US 3 Colombia 0

I guess a good old fashioned thumping just wasn’t in the cards.  I suppose that’s a good thing in the context of the improving quality of women’s soccer around the world and all.  At the same time, it really would have been a whole lot of fun if the US forwards had actually managed to finish any of the many shots they had perfectly teed up.  As it was, the first 25-30 minutes were very well played – this is how the US should play. Lindsey was putting balls through, the whole team was spreading the field and passing well and minus some finishes that simply didn’t happen, nothing too catastrophic occurred.  The defense wasn’t terribly tested.  In the second half, Colombia managed to make some runs, but the game had the feel of a practice session by that point and even though fleet footed Colombians ran at the backline, nothing really felt dangerous.  I’m just glad that Solo wasn’t getting as sleepy as I was at that point and was able to make the necessary stops (although, I think both those shots late that she stretched for were going wide anyway).  Not a whole lot to say about this one.  This game should have been easy and it was. 

Formation

4-4-2, back-front, left-right:  GK – Solo; Def – LePeilbet, Buehler, Rampone, Krieger; Midfield – Cheney, Lloyd, Lindsey, O’Reilly with Lloyd and Lindsey playing even at times (usually pretty high) and Lloyd sitting on top of the defense at times; Fwd – Rodriguez, Wambach.  Rapinoe in for Rodriguez, Cheney moves up top and Rapinoe mans the left; Cox in for LePeilbet and Heath in for O’Reilly.

Players

Solo – She had a pleasantly lonely afternoon.  Even the balls she laid out for didn’t appear to be on frame.  It is useful to see that she keeps her head in the game even when she goes 20-25 minutes at a stretch without having to do a thing.  Not much else to say. She did what she needed to do.  Her kicks looked good.  She managed not to nap.  All in all, a successful afternoon.

LePeilbet – Better than the last outing but I’m still not loving this.  She’s just not suited to the wing.  That said, no real flubs defensively.  Both Buehler and Rampone seemed better prepared to help out and made some nice stops on the left.  Offensively, she was getting up and in a bit better than the last one.  She still has a really heavy leg, like good central defenders must have, that’s not always accurate unless she’s hitting it straight ahead.  That said, she wreaked some havoc offensively simply with her effort.  Kept the ball alive in the box on a couple of good US chances.  Sweden is actually a decent matchup for her and Cox wasn’t demonstrably better than she was today (better offensively, a little worse defensively), so I’m guessing we see her again in the next one. 

Buehler – She seemed to be playing more aggressively in this one – moving to the play instead of letting it come to her.  Definitely had her eye on the left wing.  Very early in the game she ran out to help and it seemed to be a theme most of the game.  The whole defense seemed to be communicating a little better.  Granted, not as much was coming at them as most of the Colombian attack didn’t really get past midfield in the first half, but this is a good game for the defense’s confidence at any rate.  She serves a nice ball forward and teamed with Rampone to stop the few runs that were unleashed on them.  The two central defenders sandwiched Colombian attackers a few times.  Yeah, they got beat at the outset on those plays, but recovered nicely . . . well, nicely enough for any ensuing shot/pass/whatever to not be too stressful for the goalkeeper.

Rampone – I thought she had a nice game.  She made a fantastic stop wide left in the early going that made me appreciate both her speed and her vision.  She seemed more aware of the entire field in this one than in the first half of the last one.  She got forward and provided some support to the attack.  This was good offensively, but was not so great defensively.  The defense opened itself up to some attacks straight up the middle when Rampone pushed forward.  She has the speed to recover in most instances but against a tougher opponent, she needs to remember that some of her backline-mates don’t have that speed.  If Krieger’s not the one on top of it, she’s pretty much unleashing an unabated attack onto Solo during her forward jaunts and she needs to be a little more cautious against a tougher side.  And that’s about it – I’ll stop stumping for her to be the one moved onto the flank and try to use all my mind-bending powers to convince Pia to switch Buehler and LePeilbet instead. 

Krieger – Another solid performance.  She’s managing the balance between defending and supporting the attack better than she has in the past couple of years.  She’s not getting caught out of position that often and she’s using her speed well to defend.  I’d like her to be able to see trouble coming as it develops so she could put that athleticism to some better use defensively, but I’m not sure she’s ever going to get there.  When Rampone and Buehler were getting caught forward and the Colombian attack was coming up the middle, it would have been helpful for them to have some support coming in from the wings, but I just don’t think she saw it in time to help.  That said, no one had to go out and cover for her, so that alone helps the defense.  Offensively, she serves a nice ball in.  I’d like to see more of it.  When the defense is expecting the short pass up to O’Reilly, that’s when you launch a ball into the box.  Catch the defense on their heels a bit.  And that’s about it – not much to pick at in this one.  I think opponents are seeing weakness up the US left so she’s not really had a whole lot coming at her. 

