BRIDGEVIEW IL - NOVEMBER 27: Amy Rodriguez #8 of the United States gets a hug from a teammate after scoring the only goal of the match against Italy during a Women's World Cup Qualifying match at Toyota Park on November 27 2010 in Bridgeview Illinois. The United States defeated Italy 1-0 to win the series 2-0 and advance to the 2011 Women's World Cup. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

U.S. Women Draw World Cup's Group Of Death

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USWNT Draws Colombia, North Korea and Sweden In World Cup Group

It's might be debatable whether or not the U.S. Women's National Soccer Team drew the "group of death", but their group doesn't exactly look like a cakewalk either.

The average FIFA ranking of Group C is 10.75, the best average ranking of any group and has three of the world's top six ranked teams.

The U.S., currently ranked No. 1, will open group play against North Korea, the world's sixth ranked team. Sweden, the No. 4 team in the world, will play Colombia (No. 32).

The only other group to have more than two of the world's top 10 teams is Group A, which is where CONCACAF champion Canada ended up being slotted. They'll play the world's No. 2 team, Germany, in the tournament's opener.

Canada is ranked No. 9, and is joined by No. 8 France and No. 27 Nigeria, the top team in Africa.

The other CONCACAF qualifier, Mexico, was placed in Group B, along with Japan (No. 5), New Zealand (No. 23) and England (No. 10).


U.S. Will Be One Of Four Seeded Teams For Monday's Draw

The U.S. Women’s National Team will be the top seed in Group C of the 2011 Women’s World Cup. Monday, they’ll learn who else will be in that group.

Host Germany will be the top seed in Group A, Japan is the top seed in Group B and Brazil will be seeded in Group D. The seeds were based on the various teams’ rankings in the confederations in the most recent FIFA rankings.

The remaining 12 teams will be drawn into the various groups. No countries outside of Europe will be in the same group as another team from their confederation. Europe has five teams in the tournament, with two being placed in Group A.

Also representing Europe are England, France, Norway and Sweden. Mexico and Canada will join the U.S. as CONCACAF’s representatives. Australia and North Korea will represent Asia along with Japan. Colombia is South America’s other representative. Nigeria and Equitorial Guinea will represent Africa. New Zealand is Ocean’s lone entry.


U.S. Women's Soccer Team Tops Italy, Qualifies For World Cup '11

It wasn't necessarily pretty, the but the United States Women's Soccer Team qualified for the 2011 World Cup with a 2-0 aggregate victory over Italy.

The U.S. secured the berth by winning 1-0 on Saturday, getting a goal from Amy Rodriguez.

That goal, which came in stoppage time of the first half, effectively covered up what had been a less-than-stellar performance up to that point.

Well, first of all I want to apologize for the first 20 minutes, it was crap and I felt it was very important for us to change the game plan," U.S. coach Pia Sundhage said. "The real reason is that the back four struggled to start up the attack and the midfield wasn’t on top of their game. I said you have to trust the coaches and we thought that instead of playing our old style of keeping possession, we needed to find space where we were successful in the first half and that was behind the backline. I think in the second half we did a better job and I’m very happy with the way we played…eventually."

By beating Italy, the U.S. avoided missing the Women's World Cup for the first time in the tournament's history and became the 16th and final team to qualify. This was the first time in six World Cups that the U.S. had to go through a playoff to qualify.

"I think it’s huge," U.S. midfielder Megan Rapinoe said of qualifying. "Some people take it for granted because we have been so successful in past, but it’s huge for us. Women’s soccer as a whole and with the new league, I think everybody’s looking forward to it a lot."

After a rather sluggish first half, the U.S. dominated the second half. They ended up outshooting Italy 17-5 and forced Italy goalkeeper Ana Maria Picarelli in eight saves. U.S. goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart only had to make three saves, all of them in the first half.

The only goal of the match came when Amy Rodriguez was able to pounce on Rapinoe's shot after it was knocked down by Picarelli. Rodriguez took a sliding shot.

"It was a jumble in front of the net," Rodriguez said. "The ball was loose and I just saw it escape from the goalie and tried to just dive in there and put it on frame. And luckily it hit the back of the net."

