U.S. settles for tie with Sweden in Women's World Cup group game

U.S. and Sweden play to a scoreless tie, with both teams missing late chances

On a U.S. women's team full of players with household names, Meghan Klingenberg doesn't exactly stand out.

For starters, she's just 5 feet 1, nearly a foot shorter than teammate Abby Wambach. And then there's that name, which doesn't exactly roll off the tongue.

But Klingenberg stood tall Friday, leaping to head away a shot by Sweden's Caroline Seger in the 77th minute, preserving a scoreless tie and giving a U.S. the hard-earned point that keeps it atop the group standings with one game left in World Cup pool play.

"We're still in the driver's seat," Coach Jill Ellis said. "We've still got an opportunity to finish on top."

With a win Tuesday against Nigeria, the U.S. will win the group and assure itself of a cushy second-round game against a third-place team in Edmonton.

A loss, however, could drop the U.S. to second, forcing it to fly to distant Moncton in New Brunswick — four times zones away — where it probably would meet Brazil. And mathematically at least, there's still a possibility the U.S. could finish third, which opens up a whole bunch of unsavory possibilities.

But the scenarios would be far darker without Klingenberg, the tiniest player on the U.S. roster.

"She definitely was our player of the game. She's a warrior," defender Julie Johnston said.

Added Alex Morgan: "She saved the game for us for sure."

With time running down and Sweden pressing a U.S. team that had battled all night to find a rhythm, Elin Rubensson sent a corner kick into the box, where Seger latched on to it, sending a rocket at the left post.

"I was sure it was the winning goal," Swedish Coach Pia Sundhage said.

Klingenberg didn't flinch though, heading the ball off the crossbar and down to the artificial turf. Goal-line technology confirmed the ball didn't cross the line.

Despite her size, Klingenberg is one of the best jumpers on the team, which is why she found herself standing on the goal line Friday when goalkeeper Hope Solo slid over to protect the other post.

"It's not necessarily something I practice," Klingenberg said of her leaping ability. "I guess when you're this short you have to be able to make up for it."

Klingenberg's heroics came just five minutes after Swedish keeper Hedvig Lindahl made her team's play of the night, turning away a diving header from Wambach, a second-half substitute. Earlier in the second half, Lindahl pushed a Carli Lloyd shot off the crossbar, and in the waning minutes she frustrated Morgan.

And that inability to finish is becoming a concern for the U.S., which was shut out in World Cup group play for the first time.

"In terms of quality looks and quality chances, we could have been better and more productive," Ellis said."

The Americans endured similar struggles in their first game but rebounded with two second-half goals to defeat Australia. That didn't happen Friday, although Ellis gave Sweden a lot of the credit for that.

So for the U.S., the challenge now is to regroup for Nigeria, where the group title and a more favorable route through the elimination stages are at stake.

"We're happy with the fact that we're in control of this group," said Morgan, who came on in the 78th minute. "We're in a really good position."

kevin.baxter@latimes.com

Twitter: @kbaxter11

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