New England Soccer Today

A Win is A Win

Photo credit: Denise McCooey

Photo credit: Denise McCooey

The United States won their first knockout game of the tournament in Monday’s 2-0 victory over Colombia, making them one of two countries – including Germany – to advance to the quarterfinals at every Women’s World Cup.

Even though they grabbed the victory, the US had a pedestrian first half. Abby Wambach had an early effort called back for offside, though the way she went in and tackled the ball out of keeper Catalina Perez’s mitts demonstrated to me that she was willing to fight for a goal. It was one of the two offside calls to go against the U.S., which was a marked improvement after the seven calls they saw against Nigeria last week. That said, the passing was weak for both teams during the first half.

The first half was a loss for the U.S. The only two American players at risk of losing for next match – Megan Rapinoe and Laruen Holiday – both picked up their second yellow cards, and as a result, must sit out Friday’s quarterfinal against China.

Things really took off for the U.S. after the break. In the 47th minute, Perez made a high tackle on Alex Morgan at the edge of the box, and was given a red card. Making matters worse, a penalty kick was awarded to the U.S. Wambach stepped up to take the shot and missed wide left – clearly not the kind of finishing you expect from a player of her quality.

Despite the miss, the U.S. still had an personnel advantage, and were pitted against Colombia’s third-string keeper, Stefany Castano, who was elevated to backup duty before the match due to top-choice keeper Sandra Sepulveda’s one-game ban. And the U.S. did well to capitalize.

In the 53rd minute, Morgan scored a goal near post after her shot skimmed off of Castano’s hand. The Colombian keeper was in the right position to make the save, but it was the kind of shot that a better keeper would have stopped. It was mildly surprising that Morgan took the shot instead of passing to her three teammates standing wide open between the penalty spot and the goal. Even so, the fact that she took the shot showed her confidence is there. The goal was reminiscent of the one Landon Donovan scored during the 2010 World Cup against Slovenia. Both players opted for the near post shot instead of passing, and in both cases, it worked out for the U.S.’s benefit.

The U.S. earned another penalty in the 65th minute after Rapinoe was cut down inside the box, and Carli Lloyd stepped up and put it down the middle to give the US a 2-0 lead. The U.S. remained dangerous in the box, and Colombia’s only answer seemed to be to foul. It was a glaring shift from what we saw in the first half, when Colombia pressed the U.S. with dangerous passes and high pressure.

Rapinoe’s attitude during the match left much to be desired. There were several occasions where she was forced off of the ball and should have been awarded a foul. She went to ground easy, and complained about it more than once. She could take a page from Wambach’s book here. Wambach was tackled from behind, pushed around and fouled, too, during the game. But she did not complain to the referee about i,t and just continued to play on. Often, this leads to a better relationship with the referees, and generally gets you better calls.

The U.S. will take on China in the quarterfinals on Friday at 7:30 PM – a rematch of the 1999 final, which the U.S. memorably won on penalties.

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