[Photo and article from USSoccer.com]
(Oct. 30, 2013) – The U.S. Women’s National Team, led by a Sydney Leroux first-half goal, played New Zealand to a gritty 1-1 draw in front of 15,139 fans at Columbus Crew Stadium.
The match was the second in four days against the Football Ferns with the U.S. earning a 4-1 victory on Oct. 27 in San Francisco, but New Zealand was able to salvage a draw this time with a late tally from forward Hannah Wilkinson.
The U.S. players will now have a few days off before getting back together in Orlando, Fla., in preparation to face Brazil on Nov. 10 at the Florida Citrus Bowl. Kickoff is at 3:30 p.m. ET in a match that will be broadcast live on NBC. Fans can also follow on ussoccer.com’s MatchTracker and on Twitter @ussoccer_wnt.
The U.S. is currently 12-0-3 in 2013 and has a chance to complete the year with double-digit victories and zero losses for just the second time in WNT history. The only other year was in 2006 when the U.S. Women posted an 18-0-4 record.
The U.S. generated a multitude of scoring chances in the first half and Leroux was finally able to capitalize in the 42nd minute. With her back to the goal, Leroux received the ball from Kristie Mewis well outside the box and made a gliding spin to her left, eluding several New Zealand defenders. After several touches, Leroux fired a low strike into the left corner past New Zealand goalkeeper Erin Nayler.
It was Leroux’s eighth goal of the year, tying her for second on the team this year with Christen Press. Mewis notched her second assist in nine appearances in 2013.
It appeared the U.S. was headed toward back-to-back wins against New Zealand, but Wilkinson spoiled those plans in the 87th minute. Wilkinson had been denied a great chance in the 54th minute when Hope Solo made a clutch save, but she managed to squeeze her shot home this time. She received a pass from Rebekah Stott down the right side and then shot to the far left corner past Solo for the equalizer.
The U.S. had the majority of the game’s scoring chances, out-shooting New Zealand 14-6, but put just five shots on goal, The USA’s first big moment came following a handball by New Zealand’s Ria Percival inside the penalty area. Percival tried to intercept Heather O’Reilly’s cross directed toward Leroux, but the ball bounced up and struck her arm. Wambach took the penalty kick in the 10th minute, but Nayler was moving to her right during the run-up and batted the ball away to keep things scoreless.
Wambach had a great look at the goal off of a Mewis cross from the left wing in the 26th minute, but her header hit the crossbar and New Zealand’s defense was able to clear the ball out of danger. Wambach had another header in the 34th minute off of Megan Rapinoe’s corner kick, but once again the world’s leading goal scorer just missed the frame.
New Zealand changed goalkeepers to open the second half, going with 40-year-old veteran and Belleville, Ill., native Jenny Bindon. Bindon also was able to hold Wambach at bay, saving a 53rd-minute header attempt off O’Reilly’s cross from the right side.