U.S. Women’s National Team

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Rapinoe, Morgan, Ertz lift US past South Korea, 3-1

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NEW ORLEANS (AP) Alex Morgan scored in a fourth straight game, Julie Ertz scored for the fourth time in five games, and the United States women beat South Korea 3-1 on Thursday night.

Megan Rapinoe added her 34th international goal and her 42nd assist.

Having assisted on Ertz’s diving header in the first half, Rapinoe scored on a penalty kick she drew in the 49th minute when pounced on a loose ball about 12 yards in front of the goal and was tripped by Ji Sohyun.

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Han Chaerin scored her first international goal in her South Korea debut to make it 2-1 just before the end of the first half.

U.S. forward Mallory Pugh had to leave the game late in the first half with a right hamstring injury. There was no immediate word on the severity of her injury after she was helped off the field by trainers.

Meanwhile, Carli Lloyd returned from a nine-week absence because of ankle injury, entering the game as a substitute in the 77th minute.

Midfielder Andi Sullivan started for the U.S. about 11 months after having reconstructive knee surgery. Her third minute shot narrowly missed the far post from about 18 yards. She was substituted out, as planned, at halftime.

South Korea began the game in a defensive posture and the U.S. maintained a decisive edge in possession, forcing Kang Gaae to make several sprawling saves before breaking though on Ertz goal in the 24th minute

Ertz dove in front of two defenders to redirect Rapinoe’s hard, low corner kick between the legs of Kang as the goal keeper tried to respond at the near post.

Morgan scored in the 40th minute, using her right foot to settle Kelley O’Hara’s bouncing pass from the end line, then pivoting and whipping her left foot through the ball from point-blank range. The goal was the 28-year-old Morgan’s 78th for the national squad.

Han scored against the run of play with a hard shot from about 25 yards that sailed beyond U.S. goal keeper Alyssa Naher’s reach before dipping under the cross bar.

Lloyd’s introduction drew an enthusiastic response from nearly 10,000 spectators in the Superdome. The two-time FIFA World Player of the Year missed a pair of U.S. exhibition wins over New Zealand last month because of an Aug. 13 ankle sprain in a National Women’s Soccer League match.

Forward Tobin Heath, who has an ankle injury, and defender Taylor Smith, who has an injured shoulder, were not in the lineup and are not expected to play in a second friendly scheduled between South Korea and the U.S. on Sunday in Cary, North Carolina.

Both women were hurt in the NWSL championship match.

Morgan Brian out for European trip with knee injury

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CHICAGO (AP) Midfielder Morgan Brian won’t travel with the U.S. women’s national team on an upcoming European trip because she’s still returning to form after a knee injury in March.

Brian also experienced tightness in her hamstring last weekend during a game with the Houston Dash of the National Women’s Soccer League.

She won’t be replaced on the roster for the U.S. team’s match against Sweden in Gothenburg on June 8 or a match against Norway in Sandefjord on June 11.

Brian sustained a right knee injury against France during the SheBelieves Cup in March. She missed a pair of U.S exhibition games against Russia last month.

USWNT cruises past Costa Rica in final pre-Olympic warm up

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The U.S. Women’s National Team wasn’t really lacking confidence heading into Friday night’s clash with Costa Rica, but the squad’s utter dominance certainly didn’t hurt things as Jill Ellis’ group gets ready to head to Brazil for next month’s Olympic Games.

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The USWNT captured a 4-0 win against Costa Rica in the side’s final send-off match before the Olympics, extending the no. 1 ranked team in the world’s unbeaten streak to 15 matches.

It only took a quarter of an hour the USWNT to find the lead, but it always looked like it was coming for Jill Ellis’ group. Meghan Klingenburg made a great run deep into the Costa Rica area, and played a perfect square pass across the face of goal for Crystal Dunn to give the U.S. the lead in the 15th minute.

Mallory Pugh got her name on the scoreboard in the 22nd minute after making a brilliant darting run forward and beating the Costa Rican goalkeeper at the near post.

The U.S. pushed their advantage to 3-0 on the stroke of halftime when Becky Sauerbrunn’s free kick was headed home by Carli Lloyd in first-half stoppage time.

With a number of chances in the second half that didn’t take the right bounce for the USWNT, Christen Press made no mistake from close range in the 79th minute and gave the home nation a four-goal lead.

Dunn continues to impress on the international stage, and nearly gave the U.S. an advantage after just seven minutes. The 24-year-old gathered the ball inside the penalty box before unleashing a strong effort that struck the crossbar and stayed out.

The U.S. found another dangerous opportunity three minutes later, when Carli Lloyd was brought down from behind on the edge of the penalty area. Costa Rica defender Katherine Alvarado was shown a yellow card for the rash tackle, but the USWNT couldn’t make anything of the ensuing free kick.

