HARRISON, NJ – This was not the good-bye they had been hoping for.
In a lackluster performance, the U.S. women’s national team were held scoreless by South Korea on Saturday, producing a disappointing tie in their last match before heading north for the 2015 Women’s World Cup in Canada.
Although the former champions kept possession of the ball for the greater part of the match and out-shot the South Koreans 15-7, the two-time World Cup winners were unable to break through against a lightly-regarded squad currently ranked No. 18 by FIFA.
“The result wasn’t what we wanted today, but there were some takeaways and I think this is the time to get everything out of our system before we head (to Canada),” midfielder Carly Lloyd told reporters after the game. “We’ll be just fine.”
The best scoring chance came in the 36th minute when Abby Wambach was 1 yard from an open goal line, but couldn’t get her head on a deft cross from Meghan Klingenberg.
Sydney Leroux also had an excellent opportunity in the second half, and it took a great save by South Korea’s Jim Jungmi to keep her shot from point-blank range out of the net.
“I don’t think we moved the ball around well enough and our mobility off the ball was not conducive to having a high-tempo, passing game,” coach Jill Ellis said after the game.
She said despite the “disappointing” final score, the friendly served its purpose – giving players valuable game minutes ahead of the tournament.
“We looked a little leggy,” Ellis added. “It’s now time to kind of put all the circus behind us and get to Canada and recharge our batteries and be ready to go.”
For the most part, goalie Hope Solo had an easy afternoon, with the Koreans not really testing her, except for a great diving save late in the second half. She earned her 84th career shutout for the women’s national team.
In six World Cups, the U.S. has never finished lower than third, and they are considered a co-favorite along with No. 1-ranked Germany to win this year’s tournament. This last match may not have inspired great confidence, but the Yanks aren’t worried.
“To be honest it was a warning game – there wasn’t much attack, there wasn’t much brilliance individually or collectively,” Wambach said.
“Don’t freak out,” the team’s biggest offensive star warned. “We’re going to be fine.”
Team USA opens its World Cup on Monday, June 8, in Winnipeg, Manitoba, against Australia.
“You better believe that we’re going to be ready, flying at Australia,” Wambach added.
Forward Amy Rodriguez said that while the team had wanted a better showing, she was OK with the result. The team is still fine-tuning some things, she said, and will be ready.
“This is not the game we wanted to win,” she said. “The more important game is Australia next week.”
The second-ranked Americans leave by charter jet Tuesday for Winnipeg.
Team USA was placed into Group D, which many observers have tabbed the “Group of Death” since it also includes 2003 runner-up Sweden, ranked No. 5 in FIFA’s rankings and is led by former U.S. national team coach, Pia Sundhage.
Apart from Australia and Sweden, the American squad will also play a first-round match against African champion, Nigeria.