US 1 Norway 0
What a great game. A tremendous defensive effort from every single player on the field. A strong offensive outing, if not a particularly pretty one, from every single player on the field - if Lil hits even one of her near misses, CP actually pulls the trigger on that ball Abby left off for her in the box, Foudy pulls the trigger on that ball she ran on to in the box and Mia hits the PK, well the score would more accurately reflect what a dominating performance the US had. This wasnít a lovely game where play was going through the midfield on the ground with pass after pass connecting leading to a lovely shot on goal - this game was never going to be like that - anyone who knows the history of these two teams knows that the game was going to be about who worked harder, who jumped higher, who won more 50-50 balls and who could grind out the win. And on this night, it was Team USA. From the defenders, who may have performed as well as a unit as any Team USA defense has since Carla O retired, to the defensive midfielder winning balls, to the attacking midfielder getting foul after foul called in her favor, to the outside mids tracking back on D and intercepting passes to the forwards, holding the ball up top, winning balls and pressuring the relatively inexperienced Norwegian backs. All over the field - all night long - a great team effort and thoroughly enjoyable to watch. Iím sure Iíll find things to pick at as I go through the players, but itís just that, picking - this was a good win for Team USA - and realizing that the passing wasnít particularly sharp at times, the finishing could have been better and the offense really never got a chance to flow really smoothly, makes me think that Team USA is in pretty good shape going into the semifinals. The kids and the defense got the headlines in this one, Iíll put many ducats on the table right now saying weíre also talking about Mia and Lil at the end of the next one.
Formation - 4-4-2, back-front, right-left
GK - Scurry; Def - Pearce, Fawcett, Sobrero, Reddick; DMid - Boxx; Mid - Foudy, Lilly; AMid - Parlow; Fwd - Hamm, Wambach. At the half (actually it seemed a little bit after the half) Sobrero and Reddick switched and at some point very early on Hamm and Parlow switched. Milbrett in for Parlow, Bivens in for Foudy.
Scurry - I wanted a quiet night for Bri and I got a quiet night for Bri. She had one marginally tough save, another I remember that she had to stop and other than that, nothing too stressful - things were going on around her, but luckily for most of the game, her considerable skills were not required. She again had another strong kick in the run of play and thatís heartening to see. And thatís all Iíve got - hereís hoping that my Bri section is this short after the next one.
Pearce - A fantastic game from the entire defense. They were so well organized, helping each other, 1 v. 1 defending was outstanding and in the first half, the wings were getting up the flank and providing support to the offense. Pearce was especially strong getting up the flank in this one - in the first half, especially early on, the field tilted to the right and that speaks a lot to Pearceís play. She was working well with Foudy and Boxx and getting the ball up to the forwards and CP. She was winning balls and using her speed well against Dagny and Petterson. I donít have a whole lot else - I donít remember a knucklehead turnover from her deep in the US third, so unless Iím just forgetting it, then thatís an improvement as well. Strong game - if the defense plays like this against Germany, I think it will be very tough for Germany to score.
Fawcett - she gets the kudos - first she gets them for how organized the defense all over the field was. I was mildly dinging her earlier in the tournament on this point, so now I must sing her praises. The US defense was very organized and very stifling, and as the organizer, she gets the thumbs up for that. As for her individual defending, outstanding. Once again, she was just a backstop in the air - nothing gets behind her. She gets up high and her timing on those balls is impeccable. Ya know - I really donít have a lot on these defenders - they played great - not much more to say than that.
Sobrero - Fantastic game. She is simply one of the best 1 v. 1 defender out there. That sequence against Petterson after Marianne got by Cat was Kate Sobrero at her best - she just stayed with her in that crouch, didnít over commit one way or the other and Marianne was just trapped, wound up swinging a bit further away from goal than Iím sure she intended (even running up the middle, Kate managed to push her to the outside) and eventually help came. Fantastic spot of individual defending by Kate there. As for her passes - again, it was holding up - quick touches tended to be good touches, time and she turns it over - it was much less an issue in this one because Cat was taking the restarts though - and seeing Catís cannon v. Kateís I have to wonder why she hasnít been taking all of those. On the wing in the second half, well, she provided a little bit of support to the offense, but Kate is primarily a defender and even on the wing, she seems far more comfortable staying home so thatís what she seems to do. She had a couple of turnovers that were a tad careless, but other than that, I have nothing with which to quibble. Like the rest of the defense, just a fantastic game from Kate - I just got done watching Germany-Russia, so I certainly hope sheís ready to bring it again Sunday - theyíre going to need her playing just as well as she played against Norway.
