Solo dropped from team before World Cup third-place match with Norway.
Best U.S. effort came a game late, beating Norway for World Cup third place.
By Robert Wagman
(Sunday, September 30, 2007) -- The United States women saved their best effort for last. Unfortunately, it came a game too late.
Against a Norway team that at times seemed less than completely interested, the U.S. took third place in the Women's World Cup with an easy 4-1 victory at Shanghai Hongkou Football Stadium.
Today, the Americans' top performance came in their sixth match of this tournament, but it was their last outing Thursday when they looked their worst in a 4-0 setback to Brazil in the semifinals. Instead of playing not to lose, as it seemed the U.S. did through much of its three Group B matches and the two elimination games, the Americans clearly displayed a different frame of mind today. What ensued was a free-flowing rhythm not seen previously.
Even though it strung together many more short passes in the midfield, and often attacked in numbers, all the U.S. goals came essentially the same way -- forcing the ball into the penalty area via a corner kick, free kick or cross, while trying to get as many bodies as possible into the box. Four times the strategy paid dividends.
Norway, for whatever reason, did not put the U.S. under much pressure. When it did press, Norway got some results, including a goal and another that was disallowed, but it was much too late with the U.S. up 4-0 after 59 minutes.
It's hard to understand why the U.S. did not play this well throughout the tournament, but reduced expectations might be one explanation. As Germany showed in winning the championship 2-0, Brazil is far from a super team. Deny Marta the ball and pressure its goal, and Brazil likely will cave in.
Had the U.S. resembled on Thursday the team it was today, the result likely would have been different. But coach Greg Ryan's controversial switch to Briana Scurry in goal made that impossible.
This win allows the U.S. to take home something positive and each player will see an extra $10,000 in her paycheck for finishing third as part of their contract. Still, there is no way for the Americans to look at this World Cup in any other way than the team underperformed consistently. Given questions about Ryan's coaching future, not to mention his personnel and tactics, the next few weeks and months should prove interesting.
U.S. player ratings
Goalkeeper Briana Scurry - 4.5: Played better, but still looked like someone who has played little in three years. Let in one poor goal, another which was disallowed, but was more mobile and obviously less nervous than against Brazil Thursday.
Defender Christie Rampone - 5: Moved to the middle and played well until suffering a slight concussion near the end of the half.
Defender Catherine Whitehill - 5.5: With Kate Markgraf out with a sore knee, she had more responsibility in the middle and responded well. Got into the offense on set pieces, while getting back and give up little.
Defender Marian Dalmy - 5.5: Received her first career international start and did fine on the outside in the spot Rampone vacated. Would seem to have a bright future.
Defender Stephanie Lopez - 5.5: Another solid performance. Got into the offense often while also playing well in back.
Midfielder Lori Chalupny - 6: A very strong game in midfield scored an opportunistic goal to help put the match out of reach.
Midfielder Aly Wagner - 5.5: Playing 55 minutes in her first appearance in the tournament, showed what she might have added had she been healthy for the whole three weeks. Controlled the midfield and had good ball distribution.
Midfielder Leslie Osborne - 5.5: Busy all day both on offense and defense. Her strong play allowed the U.S. to control the middle.
Forward Heather O'Reilly - 5.5: Far and away her best game of the tournament. Took players on and pushed forward into the attack. Earned early corner kick that created a goal and scored the final when she jumped on a rebound.
Forward Kristine Lilly - 6: If this was to be her final match on a big stage, she wentt out in style with her best performance of the tournament.
Forward Abby Wambach - 6.5: Her pair of goals got the U.S. going. As is often the case, both came in heavy traffic in the box. Was more mobile today and played a more complete game.
Defender Tina Ellertson (46th minute for Rampone) 5: Given a whole half to perform, was solid, but put under little pressure.
Midfielder Lindsay Tarpley (59th minute for Wagner) 5.5: Was involved in a goal almost immediately after she came on. Played very well down the stretch.
Forward Natasha Kai (89th minute for Lilly) - no rating: A token appearance to allow Lilly a public exit from what might be her last big match.
SoccerTimes Player of the Match: Abby Wambach.
The U.S. Women's World Cup roster:
Goalkeepers (3): Nicole Barnhart (Gilbertsville, Pa.), Briana Scurry (Dayton, Minn.), Hope Solo (Richland, Wash.).
Defenders (6): Marian Dalmy (Lakewood, Colo.), Tina Ellertson (Vancouver, Wash.), Stephanie Lopez (Elk Grove, Calif.), Kate Markgraf (Bloomfield Hills, Mich.), Christie Rampone (Point Pleasant, N.J.), Catherine Whitehill (Birmingham, Ala.).
Midfielders (7): Shannon Boxx (Redondo Beach, Calif.), Lori Chalupny (St. Louis), Angela Hucles (Virginia Beach, Va.), Marci Jobson (St. Charles, Ill.), Carli Lloyd (Delran, N.J.), Leslie Osborne (Brookfield, Wisc.), Aly Wagner (San Jose, Calif.).
Forwards (5): Natasha Kai (Kahuku, Hawai'i), Kristine Lilly (Wilton, Conn.), Heather O'Reilly (East Brunswick, N.J.), Lindsay Tarpley (Kalamazoo, Mich.), Abby Wambach (Rochester, N.Y.).
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Robert Wagman is SoccerTimes senior correspondent.
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