Christen Press strikes twice as US beat the Netherlands

AP, THE HAGUE, Netherlands

Thu, Apr 11, 2013 - Page 18

Christen Press scored twice as the US women’s soccer team beat the Netherlands 3-1 in an international friendly on Tuesday to stretch their unbeaten streak to 31 matches.

US coach Tom Sermanni kept his most experienced stars on the bench, but his team had plenty of players ready to step in and keen to prove themselves.

Tobin Heath and Press scored before the break for the Olympic champions, and Press added a third on the hour to bring her international tally to six goals in only seven matches.

“She’s done that all year,” Sermanni said. “The composure in the finishing has been outstanding. Both goals she took tonight were two excellent striker’s goals.”

The Netherlands attacked whenever they got the chance and it finally paid off in the 81st minute when Manon Melis lobbed Ashlyn Harris to make it 3-1.

Sydney Leroux set up both first-half goals, providing the touch of class the US needed to break down a stubborn defense.

“She’s a handful. For 90 minutes, she’s the type of player you don’t want to be playing against,” Sermanni said.

The Netherlands had earlier twice cleared efforts off their own line and goalkeeper Loes Geurts tipped over a powerful long-range drive by Yael Averbuch, before the team finally succumbed to the relentless pressure.

Abby Wambach stayed on the bench, frustrating her attempt to catch all-time top scorer Mia Hamm’s tally of 158 goals. Wambach has 155.

Captain Christie Rampone and experienced midfielder Shannon Boxx also started on the bench.

Despite Press’ prolific scoring this year, Wambach does not need to start worrying about her place in the team just yet.

“Abby’s still your key player, your go-to player,” Sermanni said. “At this time of the year, this is a great opportunity for me to look at other players.”

The US started their trip to Europe with a 3-3 draw at world No. 2-ranked Germany in Offenbach on Friday last week, conceding two late goals. They never looked like giving this one away.

Sermanni made 10 changes to the side that drew with Germany, taking stock of a squad with possibly an eye on World Cup qualifying late next year.

“You look for perfection. I think at times we could play with a little more composure, but overall, considering we made 10 changes from the previous game, I was really pleased with the performance,” he said.

Julie Johnston had a header disallowed for offside in the 72nd minute, before Melis narrowed the lead.

For the first US goal, Leroux went around Kirsten van de Ven and crossed from the right for Press, who laid off the ball for Heath to curl into the corner in the 36th minute for her eighth international goal.

Press made it 2-0 a minute before halftime, running on to a through pass by Leroux and calmly stroking the ball past Geurts from just inside the area for her fifth goal in just seven appearances.

She needed no help for her second, charging through the heart of the defense — which lacked captain Daphne Koster, who hobbled off injured a few minutes earlier — and driving into the far corner.