Leroux brace paces U.S. women to friendly win over Brazil
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) - Sydney Leroux scored twice in the first half and the U.S. women's soccer team completed its sixth undefeated year with a 4-1 exhibition victory over Brazil on Sunday at the Citrus Bowl.
Abby Wambach also scored in the first half, Erika Tymrak added a goal, and goalkeeper Hope Solo made a series of diving saves in the second half.
''Huge!'' Wambach said. ''Obviously you get that first goal, and you have momentum. And then I think we got the penalty within a couple minutes after that. That's demoralizing from the opposing team's standpoint.''
The victory in front of the team's biggest crowd of the year at 20,274, gave the U.S. a 13-0-3 mark this year. It also pushed the Americans' unbeaten streak to 38 - and 76 at home.
The U.S. controlled the ball and the field for much of the first half, breaking through with goals in the 15th and 17th minute. The first came when midfielder Heather O'Reilly fielded Kristie Mewis' cross and dropped it to Leroux for a shot to the lower-left corner.
A foul then set up Wambach for a penalty kick that America's career goals leader drilled into the lower- right corner past diving goalkeeper Thais. It was the 163rd goal for the 2012 FIFA World Player of the Year, and more importantly ensured the U.S. wouldn't fall into the same trap as in the team's last outing, a 1-1 tie against New Zealand in which the team failed to convert many potential winners.
''That's been my job for I don't know how many years,'' said the 33-year-old Wambach, a leader on two Olympic championship teams. ''I've missed less than a handful (of penalty kicks). I've been taking them all week since I missed that one against New Zealand. I don't miss too many in a row.''
Brazil, which didn't get a shot until the 21st minute, got its lone goal in the 24th when Rosana took Rilany's cross and slipped it inside the left post.
The Americans pushed back to a two-goal lead in the 38th minute when Leroux dribbled the ball from well outside the penalty era, cut to the right past a defender and fired it back to the left. U.S. coach Tom Sermanni said it was just another in a string of strong performances for Leroux.
''Two real striker's goals today,'' Sermanni said. ''Striker's instinct on the first one, and a great run and composed finish on the second. She's just grown this year. She's taken opportunities that have been given her, and just continued to perform better and better.''
Solo ensured the lead would stand up in the second half for the Americans, making three spectacular saves in an 8-minute span as Brazil carved out a series of breakaway opportunities. Solo made diving saves on 1-on-1 opportunities, two by Raquel and another by Rosana.
''The way we play, we always leave ourselves susceptible to counter-attacks, and that's where it makes Hope the No. 1 player in the world, because it's not like she's in the action all the time,'' Sermanni said. ''She's out of the action for like 10, 15 minutes. And then she's in a 1-on-1. And she was magnificent in the second half in that regard.''
Tymrak concluded the scoring off of Lindsey Horan's assist in the 77th minute, concluding another strong year for the dominant U.S. squad.
''I've enjoyed it,'' said Sermanni, who took over the team in late 2012. ''It's been a great first year. As a coach, you never stop learning, you never stop looking, never stop seeing different things in players. And as the year's gone on and on, I've learned more and more things about the team both on and off the field. It's been a really positive year.''
Copyright 2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.