeilbet down the right flank for most of the half.

The U.S. came out much sharper after the intermission, and Wambach, who had had little if any impact through the first half, started to make her presence felt in the attacking end. Cheney forced Hong into her first save of the half in the 46th minute, and Shannon Boxx narrowly missed the target in the 50th. Cheney almost found the back of the net a minute later, off O’Reilly’s cross from high on the right side, but could not settle the ball cleanly or get a solid strike on her shot.

The U.S. onslaught continued in the 53rd minute, when Amy Rodriguez sent a sharp ball from near the left endline into the six-yard box for Wambach, whose off-balance shot missed high.

Minutes after Cheney scored, the Koreans threatened to equalize when Ri Ye Gyong beat Solo from distance, only to see her shot glance off the top of the crossbar.

Wambach was back in the thick of things in the 67th minute, challenging Hong with a bouncing header from short range off a service from LePeilbet, but the Korean ‘keeper made enough contact to send the ball glancing off the bar and bouncing in front of the far post before her teammates were able to clear it.

Things went the USA’s way for most of the rest of the match, although the Koreans mounted a few dangerous attacks in the late going, starting with a 14-yard shot by substitute Kwong Song Hwa in the 87th minute. Seconds later, Kim Su Gyong leaned in to get off a glancing header from close range, but was well off target. And in the closing seconds of stoppage time, Ra Un Sim’s shot was blocked out for a corner kick, setting up a hard header by Ri U Hyang that was well off the mark.

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