HARRISON, N.J. - The U.S. Women's World Cup Soccer team collected a final tune-up win before playing for keeps later this month, and defender Heather Mitts earned a trip to Germany with a solid second-half performance.
Lauren Cheney's goal during second-half stoppage time Sunday gave the United States a 1-0 win over Mexico in an international friendly before 5,852 at Red Bull Arena.
Mitts, the former Philadelphia Charge and Independence defender, has been battling hamstring injuries and was told by coach Pia Sundhage she'd have to show she was healthy enough to be on the World Cup roster. The U.S. team opens World Cup play on June 28 against North Korea in Germany.
Inserted at the start of the second half, Mitts received the thumbs up from her boss after playing well defensively and providing her specialty - creating offense coming out from the back.
"She showed enough so she is going to the World Cup," said Sundhage, a former assistant for the Charge when Mitts was there. "She was healthy, went up and down the flank, and was pretty solid with her position defensively and had composure with the ball."
"It's a great feeling to be going to the World Cup," Mitts said. "I felt so relieved when Pia told me I was going."
The Americans dominated a Mexico team that was strong one-on-one but didn't play cohesively in the back.
The United States outshot Mexico, 34-4, and had nine corner kicks compared to one for Mexico.
Cheney launched a 31-yard blast after receiving a back pass from Abby Wambach for the game's only goal.
"Once I got the ball I was looking for Abby or Alex [Morgan] and their back line dropped so far that I put my head down and took the shot," said Cheney, who replaced Independence forward Amy Rodriguez in the 61st minute. "We were so successful getting in the box and getting chances inside that I don't think their goalie was expecting a shot from that far out."
Mexico keeper Ceci Santiago kept her team in the game, making several impressive saves. Her best in the first half was a diving save on a Shannon Boxx header.
In the second half, Santiago stopped Carli Lloyd's shot from six yards out on an angle from the left side.
"I thought we played really well and created a ton of chances, we just didn't find the back of the net until the end," said Lloyd, a two-time Inquirer South Jersey player of the year from Delran during her high school days.
That could be a concern for the United States, which last won the World Cup in 1999. In this year's tournament, two-time defending champion and host Germany remains the favorite, and there are several other teams that could cause problems in a deeper field.
Sundhage conceded that the team has to shoot more from distance to keep defenses honest.
"Long-range shots add another dimension," Sundhage said.
Still, after the game, she was almost giddy, grabbing a microphone and singing to the crowd, "You can't start a fire without a spark," a line from Bruce Springsteen's "Dancing in the Dark."
If the U.S. team doesn't capitalize better on scoring chances in the World Cup, the coach will be singing a much different tune.