Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Soccer news and notes, June 27

After meeting in the first round at the last three Women's World Cups, the United States should know everything it needs to about North Korea.

Not even close.

There's an air of mystery surrounding the Americans' opponent in their World Cup opener today in Germany.

North Korea plays few games, five in the last six months, giving opponents little opportunity to scout. None of the players plays overseas professionally. Only two have World Cup experience.

North Korea is also the youngest team in the tournament, with 14 players 20 or younger. Only five players have 10 or more appearances with the senior national team.

"It's really difficult when you don't see much of a team and you're not familiar with how they play," defender Ali Krieger said Monday after the U.S. training session at Rudolf-Harbig Stadium in Dresden. "We might get some nerves because you don't know what to expect."

The United States is concentrating on two recent North Korean games - against Germany and China - and figuring that's the lineup they'll face this time.

"They are technical, they're comfortable with the ball, they're reading the game very well, and I think they're one of the best teams in the world between the boxes," U.S. coach Pia Sundhage said.

The Americans have played North Korea three times, all at the World Cup. The United States won the first two games 3-0. But at the 2007 World Cup, the Americans went down 2-1 before Heather O'Reilly scored to salvage a draw. The North Koreans won the Under-20 title in 2006, and were second to the Americans - in 2008.

Cal alum Alex Morgan was part of the '08 U-20 team, scoring the game-winner in the final.

"I don't remember too much. I just remember winning," Morgan said. "What I remember most is ... they love to play one-touch. They have some speed up top. ... They are physical, but aren't afraid to dive a little bit."

More World Cup: A 30-yard blast from Monica Ocampo gave Mexico a 1-1 draw with England in Wolfsburg, Germany, and a curling free kick from Aya Miyama sent Japan past New Zealand 2-1 in Bochum, Germany.

Relegation riots: The mayhem that swept River Plate's stadium following the famed Buenos Aires club's relegation left 89 people injured and 55 people detained by police. There are suggestions the seating capacity of 40,000 was exceeded by 12,000 at the stadium that will hold the Copa America final July 24. On Monday, River Plate coach Juan Jose Lopez resigned.

MLS: D.C. United acquired playmaker Dwayne De Rosario from the New York Red Bulls in exchange for midfielder Dax McCarty. De Rosario is a two-time MLS Cup MVP winner with 80 goals and 56 assists in 11 MLS seasons - five in San Jose. ... The Earthquakes traded starting defender Brandon McDonald to D.C. United in exchange for allocation money. ... Galaxy goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts will undergo surgery today on a fractured left forearm that he sustained in Saturday's 0-0 draw in San Jose.

This article appeared on page B - 6 of the San Francisco Chronicle


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