New England Soccer Today

A Date with Destiny

Photo credit: John May/Prost Amerika

Photo credit: John May/Prost Amerika

The United States will be taking on Japan in the Women’s World Cup Final on Sunday, a rematch of the 2011 final which the latter emerged victorious from via penalties.

Although many of the key players from 2011 will be back for the encore, Sunday’s match may have a very different result. The matchup to watch is Aya Miyama against Hope Solo – Japan’s best attacking talent vs. the best goalkeeper in the world.

Miyama has found the net twice during the tournament from the penalty spot but she also has a pair of assists. She can run all day long up and down the field, and will be an important cog for Japan on both sides of the ball.

The U.S. will have a major advantage when it comes to the aerial war against Japan, a team that doesn’t have a ton of tall players. England enjoyed that same advantage during the semifinal, but failed to capitalize on this despite having a total of 13 set piece opportunities.

In light of that, the U.S. will need to capitalize on headers, much like they did against China when Carli Lloyd glanced one through to get the win. In essence, the U.S. needs to be the bully on everything and anything in the air.

In many respects, Japan was lucky to get past England on Wednesday. England hit the woodwork three times within a 10 minute span, and appeared to be the better team throughout. But the better team doesn’t always win, and Japan advanced thanks to a fortuitous own goal in stoppage time.

Another concern for the defending World Cup champs: they’ve struggled to score throughout the tournament, and have not scored more than two goals in any match. To date, the U.S. has only allowed one goal throughout the World Cup, a streak that dates back to their group stage opener against Australia.

But the U.S. knows that strong defense alone won’t do the trick. They must channel the same kind of quality and precision they exhibited against top-ranked Germany last week. If Jill Ellis’ squad plays against Japan the same way they did in the semifinal, they should come out of Sunday’s match as World Cup champions.

Prediction for the game: it may sound wildly optimistic, but I believe that the U.S. will crush Japan 3-0. The reason: Japan’s defense allowed England to push at them throughout last week’s semifinal, and hardly looked like a team that’s strong enough to match wits with the U.S.

For the Yanks, the semifinal win against Germany only instilled confidence in an attack that’s struggled to put away its chances. Oh, and they’ll have plenty of support behind them thanks to geography. Don’t be surprised if Sunday’s final has the look and feel of a home match for the U.S.

This will be a fun game to watch. There should be plenty of pace early on before it starts to settle around halftime. And if the U.S. can play to its full potential, it could become a lopsided affair during the second half.

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