After the most stressful qualifying run in their history, the U.S. can finally turn its attention to Germany. The draw will be held on Nov. 29 and the first match will be played in Berlin on June 26, 2011.

The U.S. has not made it to the finals of two straight World Cups after winning two of the first three.

"The women’s game is developing so fast," Sundhage said. "Since FIFA put in the U-17 and U-20 Women’s World Cup so many things have happened in different countries. Going back to the qualification in Mexico, were playing against Costa Rica, Guatemala and they’re technical. That’s the important thing about the future of the women’s game, it’s technical and that’s something this country needs, technical players.

"I would say the world’s catching up and on top of rank No. 1, it’s hard to stay there, but were doing what we can."


Amy Rodriguez Gives U.S. Women 2-0 lead

Amy Rodriguez has given the United States Women's Soccer Team a 2-0 aggregate lead over Italy as their World Cup qualifier heads into the second half of the second leg.

The goal was set up by a shot from Megan Rapinoe. Rodriguez was able to collect the rebound and beat Italian goalkeeper Anna Maria Picarelli.

Those were the first two shots the U.S. had put on goal in the match.

The spot in the World Cup is still far from secured, though, as road goals are the first tiebreaker. If Italy were to score twice, they would win outright as the U.S. only scored one goal during their road leg.

The Italians have played reasonably well in the half, forcing U.S. goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart into three saves.

If the Italians were to advance to the World Cup, this would mark the first Women's World Cup that didn't include the United States.

The U.S. has never finished worse than third in any of the previous five Women's World Cups and has won two of them (1991 and '99).


USWNT Retain 1-0 Lead In Second Leg Of World Cup Qualifier

The United States Women's Soccer Team headed into Saturday's match with Italy leading the two-legged playoff 1-0.

About 35 minutes in, they are retaining that lead.

The U.S. has outshot Italy 4-2, but none of the Americans' shots have been on goal, while both of Italy's have.

The winner of this two-legged playoff will earn a spot in the 2011 World Cup. If the U.S. were to lose, it would be the first time in their history that a Women's World Cup would be held without them. The U.S. took third place in the CONCACAF qualifying tournament, leaving them in this position.

U.S. lineup: Nicole Barnhart; 2-Heather Mitts, 6-Amy LePeilbet, 3-Christie Rampone (Capt.), 4-Rachel Buehler; 9-Heather O’Reilly, 7-Shannon Boxx, 10-Carli Lloyd, 15-Megan Rapinoe; 8-Amy Rodriguez, 17-Abby Wambach

Italy lineup: 1-Ana Maria Picarelli; 3-Roberta D’Adda, Gamma, 6-Laura Neboli, 5-Elisabetta Tona; 7-Giulia Domenichetti,  18-Pamela Conti, 8-Carolina Pini, 4-Alessia Tuttino; 10-Elisa Camporese, 9-Patrizia Panic


United States Women vs. Italy: Alex Morgan Scores Late, Gives USWNT 1-0 Lead

Fergie Time might have to be re-named Pia Time after the United States' incredible stoppage time goal against Italy. Before stoppage time began, the fourth official showed two minutes of extra time. After three minutes, Italy made a substitution, theoretically requiring the official to add time to the clock, even though the match should have already been over. That extra time would prove costly for Italy as substitute Alex Morgan scored in the 94th minute and the fourth of six minutes of extra time.

Morgan came on in the 86th minute for Amy Rodriguez, who was poor throughout the match. In fact, it became extremely tedious to count her mistakes as the climbed into the double digits in the second half. Morgan made an immediate impact when she came onto the pitch and the goal was not her first positive touch. 

The last ten minutes of regular time were wild, with the United States having plenty of chances that they failed to finish. In some cases, players straight up whiffed on their shots. For 93 minutes, it appeared it was going to be "just one of those days." Then, Morgan struck, giving the USWNT a vital away goal heading into the second leg of the series in Chicago. 


United States Women vs. Italy: Halftime, 0-0

Italy will be the happier of the two sides at halftime, with the two teams going into the locker room knotted up at 0-0. Italy have executed their gameplan to near perfection, defending in a conservative 4-5-1 setup and keeping the United States from creating a high volume of goal scoring opportunities.

