U.S. women shut out Italy, 1-0, and near World Cup qualification
The U.S. women's national team moved to the verge of qualifying for the Women's World Cup in Germany next summer when it defeated Italy, 1-0, in Padova, Italy on Saturday in the first game of a two-game playoff series.
The vital goal was scored in the fourth minute of injury time by Alex Morgan, who had been brought into the game with only five minutes left in regulation as a substitute for former USC striker Amy Rodriguez.
The teams play each other again at Toyota Park in Bridgeview, Ill. next Saturday at 1 p.m. Central time, when U.S. Coach Pia Sundhage's team needs only a tie to advance to the June 26-July 17 World Cup in Germany.
The U.S. outshot defense-minded Italy, 19-6 and earned five corner kicks to three for the Italians, who appeared content with a tie until Morgan ruined that prospect with her last-minute goal.
The U.S. has never failed to qualify for the Women's World Cup and won the tournament in 1991 and 1999. It was forced into a playoff with Italy after losing to Mexico in the regional qualifying tournament, from which winner Canada and runner-up Mexico advanced directly to the World Cup.
For more on the game, go to latimes.com/sports.
--Grahame L. Jones
Photo: U.S. reserve Alex Morgan looks for a shot against Italy defender Elisabetta Tona and goalkeeper Annamaria Picarelli on Saturday at Euganeo stadium in Padova, Italy. Credit: Giampiero Sposito / Reuters