USWNT SEMIFINAL PREVIEW: USWNT VS GERMANY
By: Kyle Carrozza
The USA Women’s Squad will face Germany on Tuesday night in the Women’s World Cup semifinals in what should have been a finals matchup if not for FIFA’s screwy seating system meant to boost ratings and put the fix on for the host country.
Germany, the world’s #1 team, has outscored opponents 20-3 en route to the semifinals while USA has not conceded since the first half of their first match, holding opponents scoreless for 423 minutes.
Though the US only won 1-0 against in its last match against China, the team looked the best it has all tournament. The one-two play and first touches were stronger than they have been, and in the instances where they did play long balls, the passes were accurate and meaningful, not the result of being out of other options.
Alex Morgan continued her strong play and continued to show that she is currently the team’s strongest option up front. In her first start in the tournament, Amy Rodriguez had an overall positive game, making threatening runs and working well with Kelley O’Hara and fullback Ali Krieger on the right flank. She did, however, have a horrible miss in the second minute and refused to accept that the offside rule applied to her throughout the game.
Kelley O’Hara and Morgan Brian replaced the suspended Megan Rapinoe and Lauren Holiday. O’Hara did well to create and exploit space on the right side. USA certainly has more technically skilled options on that side, but O’Hara played the part of the Roadrunner in what has been an ACME-stamped attack for most of the tournament. Brian quietly had a strong game, often playing in the hole and providing late runs in the final third.
Perhaps as a result of the personnel change, perhaps in an attempt to exploit a relatively short Chinese back line, the US midfield underwent a drastic change last match, switching from two centermids that played pretty evenly to more of a diamond formation. Carli Lloyd often played evenly with the strikers, almost as a target forward. Ever the Schrödinger’s midfielder, Lloyd had her strongest performances of the World Cup including the game’s only goal while continuing to give the ball away on numerous unforced errors.
It will be interesting to see if the team continues to play Lloyd in such an advanced role against a taller German side. While USA could have used the distribution of a true #10 against China, Germany’s back four tends to lose its shape in order to attack the shut down the opponent’s midfield. Lloyd continuing to play among the forwards could negate this aggressiveness and provide a numbers advantage in the box.
The US’s biggest strength should come on its right flank. O’Hara looked strong against China, and Krieger has bombed forward all tournament, providing and outlet for the midfield and all kinds of crosses. Germany’s left side struggled in defense last game and allowed a good amount of dangerous balls to come in. Look for O’Hara to make another start in order to exploit this mismatch, though Jill Ellis might favor Tobin Heath or Christen Press. Because she’s a maverick.
Defensively, USA will have to worry about the tournament’s leading scorer Celia “This is the Women’s World Cup But It Still Got That” Sasic. The Americans probably have the strongest defense in the world, but at times, they overcommitted when covering Colombia’s Lady Andrade. Doing the same against Germany could free up the second-leading scorer Anja Mittag.
Though Germany’s soccer program may just be a farm system for the US in men’s soccer, this matchup between the women will surely be closely contested. At the opening of the tournament, the Germans would have been heavy favorites, but their mediocre performance against France combined with an ever-improving American side means this one is shaping up to look exactly like Beerfest. An all-around strong German team will look to dominate, but the US could fight back with its we’re-not-that-drunk physical advantage for the upset.