WINNIPEG, Manitoba — Meghan Klingenberg — not Hope Solo — made the biggest save of the night for the United States.
Klingenberg, a diminutive defender, leaped to head a shot by Sweden’s Caroline Seger. The ball hit the crossbar and caromed away from the goal.
Goal-line technology was used to confirm the ball never crossed the line.
The save in the 77th minute preserved the 0-0 draw with Sweden on Friday night in one of the most anticipated group-stage matches at the Women’s World Cup.
“Brilliant,” U.S. coach Jill Ellis said of Klingenberg’s heroics. “Believe it or not, we actually practice that.”
The match had been hyped beforehand as the showdown between the second-ranked United States and former coach Pia Sundhage, now coach of No. 5 Sweden. It did not disappoint in the furious second half.
Abby Wambach came off the bench, but her header in the 72nd minute was popped up and over the crossbar by Swedish goalkeeper Hedvig Lindahl.
A win would have assured the United States a spot in the knockout round as the Americans seek their third World Cup title, but first since 1999. The U.S. women advanced to the final four years ago in Germany, but lost to Japan on penalty kicks.
The United States has one more group stage match, on Tuesday in Vancouver, British Columbia, against Nigeria. Sweden heads to Edmonton, Alberta, for its final group match with Australia. The monthlong tournament, with an expanded field of 24 teams, is being played in six Canadian cities.
The U.S. leads the Group D standings with four points, following a 3-1 victory over No. 10 Australia in the opener. Sweden was surprised in its opener by No. 33 Nigeria, which erased a 2-0 halftime deficit for a 3-all tie.
Earlier Friday the Matildas defeated Nigeria 2-0.
Ellis tinkered with her lineup for the match against Sweden, starting 22-year old Morgan Brian while Wambach was on the bench.
Wambach did give the U.S. a spark after entering in the 68th minute, but couldn’t get past Lindahl, who was named player of the match.
Klingenberg, who is just 5-foot-2, saved Seger’s shot while Solo was on the other side of the goal.
“That was something we practiced this week,” Klingenberg said. “I know that when Hope slides across, I need to tuck in and make sure I’m in position. Luckily I did and I was able to make the play when I needed to.”
Klingenberg, who played for a Swedish club team and is friends with many of the players she faced in the game, exchanged jerseys with Seger following the match.
“She said, ‘Are you serious?”’ Klingenberg laughed.
Lindahl watched the key play unfold from the other end.
“I did think: goal-line technology, c’mon!” she said. “But it wasn’t close, actually.”
Lindahl came up with her first big save of the match when she leaped to pop Carli Lloyd’s shot up and over the bar early in the second half.
Solo leaped to stop Therese Sjogran’s hard shot from far out in the 54th minute but it sailed over her fingertips and over the bar.
Solo started in goal for the United States as off-field incidents continue to haunt her. The United States opened played the day after an ESPN report revealed new details about her arrest last June in Washington state on domestic violence charges. The charges were dismissed earlier this year.
Sundhage was head coach of the United States for five years, guiding the team to two Olympic gold medals and the World Cup final in Germany. It was the first time the Americans had advanced to the final since winning it all in 1999.
Sundhage left after the 2012 London Olympics and returned home to coach her native Sweden’s national team.
Adding to the buildup for the match, one of the most anticipated of the group stage, was a story about Sundhage earlier in the week in The New York Times. In it, Sundhage was quoted as saying that Lloyd was a challenge to coach and she suggested she wouldn’t start Wambach at this point in the popular veteran’s career. She said Solo was one of the most challenging players she had coached, “especially when it comes to trouble.”
She talked about those statements before the match, saying the interview occurred back in April and she certainly was not trying to taunt the U.S. team.
The World Cup is being played as FIFA deals with an ongoing corruption scandal sparked by the U.S. Department of Justice indictment of 14 people with racketeering, wire fraud, money laundering and other offenses. Swiss prosecutors are leading a separate probe into the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bidding contests.
FIFA President Sepp Blatter, who is not at the tournament, announced last week that he plans to step down once an election is held for a successor.
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