Despite wasting chances, U.S. blanks New Zealand, faces Canada in Olympics semis.
By Robert Wagman
(Friday, August 3, 2012) -- The United States women advanced to 2012 Olympics semifinals with a relatively easy 2-0 triumph over New Zealand before a sparse crowd in Newcastle, England.
The U.S. next faces long-time rival Canada, a 2-0 upset winner over England. The 2:45 p.m. (ET) match at Old Trafford in Manchester will be televised by NBC Sports Network.
The U.S. is "a winning team, so they've been living with the pressure," said American coach Pia Sundhage. "I just look at the team and it feels like they perform under pressure. They like the pressure. The harder it is, the more you get out of the team."
The U.S. women seem to be developing the same affliction that has bedeviled the American men for the past several years -- the inability to finish. The U.S. should have been able to put away today's match well before the interval, but settled for a 1-0 lead. The advantage should have been at least a 3-0 given that striker Alex Morgan missed an empty net after rounding New Zealand goalkeeper Jenny Bindon and forward Abby Wambach could not steer a Megan Rapinoe cross into the empty left corner of the net, coupled with her inability to get several clear headers on frame.
That this was a one-goal match going into the final 10 minutes was a bit frightening, given the American dominance. The official score sheet says the Kiwis had eight shots, four of which were on goal, but those four were all from distance and handled routinely by U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo, who earned her third straight clean sheet with the most minimum of effort.
On offense, New Zealand tried to run past the U.S. defense, but to little avail. Both the American midfield and defense was easily fast enough to deal with what was coming at them.
Canada is 3-43-5 (.088) all-time record against the U.S. and has not won in the series since 2001. The last time the two nations played, the Americans won 2-1 in Toronto in June.
U.S. Player Ratings
Goalkeeper Hope Solo - 7: Another day with little to do, but again, she made no missteps while she kept the defense in front of her well-organized.
Defender Amy LePeilbet - 6.5: Possibly her best game of the Olympics. She was stellar on defense although her distribution, at times, was suspect.
Defender Christie Rampone - 6.5: She is the quickest U.S. defender and her pace was a big plus in back. A very strong defensive effort.
Defender Rachel Buehler - 6.5: Her best match of the Olympics. She was solid on defense and able to connect with the attack, using the long ball out of the back.
Defender Kelley O'Hara - 6: A good, possibly great day. Her strength is how well she works with those around her. She is a dependable defender.
Midfielder Megan Rapinoe - 6.5: She was very good in the first half, but started to fade after intermission. She looked ready to come out by the 70th minute.
Midfielder Carli Lloyd - 6: She worked very hard, but did little to distinguish herself. Her fitness was a big plus near the end.
Midfielder Tobin Heath - 7.5: A terrific two-way game. She was involved in the offense all day, including the key pass on the second goal, while also working well with Cheney on the defensive end. Her pace was a big plus for the Americans.
Midfielder Lauren Cheney - 7: She was a dominating presence in midfield. Did yeoman's work on defense, while also providing good linking passes.
Forward Alex Morgan - 6.5: Some great passing and some fine defensive work, but her finishing was awful, so an uneven performance
Forward Abby Wambach - 6.5: An up-and-down performance. Scored the go-ahead goal, almost by accident, was the dominant presence up front, but could easily have had a hat trick.
Midfielder Heather O'Reilly (71st minute for Rapinoe) - 6: In the late going, she did quite a bit to help kill off the match when the score was still 1-0, but she blew a big set-up with an awful first touch.
Forward Sydney Leroux, (80th minute for Morgan) - 7.5: A 10-minute appearance, but long enough to put the game out of reach, threaten several other times, while she dropped back to play some defense. A starter?
Midfielder Amy Rodriguez (91st minute for Lloyd) - no rating: A time-wasting substitution.
SoccerTimes Player of the Match: Tobin Heath.
Robert Wagman is SoccerTimes senior correspondent.
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