U.S. women squelch China, advance to World Cup semifinal with Germany.
By Robert Wagman
(Friday, June 26, 2015) -- The United States women played their best match of the FIFA Women's World Cup tonight, using midfielder Carli Lloyd's header early in the second half to defeat China 1-0 in front of a capacity 24,141 who witnessed the quarterfinal at sold-out Lansdowne Stadium in the Canadian capital of Ottawa.
The U.S., ranked No. 2 by world governing body FIFA, faces top-ranked Germany in a Tuesday night semifinal at Olympic Stadium in Montreal at 7 p.m. (ET), televised by Fox. Germany played a 1-1 draw with France for 120 minutes before prevailing in tiebreaking penalty kicks 5-4.
Defending champion Japan squeezed by Australia 1-0 and will take on England, a 2-1 winner over Canada, in a Wednesday semifinal.
The U.S. dominated this match from start to finish, giving China few opportunities to score. Despite this overall domination, the Americans still could only score once, leaving them always in the position that one error could have been very costly.
The U.S. problem was the failure to finish. The most grievous example was striker Amy Rodriguez's flub in the second minute. Lloyd's through pass found Rodriguez as she raced into the center of the penalty area, one-on-one with goalkeeper Wang Fei. From 12 yards out, Rodriguez seemingly could have touched the ball around Wang and had an shot opportunity into an open net. Instead, the natural left footer tried to use the outside of her right boot to curve the ball into the top left corner of the net. She missed 10 yards wide.
Defender Ali Krieger hit the crossbar in the 83rd minute and reserve midfielder missed just wide six minutes later. Both were chances that should have been converted.
The turning point came in the 51st minute when central defender Julie Johnston, consistently the Americans' best performer throughout this tournament, set up the game's only goal. Flank defender Meghan Klingenberg sent a free kick slightly backwards to Johnston, just to the right of the center circle from where she launched a long ball to the penalty spot. Lloyd, playing in her 200th international match, elevated over Zhao Rong and drove a hard header on one hop, just inside the right post behind the outstretched hands of Wang.
Midfielders Lauren Holiday and Megan Rapinoe were suspended because of the accumulation of two yellow cards. Their replacements -- Kelly O'Hara and Morgan Brian -- both did well, adding some speed and punch that has been lacking.
Holiday and Rapinoe will both be available for Tuesday's semifinal against Germany.
Despite her early flub, Rodriguez, who got her first start in place of Abby Wambach, added pace and flair that has been absent from the front line and she was a constant pain to the Chinese back-line..
Once again, the U.S. defense was sturdy and keeper Hope Solo needed only to make routine stops. China only managed two shots on goal, easily corralled by Solo as the Americans stretched their streak to four clean sheets and 423 minutes without conceding a goal. Solo passes Briana Scurry for the most shutouts in U.S. history with 134.
The four defenders were flawless against China and the entire team stepped up for its best effort of the World Club, consistently closing down Chinese attackers and winning a large percentage of 50-50 balls
U.S. Player Ratings
Goalkeeper Hope Solo - 7: She has not allowed a goal in 423 minutes, but has not had to make a difficult save since the opening match against Australia. She manages her penalty area with confidence and, in turn, she inspires confidence.
Defender Ali Krieger -- 6: She played a strong two-way match. She hit the crossbar on a shot she should have buried.
Defender Meghan Klingenberg - 6.5: She moved forward often enough to be considered a key part of the U.S. attack..
Defender Becky Sauerbrunn - 6.5: She had no problem controlling China's attackers. Her passes out of the back were excellent in an overall strong performance.
Defender Julie Johnston - 7.5: One of the youngest players on the squad has emerged as consistently the best all-around American. She centered the U.S. back-line and often controlled balls in the Chinese half. Her pinpoint pass set up Lloyd's goal.
Midfielder Kelley O'Hara - 6: She was useful, generally staying wide on the flank and allowing the U.S. to open more of the field while forcing China to spread itself more than it would have liked. She left with a bloody nose.
Midfielder Morgan Brian - 7: For a supposed attacking midfielder, she help the Americans to their best defensive midfield showing of the tournament. She was excellent in an unaccustomed role.
Midfielder Carli Lloyd - 7: She did almost everything right. She penetrated deeper into the offensive end more than previously. She also scored with a powerful header, but her ball control could have been better. She had too many giveaways.
Midfielder Tobin Heath - 5: Another match in which she worked hard, but with little to show from the effort.
Forward Alex Morgan -5.5: Her performance opens questions about her fitness. Coming off a long injury layoff, she quickly looked tired and was not very effective creating chances for herself.
Forward Amy Rodriguez - 5: On one level, she was very good and active. She maintained a high work rate and was a constant problem for China's defense, but her failure to convert a wide open early chance was a dreadful error.
Midfielder Christen Press (61st minute for O'Hara) - 6: She played well coming on quickly for the injured O'Hara. She should have had a goal, but failed to convert.
Midfielder Heather O'Reilly (81st minute for Morgan) - 6: She finally got on the field and showed she can attack using pace down the side.
Forward Abby Wambach (86th minute for Krieger) - no rating: Brought in to help kill off the final minutes, she did it with aplomb. She showed she can play defense when called on.
SoccerTimes U.S. Player of the Match: Julie Johnston.
Robert Wagman is SoccerTimes senior correspondent.
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