Reddick - This wasnít the gaudiest stat line for her, but defensively, this was probably the best game Iíve seen her play. She was outstanding - in the air, only got beat on the ground once and it was with Kate back with her, reads the game so well, was getting up the flank and serving balls into the midfielders and forwards, and Iíve said it before and Iím sure I will say it again: for the first time since Carla Overbeck retired, Team USA has a deadly cannon coming out of the back. With the height on Team USAís front line and in their midfield now, the importance of having that cannon out of the back increases exponentially. Her assist on Abbyís goal was just perfect, a perfect ball served over distance to Abbyís head - and you better believe weíre going to start to see that in the run of play more and more as Catís game develops. She has improved every single game sheís played in this one and is emerging as a bona fide superstar on defense - she needs to be ready for the next one, needs to use her head, needs to play a little cautiously - back off a little, donít commit and let Maren or Birgit blow by - but be sure to play tight enough so that they canít tee it up and shoot like they did in the second half against Russia. Iím sure she wonít be left all alone like those Russian defenders often were though and Boxx does a great job sitting on top of that defense, so hopefully Team USA will be as organized as they were in this one and Cat, Joy, Christie and Kate and everyone else will put out the same kind of effort they did in this one and theyíll get through this semifinal.
Boxx - Just a tremendous job cleaning up balls in the midfield. Great in the air and once again great ball winning on the ground - watch what she does - Abby and CP too - itís something Team USA hasnít been able to do the past 4 years because they are generally smaller (or as small as) than their opponent - she just runs right alongside an attacker, shoulder to shoulder and simply steps in and takes the ball - itís such a little thing, it looks like a giveaway and you wonder about the inexplicable turnover, but ya know, itís not - itís the bigger and stronger player going in there and winning the ball - again, itís not spectacular - Roberts has more "spectacular" plays than Boxx - but Boxx wins more balls because she can run and keep up with the attacker, put a foot in, square her shoulders around, shield that player off the ball with barely a bump and sheís on her way with the ball and the attacker turned defender is left chasing her. Thatís what a defensive midfieler has got to be able to do and itís a great that Team USA now has one who can. Offensively, I thought she did a good job of switching fields - my only complaint is that in the early going, for about the first half hour actually, is that they werenít switching it left enough. Lil was kind of frozen out of the offense at the start and thatís something Boxx needs to be more aware of and she needs to swing that ball around. Team USA was pretty much going through the middle or going directly to the forwards rather than putting it through the midfield so it almost seemed strategic. With the trees playing so well in the game, I think they were going a bit more direct than we see at times - Iím sure theyíll try to mix in some ground play a bit more against Germany. Especially since Team USA is going to have a speed advantage and with Steffi out of there (and they lost another starting defender at the start of the tourney, didnít they) there are going to be occasional holes in the defense - anyway, point being, Boxx is going to have to be a bit more aware of making sure that ball is going left in the next one. Overall - great game, great ball winning ability in the defensive midfield and great defensive force helping out the defenders. I imagine sheíll have some responsibility for Prinz - sheíll need to be very physical with Prinz - Birgit doesnít like absorbing contact - hit her, sheíll stay down, sheíll complain to the refs and maybe they can get in her head a little and take her a little bit out of her game.
