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World Cup: Lack of scoring plagues Team USA

United States' Carli Lloyd's header goes just over

United States' Carli Lloyd's header goes just over the crossbar as Sweden's Caroline Seger (17) and Jessica Samuelsson (18) defend in front of goalkeeper Hedvig Lindahl during second-half FIFA Women's World Cup soccer game action in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada on Friday, June 12, 2015. Credit: AP / John Woods

WINNIPEG, Manitoba -- Lost in the excitement of defender Meghan Klingenberg's game-saving header off the goal line Friday night was the reason why there was so much focus on her accomplishment:

Had the U.S. women scored a few goals, Klingenberg's heroics would not be such a big deal in a game that ended in a scoreless draw.

For the first time since a 4-0 semifinal loss to Brazil in 2007, the Americans fired blanks in the Women's World Cup.

Although it only was one game, the lack of goals, especially from the front line, underlies the Americans' problem, which could come back to haunt them when the bar is raised against elite teams in the knockout round.

The vaunted American strikers haven't found the back of the net. This from a country that has produced the magnificent Mia Hamm, Michelle Akers and Tiffeny Milbrett, among other lethal weapons that led to a pair of world championships.

We have been reminded again and again how deep the USA is at striker, but that hasn't translated into many scoring opportunities and or goals. In the 3-1 win over Australia, midfielder Megan Rapinoe tallied twice and set up midfielder Christen Press' game-winner.

In only two matches, the United States already has paraded five players at forward:

Abby Wambach, who has scored the most international goals (182) but cannot start every game due to her age (35).

The fleet Alex Morgan, arguably the most talented striker, but whose recovery from a knee injury and lack of match fitness has reduced her to a late-game substitute.

Sydney Leroux, who has speed to burn, but has not used it wisely.

Amy Rodriguez, a second-half substitute who looked quite ordinary Friday.

And Press, who started vs. Sweden before moving to midfield and eventually was subbed.

The dearth of scoring chances in the wake of Friday's performance was alarming.

The midfield must be held accountable for its lack of creativity and ideas. Coach Jill Ellis said she would have liked to have seen "more patience and not forcing the ball central.''

The front line also gets its share of the blame. Ellis said that the Leroux-Press pairing was not "as efficient as it needed to be.''

"As far as quality looks and quality chances, we could have [been] better and more productive,'' she said.

Ellis wouldn't say if she would stick with Leroux-Press against Nigeria in the final Group D match in Vancouver Tuesday.

"We've dealt with a lot of different things in our forward pairings,'' she said. "We haven't had Alex available for a long, long time since she's been injured. So we've had different pairings up there. What I'm confident [about] is looking at what I need for a specific game and then being able to look at the partnership.''

Regardless of the pairing, a team with such great expectations -- a world championship on its own continent -- cannot afford to have its strikers continually strike out.

New York Sports