Lauren Cheney Lifts Team USA over Mexico in Final Match Before World Cup

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Lauren Cheney Lifts Team USA over Mexico in Final Match Before World Cup
Nick Laham/Getty Images
Cheney celebrates her 92nd minute goal with her teammates

The United States Women’s National team pulled off some late-game heroics to slip past Mexico in their final match before they head off to Germany for the Women’s World Cup.  Lauren Cheney hit a laser of a shot for the game's only goal in the 92nd minute to give Team USA the win.

Kristine Lilly was honored prior to the match by US Soccer.

Team USA’s first match is on June 28 against North Korea.  The team will have eight days off prior to heading to Europe.

The match did still raise several questions that will need to be answered prior to that opening match in Germany.

Lineup:  Hope Solo; Ali Krieger (Heather Mitts, 46), Rachel Buehler (Becky Sauerbrunn, 84), Christie Rampone, Amy LePeilbet (Stephanie Cox, 60); Heather O’Reilly, Shannon Boxx (Lori Lindsey, 70), Carli Lloyd, Megan Rapinoe (Alex Morgan, 76); Amy Rodriguez (Lauren Cheney, 60), Abby Wambach

 

Five Things We’re Still Wondering About

 1.  Team USA’s finishing

Simply put, it HAS to be better.  The US outshot Mexico in the opening half 12-1.  Three of those shots were on goal.  The final shot margin was 34-4 in favor of the United States, 14 of which ended up on goal, to Mexico’s two. 

Forwards Abby Wambach and Amy Rodriguez each had several opportunities to give the United States the lead early on, but neither were able to capitalize. 

It should be noted that aside from the US lacking the final touch, Mexican goalkeeper Ceci Santiago, just 16 years of age, made several good saves throughout the match.

 

2.  The USA backline

They weren’t tested much today.  As much as head coach Pia Sundhage would have liked to play her back four in these last three friendlies before the World Cup, injuries to the backline have prevented her from having that luxury.  We’ll see how they look against North Korea, who will surely test them a little bit more than Mexico did this afternoon.

 

3.  The left back spot

Amy LePeilbet has been battling a nagging ankle injury but got some minutes against Japan and played 60 minutes today at the left back position.  It would seem that she’s won that spot over primarily Stephanie Cox.  LePeilbet is arguably one of the USA’s best one vs. one defenders, but isn’t as comfortable getting into the attack as Cox is.  LePeilbet did make a case for herself today getting into the attack but lacked a little bit in her service in the attacking third.

 

4.  Formations.

Head coach Pia Sundhage has kept the same formation—a 4-4-2—in all three preparation matches.  With the game still a scoreless stalemate this afternoon, she brought on forwards Lauren Cheney and Alex Morgan, but kept a 4-4-2, despite having three very good frontrunners on the field. 

Most expected to see all three up top and watch the USA shift into a 4-3-3.  No one quite knows why there is so much stubbornness in staying in a 4-4-2, regardless of game situation (it took until the 83rd minute of the USA’s 1-0 loss to Mexico in the CONCACAF World Cup Qualifier to shift to a three front). 

Today’s broadcast did mention that Sundhage has stated that Alex Morgan doesn’t fit into a 4-3-3 because it doesn’t give her enough space to move.  One has to wonder if the USA is down a goal at any point in the tournament, especially in the knockout stages, if Sundhage will be quicker to switch up the tactics.

 

5.  Is Heather Mitts healthy?

Mitts played 45 minutes today in what was said to be a vital part of Pia Sundhage’s decision as to whether Mitts would claim a spot on the 21-woman roster.  It was confirmed by US Soccer following the match that Sundhage has decided that Mitts is healthy and fit enough to make the roster officially. 

At age 33, Mitts will become the oldest player to make a United States World Cup debut should she play during the tournament.  Mitts missed the 2003 World Cup with a broken leg, the 2007 World Cup with a torn ACL and almost saw her 2011 World Cup dreams shattered after a series of hamstring injuries threatened to derail her third attempt at making a World Cup roster.

 

Team USA will take on North Korea, Colombia and Sweden in the group stage of the World Cup beginning on June 28:

 

June 28 

Korea DPR 

11:45 a.m. ET 

ESPN 

Rudolf-Harbig-Stadium; Dresden, Germany 

July 2 

Colombia 

11:30 a.m. ET 

ESPN 

Rhein-Neckar-Arena; Sinsheim, Germany 

July 6 

Sweden             

2:30 p.m. ET 

ESPN 

Arena im Allerpark; Wolfsburg, Germany 

 

 Video courtesy of US Soccer

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