In their second straight nail-biter at the Olympic Games, the U.S. women advanced to the semifinals by edging New Zealand, 2-0, with goals by veteran Abby Wambach and newcomer Sydney Leroux. Here are a few observations about the match ...
FOUR IN A ROW.Wambach's goal in the 27th minute, a back-post tap-in set up by a clever move and slick pass by Alex Morgan, gives her a goal in each of the USA's four matches in this Olympic Games and 142 in her international career.
Her goal against New Zealand marked the 10th time she has scored in 13 knockout-round matches of official competitions -- and the fifth straight elimination game with a goal. She is also only 16 behind all-time leading goalscorer Mia Hamm (158).
Other than Wambach, the other USA goalscorers at the Olympic tournament are Morgan and Carli Lloyd, each with two, and Megan Rapinoe and Leroux with one apiece.
CLOSE CALLS. In the space of a few minutes late in the match with the score still only 1-0, Argentine referee Jesica Di Iorio declined to call fouls on two bang-bang plays in the attacking third.
In the 73rd minute, Morgan ran behind the back line to chase down a through ball from Lloyd. As she touched it around New Zealand keeper Jenny Bindon just outside the penalty area and tried to hurdle the sprawling Bindon, her knee caught Bindon in the head. Morgan tumbled to the ground and Bindon needed several minutes to recover after a teammate had cleared the ball.
Di Iorio ruled the contact incidental and instead of a foul outside the box and a possible red card for denying a goalscoring opportunity, she awarded a drop ball. Other than the knee to the head, which could be interpreted as initiated by Morgan and not Bindon, there was only slight contact between the players.
Late in the game New Zealand attacker Rosie White burst into the penalty area and fell to the ground under the challenges from Kelley O'Hara and Lloyd, neither of whom touched the ball. Again, the referee ruled no foul and let play continue.
CHANCES WASTED. The Americans dominated possession, as they had against Colombia and North Korea, but were unable to punch in a second goal until late in the match, when substitute Leroux, only player on the USA roster not chosen for last year's Women's World Cup, iced the victory.
Morgan and Lloyd both scuffed good opportunities and Wambach, wide open as she got her head to a Rapinoe corner kick, sent it wide of the goal. After replacing Morgan, Leroux twice buzzed past the Kiwis up the left flank. On the first run, she got to the byline to hit a cross that was cleared; in the 87th minute, she raced onto an outlet pass from Tobin Heath and steamed toward the near post to slot her shot through the legs of Bindon.