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U.S. women’s national soccer team spends Mother’s Day beating Ireland

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United States’ Abby Wambach

SAN JOSE, Calif. » Some mothers got flowers or cards on Sunday. Abby Wambach got a little more creative, though, honoring her mother with a pair of goals in the U.S. national team’s 3-0 win over Ireland in the first of three tune-up matches for next month’s World Cup.

“I saw her turn around after her second goal and point up to me,” said Judy Wambach, who was sitting behind the team’s bench. “So that’s my Mother’s Day gift.”

The elder Wambach usually watches the U.S. games on TV. But she got to see those goals in person after Fox Sports brought her and the mothers of the 22 other players to San Jose, where they surprised their daughters at a team function Saturday.

“You saw tears in their eyes,” midfielder Shannon Boxx, one of three U.S. players who is both a mother and daughter, said of her teammates. “So many times you’re not even in the same city as your mother. And you’re just saying Happy Mother’s Day on the phone. It never seems the same.”

Another thing that didn’t seem the same Sunday was the way the U.S. performed against an Irish team composed largely of amateurs. Despite outshooting Ireland 26-0 — putting 10 of those shots on goal — the U.S. couldn’t finish and had trouble playing the ball forward through the midfield.

Part of that stemmed from the way Ireland played, keeping nine players behind the ball and rarely trying to mount an attack. As a result, U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo had an easy day, touching the ball just three times while running her shutout streak to five games and 450 minutes.

But the Americans were clearly frustrated on the other end, where they repeatedly sent shots over and around the Irish goal.

“The expectation is for more,” U.S. coach Jill Ellis said. “We took some quality chances. It’s fine-tuning that. We’ve got to put those away.”

The U.S. needed help doing that on its first goal, with an Irish defender’s attempt at a clearance striking teammate Meabh De Burca in the face. When goalkeeper Niamh Reid-Burke rushed to her teammate’s side, Wambach collected the rebound and drove it into a wide-open net.

Three minutes later, Wambach beat the keeper in a more conventional way, heading home a Carli Lloyd cross at the far post for her 180th international goal.

Wambach tried for another header in the opening moments of the second half, but when Reid-Burke came off her line to punch the ball away, she struck Wambach in the face instead, sending the U.S. striker to the sideline holding a bloody towel to her nose.

Ellis said she was told the nose was broken; Wambach said she didn’t care.

“At this stage going into the World Cup, you can get X-rays and scans. (But) if you’re not going to do anything about it, what’s the point?” she said. “So it doesn’t matter.”

Defender Julie Johnston closed the scoring in the 54th minute, nudging in a Lauren Holiday corner kick at the near post. That goal was Johnston’s third goal in three games, meaning the U.S. has gotten more scores from defenders (five) as it has from its explosive forwards (three) in its last four games.

And unless the Americans can turn that around in the next month, Wambach may have trouble delivering the other gift she has planned for her mom: a World Cup title.

“It’s a huge important thing for her. Because this is the one thing that has eluded her in her career,” Judy Wambach said. “So I’m praying for it.”

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