In front of a capacity crowd of 51,176 at Olympic Stadium in Montreal, Canada, the United States Women’s National Team defeated Germany, 2-0, in the semifinals of the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup. With the win, the U.S. advances to its second straight Women’s World Cup final to face Japan on July 5 in Vancouver, British Columbia.
The first half saw both teams pressing and creating chances but it was the U.S. that dominated the half, calling Germany’s Nadine Angerer into action on two point-blank saves. The first came on a Julie Johnston header in the 7th minute when she headed a Megan Rapinoe corner kick toward goal but Angerer was there to make the kick save.
In the 15th minute, Angerer was again called upon, denying Alex Morgan who had been played through on a well-weighted ball from Tobin Heath.
There was a scary moment for both teams after a head-to-head collision between Alexandra Popp and Morgan Brian. Both players stayed down for a few minutes but returned to the game. Popp had a nasty cut from the collision and the team’s medical staff bandaged her head before she continued play.
Neither team was able to convert on its chances and went into halftime with the score deadlocked at zero.
It was the most dominant half of the tournament for the U.S. At times, all 10 field players were in Germany’s half, something not seen in the group stage when the team often hung back. Germany, as it did against France, absorbed the pressure and as the half wore on, started to assert itself.
In the second half, it was a tale of two penalties.
Julie Johnston brought down Alexandra Popp in the penalty area in the 59th minute. Referee Teodora Albon issued Johnston a yellow, not red, card and pointed to the spot. Célia Šašić missed the resulting penalty wide left.
Less than 10 minutes later, Annike Krahn was whistled for a foul against Morgan and the referee awarded a penalty kick though on replay, it looked as though the foul occurred outside of the box. Carli Lloyd stepped up to take it, and buried the shot to put the U.S. up, 1-0.
In the 84th minute, Lloyd took a Meghan Klingenberg pass and made her way to the endline, cutting back to cross the ball across the face of the goal to find Kelley O’Hara flying in from the right side. The right-footed tap-in was O’Hara’s first career goal for the national team and sealed the victory for the U.S.
The U.S. back line extended its shutout streak to 513 straight minutes, making it the longest clean sheet run in the U.S. World Cup history. It was also Solo’s 10th clean sheet in World Cup matches.
Formation-wise, U.S. head coach Jill Ellis employed a 4-2-3-1-ish, putting Morgan as the lone striker and using Lloyd as a withdrawn forward. Allowing Lloyd to play up the field grants her the freedom to create and the U.S. is better going forward with her attacking. Morgan Brian and Lauren Holiday held defensively with Rapinoe and Heath on the outside.
Alex Morgan isn’t finishing her chances, but she’s creating them for herself and her team mates. And she’s rounding into form at just the right time. Her timing has improved with each game and she’s taking on players, such as Annike Krahn.
A lot has been made — and rightly so — of Julie Johnston’s emergence. But don’t forget about the others on the back line. Klingenberg has grown throughout the tournament and Ali Krieger has shown how effective she can be in creating goal-scoring opportunities if given the chance and cover to get forward. And then there is Becky Sauerbrunn, without whom, this back line wouldn’t be carrying a 513-minute shut out streak into the final. Sauerbrunn has been a consistent and steadying force in the middle. It’s the little things Sauerbrunn does, and no one does them better:
The midfield is coming into its own. Much derided during the group stage, the U.S. midfield has progressed with each knockout round. Throwing Morgan Brian in there for defensive cover lets Lloyd push up where she’s the most effective and frees up Lauren Holiday as well. Inserting O’Hara into the midfield has paid dividends: two goals in two games form. O’Hara is an attacker and inserting her late in games to terrorize tired defenses is a smart move. Megan Rapinoe remains the most creative and pairing her with Tobin Heath on the opposite side stretches defenses.
FIFA Live Your Goals Player of the Match: Carli Lloyd (USA)
All images courtesy of Cynthia Hobgood.
[divider]About the Photographer[/divider]
Cynthia Hobgoodis a Washington, DC-based digital communications consultant, photographer and writer. Hobgood started covering soccer as a journalist in 2000 for weekly/daily publications and ultimately, the Associated Press (while also covering other pro and NCAA sports primarily in the DC area.) She previously helped launch a national youth sports nonprofit and started Full 90 Communications earlier this year. Hobgood has a master’s degree in sports management from The George Washington University School of Business and master of arts degree in English from Baylor University.