While Costa Rica put in a valiant effort against their competition, the Ticas were no match for the Americans, and failed to muster up any shots on target throughout the night. The 29th ranked team in the FIFA World Rankings struggled to move the ball past midfield for most of the outing largely due to the USWNT’s constant press.

Japan rallies to tie US women 3-3 in Colorado

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COMMERCE CITY, Colo. (AP) Kumi Yokoyama scored in stoppage time to give Japan a 3-3 tie with the United States on Thursday night in a rematch of the Americans’ victory last year in the Women’s World Cup final.

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Alex Morgan scored twice, and Lindsey Horan added a goal to help the United States overcome a 2-0 deficit.

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Mana Iwabuchi and Yuki Ogimi also scored for Japan. Japan was reduced to 10 players when Ogimi received a second yellow card and was ejected in the 57th minute.

The game featured the finalists from the last two World Cups and the 2012 London Olympics. Japan won the 2011 World Cup on penalty kicks, and the U.S. won in 2012 and `15.

It looked as if the Americans would prevail again when Horan, from nearby Golden, scored in the 89th minute to give the U.S. a 3-2 lead, but Yokoyama got free to beat goalkeeper Hope Solo.

The Americans dropped to 11-0-1 this year.

The teams will play again Monday night in Cleveland.

Japan, which did not qualify for the Rio Olympics, took an early 2-0 lead.

Iwabuchi ended Solo’s shutout streak when she maneuvered around defensemen Emily Sonnett and Becky Sauerbrunn and curled a shot into the top left corner in the 14th minute.

Ogimi scored in the 22nd. It was the first time the U.S. trailed by that score since losing to France on Feb. 8, 2015. It was the first time the U.S. trailed by two goals at home since a 3-1 loss to Denmark in November 2014.

The U.S. rallied to tie it on Morgan goals that pushed her career total to 66.

Colorado native Mallory Pugh fed Morgan for her first goal in the 27th minute.

The U.S. took advantage Ogimi’s ejection to tie it, with Morgan redirecting Tobin Heath’s pass past goalkeeper Ayaka Yamashita in the 64th minute.

The Americans played without World Cup hero Carli Lloyd. She strained a knee April 23 playing for the Houston Dash.

Abby Wambach taking entire NWSL season off to prepare for World Cup

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In a surprising, curious and even head-scratching development, United States women’s national team legend Abby Wambach is taking off the entire National Women’s Soccer League season from her hometown Western New York Flash in order to prepare for the 2015 World Cup in Canada.

Citing a need to focus for the tournament, Wambach is leaves her club — and even her league — in the lurch. It is not believed that the 34-year-old striker has any major injuries, and the season-long announcement will only serve to pour fuel on the rumors of a post-World Cup retirement.

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The No. 2 ranked USWNT has four friendlies before the World Cup begins in June, and Wambach could be in the starting lineup, though it’s more likely she could be a pivotal, late-game substitute.

Wambach is still an impact player in the NWSL, and a focal point for the Flash, making the timing quite terrible for a team that would count on her experience to help guide four first-round draft picks and set an early season pace for when she leaves for the tournament.

Had they known, you’d have to think the Flash would’ve used her and some of their draft picks as a valuable chip in bringing fire power to the club for this summer. Would they have traded stars Carli Lloyd and Sam Kerr if they knew Wambach would be skipping the season?

From WNYFlash.com:

“I am so proud of our league and truly appreciate the support of the Sahlens and the fans of Western New York,” Wambach said. “At this stage of my career, I know what I need to prepare mentally and physically for this summer. My sole focus is to help bring a World Cup back to the U.S.”

source: Getty ImagesAs a member of the Western New York Flash, Wambach, 34, appeared in 29 matches and registered 17 goals and seven assists in two seasons with the club. She helped the Flash capture the inaugural NWSL Shield as the team with the best overall regular season record and led them to the 2013 NWSL championship game against the Portland Thorns FC before falling 2-0 at Sahlen’s Stadium.

“While it’s difficult to lose a player like Abby, we are grateful for her contributions over the past two years, not only to the Flash but to the entire Rochester and Western New York soccer community,” Flash President Alex Sahlen said. “We want to wish Abby and the rest of the U.S. Women’s National Team the best of luck in the upcoming World Cup.”

Clearly the club knew about her departure before the announcement, but Wambach’s decision to sit out the entire season puts the Flash in a horrible spot. It seems an awful lot like a prelude to a retirement, with the World Cup serving as a swan song. Wambach struggled through injuries to make just 10 appearances last season, scoring 6 goals with 4 assists, and plies her trade far from her home in the Pacific Northwest.

The Flash are in training camp now, and open the regular season in Seattle on April 12. Assuming a deep run in the World Cup — the final is July 5 — the Flash would still have 10 games in the regular season once the tournament is over. But the announcement means Wambach won’t even be making a token appearance on her hometown pitch in Western New York.

WNY fans and teammates have often lauded Wambach as the ultimate team-first player, but the timing of this announcement seems to fly in the face of such sentiments.