The USA women posted their second straight victory Saturday in the Olympic Games soccer tournament by beating Colombia, 3-0, with goals by Megan Rapinoe,
Abby Wambach and Carli Lloyd. Here are a few observations about the win ...
LINEUP CHANGES. USA coach Pia Sundhage retained most of her starters from the 4-2 comeback win against France on Wednesday, but she did deploy Heather Mitts at right back in place of Amy LePeilbet, and gave Heather O’Reilly a start in place of Tobin Heath. Lloyd, who entered the France game as a first-half substitute when Shannon Boxx was injured, retained her place ...
O’Reilly took her normal position at right midfield, which moved Rapinoe to the left side in a 4-1-3-2 formation with Lloyd as the holding mid behind a line of Rapinoe, Lauren Cheney, and O’Reilly. Alex Morgan, scorer of two goals against France, again started up top with Wambach. Boxx was on the bench but didn’t play, as again Sundhage used Amy Rodriguez and Sydney Leroux as late subs.
O’Reilly’s busyness unhinged the Colombian defense on numerous occasions but her decisions of whether to pass or take another touch when she got behind the Colombian back line could have been more effective. Mitts played a solid game as the American back four smothered Colombia’s technically sound but physically limited attackers. Lloyd anchored the middle, formed a strong pairing with Cheney link the front and back lines, and got forward late to score in her second straight game.
Rapinoe, who scored the first goal and set up the third, escaped punishment for persistent infringement after felling Colombians several times with rough tackles. Sundhage replaced her in the 81st minute, and the Americans completed the game without taking a caution.
PRESSURE AND PRECISION. The Americans missed connections repeatedly in the attacking third for much of the first half, yet relied on their superior fitness to press Colombia into mistakes. A turnover won by Morgan created the opportunity for Rapinoe’s opening goal in the 33rd minute. Morgan won the ball about 35 yards out and slipped it square to Rapinoe, who cut the ball inside from the left flank and curled a shot over keeper Sandra Sepulveda.
Colombia mustered little offense but held the score at 1-0 until the 74th minute, when the Americans scored the first of two goals within three minutes. A sharp passing sequence freed Heath, who had replaced O’Reilly in the 67th minute, to play a perfect through ball for Wambach. She barreled between two defenders to slide a shot past Sepulveda inside the far post for her 140th international goal -- and U.S. record sixth Olympic goal.
The USA sliced open the middle of Colombia’s defense again in the 77th minute when another slick passing sequence produced Rapinoe’s ball for Lloyd, who came from midfield unmarked to hit a first-timer past Sepulveda.
TOUGH TEST. The Colombians displayed some grit as well as technique but were overmatched physically. Not just Wambach but Morgan and other U.S. players won duels in the air, and crunching tackles handed out by Mitts and the other defenders blunted forward Carmen Rodallega (whose cousin Hugo has played for the men’s national team). Center backs Kelis Peduzine and Nataly Arias needed a few seconds on several occasions to recover from collisions or hard sprints.
Wambach left the match (replaced by Leroux in the 78th minute) with a black eye under her right eye, the result of a punch by Lady Andrade late in the first half. Morgan seemed to labor through the final minutes but finished the game. For the second straight game, the Americans’ ability to play at a brisk pace for long periods yielded space and time as their opponents fatigued.
The Americans play their final group match Tuesday against North Korea, which after beating Colombia, 2-0, in its first game fell to France, 5-0.
Besides backup goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart, only defender Becky Sauerbrunn has yet to play in this tournament.