Dejected U.S. women's national team and Tyreso defender Whitney Engen can't look as Wolfsburg players celebrate a second straight women's UEFA Champions League title. (Michael Regan/Getty Images)
After coming from behind twice, VfL Wolfsburg took the UEFA Women’s Champions League final on Thursday in a 4-3 win over Tyresö FF, shattering three U.S. women's national team players from capturing club glory and becoming the third club to successfully defend its title after defeating Lyon in 2013.
All three Americans -- forward Christen Press and defenders Whitney Engen and Meghan Klingenberg -- were in Tyresö’s starting lineup. In 2013, Megan Rapinoe played for Lyon in a losing effort, making it four United States internationals as finalists in the last two years to emerge without a winner’s medal.
Klingenberg saw most of the action among the three in the early going, as favorite Wolfsburg pressed to score first. She held strong in the back, repelling multiple attacks and showing good soccer savvy both in and out of possession.
It was a slow start to the match played primarily in midfield. The only event of note in the initial minutes was Wolfsburg’s Lena Goeßling taking a hit to the face and leaving the pitch with blood coming out of her cheek. She would return, but the injury rendered one of the best players on the field ineffective.
Near the half-hour mark, Tyresö jumped into the lead. Five-time FIFA World Player of the Year and Brazilian star Marta dribbled through three defenders and slotted home after a short pass from Portland Thorns signing Verónica Boquet in the 28th minute.
Two minutes later, Press took on three defenders herself, dribbling toward the endline before crossing into the middle for Boquete to head past Wolfsburg goalkeeper Almuth Schult. From then on, Tyresö dominated the first half, keeping the majority of possession against the deflated defending champion.
It took Wolfsburg just 90 seconds after the restart to get back into the game. Anna Blässe sent in a cross from the right flank toward Alexandra Popp, who headed in from right in front of goal under pressure. In the 49th minute, Martina Müller nearly equalized on a breakaway, but Tyresö goalkeeper Carola Söberg was down well to save.
Klingenberg then saved a shot off the line as Wolfsburg continued its assault. The Germans pressed higher to start the half, surpassing their shot total from the first period in just the first five minutes of the second 45.
Wolfsburg eventually found its equalizer. Müller found herself one-on-one with Söberg again and finished better than the first time, leveling the score after just eight minutes of the second half.
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Action swung from end to end during a wide-open second half. After seeing her team concede two quick goals, Marta produced another astounding individual effort to restore Tyresö’s lead. After taking down a ball on the left side of the penalty area in the 56th minute, Marta took a quick touch toward the inside and bent a right-footed shot inside the far post. It was her seventh goal of the competition this season.
Klingenberg went down with a knee injury and needed to be substituted in the 67th minute. As she was off the field receiving treatment, Tyresö temporarily went down to 10 players, and Wolfsburg took advantage.
Verena Faißt charged down the left flank, Klingenberg’s side, and found the back of the net. Tyresö coach Tony Gustavsson complained to counterpart Ralf Kellermann that he thought Wolfsburg should have played the ball out to allow for a substitution, but in the end, the goal stood.
It was a disappointing end to a productive night for Klingenberg, who had the best showing of the three Americans on Tyresö. Besides her assist and a tame shot right at the goalkeeper, Press wasn’t involved often enough in Tyresö’s attack. Engen was exposed several times on the back line, especially in the second half.
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Ten minutes from time, Müller completed Wolfsburg’s comeback and gave the Germans their first lead of the night. Captain Nadine Keßler surged down the right and sent a cross from the endline into the middle, where Müller tapped in her 10th goal of the competition to win both the Golden Boot and the title.
The victory cements Germany’s dominance of the competition, as four clubs from the Frauen Bundesliga have won eight championships, while clubs from England, France and Sweden have won one each.
The final whistle also marked the end of Tyresö’s dreams to win the title in the face of financial crisis at the club. The club has been denied a Damallsvenskan license for the 2015 season, meaning an exodus of players (including four to the National Women’s Soccer League) and a diminished ability to compete.