Around this time last year, soccer fans in the United States were lamenting what could have been for the US men’s national team after their second consecutive elimination by Ghana in a world cup. This summer it is the US women’s chance to put the United States on the international soccer map again. The men’s best finish is the quarterfinals in 2002; the women have two world cups in 1991 and 1999. The new generation of female players has not kept the international cupboard bare either, as they are the defending gold medalists of the last two Olympics. Since the retirement of the world’s leading scorer Mia Hamm and the older generation of players, the women have not quite had the ability to get to the final on the biggest stage. With a new coach the players try once again to get back to their winning ways in the world cup.
The USA got through North Korea in their first match-up 2-0 after a shaky first half where they could not stop Korea from going at goal. Going into their second group phase match with a lesser, younger opponent in Colombia many expected them to display their goal scoring ability and soundly defeat them. In the end, it was about not only the goals but also how they played the game.
United States Dominate in All Facets
For the second match in a row US coach Pia Sundhage made an announced change in midfield deciding to leave out Shannon Boxx in favor of the more attacking Lori Lindsey. However, it was their defense and pressing that made the first goal happen. Heather O’ Reilly took advantage of a mistake by the Colombian defense and smacked the ball from 33 yards out, into the top corner of the net in the 12th minute. Afterwards, the US players stood together in a salute to the pro US crowd of over 25,000 in attendance. As many of the local US service members of the nearby army base attended the match in celebration of Fourth of July weekend.
Colombia is in their first world cup and it shows, as the way they played against Sweden did not work in this game. They looked nervous and after that first goal, it was a battle of wills. The US wanted to score badly to put the game away and Colombia had no answer going forward. Not to mention the US caused so many defensive mistakes that they hardly could have possession to attempt to go forward anyway.
Much was made of the change in midfield that coach Sundhage decided upon in the first game to start Lauren Cheney instead of Megan Rapinoe. She kept things the same for the second game and it worked out pretty well. In the 50th minute, Cheney and Rapinoe combined on the second goal, off a throw-in, Cheney made a little pass to the cutting Rapinoe, she makes one move to the right and blasts the ball into the upper reaches of the net. Rapinoe followed the celebratory theme grabbing the ESPN effects microphone and shouting Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA” into it. The US did not stop looking for the net and seven minutes later Carli Lloyd put the game away with her own goal to make it 3-0.
The US had a huge shot differential taking 27 to Colombia’s 12 and most of the possession in the game as well. Abby Wambach still has not scored a goal and though it may be bothering her internally, she is not showing it on the field. Wambach still gives her all through the entire game and gets in good positions to try score. The good thing about Wambach’s scoring drought is that their five goals have come from five different players. Four midfielders and a defender have been on the score sheet in this world cup for the US. It is a tad concerning that none of their strikers have scored yet,
Abby summed things up nicely by stating that scoring for her may not be as important. “If we win the cup I don’t care if I don’t score the whole tournament,” Wambach said.
Next up on Wednesday is the USA’s final group game with group co-leaders Sweden. The Swedes have not looked convincing in their first two games but it will not matter much if Sweden beats the US for the second time this year. Expect a tight game between these two as the USA only need a draw to win the group, it would be a big surprise to see the US win by more than one goal.