O'Reilly scores to help U.S. women tie with Mexico
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- Heather O'Reilly saved the U.S. women's soccer team from a season-ending loss to Mexico, scoring the tying goal in the second half of a 1-1 draw Saturday.
O'Reilly ran down the middle of the field and slipped the ball past Sophia Perez in the 62nd minute.
It's the first time in 22 matches between the countries that the United States didn't win.
"We got a little fatigued throughout the game," O'Reilly said. "But I have to hand it to Mexico. In the other games, once we started getting goals, we broke them as a team. In this game, once we scored, they didn't let up at all."
The United States nearly got the winner in the 79th minute of the friendly, but Natasha Kai couldn't get anything on a shot while she was on the ground with Perez out of the net.
Shannon Boxx put a shot in the goal during stoppage time, but two U.S. players were offside on the play, overturning the score.
After consecutive blowout losses to the Americans in the first two games of a three-game exhibition series, in which Mexico was outscored 9-1, the visitors came out energized this time.
"Mexico has shown a lot of improvement," U.S. coach Greg Ryan said. "They have a very young team out there and they are getting better all the time."
Mexico dominated the first half, getting several good shots and earning three direct kicks inside 30 yards. Mexico also controlled midfield, winning most of the balls and keeping pressure on.
Meanwhile, the United States struggled to string passes together. Midway through the opening 45 minutes, the Americans resorted to lobbing long balls over the top of the defense and couldn't exhibit any ball control until the closing minutes.
Defensively, the United States performed well in the opening half. Goalkeeper Brianna Scurry controlled the box and directed traffic.
Mexico opened the scoring in the 56th minute on a touch-and-go play from Evelyn Lopez to Monica Ocampo. Lopez carried it through the center and fed Ocampo, who swung around a defender and curled the ball inside the near post.
The United States immediately began exerting more pressure, first earning three consecutive corner kicks that failed to pan out, then turning in a swift series of passes that exposed Mexico's defense.
"To go down a goal and come back quickly, I'm proud of the players mustering up the effort to get a goal back," Ryan said.
Lindsay Tarpley collected the ball just onside on the wing and carried it inside before sending a pass to Kai, who started the second half at forward in replace of Abby Wambach.
Kai drew the defense, then finessed a ball across the goal to O'Reilly for the tap score in the 56th minute.
"Natasha Kai started it off with her explosiveness, for her to get in a position like that," O'Reilly said. "You know if you work hard, you are going to get rewarded and that's what I tried to do to get in the box. She played a very unselfish ball across."