TSG’s Maura Gladys on the USWNT
Going into the United States’ Group C match against Colombia, many were referring to the showdown as a statement match, where the U.S. needed to prove its dominance as a top team in the tournament.
The Stars and Stripes made not one, but three emphatic statements in its 3-0 win over the South American youngsters in Sinsheim.
The United States came out extremely fast and aggressive, creating scoring chances almost immediately, but failing to finish on gimme opportunities. Shades of the team’s performance against Mexico, where the team pounded on Mexico’s door for 91 minutes before Lauren Cheney finally blasted the game-winner, seeped through early in the match.
But the squad’s resident workhorse Heather O’Reilly ended the frustration just 12 minutes into the game. O’Reilly pounced on a poor clearance by Colombia, teed up from 32 yards out, and sent an absolute rocket into the upper inside netting.
Statement: We can score, and we can score convincingly.
The team finished off the goal with a salute to the crowd, which was populated with American military personnel stationed near Sinsheim.
Pia Sundhage shook thinks up at the start of the second half, sending in Megan Rapinoe for Amy Rodriguez. This allowed Lauren Cheney to push up to her natural position at striker and let Rapinoe assume the right winger spot. The move paid off, in the 50th minute when Cheney fed Rapinoe on a streaking run to the top of the box. Pinoe collected Cheney’s ball and drilled it into the top of the net.
Statement: Our squad is so deep, many subs and starters are interchangeable, and everyone can have an impact on the game.
Continuing the team’s patriotic-themed celebrations, Rapinoe raced to the mic by the corner flag and belted out a quick line of Springsteen’s “Born in the USA” for everyone to hear.
Just 7 minutes later, Carli Lloyd lofted an easy shot that bounced out of Colombian keeper Sandra Sepulveda’s hands into the net, putting the game out of reach. The goal was assisted by newly-substituted Stephanie Cox.
Statement: We have the versatility and goal-scoring ability needed to finish off games.
The game’s final two goals showcased both the depth of the bench, and the ability of the players to positively respond to Sundhage’s roster moves. Rapinoe looked sharp coming off the bench, and she linked up well with Cheney, the player who replaced her against North Korea. Lori Lindsey, who started over Shannon Boxx, also looked solid. Sundhage’s against looking like a master roster-manager. The players that she elevates to starter status from the bench are taking advantage of their opportunities, and substitutes coming off the bench are working hard to shine as well. Sundhage’s moves were somewhat risky, and could have backfired on her and created a divisive environment among the squad (something that may be happening with Germany’s team with the possible benching of Birgit Prinz.) Instead, each player is accepting their role, no matter what it is, and in doing so, creating a stronger team and a positive outcome.
Once the US had the game in hand, the spotlight shifted to Abby Wambach, who, despite several chances, failed to find the net. At this point, Wambach’s drought has progressed to a full-out scoring slump. She isn’t suffering a dip in form. She’s getting in good positions and setting up her teammates well, but she just hasn’t been able to find her scoring boots.
Some of today’s misses bordered on the absurd. A header off the defender’s back, a deflection off her shin that skids off the post. Just unlucky stuff. But other times, instead of going straight for the goal, she laid it off for a teammate to have a go. It’s an unselfish move, yes, but a move that lacks Wambach’s trademark killer instinct and nose for the goal.
The U.S. proved today that they don’t need to rely on Wambach to generate its offense, but as the tournament progresses, she’ll be needed to come up big in clutch moments.
Defensively, the United States played a high line all game, pushing all the way up to the midfield at times. It was almost burned a few times when Colombia’s Katerin Castro snuck behind the line and had a clear path to goal if not for Christie Rampone’s closing speed. The South American squad even netted a goal late in the first half, but it was called off sides thanks to a superb execution of the off sides trap by the US defense.
The U.S. takes on Sweden on Tuesday at 2:30 p.m. EST, in a battle for the top spot in Group C. The match should be a tougher test for the U.S. than its previous two matches, and a more accurate example of the level of talent that it will see in the quarterfinals.