Saturday, August 16, 2008

USA Women Through to Semis After Beating Canada 2-1 + Preview Of Semifinals

USA Women Olympic Match Report from du Nord reader Adam.

-Fri Aug 15
USA 2-1 Canada

After a marathon match that included a rain delay and extra-time, the US emerged from the quarterfinals victorious over regional rivals Canada.

The US took the lead in the 12th minute when Angela Hucles tapped in a header from Heather O'Reilly. Amy Rodriguez started the play, crossing the ball from the corner to O'Reilly. O'Reilly headed the ball across the face of Canada's goal, and keeper Erin McLeod lost control of the ball. Hucles had no trouble scoring from close range.

Like it's previous two matches, the US started aggressively. An hour and a half lightening delay, though, helped the Canucks overcome the American's pace. Once the action picked up after the delay, Canada wasted little time in finding an equalizer. Carli Lloyd flubbed a tackle at the top of the US box. Canada's star striker Christine Sinclair touched the ball wide of Christie Rampone and fired a shot past the diving Hope Solo.

The game remained tied for the rest of regulation. Canada rarely found its way into the USA's end of the field, thanks to a tight, compact US defense. On offense, the US had several opportunities to go ahead but couldn't find the back of the net. Hucles and Rodriguez each squandered chances to put the US ahead. Perhaps the best chance came in the 93rd minute, just before the end of regulation, when Lloyd's through ball found Rodriguez alone against Canada's back-up keeper Karina LeBlanc. Rodriguez shot low and hard, but LeBlanc tipped the ball outside the post for a corner.

US coach Pia Sundhage inserted Natasha Kai at the beginning of the first extra-time. The Hawaiian quickly troubled the Canadian defense with her speed. Looking more composed than she had in previous Olympic matches, Kai narrowly missed on a one-on-one opportunity against LeBlanc. She also fed substitute Lauren Cheney a great ball that Cheney hit wide. In the 100th minute of the match, Kai proved her worth, heading home a cross from Shannon Boxx.

Against Canada, the US looked better than it has all tournament. Though not as pretty as Brazil on attack or as consistent as Germany on defense, the US' performance was enough to get the team past a determined Canadian side. Defensively, aside from Canada's goal, the US shut down the Canuck's offense and midfield. Kate Markgraf had her best game in a long time. Thankfully, she didn't constantly boot the ball up field. Instead, she and the other three defenders tried to maintain possession and pass the ball out of the back. If no options were available, the defenders didn't hesitate to pass back to Solo.

Ultimately, the US looked patient; they tried to find the right time to attack Canada and made every effort to find rhythm and work the ball through midfield. If the team continues to keep possession, not take wild shots or make errant passes, it should find its way to the gold medal game.


USA vs. Japan

In the group stage of the tournament, the US beat Japan 1-0 on a Carli Lloyd strike. Japan had its chances to score though. The US gave far too much time and space to the Japanese, who shredded the American defenders with quick passes and runs. If the US defense plays like it did against Canada, it should be able to break up Japan's organized offense. However, if the defense is lax like it was the first time these two teams met, Japan will punish the United States. Japan gained confidence after beating Norway 5-1 and knocking hosts China out, 2-0, and it will certainly make them a threat the US cannot take lightly.

Brazil vs. Germany

In another replay of a group stage match, and of last summer's World Cup final, the flamboyant, offensive-minded Brazilians play the technical, machine-like Germans. Brazil's top three players, Cristiane, Daniela, and the ubiquitous Marta have scored all of the team's goals so far in the Olympics. If Germany wants to move on to the gold medal game, the defense will have to control these three players. The Germans, led by keeper Nadine Angerer, didn't allow a goal in the World Cup last summer and haven't allowed one yet in this tournament. Germany's discipline should allow it to keep the Brazilians in check for awhile. However, if Birgit Prinz and the German offense continue to struggle in front of goal, Brazil will eventually break down the German wall.


Anonymous NikeBOots said...

USA soccer ladies is the semis favorite...

11:47 AM  

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