Tuesday, June 23, 2015

At the FIFA Women's World Cup 2015: It's win and go on or lose and go home for the Americans

At the FIFA Women's World Cup 2015 / More than 50,000 fans --
mostly Americans -- cheer on Team USA against Nigeria at B.C. Place 

in Vancouver, B.C., Canada  on June 16.

The United States national football team advanced to the FIFA Women's World Cup 2015 quarterfinals with a 2-0 victory Monday evening over Colombia. The Americans wore down an inferior opponent, Las Chicas Superpoderosas as the Columbians are nicknamedwhich played much of the second half with just 10 players, in this elimination-round match at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton, Alberta.

The U.S. victory was a bit of a mixed-bag performance just like its other wins earlier in the month-long World Cup tournament being contested across the Canadian provinces from New Brunswick back east to British Columbia out west. I had the pleasure of witnessing Team USA's 1-0 triumph over Nigeria last week in Vancouver, B.C., with my wife and our longtime friends from Seattle, along with more than 50,000 -- mostly American -- football enthusiasts.

On Friday, the second-ranked Americans will face China for the first time at a World Cup since the July 1999 final, when Brandi Chastain buried a penalty kick at the Rose Bowl that brought the U.S its most recent title. Although the U.S. has dominated China in recent years -- undefeated in 24 matches dating to 2003 -- it hasn't escaped the shadow of 1999, a 16-year drought in which the Americans haven't managed to win another World Cup.

Megan Rapinoe / Team USA's midfielder
arguably has been their best player, but

will miss Friday's quarterfinal against China.
The U.S. will be without midfielder Megan Rapinoe, arguably its best player of the tournament, who has received one too many yellow cards in this World Cup. Ditto for midfielder Lauren Holiday. With the unsteady play of 35-year-old striker and all-time leading scorer Abby Wambach, who has blamed the artificial turf for her uneven performance, don't be surprised if coach Jill Ellis calls upon attackers Sydney Leroux and Christen Press, if she opts for the U.S. to play a pressing style. Some critics -- validly -- have argued that the U.S. offense hasn't been clicking, hasn't shown fluidity.

With 25 years' worth of World Cup experience on its roster, one thing Team USA has going for it is a stingy defense anchored by the outstanding play of goal keeper Hope Solo. For all the well-documented problems related to domestic violence she's faced off the field, on it she's been steady and focused, not surrendering a goal in the past 333 minutes since early in the first game against Australia.

Hope Solo /
Team USA's controversial goal keeper has not allowed
a goal in over 300 minutes. She has recorded three
consecutive shut outs. 
If the U.S. is to reach the last four and earn a return trip to Vancouver, site of next week's final, it needs to generate more offense. Whether it's been the result of being too predictable or uptight, six goals in four matches is not much for the Americans to gloat about. After a nice beginning, a 3-1 victory against Australia, the U.S. played to a 0-0 tie against Sweden and followed it with a 1-0 win over Nigeria. Meanwhile, quarterfinalists Germany has 19 goals and France 9. Those two teams, which meet later this week in Montreal, are on the same side of the bracket as the U.S. On the other side of the draw, there's host Canada, Australia, England and defending World Cup champion Japan.

Hopefully, the U.S. can find an offensive spark against China on Friday in Ottawa. Alex Morgan has shown much promise since returning from an injury,  and she scored one of the two U.S. goals against Colombia. There's not much room for error and, going forward, it's survival of the fittest. After all, the stakes have increased.

Team USA's Abby Wambach / "We're still a work in progress."
"There's no doubt in my mind that we'll be peaking at the right moment," midfielder Carli Lloyd recently said. "And that's the most important thing."

Wambach added: "We're still a work in progress.  I don't want to be peaking until we're standing on that top podium at the end of the tournament. That is the moment when everything comes together, when everything fits."

Now, it's win and go on or lose and go home for the Americans.

A postscript: On June 26 in Ottawa, Ontario, a Carli Lloyd header in the 51st minute enabled Team USA to beat China 1-0 and advance to next Tuesday's semifinal against top-seeded Germany. Earlier Friday in Montréal, Quebec, the top-seeded Germans prevailed over France on penalty kicks (5-4) after playing to a scoreless tie in overtime.

A second postscript: On Tuesday night in Montréal, Quebec, Carli Lloyd scored on a second-half penalty kick and assisted on another goal as Team USA defeated top-seeded Germany 2-0 to advance to Sunday's championship match. The U.S., which has not given up a goal in the past 513 minutes of World Cup play, will face Japan. It is a rematch of the 2011 championship game in Germany, in which Japan won on penalty kicks after playing to a 2-2 draw. The U.S. owns a 21-4-6 advantage over Japan.

A final postscript: A stunning first-half hat trick by Carli Lloyd in the game's first 16 minutes enabled the U.S. to beat rival Japan 5-2 to secure the 2015 Women's World Cup championship. It was the third World Cup title for the U.S. and first since 1999.

All photos by Michael Dickens © 2015. 


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  2. That's great you got the chance to watch it live from the stadium!!! ...and the Stadiums are packed with Americans. when USA playing...that was a great goal from Amy Wambach against Nigeria... as a big fan of the USA team...I'm hoping they would make it all the way to the final. .. But the game against Colombia, I was bit skeptical. Colombia played extremely well. It's unfortunate that Rapinoe will be missing the next match. China is playing extremely good at the moment. But I think USA will have to raise their game against next opponents... If all is going well then they'll meet Germany in semi. On the other side, I think Japan will be having an easy ride till final... who knows whether its going to be a repeat of last times final !!!