U.S. women thwart Germany, return to World Cup title match on Sunday.
By Robert Wagman
(Tuesday, June 30, 2015) -- With a little bit of luck and an exceptional effort, the United States women moved to their second consecutive FIFA Women's World Cup final with a decisive 2-0 semifinal victory with over Germany before a very pro-American crowd of 51,176 tonight under the dome of Olympic Stadium in Montreal.
The U.S. advanced to Friday's 7 p.m. (ET) championship match in Vancouver against the winner of the Wednesday semifinal between Japan and England. That game will be televised by Fox and Spanish-language Univision.
Germany entered with the most prolific attack in this tournament, but the U.S. defense yielded nothing, limiting Germany's to a single shot on goal. U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo recorded her fifth straight clean sheet and with her reliable defense, ran their streak to 513 minutes, the longest such American World Cup skein.
The U.S. absolutely dominated the first half and only the continuation of its poor finishing kept the Americans from perhaps a multi-goal lead by halftime. The U.S. should have gotten on the board as early as the seventh minute when a midfielder Megan Rapinoe left side kick corner dropped into the penalty area, but central defender Julie Johnston's header was denied with a left-footed save.
Germany started the second half strong and had the U.S. back on its heels, culminating in Johnston pulling down striker Alexandra Popp as both went for a bouncing ball in the box in the 59th minute.
Romanian referee Teodora Albon gave Johnston a yellow card and Germany a penalty kick. Germany had never missed a penalty kick in any World Cup, but Solo stalled the kick as long as possible, to the 63rd minute, and then dove to her left while German forward Celia Sasic missed wide of the other goalpost. The momentum of the game swung back to the Americans.
Germany visibly sagged after the miss and the U.S. again began to dominate. In the 69th minute, U.S. striker Alex Morgan streaked toward the left side of the box before she was taken down by defender Annike Khran.
Midfielder Carli Lloyd scored for the third straight game when she drove her penalty kick deep into the right corner of the net.
In the 84th minute, Lloyd added an assist when she carried the ball deep on the left side before crossing to inside the center where reserve forward Kelley O'Hara poked home her first internationally tally from point-blank range for a 2-0 lead.
Albon gave the Americans two huge breaks. The first was not showing Johnston a red card for her foul against Popp in the box. Ten minutes later, when Khran was called for the foul against Morgan, replays showed the foul took place a step outside of the German box and should have been a free kick, but Albon pointed to the penalty spot.
The U.S. made a major change tonight. Instead of playing with a pair of attackers and four midfielders coach Jill Ellis changed to a 4-3-3. With three players on top , the U.S. was better able to use the width of the field in its attack and kept the German defense back on its heels for the entire first half and much on the latter part of the match.
In the final analysis, the vaunted U.S. defense allowed only a single shot on Solo the Americans, ranked second by world governing body FIFA, sent the top-ranked Germans to Saturday's third-place match.
U.S. Player Ratings
Goalkeeper Hope Solo - 6.5: She was forced to only make one save, but it was a beauty in the eighth minute against Popp. The rest was clear sailing after Germany's penalty-kick miss.
Defender Ali Krieger - 6.5: She had a big assignment controlling Popp and Melanie Leupolz, who were coming down the left side. Except for Popp's early shot, Krieger won every battle.
Defender Meghan Klingenberg - 7.5: She played to perfection her assignment to shut down high scoring winger Simone Laudehr. She started the play that ended in the second U.S. goal.
Defender Becky Sauerbrunn - 6.5: She was solid for the entire match and was on target with her clearance passes, one of which should have resulted in a U.S. goal.
Defender Julie Johnston - 6: She made a huge mistake pulling down Popp when it looked like Solo would have controlled the ball. but no harm came. Otherwise, she had another of her flawless nights, making stop after stop while still getting into the U.S. offense on set plays.
Midfielder Megan Rapinoe - 6.5: She took a physical pounding as she came down the wing, but her attacks kept the Germans back on their heels for most of the first half.
Midfielder Lauren Holiday - 6: She did some of the hard defensive work in midfield. Keeping Germany at bay for much of the match. Her best performance so far.
Midfielder Morgan Brian - 6.5: She survived a possible game-ending head clash in the 28th minute, but continued and had a good defensive match, making any number of stops.
Forward Carli Lloyd - 8: She probably the best game by an American in the tournament. She played terrific defense, was a key part of the U.S. attack, converted the decisive penalty kick and assisted on the insurance goal. A good night's work.
Forward Alex Morgan - 5.5: On the plus side, she was effective on attack. On the negative side, her finishing was terrible. She could easily have had a pair of goals on her own and could have assisted on another when she shot poorly instead of passing.
Forward Tobin Heath - 5.5: She was not very effective on the flank, her purpose tonight. But she was very effective dropping back and defending in the midfield. She turned in a definite plus performance.
Forward Kelley O'Hara (75th minute for Heath) 7: You can't ask for much more from a substitute. She used pace to get herself in position to score the insurance goal. Then she helped to kill off the match.
Forward Abby Wambach (80th minute for Rapinoe) - 7: The forward proved she will do about anything for the team. She came in and essentially played as a defensive midfielder, breaking up several German attacks and passing the ball safely out of the U.S. end. She then linked up with Lloyd on the U.S. scoring play.
Forward Sydney Leroux (93rd minute for Morgan) - no rating: She came in as a sub to waste time.
SoccerTimes U.S. Player of the Match: Carli Lloyd.
Robert Wagman is SoccerTimes senior correspondent.
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