New England Soccer Today

Put Up or Shut Up

Photo credit: Debby von Winckelmann

Photo credit: Debby von Winckelmann

How will the U.S. keep its dream of lifting the World Cup trophy alive?

After winning Group D last week, the answer to that question will become clearer during Monday’s Round of 16 match against Colombia, which finished third in Group F with a 1-1-1 record. They beat France, drew against rival Mexico, and lost to England, another contender who ended up on the other side of the bracket.

The U.S. have beaten Colombia in their last two encounters during major tournaments. Rest assured, there is no love between these two teams. The last time Abby Wambach was on the field against Colombia, she was sucker punched in the eye by Andreda in the run of play, the referees all missed the it. Wambach scored later on in the game, but she and others on the team were still livid after the game. Andreda said that she is not worried about retaliation, and that it’s just part of playing the game.

Colombia will be without their star goalkeeper Sandra Sepulveda, who picked up her second yellow card of the tournament in their third Group stage game. All players who currently hold a yellow card will be wary of picking up a second one. After the Round of 16, all yellows are wiped from the slate, which is good news for Megan Rapinoe and Lauren Holiday, both of whom are carrying cautions heading into Monday’s game. If the U.S. is ahead in the second half, look for both of these players to be taken off.

The gameplan for the U.S. will be similar to the one employed against Nigeria. They will probably start Wambach and Alex Morgan up top. They will look for quick 1-2 passes that the U.S. wasn’t getting with Christen Press and Sydney Leroux as the featured forward tandem. Yes, Wambach looked tired at the end of last match, but she’s had a week to rest up, so we might see a full 90 from her – that is if she doesn’t get punched in the face again.

Monday’s match will be chippy, and that works toward the U.S.’s advantage. If they can get some set pieces around the box, look for Rapinoe to capitalize. Wambach and Morgan will be big targets in the air and backup keeper Stefany Castano won’t be as comfortable as Sepulveda between the sticks.

One thing the U.S. has to do is stay onside. Repeat: stay onside. It’s not bad to be caught offside on a couple of occasions, but if the flag continues to be raised time and time again, as it did during the Nigeria game, it only leads to more frustration. Coach Jill Ellis recognizes that one goal probably won’t be enough to guarantee moving on. As such, more curled runs by Morgan and Wambach will be in order to avoid the flag. If they make those runs to stay even with defenders, Wambach can shield any defender when she shoots.

Prediction: the U.S. wins 3-0. With any luck, Morgan and Wambach get some goals and confidence heading into the latter stages. The backline of Ali Krieger, Julie Johnston, Becky Sauerbrunn, and Meghan Klingenberg have been the real stars for the U.S., and I don’t see anyone on Colombia running through and scoring.

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