New England Soccer Today

Floodgates Open as U.S goes through

The U.S. Women’s National Team ensured that they will play in the Quarter-Finals of the World Cup after defeating Colombia 3-0 in Sinsheim, Germany on Saturday.  The U.S. maintained control for nearly the entirety of the match and were hardly tested by Colombia who, thanks to the loss, will will not participate in the knockout phase of the tournament along with North Korea.

The victory marks the first time that the U.S. has put up two consecutive shutouts to open up the World Cup.  Coach Pia Sundhage kept the line-up largely intact from the team that beat North Korea 2-0 on Tuesday, making just one change and inserting central midfielder Lori Lindsey in place of veteran Shannon Boxx. Sundhage also used her subs liberally in the second half to help limit key players’ minutes.

“It’s a long tournament and it’s not going to take 11 players; it’s going to take all 21 players,” said midfielder Carli Lloyd. “I think that’s what you saw today. You saw people come on and step up.”

The Lloyd-Boxx combination in midfield endured a difficult opening half against North Korea but started working fluidly in the second half.  But the Lindsey-Lloyd combination kept the ball moving and opened up space for the U.S, while helping shut down Colombia’s attack from the opening whistle.

“I don’t want to take anything away from Colombia; that was a really hard match,” said Lloyd. “They fought until the end and had some counterattacks. Overall as team we played really well and did some good things. I was in the middle with a different partner this game and thought that went well.”

The U.S. took the lead in just the 12th minute when Colombia surrendered possession to the U.S, who were pushed up high and hovering around the penalty area.  Heather O’Reilly took advantage of the giveaway, took a touch, and fired a blast from outside the penalty area that bent into upper left corner of the match.  The strike was O’Reilly’s third career World Cup goal and 31st all-time for the U.S.

“I remember us coming up with the ball after their goal kick,” said O’Reilly. “Pia has been emphasizing taking the space in front of you. I had that in mind, took a couple of touches and just shot it. I hit that sweet spot and let it rip. I knew it had a good chance, it was on frame and would be a tough one for the goalkeeper. Luckily it went side netting.”

The U.S continued their trend of performing better in the second half than in the first as they went on to score two goals just twelve minutes after halftime.  Boston Breakers midfielder Lauren Cheney took hold of possession off a long throw-in in the 50th minute and set up Megan Rapinoe at the top of the penalty area, who came on as a substitute .  Rapinoe fired first-time, sending the ball into the back of the net to double the U.S’ lead for her first World Cup goal.

“[I had] To be able to come on and provide energy,” said Rapinoe. “Pia and the assistants wanted me to give that spark and be active. I think I did a good job doing that and give our team some extra legs.”

Said Rapinoe of her goal, “I tried to get good, solid contact and luckily it went in the net.”

Then, the U.S scored another in the 57th minute through Carli Lloyd.  Lloyd got the ball off a cross from Boston Breakers midfielder Stephanie Cox, who came on for her Breakers teammate Amy LePeilbet in the 56th minute.  Lloyd controlled Cox’s pass and fired a shot at goal that bounced off the hands of Colombia’s Sandra Sepulvada and into the back of the net.

“As long as we create those chances I’m happy and we’ll put those away sooner or later, which we did in the second half,” said Sundhage. “We talked about crosses quite a bit [this week] but we scored all three goals on long range shots. That’s a good thing.”

Abby Wambach, who has so far played every minute of the World Cup as a forward, has struggled to score but had her shot in the 80th minute come off the outside of the post.

“Abby Wambach had a couple of chances and she didn’t put them away today,” added Sundhage. “She will before the tournament ends, I have no doubt in my mind. She’s a very experienced player. If you look how teams play against her it helps teammates around her. She will score a goal sooner or later.”

With the result, the U.S remains at the top of Group C, ahead of Sweden on goal differential.  The Swedes, who the U.S will play next, have struggled to score but have been impressive defensively.  The match against Sweden will be critical for both sides, as it could determine which side will play powerhouse Brazil in the Quarter-Finals.

“Overall there were three fantastic goals and we can now move on to focus our attention on Sweden,” said Lloyd. “We’ve played them a couple of times and we know what to expect. We just need to focus on the next game.”

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