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US women are out of business

Defending champs get blanked by Germany

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Women's soccer in the United States reached another low point last night. Less than a month after the Women's United Soccer Association announced it was folding, the US national team folded in a 3-0 loss to Germany in the semifinals of the Women's World Cup.

Though the US performed well at times, its weaknesses were exposed by Germany's composure, the aggressive goalkeeping of Silke Rottenberg, and a potent counterattacking threat. The defending champion US, which won two of the three previous Women's World Cups, will play in the third-place game against Canada in Carson, Calif., Saturday. Germany will participate in the championship for the first time since 1995 when it takes on Sweden Sunday at The Home Depot Center.

Germany has been the dominant team of this tournament, outscoring five opponents, 23-3. But the US has been the dominant power of the women's game for so long, it seemed unlikely to be overcome, especially playing at home. The US had allowed only one goal in four games and had not trailed in a World Cup match since the 1999 quarterfinals against Germany.

But the US did not have it easy in this event, which was hastily relocated from China because of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome problems in late May. The US was playing its fifth game in 15 days in five cities, traveling here from Boston on a late-night charter following a 1-0 quarterfinal win over Norway Wednesday.

The 27,623 spectators at PGE Park seemed incredulous as Maren Meinert and Birgit Prinz added goals during second-half stoppage time, even briefly chanting "USA" after the final whistle.

US coach April Heinrichs attempted to remain optimistic.

"The future is very bright for American soccer," Heinrichs said. "We worked to create a league and, hopefully, we can revive it. And we have the young players to bridge the gap because this generation will one day retire."

The five US players -- Brandi Chastain, Joy Fawcett, Julie Foudy, Mia Hamm, and Kristine Lilly -- still active from the 1991 championship team will likely remain for the Olympic Games next August.

Germany's tactics made the difference. The Germans converted an early goal off a corner kick, then absorbed pressure, held off an all-out offensive as the US went to a 3-4-3 alignment in the second half, and converted twice off late counterattacks.

The US did not have a complementary forward combination with Cindy Parlow and Abby Wambach, and the Germans were able to confront their physical presence without being concerned about guile and quickness. Germany also was willing to go on the offensive from the opening minutes, and earned a corner by playing through Prinz, leading to the first goal in the 15th minute.

Renate Lingor's corner was diverted by Kerstin Garefrekes, glancing in off the underside of the crossbar at the near post, the first goal surrendered by the US in 317 minutes. The last goal against the US was scored by Sweden in the 58th minute in the group play opener.

The US discovered some offensive flow after that, as the Germans retreated, but did not become unpredictable enough to concern Germany until after Aly Wagner replaced Parlow in the 52d minute, and Tiffeny Milbrett entered in the 70th minute.

Rottenberg was able to cut off angles, taking the ball off Hamm in the 34th minute, and twice advancing through the penalty arc to head clearances. Germany also benefited from a non-call on a possible penalty in the opening minutes of the second half. Foudy's cross appeared to be knocked down by Stefanie Gottschlich's hand, but Canadian referee Sonia Denoncourt allowed play to continue.

"When you go to a 3-back in the international game, you hang yourself out on the edge," Heinrichs said. "We did it in an effort to get a goal, and if we could tie the game, I felt the momentum would shift and we would get another one." The US nearly tied the score in the 89th minute as Milbrett earned a corner and Hamm's kick sailed over Rottenberg, but was cleared by Sandra Minnert.

"I don't think we were superior," Germany coach Tina Theune-Meyer said. "Maybe we were in the last minutes when they were trying to get one more offensive player in the game. We were very confident we could win this game."

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