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Friday, September 23, 2011
U.S. looks strong after mini tour


The United States women's national team got back together this past week, looking to move on from its second place finish at the World Cup and move forward to Olympic qualification. The two games against Canada were billed as a "Celebration Tour" for the team. After a 1-1 draw in Kansas City this past weekend, the U.S. finished off the two-game series with a 3-0 win in Portland on Thursday night.

The U.S. will play its next game on November 19 in Phoenix against World Cup third-place finishers Sweden. As the players get set for some much-needed rest, here's what we learned from the past week of soccer.

It truly was a celebration: The U.S.'s final friendly on American soil before the World Cup drew just 5,852 fans in New Jersey, but all the attention and support the team received during its run in Germany has carried over. Saturday in Kansas City 16,191 fans came out to see the team, and 18,570 turned out in Portland. Fans at JELD-WEN Park were chanting Alex Morgan's name while she was waiting to sub in on the sidelines.

It's all about Abby: The new formation has brought some new creativity to the team, but in the end, it's all about Abby Wambach. Coach Pia Sundhage's new 4-2-3-1 formation looked its best Thursday with Megan Rapinoe running the offense in midfield, but the U.S. still struggled to finish its chances. Rapinoe hit the crossbar twice and Canadian goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc made a few good saves. In the second half, Wambach came through -- once with her left foot and once, of course, with her head. She has scored in six straight U.S. games, a streak that started in the group stage of the Women's World Cup. She has 125 goals and is close to overtaking Kristine Lilly for second all-time in U.S. history.

Positives for Canada: After a disastrous World Cup that ended with the resignation of its coach, Carolina Morace, Canada needs to put the pieces back together in time for Olympic qualification in January. John Herdman took over as coach after leading New Zealand to the past two World Cups. He's barely been at the job for a week, but got to take a good look at what his team can do against the world's No. 1 ranked team. Canada played the past two games against the U.S. without its best player, Christine Sinclair, who is being rested after a long season of soccer for both club and country. Canada played well at times, and even fought back in the first game to earn a 1-1 draw.