The Post-Pia Era has officially begun. While there's still no one officially at the helm of the USWNT, interim head coach Jill Ellis captained the ship for Saturday night's match against Germany at Toyota Park. The U.S. did enough and the Germans came alive too late as the two sides played to a 1-1 draw. Abby Wambach tallied one for the Americans and Anja Mittag equalized 12 minutes later in a match where both teams never really found their footing.
The United States came out firing in front of the sell-out crowd of 19,422 in Bridgeview, Illinois. While the Germans may have looked to be a tough test on paper, the side didn't seem quite ready at the start, with Wambach giving the home side the lead in just the second minute. Alex Morgan sent a ball rolling across the goalmouth that at first looked more low shot than cross , fooling German keeper Nadine Angerer and pulling her out of position. That left Wambach open at the back post to easily net her 22nd goal of 2012. It was also career goal number 147 for Wambach, putting her just 11 goals behind Mia Hamm's top of the all-time list record of 158. For Morgan, it was her team-leading 16th assist.
It didn't take long for Germany to equalize though. In the 14th minute Anja Mittag brought things even, receiving a ball from Simone Laudher and winning the footrace with Kelley O'Hara before chipping Hope Solo for the score.
With things level at one, Germany kept the pressure on, nearly getting the go ahead goal in the 25th minute. Linda Bresonik sent a cross to a wide open Laudher, but the German midfielder put her shot just inches wide. It would be the last good chance Germany had in the half.
Both teams scrapped through the midfield for the remainder of the frame, with Germany content to sit back and the U.S. neither able to crack the German defense or willing to take a chance from distance. The Americans did get one more chance as the half wore down, with Lauren Cheney's 45th minute volley hitting the outside of the post and sending the match into the break knotted at one.
Play resumed for the second half with a few substitutions for both sides, including Carli Lloyd and Heather O'Reilly for Cheney and Megan Rapinoe in the midfield. The personnel changes did little to actually change the game though, with both sides continuing to play mostly through the midfield and neither pressing for much of anything offensively.
The U.S. and Germany did trade chances early in the half, but both were more the result of shaky defenses and gaffe-filled clearance attempts than any real offensive work. Germany did force Solo into one Big Hope Solo Moment in the 64th minute. Kim Kulig threaded a ball between two U.S. defenders for Mittag, but Solo went down and blocked what would have been the German striker's second of the night.
The pace continued to slow as the half wore on, as both teams continued to struggle to get anything going beyond the midfield. During the last quarter of an hour though, Germany brought on striker Alexandra Popp. The 21 year-old striker had an almost Alex Morgan Time effect on the game, bringing some energy to an otherwise lethargic outing. In the 86th minute she sent a diving header just wide and continued to threaten as time ticked down. The U.S. tried to counter with Sydney Leroux, but she seemed just a step off of the few balls launched for her to run onto. Ultimately, both sides seemed content with the 1-1 draw.
For Germany, it was hardly the dominating performance one might expect from a team coming off a successful run through Euro qualifying and a side that has something to prove after an early World Cup exit and missing out on the Olympics. The U.S. did what the U.S. always seems to do in the first part of these two part friendlies, slow things down and just play safe. It was perhaps especially evident as reality sets in that the Sundhage era is really over, and without a permanent coach yet named. The team seemed to be running on autopilot for long stretches and never took advantage of the space Germany allowed them.
The two sides will meet again Rentschler Field in East Hartford, Connecticut on Tuesday. That match is scheduled for 7:30 pm ET and will be broadcast on NBC Sports Network.