Hucles' injury-time goal lifts U.S. women past Australia
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- Angela Hucles makes her goals for the United States count, even if they only come around every four years or so.
Hucles scored late in injury time -- her first since 2004 -- and Abby Wambach had two more to push closer to the 100-goal milestone before setting up the winner. That was enough to give the U.S. women's soccer team a 5-4 win over Australia in Saturday's friendly, the most goals the team has ever allowed in a win.
Cat Whitehill's free kick went to Wambach, who headed it to Hucles coming up from behind. She poked it in between goalkeeper Melissa Barbieri and the left post with about 30 seconds left in the added time for the second straight survival win over Australia.
"I saw Abby was going to head the ball and I just called for it," said Hucles, whose last goal for the U.S. was another game-winner Oct. 16, 2004 against Mexico. "Everything pretty much just aligned perfectly.
"It's been a long time since I scored a goal."
Lindsay Tarpley scored twice in the first half at Legion Field for the U.S., which blew a 4-1 lead thanks partly to two own goals before pulling it out.
The 27-year-old Wambach converted a header off an assist from Shannon Boxx 19 seconds into the second half for her 95th career goal with the national team. Only eight players have scored 100 in international soccer.
She played the setup role at the end in what she described as a designed play. Wambach heard Hucles yelling "flick it" before the ball arrived.
"So I flicked it and it went perfectly to her, and she did the rest," she said. "The keeper had the near post covered, and literally Ange put it in the only spot that was open on the near post. What a great goal. It could be the goal of the year."
Whitehill's strategy, meanwhile, was simple.
"When you have an Abby Wambach up there, you just want to aim it toward her head and she'll create something," she said.
The teams were meeting for the second straight weekend in the middle game of the Americans' three-city friendly tour in the U.S. that ends next weekend against Canada in Washington D.C.'s RFK Stadium. The first two have ended up being nice tests for the Beijing Olympics in August.
The U.S. won the first meeting 3-2 on Carli Lloyd's injury-time goal after another Australia comeback.
"It's very frustrating to say the least," Australia's Sarah Walsh said. "We can definitely hold our heads high after a comeback like that."
On Saturday, Australia mounted a quick comeback, aided by the two U.S. mistakes. Walsh and Lauren Colthorpe scored to make it 4-3.
Then, Christie Rampone's own goal off a shot by Joanne Burgess tied it in the 69th minute. Whitehill, a Birmingham native who had dozens of family and friends among the announced crowd of 5,000, also helped Australia with an own goal for the game's first score before she atoned with the free kick that resulted in Hucles' score.
"That was a great finish," Barbieri said. "What could we do? She didn't take a touch, she just volleyed it into the back of the net. I couldn't do much about it. She squeezed it between me and the post."
The Americans extended their home match unbeaten streak to 29, dating back to November 2004 against Denmark.
"We didn't quit," Wambach said. "It's really easy, especially in extra time, to just concede and walk away with the tie. We weren't wanting that as a result. We were refusing to lose -- or to tie."