Cheney – A lot of the US attack early was out right.  O’Reilly had the ball more in this one.  Cheney was fairly quiet early.  As the game wore on, she was cutting inside more often and wreaking havoc.  I thought her involvement increased when Rapinoe came in and she switched up top.  It wasn’t that she was playing higher, because at times she wasn’t, it’s that she was playing more centrally.  Pia obviously wanted to spread the field, and Team USA did that well.  At the same time, it’s tougher for her to put balls on frame when she’s wide.  She sees the field and was communicating well.  She plays with her head up and is aware of where her teammates are.  The leave off for Rapinoe on the second goal was a great example.  And that’s about it – less flashy game than the last, but solid enough for me to want to see her against Sweden. 

Lloyd – Another solid outing.  A lot of solid outings in this one.  She seemed to be the one filling in for Boxx by sitting on top of the defense on the rare occasions Colombia mounted an attack and she did a pretty good job.  She’s got good size and can make the physical takeaway when needed.  Not quite as in tune with the central defenders as Boxx and neither she nor Lindsey filled in as well as Boxx generally does when they got caught too far forward.  I expect to see Boxx back against Sweden as Team USA needs a genuine defensive midfielder in that one, but Lloyd held her own defensively.  Offensively, the US used width well, and Lloyd had a part in orchestrating that.  And that goal, great, hard shot.  She just killed it.  Cox sent in a great ball and she corralled it and hammered it home. And that’s about it – I expect to see her in the next one, regardless of how the rest of the midfield sorts itself out. 

Lindsey – She came out gangbusters.  Her first 25-30 were her best.  She put some really nice balls through for Rodriguez including one near miss in the early going that would have gotten her an assist.  She was spreading the ball to the rest of the offense very nicely.  She was helping out some defensively, as all the midfielders were.  Through about 30-35 minutes, the midfielders were managing to dispossess the Colombians and stymie all attacks before they even crossed the center stripe.  As the game wore on she kind of fell off the page a little for me, but the entire midfield was controlling the game fairly well and her presence was a big part of that.  Nice outing, nice to see her composure on the WWC stage and I won’t be surprised if we see her back in there at some point. 

O’Reilly – My player of the match, and it’s not even close.  I wanted her to get the ball, and she got the ball early and often.  I think she benefited from Lindsey being on the pitch and from Lloyd playing a little deeper and therefore looking to distribute more.  The ball was going wide right early on.  O’Reilly sent in a great ball in the early going which actually managed to be both Abby’s and Rodriguez’s first miss of the night – Abby’s shot was saved and Rodriguez missed on the rebound.  Even though no goal scored on that sequence, it really set the tone for the whole game.  The goal a few minutes later was brilliant and opportunistic.  Colombian defender turned it over, O’Reilly just teed it up and hammered it high, far post.  Perfect placement, a ridiculous amount of pace and pouncing on the opposition’s mistake – just a wonderful sequence.  She was extremely active the entire match, spread the field so she, and all of her teammates, had space in which to create a large number of very realistic chances.  She and the other middies fed the forwards well in this one – if only they could finish, she’d have been in the box score a few more times.  I hope her groin is OK and we see her in the next one.  She is instrumental to this team’s success.

Wambach – A goal, a goal! My kingdom for a goal! Ugh.  I could feel her frustration from my living room couch.  So close.  She hit a post, she just didn’t get over a couple of headers, nice saves on a couple more.  She could easily have scored 2 or 3, just didn’t bounce right for her.  I think that’s why I’m not that worried about this.  Abby was putting the ball on frame and/or just a little wide or high.  She was creating for teammates and she was getting realistic chances.  It’s not that she’s been ineffective, it’s just that the ball hasn’t gone in.  Contrast with Prinz, she simply wasn’t a force in either German match.  Wambach was creating for others, helping on defense and coming oh so ridiculously close an oh so ridiculous number of times.  It will fall, everything’s there but the finish, and that will come.  Hopefully, in the next one. 

