U.S. needs for­wards to step up in a hurry

Los Angeles Times - - SPORTS - By Kevin Bax­ter kevin.bax­ter@la­times.com

WIN­NIPEG, Canada — U.S. Coach Jill El­lis likened Fri­day’s game to a boxing match.

“It was like two heavy­weights go­ing at it,” she said.

Con­sider the U.S. the heavy­weight with the soft punch then. Be­cause two games into this World Cup, the Amer­i­cans are still wait­ing for a for­ward to score a goal.

In its open­ing win over Australia, the three U.S. scores came from mid­field­ers — two from Megan Rapi­noe and one from Chris­ten Press.

And then Fri­day the Amer­i­cans were shut out in a group-play game for the first time in World Cup his­tory.

Alex Mor­gan, mean­while, has played only 23 min­utes af­ter com­ing back from a bone bruise to her left knee. And aside from Abby Wam­bach’s near-miss on a div­ing header late in the sec­ond half of Fri­day’s draw with Swe­den, nei­ther she nor Syd­ney Ler­oux have been con­sis­tent threats.

That will have to be cor­rected if the U.S. is to go far in this World Cup.

“We’ve dealt with a lot of dif­fer­ent things with our for­ward pair­ings,” said El­lis, who moved Press up front and started her next to Ler­oux on Fri­day be­fore bring­ing Amy Ro­driguez, Wam­bach and Mor­gan off the bench in the sec­ond half. “What I’m con­fi­dent is, is look­ing at what we need for spe­cific games and then be­ing able to look at the part­ner­ship.”

And while that lack of chem­istry has been an ob­vi­ous prob­lem, Mor­gan said the U.S. has also been ham­pered by slow starts, say­ing the team has looked par­tic­u­larly slug­gish in the first half of both games.

“It’s harder for us to find our rhythm,” she said. “Once we start to wear teams down in the sec­ond half, we be­come more in con­trol.

“But it’s been tough in the first halves of th­ese first two games.” U.S. Soc­cer de­fends Solo in­ves­ti­ga­tion

Pres­i­dent Su­nil Gu­lati de­fended U.S. Soc­cer’s han­dling of the Hope Solo case, re­leas­ing a let­ter the fed­er­a­tion sent to Sen. Richard Blu­men­thal (D-Conn.) af­ter Blu­men­thal called for a “thor­ough in­ves­ti­ga­tion” into Solo’s ar­rest on sus­pi­cion of do­mes­tic as­sault last June.

Blu­men­thal sent a let­ter to Gu­lati on Thurs­day, re­act­ing to an ESPN re­porter’s claim he could find no ev­i­dence U.S. Soc­cer had se­ri­ously in­ves­ti­gated Solo’s ar­rest.

Gu­lati said U.S. Soc­cer looked into the in­ci­dent and Solo’s role in it, not­ing that the al­leged vic­tims — Solo’s nephew and half-sis­ter — did not ap­pear for a court-or­dered in­ter­view, lead­ing to the case’s dis­missal. As for Solo’s place on the team, Gu­lati said the sta­tus of na­tional team per­son­nel is gov­erned in part by fed­eral laws that guar­an­tee ath­letes “the right to call and con­front wit­nesses be­fore deny­ing an ath­lete the op­por­tu­nity to par­tic­i­pate in com­pe­ti­tions.”

Solo was ar­rested on two counts of fourth-de­gree do­mes­tic as­sault last June af­ter an al­ter­ca­tion with her half­sis­ter and nephew. A judge dis­missed the case in Jan­uary. The Kirk­land, Wash., pros­e­cu­tor’s of­fice has filed an ap­peal, with ar­gu­ments on the mat­ter due July 13.

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