Foudy - I thought she had as solid an outing as sheís had so far in this tournament. In the early going much of the offense was flowing through the right and therefore flowing through Foudy. It almost seemed she was running the offense from her position a bit more than CP - while CP was playing deeper than the forwards (at times much deeper) it really seemed that she never took on that attacking midfield role - she was just playing a very withdrawn forward - while Foudy was the one orchestrating things a bit. As the game wore on I think Mia and then Lil took on that role a bit more but at the start it was Foudy on the right. And they moved the ball around well on that side of the field - as I said with Boxx though, they really needed to open up the left side a bit earlier - Lil was spreading wide (possibly too wide - itís tough to tell on TV) and needed some service. She was taking defenders with her anyway though, and maybe that was all she intended to do. Anyway - Foudy was playing strong defense, intercepting balls, winning her fair share and making nice runs on set pieces. There was one instance where she ran onto a ball in the box and it was like she froze for a second and didnít take what would have been a relatively uncontested shot at goal from not too far out. Need to not waste opportunities like that - especially in the next one. Solid outing though.
Lilly - Workrate was fantastic, she was helping out on defense and she had two shots that could have easily found the back of the net, just a little wide. Just another day at the office for Lil. Early in the first half she wasnít nearly involved enough. She was stretching the field wide and absolutely no one was finding her. Foudy, Pearce and the gang were working pretty well out right though and in this offense, Lil probably should have collapsed inside a bit to try and get some numbers forward . . . On the other hand, while that would have been best of the USís offense, Iím sure at least part of the reason it didnít happen is that they didnít want to give Norway all that space up the left flank. So Lil was cut a bit out of the offense, but on the plus side, Norway didnít have a field day up that side of the field either so we can just call it a wash. Well - thatís about all Iíve got - her two near misses were beauts - just a little bit wide - hopefully sheíll put one of those in the back of the net in the next one, but Lil has her near misses just about every game - just need to get her another chance and the odds work out such that sheís in the box score.
Parlow - Shoot Cindy, SHOOOT!!!!!!!!!!!!!! ARGH - Iím referring to that ball Abby won with folks hanging off her while dragging her down and left off for CP in the box and she just stood there, took a touch and stood some more - you remember that one - well shoot CP, shoot - run onto it and SHOOT! If itís not coming at her head, CP just wonít take a quick shot in the box anymore will she? What did she think she was going to do? The second she took the touch (settled it) rather than the shot, it was too late, a defender was on her, but if sheíd just run onto that ball and shot, then boom, Nordbyís picking it out of the back of the net. I have all the faith in the world in Cindy Parlowís ability to stick that ball in that situation, why doesnít she? OK - just had to get that off of my chest - other than that moment, which I really did not enjoy at all, I thought CP had a solid game. There is no player better at getting fouls called than Cindy Parlow and with Cat Reddickís leg from 45+ and Miaís efficiency on set pieces anywhere closer, CPís ability to get those kicks is invaluable. What she did several times in this one to get the call was on 50-50 balls in the midfield, sheíd kind of block the ball off, make her body wide and then not jump for it (or barely jump for it) - she doesnít exactly go for the ball, she just makes sure the other player canít get it but instead will get caught in the air climbing over her back when they try for it - so either way CP wins - she either gets the foul call, or she shields the other player off and the ball drops in front of her. Sheís very tricky. As for the rest of it - solid game - good ball winner, just a nice big force in the center of the field. I thought she played a tad too deep most of the first half - usually when you put CP in the midfield sheíll drift forward but I noted she was playing really deep in this one. Thatís probably just the respect they were showing Dagny though, but it did take her away from some of the organizing the attack duties that I thought she would have handled a bit more. Like I said, that seemed to be falling to Foudy a bit or the ball was being played directly to the forwards. I guess for all the brilliant teamwork they had defensively, there was a bit too much individual play offensively in the first half. I guess if I have to ding her for something, it was not pulling it all together - but since she hasnít played this attacking midfield role for Team USA too too much, and since they did manage to create a good number of chances, we can chalk it up to a learning experience for her. And she really did hold the ball well and win a lot of balls in the midfield. Not much more - solid game - Iím hoping for a timely goal from her in the next one.
