June 12, 2015
By Michael Lewis
A HEAD'S UP PLAY
Meghan Klingenberg, the shortest player on the field, heads away sure goal to preserve tie
Big Apple Soccer Editor
WINNIPEG, Manitoba -- On a team that boasts some of the most impressive firepower among all women's national teams, the United States needed a vital play by defender Meghan Klingenberg to preserve a scoreless draw with Sweden in Group D of the Women's World Cup on Friday night.
Klingenberg, the shortest player on the field at 5-2, headed a shot off the goal line in the 77th minute to make the play of the match at Winnipeg Stadium.
The result might not have been to the Americans’ (1-0-1, 4 points) liking, but it kept the USA atop the group lead.
The USA can win the group by defeating Nigeria into their final group stage game against Nigeria (0-1-1, 1) in Vancouver Tuesday and take an easier path in the knockout round. Australia (1-1-0, 3) is next, followed by Sweden (0-0-2, 2).
"It was like two heavyweights going at it," USA coach Jill Ellis said. "Overall, we're still in the driver's seat."
It would not have been possible had the 26-year-old Klingenberg not performed her late heroics.
That's when Elin Rubensson sent a corner kick into the penalty area that eventually came to Caroline Seger on one bounce on the left side of the box. Goalkeeper Hope Solo moved slightly toward that way. Seger drilled an eight-yard shot toward the far right post. Klingenberg headed it against the underside of the bar. The ball bounced down, but did not go over the goal line, which goal-line technology later verified.
"I was absolutely sure it was over the line," said Sweden coach Pia Sundhage, who directed the U.S. women to pair of Olympic gold medals and into the 2011 Women’s World Cup final. "I couldn't believe it."
Klingenberg explained how she pulled off her feat.
"When Hope slides across, I need to slide to make sure I'm covering the line of her far side," she said. "That's what I did. Luckily I got my head on it."
Asked if she had a good vertical leap, Klingenberg replied with a smile, "I guess when you're this short, you've got to be able make up for it somehow."
As it turned out, Klingenberg wasn't the only player to perform some goal-line heroics. Sweden keeper Hedvig Lindahl was called on to make not one, but two vital saves to frustrate the Americans. She stopped Carli Lloyd in the 49th minute and parried a point-blank header by second-half sub and striker Abby Wambach off the bar in the 72nd minute.
Scoring chances for both sides were at a premium in what turned into a tactical match more than anything else.
The USA backline of Ali Krieger, Julie Johnston, Becky Sauerbrunn and Klingenberg held firm for most of the game while their attacking counterparts could not solve the Swedes.
Solo, who was not severely tested after she was one of the heroes of Monday’s 3-1 victory over Australia, recorded the shutout.