The US women's national team fought and scrapped with Sweden on Friday night, but neither side could find a way past two determined, resourceful defenses, settling for a 0-0 draw in Women's World Cup action at Investors Group Field in Winnipeg.
The US spent a bit more time in the attacking end than their rivals. But goalkeeper Hedvig Lindahl and center back Nilla Fischer marshaled an organized Swedish defense that frustrated the Yanks' star-studded front line – and the best chance of a tight evening actually came at the other end, as US left back Meghan Klingenberg had to conjure up a superb goal-line block to deny Caroline Seger a second-half winner.
Things learned postgame: Defender Meghan Klingenberg, all 5-feet-1-inch of her, believed to have one of best vertical jumps on #USWNT.— Jeff Kassouf (@JeffKassouf) June 13, 2015
Despite all the pregame hype, the match got off to a cagey start as both sides took few chances and found passing rhythm elusive. But Sweden generally looked more dangerous, earning five corner kicks in the first half.
Swedish shouts for handball rang out in the US penalty box in the 22nd minute as a shot deflected off Sydney Leroux's left arm, but Japanese referee Sachiko Yamagishi held her whistle.
Well-protected by center backs Becky Sauerbrunn and Julie Johnston, US goalkeeper Hope Solo didn't have much in the way of shots to stop. But she did have to wade into heavy traffic to make an important punch on a 38th-minute corner kick, fisting the booming delivery away from the lurking Seger.
Otherwise, both sides went into the break with little to show from a scrappy first half. But Lindahl was finally tested a few minutes into the second stanza when Carli Lloyd slapped a rising shot towards the near post, drawing a composed parry from the veteran.
Another round of handball appeals cropped up an hour in, this time in Sweden's box, as the ball appeared to glance off Fischer's arm.
But again Yamagishi did not point to the spot and replays seemed to prove that it actually hit Fischer's chest.
Just as in the United States' first match, Monday's 3-1 win over Australia, Megan Rapinoe was doing her best to overcome an uneven outing with some moments of magic and she picked out Lloyd with an excellent inswinging cross to the back post in the 64th minute.
But Swedish defender Jessica Samuelsson made a brave intervention, getting just enough of a touch to deny Lloyd – and paid the price in the process as the two knocked heads painfully.
Samuelsson would exit with a head wound that required a large bandage before she could resume play.
Looking to spark the USWNT attack, coach Jill Ellis brought Amy Rodriguez and Abby Wambach off the bench in place of Morgan Brian and Christen Press, and the latter sub nearly paid immediate dividends in the 72nd minute.
In a repeat of their iconic combination vs. Brazil at Germany 2011, Rapinoe found Wambach with a dipping cross from the left flank and the veteran striker snapped a downward header off the artificial turf. But Lindahl was up to the task, palming the effort away from the top corner.
Minutes later the threat shifted to the other end as Klingenberg produced the huge play that preserved the deadlock.
After a corner kick, Seger improvised a chipped shot to the far post that left Solo a bystander as it flew towards the net. But Klingenberg – the shortest player on her team at just 5-foot-2 – stepped off the post she was guarding to head the effort off the goal line, the ball clanging off the crossbar above her head and spinning away.
71% of the Earth is covered by water, the rest is covered by the #USWNT defense.— KICKTV (@KICKTV) June 13, 2015
Sweden were content to sit back in a defensive posture for most of the final stages, comfortably absorbing some late US pressure – but the draw leaves them in need of a victory in their final group-stage match, against Australia on Tuesday, if they are to be sure of advancing to the knockout rounds. The USWNT can likely move on with a win or tie against Nigeria on the same day.