The best opportunity of the half came around a half hour into the match when Amy Rodriguez put a shot from inside the six yard box right into the stomach of the Italian keeper. It was a clear chance and she really should have done quite a bit better. Rodriguez has been plagued by poor finishing throughout the fall for the national team after a fantastic campaign in WPS.

Rodriguez isn't the only player not playing up to her standards so far today. Other controversial, but expected selections Carli Lloyd and Heather Mitts have also struggled. The United States has also failed to get the ball to two of their best players, Abby Wambach and Heather O'Reilly, on a regular basis. Megan Rapinoe has also been a slight disappointment. The defense outside of Mitts, though, has been superb. In particular, Amy Lepeilbet has probably been the best player on the pitch.

Curiously, many of the options for potentially replacing Lloyd were left off of the United States' 18 player squad for today. Lori Lindsey is available, but neither Yael Averbuch or Lindsey Tarpley made the bench.

The central defenders of the United States, along with Shannon Boxx seem to be able to shut down Italy's counter-attacks effectively, so the U.S. would likely be better served in the second half with a faster tempo and a more aggressive style of play. Oh, and getting the ball to Abby once in a while might help.


United States Women Vs. Italy: Unfortunately, USWNT Lineup Portends To A Close Match

What is that trite saying about the definition of insanity? Something about doing things over and over again but expecting to get a different result? Being slightly insane myself, I tend not to remember the details of such saying. I'm too busy trying to remember my manifesto and the tactical read-outs of the first Death Star. But when I saw Pia Sundhage's lineup for today's first leg in Italy, I wished I'd written that pithy insanity phrase into my manifesto.

The United States has gone with the expected lineup, which means Carli Lloyd, Amy Rodriguez, and Heather Mitts will play prominent roles. While Carli Lloyd has not been terrible, her selection over other options (Lindsay Tarpley, Lori Lindssy) is a bit brow furrowing. Amy Rodriguez has had one good six week span in the last two years, yet she continues to be a mainstay in Sundhage's XI. Heather Mitts, at this point of her career, should not be starting over Ali Krieger.

None of these critiques are new. Throughout the small community of people who cover women's soccer in this country, these choices have been highly scrutinized some the failures in CONCACAF qualifying. During these discussions there was no unanimous opinion on any of these choices, but there was a sense that the team seemed stagnant. No changes were going to be made, no matter how much they were rationalized, which begged a question: What would have to happen in order for Sundhage to make changes? If losing to Mexico and being thrown into a playoff wasn't enough, what would be? Missing the World Cup?

It's not just the Mexico result. It's been about six months since the national team last put in a convincing shift. While it's conceivable that the U.S. can get to Germany without finding that convincing shift, today's lineup is still a letdown. Something needs to happen before next summer, but at this rate, that something's going to have to be something other than a lineup change. If one comes, it will be unexpected, and given the choices we've seen during the team's recent doldrums, we might not see a productive choice.

I'm not the coach, and Sundhage knows these players better than anybody. But I can see things aren't working. I can see no changes are being made, and as the States play out the first 23 minutes in Italy scoreless, I can only hope the players being selected take it upon themselves to make something happen.


United States Women vs. Italy: USWNT Lineup As Expected

The United States has hit the beginning of the end of their journey to qualify for the 2011 Women's World Cup, needing to defeat Italy in a home and away playoff to qualify. The first half of that tie is this morning at 10:30 am ET in Padova, Italy. The rosters are out and coach Pia Sundhage has gone with the exact lineup that Jenna Pel and I predicted yesterday in our conversation about the game.

United States lineup: Barnhart, Buehler, Rampone, Lepeilbet, Mitts, Rapinoe, Boxx, Lloyd, O'Reilly, Wambach, Rodriguez

Italy lineup: Picarelli, Manieri, D'Adda, Tuttino, Tona, Neboli, Domenichetti, Gabbiadini, Panico, Zorri, Fuselli

If the pace of the game is high while Shannon Boxx and the United States fullbacks are keeping their positioning, the United States are in good shape. If the U.S. is playing a slower tempo and Boxx, Heather Mitts, and Rachel Buehler get caught out on their defensive responsibilities, the U.S. could be in trouble. 

The game can be seen on with J.P. Dellacamera on the play by play.

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