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With strong second half, U.S. women top Group C by blanking North Korea in WWC opener.

Analysis

U.S. women secure berth in WWC quarterfinals by blanking Colombia.

By Robert Wagman
SoccerTimes

(Saturday, July 2, 2011) -- The United States women advanced to the Women's World Cup quarterfinals today with an easy 3-0 victory over Colombia in front of a pro-American crowd of 25,475, many from surrounding U.S. military bases at Rhein Neckar Stadium in Sinsheim, Germany .

Still, the Americans (2-0-0, six points) need to defeat or draw with Sweden (2-0-0) Wednesday to capture Group C and probably avoid Brazil, the expected Group D winner, in the quarterfinals.

The U.S. simply outclassed an overmatched Colombia. As opposed to its opening 2-0 victory over North Korea, the U.S. got off to a flying start and should have had at least a two-goal lead in the first 10 minutes if not for wasted chances. Some awful finishing, combined with good saves by Colombian goalkeeper Sandra Sepulveda, kept the match scoreless until the 12th minute when midfielder Heather O'Reilly took a Colombian giveaway five yards above the top right corner of the penalty area and used her first touch to rocket a right-footer into the top left corner of the net for a 1-0 lead.

The Americans' lack of finishing, not only today, but in the pre-World Cup run-up, has to concern U.S. coach Pia Sundhage. The U.S. had 18 shots against Colombia, many of them at open nets, but the match remained a one-goal affair until the 49th minute when substitute striker Megan Rapinoe scored one of the best goals of the tournament, running laterally just inside the top of the box before roofing her shot in full stride for a 2-0 advantage.

Sundhage, who could be seen holding her head after one U.S. missed chance, said she is not overly concerned: "It still was OK because we were creating chances."

The U.S. controlled play in the midfield with quickness to the ball and American attackers consistently found space and created chances. The U.S. defense, except in one instance in first-half stoppage time when Colombia netted a disallowed goal, ruled offside, easily controlled Colombia's attackers without much trouble.

Today was easy. Wednesday, against Sweden will be much harder, as will the quarterfinals and beyond. The Americans got their attack flowing today, but they must start finishing their chances or an early trip home might still be in the offing.


U.S. Player Ratings

Starters

Goalkeeper Hope Solo - 6: Made one great diving save in a game in which she otherwise had little to do. Moved around well in her area.

Defender Christie Rampone - 6: She used pace to cover a lot of ground and was sure in her clearances. A fine game.

Defender Ali Krieger - 6.5: Was solid on defense and able to move forward into the offense. With she and Rampone on the defense, the U.S. seems set in the back.

Defender Rachel Buehler - 5: She made errors and was lucky that the Colombians could not capitalize. She appears to have sufficient pace, but was beaten several times, including on a disallowed goal.

Defender Amy LePeilbet - 4: A second mediocre performance. Her clearances were not quick and sure. She is clearly the weakest of the American defenders.

Midfielder Lori Lindsey - 6: Newly inserted into the starting lineup, she began fast and was the best American in the first half. She slowed down after that.

Midfielder Carli Lloyd - 6.5:: A major factor in the midfield, she helped control play for the U.S. and scored a wonderful goal.

Midfielder Lauren Cheney - 6.5: Another dominant American midfielder who controlled play for long stretches. Her distribution was excellent and she helped create a number of U.S. chances.

Midfielder Heather O'Reilly - 7: Controlled play on the right side, often dropping back to help on defense. Scored a highlight-reel goal.

Forward Amy Rodriguez - 4: A very poor half. Her finishing was woeful and she did not move all that well off the ball. Deserved being removed just after intermission.

Forward Abby Wambach - 4: If there is another way not to score a goal, it's hard to believe she did not show it today. Woeful finishing does not do justice to her play today. She got herself into position to score time after time, but then was just inches off target.

Reserves

Midfielder Megan Rapinoe (48th minute for Rodriguez) - 7: On the field for just less than a half, she was then dominant, controlling much of the midfield and scoring a picture goal.

Defender Stephanie Cox (55th minute for LePeilbet) - 5.5: Was not asked to do much as Colombia pressed its attack elsewhere. Was calm and worked well with the rest of the back-line.

Midfielder Tobin Heath (61st minute for O'Reilly) - 6: Came on with pace on the outside. Took advantage late with tiring Colombians.

SoccerTimes U.S. Player of the Match: Megan Rapinoe.


Robert Wagman is SoccerTimes senior correspondent.

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