US start Women’s World Cup in draw with South Korea

The China Post - - SPORTS - BY RON­ALD BLUM

The United States’ fate at the Women’s World Cup may hinge on Alex Mor­gan’s left knee.

The 25-year-old star for­ward missed her third straight game due to a bone bruise, a list­less 0-0 draw against South Korea on Satur­day in their fi­nal warmup match.

Mor­gan hasn’t played in a month but says she will be ready for the Amer­i­cans’ opener against Australia on June 8. Coach Jill El­lis, try­ing to lead the U.S. to its first World Cup ti­tle in 16 years, said Mor­gan will have to build her min­utes at the tour­na­ment in Canada.

“We need her. We need her to win,” said for­ward Abby Wam­bach, who may get more play­ing time be­cause of Mor­gan’s in­jury. “I’m com­fort­able if she doesn’t start games. I’m com­fort­able if she comes off the bench, that we still are suc­cess­ful through­out this World Cup.”

Three days shy of her 35th birth­day, Wam­bach started in her 242nd in­ter­na­tional ap­pear­ance in the only change by El­lis from the starters in the 5-1 win over Mex­ico on May 17. Wam­bach re­placed Megan Rapi­noe, who had a sore quadri­ceps in train­ing Fri­day.

While the U.S. out­shot the South Kore­ans 15-7, the Amer­i­cans had few good scor­ing chances. The best was in the 36th minute, when Wam­bach was 1 yard from an open goal line and couldn’t get her head on Meghan Klin­gen­berg’s cross from the left flank. South Korea goal­keeper Kim Jungmi stuck out her right hand to bat away Carli Lloyd’s open 10-yard shot in the 49th minute af­ter Mor­gan Brian pulled the ball back.

“Now’s the time to get ev­ery­thing out of our sys­tem be­fore we head over there.” Lloyd said. “We’ll be just fine.”

The U.S. leaves by char­ter jet Tues­day for its train­ing base in Win­nipeg, Man­i­toba. The Amer­i­cans’ first-round group also in­cludes games against Swe­den and for­mer coach Pia Sund­hage on June 12 and Nige­ria on June 16.

“We looked a lit­tle leggy,” El­lis said. “It’s now time to kind of put all the cir­cus be­hind us and get up to Canada and recharge our bat­ter­ies and be ready to go.” The sec­ond- ranked Amer­i­cans were shut out at home for the first time since Nov. 5, 2008, in Cincin­nati, also by South Korea. Still, the U.S. ex­tended its home un­beaten streak to 96 since Novem­ber 2004 (84-0-12) and is 7-0-2 against the South Kore­ans.

Wam­bach, who broke her nose in a col­li­sion with Ire­land goal­keeper Ni­amh Reid-Burke on May 10, played un­til the 60th minute and worked on some com­bi­na­tions with Syd­ney Ler­oux.

“She can start. She can come in off the bench,” El­lis said. “I think there’ll be cer­tain games where it’s go­ing to ben­e­fit us to have her come in and close a game. ... She’s such a clutch player and is used to the spot­light,”

The Amer­i­cans won World Cups in 1991 and 1999, and they have won three straight Olympic gold medals. But they have strug­gled in World Cups. Mor­gan, who has 51 in­ter­na­tional goals, was ex­pected to lead the U.S. attack.

“Alex is al­ways go­ing to be im­por­tant be­cause of what she can bring to the game,” El­lis said.

Be­fore a ca­pac­ity crowd of 26,467 at Red Bull Arena, all 23 U.S. play­ers lined up for the an­them, out­num­ber­ing the vis­i­tors’ 11. Es­chew­ing their tra­di­tional red-white-and-blue color scheme, the Amer­i­can wore white uni­forms with black trim and lime socks.

The per­for­mance didn’t in­spire much con­fi­dence. But it was only an ex­hi­bi­tion.

AP

United States for­ward Abby Wam­bach, left, and South Korea de­fender Kim Sooyun go up for the ball dur­ing the first half of an in­ter­na­tional friendly soc­cer match, Satur­day, May 30.

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