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U.S. needs forwards to step up in a hurry at Women's World Cup

American have little rhythm or chemistry on offense as Coach Jill Ellis tries different combinations of forwar

U.S. Coach Jill Ellis likened Friday's game to a boxing match.

"It was like two heavyweights going at it," she said.

Consider the U.S. the heavyweight with the soft punch then. Because two games into this World Cup, the Americans are still waiting for a forward to score a goal.

In its opening win over Australia, the three U.S. scores came from midfielders — two from Megan Rapinoe and one from Christen Press.

And then Friday the Americans were shut out in a group-play game for the first time in World Cup history.

Alex Morgan, meanwhile, has played only 23 minutes after coming back from a bone bruise to her left knee. And aside from Abby Wambach's near-miss on a diving header late in the second half of Friday's draw with Sweden, neither she nor Sydney Leroux have been consistent threats.

That will have to be corrected if the U.S. is to go far in this World Cup.

"We've dealt with a lot of different things with our forward pairings," said Ellis, who moved Press up front and started her next to Leroux on Friday before bringing Amy Rodriguez, Wambach and Morgan off the bench in the second half. "What I'm confident is, is looking at what we need for specific games and then being able to look at the partnership."

And while that lack of chemistry has been an obvious problem, Morgan said the U.S. has also been hampered by slow starts, saying the team has looked particularly sluggish in the first half of both games.

"It's harder for us to find our rhythm," she said. "Once we start to wear teams down in the second half, we become more in control.

"But it's been tough in the first halves of these first two games."

U.S. Soccer defends Solo investigation

President Sunil Gulati defended U.S. Soccer's handling of the Hope Solo case, releasing a letter the federation sent to Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) after Blumenthal called for a "thorough investigation" into Solo's arrest on suspicion of domestic assault last June.

Blumenthal sent a letter to Gulati on Thursday, reacting to an ESPN reporter's claim he could find no evidence U.S. Soccer had seriously investigated Solo's arrest.

Gulati said U.S. Soccer looked into the incident and Solo's role in it, noting that the alleged victims — Solo's nephew and half-sister — did not appear for a court-ordered interview, leading to the case's dismissal. As for Solo's place on the team, Gulati said the status of national team personnel is governed in part by federal laws that guarantee athletes "the right to call and confront witnesses before denying an athlete the opportunity to participate in competitions."

Solo was arrested on two counts of fourth-degree domestic assault last June after an altercation with her half-sister and nephew. A judge dismissed the case in January. The Kirkland, Wash., prosecutor's office has filed an appeal, with arguments on the matter due July 13.

kevin.baxter@latimes.com

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