Tobin Heath scores in 81st, US ties Sweden 1-1
Tobin Heath finally found the back the net for the U.S. women's soccer team.
Heath scored off a rebound in the 81st minute to help the United States tie Sweden 1-1 in an exhibition Saturday night.
''We were starting to press them pretty hard trying to get that equalizer,'' said Heath, who came in at the half with the U.S. down 1-0. ''And Alex Morgan, she had been getting good shots on frame, she had another one and I just followed it up and put it home.''
The Americans outplayed the Swedes, getting 19 shots to the Europeans' seven, but hit the posts or crossbar three times before Heath's shot. However, in that late second half sequence, Morgan got a shot off in the box that goalkeeper Kristin Hammarstrom blocked. Heath knocked the rebound into the net from about 8 yards out.
''I thought we had the run of the play at the end of the second half,'' U.S. forward Abby Wambach said. ''Obviously, when Alex came on, she has another gear and I think the Swedish team tired a little bit at the end of the game.''
Sweden's Sofia Jakobsson scored from just out the box in the 28th minute to give Sweden the early lead.
''In the first half, the Swedish team had good control of the game, we had the pace, we scored, I think it was a nice first half,'' coach Thomas Dennerby said. ''But in the second half, after a couple of substitutes - Morgan, Tobin Heath - they started to work harder in the depth. For the Swedish team it's harder to keep our defending line intact and they started to play in the space behind us.''
Wambach hit the left post on a header from close range in the 73rd minute and Morgan had a clear shot from left of Hammarstrom but hit the right post in the 78th minute.
''We're really happy about our last push,'' Heath said. ''We really wanted to get that second goal and get the win. I thought if we had five more minutes we might have gotten it.''
The exhibition was the last game of the year for the U.S. national team, following two weeks of training in preparation of the 2012 Olympic qualifying tournament Jan. 19-29 in Vancouver, British Columbia.
It also was another opportunity for U.S. coach Pia Sundhage to put in a different formation, with Wambach as lone forward. Morgan subbed for Wambach in the 75th minute.
''I'm very happy we were patient in the system,'' Sundhage said. ''At halftime, we said it was okay but it didn't create a lot of chances. We played at times pretty good but we were too vulnerable in the back because of the way we played.''
In the first half, Jakobsson fired a shot that deflected slightly off U.S. defender Christie Rampone into the upper-right corner of the net, past goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart.
Regular national team goalie Hope Solo, who has been in goal since before the World Cup, was not with the squad during the last two weeks while she competed on ''Dancing with the Stars.''
The United States, second last summer in the World Cup, lost to Sweden 2-1 during the tournament in Germany in the final group match, and by the same score in an exhibition to start the year Jan. 21.
The national team finished 13-3-4 for the year.
The Americans tied Canada 1-1 on Sept. 17, then beat the Canadians 3-0 on Sept. 22.
The Swedes have already qualified for the Olympics next summer and only five of their starters Saturday were in the lineup for the win over the Americans at the World Cup.
In the first half, the U.S. women controlled much of the possession, outshooting Sweden 10-4 and getting some good opportunities. Lauren Cheney got five corner kick attempts in the first half, one that Wambach flicked just wide of the goal in the 17th minute. Carli Lloyd and Heather O'Reilly got back-to-back shots in the 26th minute that Hammarstrom saved.
In the 41st minute, Cheney found Shannon Boxx in front of the goal box, but her shot from about 20 yards out hit the crossbar.