Last-minute goal by teen lifts USA
Christine Nairn couldn't have picked a more perfect time to get her first international goal.
Nairn scored in the 90th minute to lead the U.S. women's national soccer team past Canada, 1-0, in a friendly match Wednesday night before a crowd of 4,041 at Blackbaud Stadium.
It was the third time in the last two months the two teams have met, with the United States winning all three games by a combined score of 6-0. The U.S. has not lost to the Canadians since 2001 and is 40-3-4 all-time against their northern neighbors.
After 89 minutes of scoreless soccer, the Americans needed a little bit of luck to get their 40th win against Canada.
The game-winning goal came after a beautiful cross from midfielder Angela Hucles deep in the right corner. Abby Wambach, standing on the right post, flicked the ball to Lauren Cheney inside the 6-yard box. Canada keeper Erin McLeod fisted Cheney's header out of danger, but the ball deflected off the stomach of a charging Nairn and into the net with less than a minute left in regulation.
Nairn, 18, was a freshman at Penn State this past spring and became the youngest player to score for the U.S. since Heather O'Reilly scored against Italy in 2002 at the age of 17.
"I was just excited to get into the game," said Nairn, who was making just her second appearance with the U.S. squad. "It wasn't a pretty goal, but I'll take it. Lauren did all the work. She made the run and I was just in the right place at the right time."
Wambach, who scored in the 78th minute Sunday night in a 1-0 win over Canada in Rochester, N.Y., said the team just found a way to win.
"It just goes to show you what kind of tradition is passed on from generation to generation with this team," she said. "We don't like to lose or tie. We consider a tie as bad as losing. We created our own luck there in the end, but sometimes that's the way it goes. Soccer is like that. Sometimes you can have more possession and lose and have less possession and win. We're an attacking kind of team, so we're going to take some risks."
The win over the Canadian team didn't come easily for the best women's team in the world.
Wednesday night's game was by far the most competitive of the three matches this summer as the Canadians had two outstanding scoring chances in the second half.
"It's frustrating to lose like that," said Canadian striker Christine Sinclair, who has 99 career goals in international play. "It's disappointing, but at the same time this is the best we've played against them in the three games this summer. We're a young team with a new coach and we're only going to get better. We've lost two 1-0 games in less than a week to the best team in the world, so that's something that we can hold our heads up high about."
The United States had several quality scoring chances in the first half, the best coming off the foot of Lindsay Tarpley just outside the 6-yard box in the 17th minute.
"Obviously, you'd like to finish those chances," said U.S. coach Pia Sundhage. "But the fact that we're creating those chances is what's important."
The Canadians had their best chance to score in the opening minutes of the second half after a turnover by the United States.
Sinclair picked up the loose ball and slotted it to Jonelle Filligno just outside the 18-yard box. Filligno took a dribble and blasted a shot that sailed over the cross bar to end the threat.
Canada had another excellent chance in the 60th minute when midfielder Diana Matheson slotted a ball behind the American defenders to a sprinting Sinclair. Sinclair took two strong dribbles and blasted a shot from just inside the 18-yard box. American keeper Hope Solo came charging off her line and made a diving save to stop the threat.
"There's a reason why Hope is the best keeper in the world," Sinclair said. "I went far post and I probably should have gone near post, but you can't second guess yourself too much. Hope just made a great save."