Taking Care Of Business: USA Soccer

(Photo: FootballSpot.com)

Today’s match for the United States women’s soccer team ended just like their last encounter with Colombia, with the US women dismantling their South American “friends” 3-0. The two teams last met during the 2011 Women’s World Cup last July, and much like that previous experience against the Colombians, Megan Rapinoe was a key factor for Team USA. Rapinoe scored once in last July’s contest and she extended that points streak against the South Americans with another goal and an assist today, paving the way for the United States shutout win.

This was a match that Head Coach Pia Sundhage was expected to win from the time that the tournament groups were announced. According to the FIFA/Coca-Cola Women’s World Rankings, Team USA is the #1 women’s soccer power in the world, with Colombia barely cracking the top 30 sliding in at #28 overall. With that kind of discrepancy between the teams you can see why expectations were what they were for the match, and USA definitely lived up to that high standard today.

Unlike the match on Wednesday, Team USA got off to a great start this afternoon. It didn’t hold true on the scoreboard until the 33rd minute though, when the previously mentioned Megan Rapinoe came through with her usual magic. After a pass from Alex Morgan, Rapinoe took a strike from about 19 or 20 yards out and found the back of the net to make the score 1-0. Rapinoe took the opportunity to celebrate a birthday of a friend, injured US star Ali Krieger, as she pulled a message from her sock that said “Happy B-bday Kreigy: We Love You”. While it was a simple gesture, it really shows the love and camaraderie that this USA soccer team has for each other, so that’s great to see.

Rapinoe (#15) and teammates with their friendly message. (Photo: TheSouthern.com)

A few minutes after the goal, there was another event that should have had more of an impact on the game than it did. In the 38th minute, Colombia’s Lady Andrade threw a right cross to the face of USA forward Abby Wambach. The ref did not see this incident as Wambach went down to the turf immediately and had her eye swell up almost as fast. If the ref had noticed, Andrade would have been ejected from the game as the punch is a red-card offense, and though she got away without even a foul being called this time it is very possible that rules officials will look at the tape and retro-actively give her a fine or suspend her for the incident. For the remainder of the half there was plenty of physical and aggressive play from both sides, and at times it seemed like maybe the match official had lost control of the happenings on the pitch. The teams went to the second half in Scotland with that same 1-0 score, but USA dominating the pace of play.

The second half continued with the USA imposing their will even though they weren’t to finish their chances, but that all changed in the 74th minute when Abby Wambach out-muscled and out-determined two Colombian defenders to slide home a through ball from Tobin Heath in traffic. Wambach’s goal, her 140th career international goal and one that gave her the record for most goals by an American in Olympic competition, showed exactly why she is as effective a player as she is, and how no one in the world can outwork her. It takes guts to fight through multiple defenders like she is so adept at, and it really is a pleasure to see her put her head down and make things happen on the pitch.

Wambach’s goal changed the morale of the Colombian team. And just two minutes later, any hope or faith that they remaining flew out the window. After an absurd (or at least it seemed that way with how easy they made it look) display of passing, Megan Rapinoe got her name into the assist column of the scorebook with a sick pass right through the center of the Colombian defense. The pass found Carli Lloyd who knew what to do with it, putting her shot into the net and making the score 3-0. This was the icing on the proverbial cake. The announcer on NBC Sports Network said of the goal (and more specifically the play and pass) that it was like a “hot knife through butter”, and if you saw the play you can agree that the commentator was exactly right. You could say that quote summed up the entire game pretty nicely too, as in addition to the three goals that were counted the Americans also had three goals disallowed for various infractions. To put that in perspective, Colombia only had one shot on goal in the whole match, so you can see the domination right there.

Team USA has now qualified for the knockout round. They still have one final group game remaining, a date with Korea DPR on Tuesday afternoon from Old Trafford in Manchester, England.  That match will be for pride and for standings, but the US will live on for the knockout round regardless of the outcome Tuesday. I’d expect a similar outcome of today’s match, but with how interesting this USA team is and how determined they are to atone for their missed chances in last year’s World Cup, the game should be a must-watch for any USA sports fan.

Player of the Match: Megan Rapinoe. She is a special talent, adding a goal and an assist to her career portfolio today.

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