Wambach goal, Johnston stop power U.S. women to WWC Group D title, Round of 16.
By Robert Wagman
(Tuesday, June 16, 2015) -- The United States women continued to be ineffective on offense, registering just a single goal, but it was enough to defeat Nigeria 1-0 before 52,193 in Vancouver's BC Place today. The victory allowed the U.S. to finish first at 2-0-1 with seven points in the Women's World Cup Group D and advance to the Round of 16.
The lone U.S. goal came on the final play of the first half when striker Abby Wambach hit a left-footed volley off midfielder Megan Rapinoe's right-side corner kick to the far post. This was unusual in that Wambach more often uses her head to finish in these situations.
The Americans dominated the match and spent much of it trying to break down Nigeria's bunkered. Nigeria, in turn, only threatened occasionally with quick counters, attempting to take advantage of its speed. The U.S. defended these well giving up only two shots on goal, neither dangerous at all and both easily handled by Hope Solo.
The best save came in the 25th minute from central defender Julie Johnston, who used an angled, sliding tackle to block Nigeria midfielder Asisat Oshoala chance to provide her side a lead.
After two sluggish performances, the U.S. showed a bit more life at times. It certainly tried to attack, especially in the first half. One U.S. apparent goal, in the eighth minute by Johnston, off a pass from Wambach, was disallowed on a questionable offside call. The Americans were flagged offside seven times.
The Americans seemed to play very conservatively. Whenever Nigeria had a corner or a free kick in its attacking half, the U.S. would send all 11 players into the penalty area. When the U.S. controlled the ball, as it did every time, there was no American attacker on top to pass the ball to.
In the 69th minute, the U.S. went a player up when Nigerian defender Sara Nnodim was shown a second yellow card, but the Americans really did not take advantage of the extra player, seeming content to control the ball, stay out of danger, and wait for the final whistle.
The big news for the U.S. was the pairing of Wambach and Alex Morgan as the strikers. In the past, the two worked well together and they did so to a degree, though neither could really take advantage of the other's skills. They did show signs of the old partnership coming alive again.
The U.S. will continue its stay in western Canada playing its Round-of-16 match Monday in Edmonton against a third-place finisher from Group B, E or F, at Commonwealth Stadium at 8 p.m. (ET).
U.S. Player Ratings
Goalkeeper Hope Solo - 6.5: She only made a pair of easy saves but she patrolled her area well, organized her defense and generally had her usual strong match.
Defender Meghan Klingenberg - 7: She faced several speedy attackers and was never beaten. Most of her passes from the back were well made. On occasion, she was able to move forward into the attack.
Defender Becky Sauerbrunn - 6.5: She was solid on defense, making few missteps. When she ran down reserve forward Desire Oparanozie in the 68th minute, she showed she had the pace to say with any attacker.
Defender Julie Johnston - 7.5: The defender was a key player in the U.S. attack and had an apparent early goal disallowed on a questionable offside call. On defense had some problems with Oshoala's pace, but was never beaten. Her stop on Oshoala's attempt from inside the box prevented the Americans their first deficit of the tournament. Overall, she was again the best U.S. player.
Defender Ali Krieger - 6.5: She faced quite a bit of pace by Nigeria down the flanks, but was never beaten in a strong performance.
Midfielder Megan Rapinoe - 6: She sent the cross for Wambach to convert into the match's only goal. She had a strong first half, but seemed to run out of gas as the second half unfolded and was ready to come out when she did in the 58th minute.
Midfielder Lauren Holiday - 5: She was better than she was against Sweden, making some good plays, though she also saw a number of her passes go astray. She needs to be more consistent.
Midfielder Carli Lloyd - 5: She was another player with consistency problems. At times, she was very good, but at other times much less so. She, too, improved her performance over her previous effort against Sweden.
Midfielder Tobin Heath - 5: She was given the start to bring more possession and calm to the U.S. midfield. In this, she was a failure. She had a few good plays, but too often made hurried passes that did not reach their mark.
Forward Alex Morgan - 5.5: In her first start since her knee injury in April, she did fine, especially early in the second half when she led some of the best U.S. attacks. She slowed noticeably and was ready to come out by the hour mark.
Forward Abby Wambach - 5.5: Her goal was well taken, but she misfired on several headers. She played the entire match, but also slowed as the second half unfolded.
Midfielder Sydney Leroux (66th minute for Morgan) - 5: She was sent in to give the Americans a spark, but was less than successful. She looked to be bothered by Nigeria's physical play more than most of her teammates.
Midfielder Shannon Box (58th minute for Rapinoe) - 5: The World Cup veteran did not leave much of a mark on the match and sent her best chance well wide.
Midfielder Christie Rampone (80th minute for Heath) - 5: Another Cup veteran, she showed she could still keep up with the pace of the match, if for only ten minutes. A week from her 40th birthday, she became the oldest player ever to appear in a Women's World Cup.
SoccerTimes U.S. Player of the Match: Julie Johnston.
Robert Wagman is SoccerTimes senior correspondent.
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