by MIKE McCALL
The usual cast of characters powered a potent attack, but a shaky evening from an inexperienced back line cost the U.S. women’s national team in a 3-3 draw with Germany on Friday.
After a scoreless first half, the world’s top two teams erupted for six goals in the final 45 minutes, with Abby Wambach, Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan finding the net for the Americans.
But two botched clearances and a penalty kept Germany in it, including goals in the 85th and 86th minute, and the result was sealed after U.S. substitute Sydney Leroux’s header was cleared off the line in the 94th.
U.S. coach Tom Sermanni went with a young defense, leaving off vets like Ali Krieger, Rachel Buehler, Becky Sauerbrunn and Kelley O’Hara. Instead, he started Crystal Dunn, Whitney Engen and Kristie Mewis — who came in with a combined 12 caps — alongside captain Christie Rampone.
Playing in front of 16,090 at Sparda Bank Hessen Stadium in Offenbach, Germany went straight at that defense and was in control early but couldn’t capitalize.
After halftime, the Americans flipped the script.
Less than two minutes into the second half, Rapinoe ran in along the end line and crossed to the somehow-open Wambach, who headed it in to give the Americans a 1-0 lead and move herself within three of Mia Hamm’s world record of 158 international goals.
Wambach returned the favor eight minutes later, heading the ball into the path of Rapinoe on the left side. The Olympique Lyon midfielder fired a dart of a half-volley into the far corner of the net that doubled the lead.
Kim Kulig answered for Germany by slamming home a botched clearance by Dunn, but the match looked to be in hand in the 71st, when Morgan calmly chipped the goalkeeper to take a 3-1 lead.
That’s when back-to-back defensive calamities struck.
First, Rampone was called for a penalty when she got tangled up with Célia Okoyino da Mbabi, who beat U.S. keeper Nicole Barnhart — filling in for the injured Hope Solo — with a crisp shot to the left. A minute later, the Germans capped a wild sequence with a cross into the box, and when Barnhart came out for it, she was tripped up, and Anja Mittag easily found an open net for the equalizer.
Those miscues negated a very bright attacking display from the U.S. in the second half, which also included an excellent header by Lauren Cheney that was disallowed by an offside call against Wambach and Morgan, as well as Leroux’s header that was cleared before the final whistle.
The draw extends the Americans’ unbeaten streak to 30 games and moves them to 5-0-2 under Sermanni, albeit in disappointing fashion after surrendering a two-goal lead in the final 10 minutes.
Next, the U.S. will travel to The Hague, Netherlands, for a matchup with the Dutch on Tuesday at 1 p.m.
Scoring Recap: USA 3, Germany 3
47′ | USA – Abby Wambach (Megan Rapinoe)
55′ | USA – Megan Rapinoe (Abby Wambach)
63′ | GER – Kim Kulig
71′ | USA – Alex Morgan (Lauren Cheney)
85′ | GER – Celia Okoyino da Mbabi (penalty)
86′ | GER – Anja Mittag
USA – Nicole Barnhart; Crystal Dunn, Christie Rampone (capt.), Whitney Engen, Kristie Mewis; Heather O’Reilly (Tobin Heath, 77), Shannon Boxx, Lauren Cheney, Megan Rapinoe; Alex Morgan, Abby Wambach (Sydney Leroux, 80)
GER – Nadine Angerer (capt.); Leonie Maier, Saskia Bartusiak, Luisa Wensing, Babett Peter (Bianca Schmidt, 57); Linda Bresonik (Anja Mittag, 60), Kim Kulig, Nadine Keßler, Melanie Behringer (Verena Faißt, 46); Celia Okoyino da Mbabi, Dzsenifer Marozsan (Alexandra Popp, 88).
What did you think of the match? Worried about the U.S. back line? Think there’s enough firepower on this team to overcome iffy defending?