Rodriguez – She seems to be a little amped up in front of goal.  Finishing is a problem here, but like with Wambach, everything else she’s doing seems OK.  She’s making her off ball runs (see the earlier mentioned shot on the Wambach rebound), she’s getting on the end of Lindsey through balls, she’s getting wide and sending balls in to her teammates. She’s just completely whiffing in front of goal.  I’ll admit, her misses are worrying me more than Wambach’s because they’re not on frame, they’re not requiring great goalkeeper stops and she seems to be a little closer in, a little more open and a little more perfectly positioned to at least put the ball on frame than Wambach has.  Ian Darke keeps using the term “nervy” – Rodriguez seems to be the nervy one to me.  A little composure in front of goal though, and her whole tournament turns around.  Her speed, her ability to take on defenders, her ability to capitalize on the through balls, it’s absolutely invaluable to this team.  I think Alex Morgan is the only other player on the roster who can bring all these traits to the table and she’s simply not ready to step in at this point.  Just take a deep breath, realize the midfielders are very prolific scorers, so calm down a notch and find the back of the net.  I really would like to see a forward score a goal before this tournament ends. 

Rapinoe – And I anoint thee: Supersub!  I knew she’d come through.  Just comes in the game, runs and runs and runs at the defense, Cheney leaves off a ball for her and GOAL.  Nicely done.  She is a very high energy player and when all others are on tired legs, she immediately comes in and puts defenses on their heels.  She gave the team exactly what they needed.  My one nitpick – great goal scorers can score in more than one way, they can change pace, they can find spots, they can use all surfaces of their feet.  Late in the game, she was wide open, ball at her feet, point blank range and instead of slotting it in, she just reared back and smashed it as hard as she could straight at the keeper.  There was no need to hit it that hard.  She needed control not power on that shot.  If she’d just slotted it in far post, a simple shot from where she was standing and where the defense was positioned, she’d have netted her second.  I’m not sure she’s going to get to elite status if she doesn’t learn that she doesn’t need to destroy every ball she touches.  All that said, she really did have a successful outing in this one.  Fun to watch, disruptive and I hope to see her in the next one.  If Heather O can’t go, Rapinoe in the starting lineup would probably be my choice. 

Cox – She’s definitely more comfortable on that left wing than LePeilbet and she definitely provides better offensive support. I’m just not sure she’s any better defensively than LePeilbet.  She’s got the same speed issues LePeilbet has and she was getting picked on once she came in.  She was getting caught too far forward and at times, too far inside.  That said, she continues to have one of the most beautiful crosses off the wing in the women’s game.  The ball to Lloyd on the third goal was a thing of beauty.  I think we needed to see this – so now we see what Pia’s been choosing between.  I still want to see what’s behind door #3 (Buehler wide, LePeilbet in the central defense), but I think we know now, we just don’t have any perfect options here.  This wing will be speed challenged regardless of who is in there (because I don’t think Pia will make the Rampone move, and at this point, I don’t think she should), but do you go with the offensive risk taker who can send in a beautiful ball, or do you go with the more cautious superior defender who’s still getting accustomed to playing wide but has shown improvement from game 1 to game 2.   Interesting to see if Pia makes a change or goes with the status quo. 

Heath – I really need people to stop telling me how good she is on the ball.  I need her to actually be good on the ball.  Dancing on the ball isn’t “flair” if it results in getting dispossessed.  All it does is allow a second defender to close in and it allows the rest of the defense to cut off the passing lanes.  It is ridiculous indecision and that cutesy stuff needs to stop or she needs to not play.  She turned the ball over on almost every touch in the attacking third.  She had a cute little back heel on defense that resulted in one of Colombia’s few chances during the game.  Turn your body around and get in front of the ball.  If you can’t do that, put your body between the attacker and the goal – this is soccer 101.  Don’t do these cute little tactically unsound touches that you barely got away with in college.  This was Colombia and she can’t hold the ball.  What happens against a good team?  I have seen this every single time she has played in a National Team uniform and every single time some TV commentator tells me that she’s usually so good on the ball.  Stop telling me.  This player needs to show me.  OK – a little tough love for Tobin.  Make me look like a fool and play some good soccer in the next one.  I’ve been waiting . . .

And yes, I do miss Lindsay Tarpley.  Very very much. 

And that’s it.  This game could easily have gotten out of control for the Colombians.  Some good bounces for them, some decent saves from the keeper and just some flubs in front of goal made this game seem less one sided than it was.  The second half felt a lot like a practice match.  The US seemed relaxed and just played it out.  Even though we know both Sweden and the US have moved through to the quarters, the next match promises to be interesting if for no other reason than to see which team’s flubbing forwards manage to find the back of the net first.

Beulah