Goes the distance while attacker Press logs 67 minutes in 0-0 draw
By Gunnar Berndt
(Photo credit: ISI Photos)
Group D: USA vs. Sweden 0-0
Red Stars: Julie Johnston (DEF), Lori Chalupny (DEF-MID), Shannon Boxx (MID), Christen Press (MID-FWD)
Chicago defender and reigning NWSL Rookie of the Year Julie Johnston produced an impressive 90-minute shift for the U.S. Women on Friday that had the 23-year-old trending on Twitter after the 0-0 tie with Sweden and earning praise from numerous pundits, including USMNT legend Landon Donovan. Meanwhile, Red Stars attacker Christen Press worked hard until being replaced in the 67th minute of a match that saw her American side with the better of the play against its fellow World Cup favorite coached by Pia Sundhage, who led the Red, White and Blue to Olympic gold in 2008 and 2012.
With Johnston anchoring the defense from her center back position, the U.S., which also featured Chicago’s Lori Chalupny and Shannon Boxx on the gameday roster, managed to keep a clean sheet against a Sweden team that had put three strikes past Nigeria in its group opener.
The Americans were fortunate not to fall behind in the first half when Sydney Leroux blocked a powerful shot with her left arm inside the box. After the break, Lauren Holiday had a promising look for the Stars and Stripes inside the area on a layoff by Megan Rapinoe, but her high drive from a somewhat tight angle was palmed over by Hedvig Lindahl. The Swedish goalkeeper came up big once again on perhaps the best U.S. chance of the match, again tipping tipping the ball over the frame on a bouncing header by Abby Wambach, who had entered for Chicago’s Press. Rapinoe had picked out the legendary striker with a dangerous centering cross from the left flank.
Sweden’s Caroline Seger came even closer to breaking the deadlock at the other end, as her delicate touch from inside the penalty area had everyone thinking the ball was headed for the upper ninety, only to see it headed off the crossbar by Meghan Klingenberg. Positioned on the goal-line, the 5’2” defender did well to leap up and save the day for her squad, which continued to push forward in the opening stages but was unable to find a winner.
The draw puts the U.S. Women in a prime position to make it out of the “Group of Death’” sitting in first place with four points ahead of their meeting with Nigeria. Meanwhile, the Swedes will need a win over strong Australians in their final group fixture, which thus promises plenty of drama.