Hamm - Strong game, great workrate, probably played a bit better in the second half. I really donít have much on Mia - I think maybe Abby just had such a loud game that I might have lost Mia a bit. She seemed to be getting plenty of touches, but her touch seemed to be a tad off. She was still pressuring up top and tracking back on D wonderfully though. Sheís got a motor that just doesnít stop and even when her touch is off she takes a ton of defenders with her where ever she goes. That Team USA had such a strong outing and Mia was a tad off offensively is quite encouraging though. Iím sure sheíll be on fire in the next one. Iíve really got nothing else - this was a solid outing, that would seem better if her play in the opening round hadnít been so out of this world outstanding. As for the PK - I think there are some commentators making much too much of it - she missed a PK . . . big woo - it happens. Sheíll make the next one. Saw her take a lot of them here with the Freedom. 1999 was a long time ago, sheís been taking PKs often and with confidence for quite some time now, so letís deal with the now and not the then on this particular point and just admit that the womanís human, she didnít hit it that great and Nordby read it well and made a nice save.
Wambach - Miaís been getting it from me most of the tournament, but now itís Abbyís turn: Outstanding, she was simply outstanding for a full 90. Iím sitting here and donít even know what else to say. She dominated - had a fantastic workrate, she took an incredible amount of abuse but was able to hold the ball and get it to her teammates nonetheless, she tracked back defensively even going as far back as and making strong plays in the US defensive third, was a great ball winning presence, was able to step in on defenders and midfielders and walk away with the ball . . . and she did it all while getting hit often and getting hit hard. Ya know, I realize that a lot of times sheís getting hit by players a whole lot smaller than she is, but those players are slamming into her at full force and there were a couple of times in the late going I seriously didnít think she was going to get up - and Iím sure most other players wouldnít have. Her goal was a typical Abby goal - beautiful serve from Cat Reddick and Abby just puts it in - no fuss, no muss, just jumped a little bit higher than the folks surrounding her and stuck it. Great job. I really donít have anything else - just a wonderful wonderful outing and Iím sure sheíll get her chances against Germany.
Milbrett - It wasnít a great outing, but ya know, the workrate was there and she was tracking back on D and after the last game, I was happy to see that. Her timing still seems a tad off - Abby, Mia, Lil and the folks on the right side all at some point seemed to send things in her general direction and she wasnít able to get to a lot of it, or wasnít able to do anything real good once she got there. And I have to admit, at one point, it looked like Mia was holding the ball rather then sending it out to Tiff - probably just didnít see her standing out there, but it almost seems like theyíve given up trying to integrate her into the offense at this point. Anyway - if she gets in against Germany, she should do well - there are soft spots in the German defense, even before Steffi went out - a little speedster like Tiff should be able to make something happen. If she gets the chance, I sure hope sheís able to make something good happen anyway. Everyone needs to make an impact against Germany - even the folks just coming in for the last 20-25 minutes.
Bivens - she continues to have a nice tournament. She provided nice play both offensively and defensively in that right midfield spot. Sheís probably a stronger defensive presence than Julie and she really does make some nice runs and serve some nice balls offensively. Sheís probably not as tactically sophisticated as Foudy and since Foudy seemed to be pulling a lot of the strings in this one, thatís kind of key, but the individual play really didnít drop off at all when Bivens came in. Sheís just a much different player and brings some great things to the field when she gets out there. Her confidence seems to be soaring as the tournament progresses and Iím sure April wonít hesitate to bring her in if she needs another physical force in the midfield in the next one.
Well - thatís about it. Nothing real earth shattering to say about this one and I probably could have summed it up with: The defense ROCKED, Abby ROCKED and the score is a bit misleading because Team USA dominated from start to finish. Actually, rereading this thing, that is pretty much all Iíve said . . . for 5 pages . . . Great game, entertaining game, fantastic effort from all involved. Hereís hoping they bring it in the next one - theyíre going to need to. Norway never concerned me, but Germany? Iím a tad nervous already. If theyíre all hitting on all cylinders, I think Team USA can beat anyone, and since Germany is the toughest "anyone" out there, my theory is definitely going to be tested. Itís a shame this game isnít the final because I have a feeling itís going to be a tough test for both teams and that both teams will come out and show the best they have to offer.