The United States women's national team picked up a 1-1 draw against New Zealand in Columbus, Ohio, on Wednesday night. It was the second match in four days between the two sides.
This is the team that started the match for the U.S., per the team's official Twitter account.
The narrative of the first half was the Americans creating chances in front of goal, but failing to take advantage.
Megan Rapinoe had a shot on goal saved in the ninth minute. In the 11th minute, the U.S. had a golden opportunity to open the scoring. Ria Percival was judged to have handled a Heather O'Reilly cross in the box, giving Abby Wambach a penalty kick.
As the highest-scoring American women's player ever, you would've expected Wambach to calmly slam the penalty home. Only she unleashed with what was a weak penalty, leaving Erin Nayler with an easy save, per The Equalizer's Jeff Kassouf.
The United States spent most of the first 45 firmly on the front foot. Wambach had a header carom off the crossbar in the 28th minute, and New Zealand cleared out the rebound. Kristie Mewis saw a great chip go just wide of the goal in the 37th minute.
While it was frustrating for U.S. head coach Tom Sermanni to see so many good chances to score go wasted, he didn't have to worry about those missed shots coming back to haunt his side.
New Zealand didn't have a shot on target throughout the entire first half. The Ferns were putting a little pressure on the American back line, but never was Hope Solo seriously tested.
Sydney Leroux provided the breakthrough in the 43rd minute. She had a shot from the top of the 18-yard box bounce into the bottom left corner, past a sprawling Nayler, per USWMT.
Wambach did a great job of getting out of the way of the shot. She didn't have a lot of time to react but made a snap decision and avoided redirecting the ball.
Leroux nearly added another in first-half stoppage time, only to have the official wave it off because the American forward was judged to have fouled a New Zealand defender prior to the shot.
Going into the half, it was a deserved lead for the United States. However, they should have at least doubled that lead if they made the most of their chances.
Both coaches made changes at halftime, which served to take some fluidity out of the match in the second half.
Out of almost nothing, Hannah Wilkinson unleashed a venomous shot from about 30 yards out, which forced a diving save from Solo. It would be New Zealand's best chance to score, as they struggled to break through the U.S. defense.
Wilkinson was by far New Zealand's best attacking player, and that shot demonstrated why. Not only was she willing to take a low-probability shot, but she also had the talent to almost pull it off.
If anything, that close call forced Sermanni's hand. He looked to have changed his tactics a bit, relying more and more on his defense. The United States lost some of the adventure they displayed in the first half.
Despite that strategic shift, Wilkinson was able to find the equalizer in the 87th minute. She beat Rachel Buehler to a ball and slotted the finish home past Solo. It was a great goal and well deserved for Wilkinson after the performance she had.
The U.S. nearly found the winner in injury time after an Ali Krieger free kick, but New Zealand cleaned up the mess.
The match ended 1-1, and at the end of the day, it's probably the fairest result. The Ferns also got their first result against the U.S. since 1987, per the team's Twitter account.
Key Player Grades
Sydney Leroux, United States: A-
In a match where most of the American players lacked bite in the final third, Sydney Leroux's performance stood out. She had that great goal to break the deadlock and then nearly had a second as the second half drew to a close.
Leroux made the most of her chances near the goal, and that's something you can't say about any of the other American stars.
Hannah Wilkinson, New Zealand: A
Hannah Wilkinson did everything she could to single-handedly get the result for New Zealand. She was a nuisance inside the box for the United States and wasn't afraid to unleash long-range shots.
Against a team as good as the U.S., you need your players to have that moment of brilliance, and that's exactly what Wilkinson had for that equalizer. She did well to beat Buehler to the ball and then finish the move by getting around Solo.
|USA Player Grades|
|Sydney Leroux (off 78')||A-|
|Christie Rampone (off 49')||C+|
|Yael Averbuch (off 70')||B-|
|New Zealand Player Grades|
|Erin Nayler (off 46')||B|
|Annalie Longo (off 61')||C|
|Kirsty Yallop (off 79')||C+|
|Hannah Wilkinson (off 92')||A|
|Sarah Gregorious (off 67')||C+|
The United States move on to a major clash with Brazil on November 10. These two have been among the best in the world for quite a while, so it will be fun to watch them face off, even if it's in a friendly.