New England Soccer Today

Old Foes Meet Again

Photo credit: John May/Prost Amerika

Photo credit: John May/Prost Amerika

Friday’s U.S.-China quarterfinal is a rematch of the 1999 Women’s World Cup Final, which many will recall the U.S. winning won on Brandi Chastain’s clinching penalty. But while the U.S. has had a lasting run as a top 5 team since, China has fallen on harder times. They are now ranked 16th in the world.

China has gotten to the quarterfinals much the same way the U.S. has, with solid defense and little offense. They scored three goals in during the Group stage, and managed a 1-0 defeat of Cameroon in the knockout round. On the other end of the pitch, China has only allowed two goals this tournament, both of which came in their 2-2 draw with New Zealand. They play a pack-the-box style defense where they put nine or 10 women behind the ball to shut down an opponent’s attack.

China will look to play a counter attack offense, which could hurt the U.S. The Americans should maintain a majority of the possession in their half of the field, but quick counters from Wang Shanshan and Wang Lisi should be a primary concern for Jill Ellis and her squad.

The U.S. will be playing without the familiar faces of Megan Rapinoe and Lauren Holiday as both picked up their second yellow cards of the tournament last match, and are forced to miss this one. Holiday is a replaceable. The U.S. has other players on the team who can fill her role. But Rapinoe’s absence is going to hurt the flow of offense. Almost every attack goes through her, and she makes the decision if the ball goes wide to Ali Krieger or up top to Abby Wambach and Alex Morgan.

The U.S. should win this match – they’re simply better in the air, and they have a defense right now that isn’t allowing goals either. The real concern will be if this match is a battle of the defenses, we may see extra time, and as U.S. supporters know, anything can happen when the clock extends beyond 90 minutes.

At the beginning of this tournament, most thought Christen Press was going to be a breakout player. However, she hasn’t proven that and it doesn’t look like she’ll see much time if any next match. Amy Rodriguez and Sydney Leroux are two players who may see significant minutes this next match.

The quarterfinals are usually the time in which things start getting a little nervy for the U.S. supporters. As a dominant power in women’s football, they’re supposed to win, and go out there and score and put up a clean sheet. But they haven’t put up many goals at all, Wambach is struggling, there are still questions about Alex Morgan’s health, and the team doesn’t seem to have anything going their way on offense.

Prediction for the match: The U.S. ekes out a 1-0 win, scoring on a set piece. Once again, the defense will be the star of the night for the U.S.

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