Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
SANDY — It wasn't quite the dominant effort the United States was hoping for in its Olympic send-off match at Rio Tinto Stadium on Saturday, but the U.S. women took care of business late after a frustrating afternoon of wasted chances to edge Canada 2-1 in front of 16,508 fans.
At the end of the day, the victory and walking away healthy was the only thing that mattered for the United States as it builds toward Olympic opener against France on July 25.
"This was the perfect pre-Olympic game for us. Canada is such a great team, they always put up a great fight. Difficult to play against," said midfielder Amy Rodriguez, who scored the winning goal on a back-heel pass from Abby Wambach in the 85th minute.
The goal was the result of relentless pressure over the final 15 minutes as the United States switched to a 3-4-3 formation and pushed forward for the winner.
"I'm really pleased with the way we played and really pleased with the game management at the end. Went to 3-4-3 last 15 minutes of the game and it was really tough for them to get an attacking going," said Wambach.
The victory extended the United States unbeaten streak to 26 straight against Canada dating back to 2001 as it enjoyed a 19-4 edge in shots.
Despite the dominance, it looked like the U.S. women were headed to the Olympics with a frustrating draw against a Canada team it beat 4-0 back in January.
Megan Rapinoe changed all that with one dangerous left-footed ball into the box. Canada failed to clear the initial cross, with the ball falling to the feet of Wambach about six yards from goal. She tried a cheeky back-heel shot, but it ended up being the perfect pass as substitute Rodriguez was in perfect position to bury the winner.
"I've said it before, and I'll say it again, players coming off the bench they make the difference, said coach Pia Sundhage.
Rapinoe, however, made a difference for all 90 minutes.
She was a bright spot in a dominant first half, routinely beating the Canadian defense and putting dangerous balls into the box. Her driven ball into the box in the 15th minute led to the game's first goal — an own goal.
It should've been a routine catch and save for Canadian keeper Erin McLeod, but defender Carmelina Moscato didn't hear McLeod calling for the ball and instead tried blocking the cross. It redirected off her foot and into the back of the net.
Rapinoe sent several other dangerous balls into the box in the first half, but nobody finish them off.
"Her set piece balls into the box today were on point. She created so much and so many opportunities for us," said Wambach.
In a wild flurry just before halftime, the United States and Canada were both robbed of goals.
In the second minute of stoppage time, Hope Solo made a miraculous save to deny a deflected shot from Christine Sinclair. Solo initially dove to her right, but the shot deflected off U.S. defender Rachel Buehler and looked like it would easily trickle into the empty net. Solo recovered quickly, and made a fingertip diving save on the goal line.
At the other end, Alex Morgan was similarly denied at the goal line as Canadian defender Lauren Sesselmann cleared a shot off the line.
The United States made four changes at the half, inserting Heather Mitts, Heather O'Reilly, Carli Lloyd and Becky Sauerbrunn into the match. Five minutes later, Morgan picked up a slight knock to her knee and was replaced by Rodriguez.
The level dropped off quite a bit for the United States following the changes.
In the 57th minute, Canada equalized as substitute Melissa Tancredi buried a 1v1 chance with Solo after slipping in behind the U.S. backline and running onto a diagonal through ball from Sinclair.
It took the United States about 15 or 20 minutes to regain the momentum, but eventually did as Rodriguez scored the winner late in the match.
Sundhage and most of the players were pleased with the effort. Solo, however, wasn't quite as pleased.
"I'm defensive oriented, and for me we've given up one goal in the last four games, that's not good enough for me. Granted we're winning games. For me it's keeping the ball out of the back of the net, it's my job as the defense and my job as the goalkeeper and right now it's not happening," said Solo. "Going forward, we'll find a way, we'll watch video. Hopefully we'll stop allowing goals, maybe in London."
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