New England Soccer Today

Breakers Rally for USA

Pia Sundhage seems inclined to utilize players from the Boston Breakers.  And today, as the U.S picked up a 2-0 victory over Korea DPR to start their World Cup campaign in Dresden, Sundhage’s decision to start Boston Breakers players Lauren Cheney and Rachel Buehler paid off.

The Boston Breaker's Lauen Cheney scored the game-winning goal for the U.S. on Tuesday. (Photo by CHRIS ADUAMA/

Sundhage made a last-minute decision to insert Cheney into the starting lineup, putting her in for Megan Rapinoe on the left wing.  And Cheney was a key difference maker for the U.S attack, scoring the eventual game-winning goal off an Abby Wambach feed in the 57th minute.  Meanwhile Buehler got the start in central defense alongside Amy LePeilbet, another Breakers’ teammate, and scored late in the second half to double the U.S’ lead.

Sundhage managed the Boston Breakers in 2003, then coached two clubs in Norway and the Chinese national team before finally being named head coach of the U.S in 2008.  Few will argue against Sundhage and her decision making, as she has notched 64 wins and just four losses in her three years as coach.  But today, Sundhage’s decision to start Buehler and LePeilbet looked questionable, with the Breakers defensive duo struggling to contain North Korea’s play on the left wing.

The North Koreans were beating the U.S defense on the flank for most of the first half, allowing them to play dangerous services into the penalty area.  Hope Solo, who played in the match despite an injury to her shoulder, had to make five saves in the first half including a hard shot at the near post by Un Sim Ra in the 35th minute.

But at halftime, Sundhage changed the U.S formation from a 4-4-2 to a 4-3-3.  The switch kept the same players on the field but pushed Lauren Cheney, who had a strong first half, up as a third striker to put more pressure on the North Koreans.  The pressure allowed the U.S to attack rather than to absorb counter-attacks from the North Koreans that led to chancy play on the wings.  And the switch worked smoothly.

Buehler and LePeilbet were able to calmly clean up North Korean attacks and pass out of the back while Cheney, Wambach, and Amy Rodgriuez spear-headed the U.S attack with Carly Lloyd serving as the team’s playmaker.

Llyod, whose passes in the first half rarely reached their intended targets, was able to calmly distribute and set up plays almost immediately after the start of the second half with the tactical switch.  In the 57th minute, Lloyd found Wambach in space on the wing.  Wambach cut past her defender and played a cross into the penalty area that found Cheney, who headed in the goal for the U.S, her first career World Cup strike.

Then, Buehler doubled the U.S advantage.  In the 76th minute, Ali Krieger’s cross came off the crossbar and popped back to the edge of the area in front of Rachel Buehler.  Buehler beat two North Korean defenders to the ball, firing a low drive past Myong Hui Hong for her second international goal.

The North Koreans nearly leveled when Ri Ye Gyong hit the crossbar (58th) and Abby Wambach had a bid for a third U.S goal (72nd) that came off the crossbar.  Megan Rapinoe, who came on a substitute for Heather O’Reilly in the 79th minute, had a goal controversially disallowed for encroaching the goalkeeper in stoppage time.

The two goal margin was enough to propel the U.S to the top of Group C in front of Sweden, who only managed to score once in their victory over Colombia earlier today.

“It is so much easier going forward, you know?” said Sundhage.  “We are happy. Two goals. Two great goals. We’re moving on.”

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