U.S. held by New Zealand after late goal
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- It was a tie that felt like a loss to the Americans.
Hannah Wilkinson, twice denied on near goals, chipped in a 15-yard shot in the 87th minute to allow New Zealand to forge a 1-1 draw with the United States in a friendly Wednesday night at Crew Stadium.
Syndey Leroux scored in the 42nd minute for the Americans.
"Anytime the U.S. women's national team ties, it's a loss for us," Leroux said. "We're very proud. I think we should have won. We're going to be upset about this for a while. But we'll move on."
The U.S., utilizing a 4-3-3 attack, pressed for most of the first half. The Americans finally broke through when Kristie Mewis fed Leroux, whose low shot just beat New Zealand goalie Erin Nayler inside the near post.
It stayed that way until Wilkinson swooped in from the right side, sidestepped a defender and beat goalie Hope Solo.
"This means quite a lot," said Wilkinson, a student at the University of Tennessee. "It's awesome. Facing the U.S. is always such a challenge. They're the best in the world. To draw a point against them is amazing. I couldn't be more proud of my team today."
Solo had three saves for the Americans,12-0-3 this year and unbeaten in their last 38 games (32-0-6).
The U.S. finished with five shots on goal, New Zealand with four.
The Americans ran their home unbeaten streak to 76 matches, extending all the way back to a 3-1 setback to Denmark in Philadelphia on Nov. 6, 2004.
The match was played before a crowd of 15,139 with the temperature in the 60s at the start.
Leroux seemed to always be around a scoring opportunity. She was just wide with another blast in the 70th minute before substituting out.
Yet the loss left a bad taste.
"They kept a high pressure," Leroux said about the Kiwis. "We haven't dealt with that in a while. We need to deal with it a little bit better. It was a good game. Obviously, we could have done some things better. We needed to finish."
The U.S. threatened to score most of the opening half. Many in the partisan crowd felt the Americans had made it 2-0 during stoppage time, but Leroux's goal was waved off because of a foul called against Abby Wambach an instant earlier.
Wambach, with 37 goals in her past 43 games over the past two years, had a penalty kick at the 9-minute mark, but Nayler made a brilliant diving stop.
"I bury the penalty kick in the first 10 minutes and that might have been a different game for the last 80 minutes," Wambach said. "It's disappointing for this team if ever we tie or lose. It's a complete failure of producing what the game plan was. We had some chances that if they fall, the game's a different story."
Wambach, who has scored more goals in international competition than anyone (162), had a clean shot at header in the 27th minute but the ball ended up hitting the crossbar and trickling off the back of the goal.
Meanwhile, Solo seldom saw much action. The only real chance for New Zealand in the early going came in the 32nd minute when Wilkinson, on a rush from the right wing, got off a shot that Solo grabbed.
Solo's finest save came in the 54th minute when she leaped to push aside another long, hard shot by Wilkinson.
In stoppage time, she caught a shot by New Zealand's Sarah Gregorius.
On the tying goal, many of the Americans thought Wilkinson was offside.
"The ball came through," she said. "I just put the ball toward the goal. I saw the far side of the post was clear, I just aimed and hit it."
The U.S. had scored at least three goals in its last eight games, four or more in the last five. But this win was predicated on defense.
"We really needed to score that second goal," U.S. coach Tom Sermanni said. "Particularly when we were on top of the game. We needed to do that when we were dictating the game and dominating the game. And we didn't do that. At 1-nil, there's always a danger that you give something up. And that's what happened tonight."
It was the second meeting between the teams in four days. The Americans won 4-1 at Candlestick Park in San Francisco on Sunday.
The Americans have scored 52 goals and allowed just 10 this year, three of those scores from European champion Germany in an April 5 friendly in Offenbach, Germany. Opponents have scored only three goals in the last seven matches against the U.S.
The U.S. women last played at Crew Stadium in 2011, beating Japan 2-0. They are 4-1-1 at the venue, which has also been a decided home-field advantage for the American men during World Cup qualifying.
The U.S. team completes its 2013 schedule against fourth-ranked Brazil on Nov. 10 at the Florida Citrus Bowl in Orlando, Fla.