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Lloyd and Solo head a monumental team effort
by Ridge Mahoney, August 9th, 2012 11:36PM

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TAGS:  olympics, women's national team


[USA-JAPAN REPORT CARD] A desperately close Olympic women's soccer gold-medal match at Wembley Stadium Thursday went to the United States, which took a 2-0 lead on a pair of goals by Carli Lloyd and held off Japan long enough to capture a 2-1 victory. Soccer America's Ridge Mahoney grades the U.S. women, who won their third straight Olympic gold medal and fourth in five attempts ...
 
Starters:
GRADE/PLAYER (CLUB) GP/G
7 Hope Solo (Seattle Sounders Women) 124/0.

A spectacular palm save robbed Yuki Ogimi of a goal, and she preserved the victory by pushing away a shot from Asuna Tanaka in the final minutes. She punched away several dangerous crosses but needed help from teammates on balls that slipped past her. Still, her dominance in the box during the tournament confirmed her as the world's top keeper and during one of those melees her quick recovery snuffed a point-blank Ogimi shot.

6 Amy LePeilbet (no club) 75/0.
She couldn't contain winger Nahomi Kawasumi in the first half but tightened her marking to limit space and time on that side of the field, and during a furious goalmouth melee blocked a Japanese shot with her chest that would have tied the game. The converted centerback, while occasionally stranded on the corner by her positioning, came up with enough saving tackles to justify her selection.

6 Christie Rampone (no club) 266/4.
An atrocious giveaway late in the match offered Japan a chance that Solo repelled, and on a couple of other occasions Japanese forwards evaded her to threaten. But she also cleared away two balls that had gotten past her goalkeeper and surprised everyone at Wembley by slaloming through midfield with an audacious dribble. At 37, the captain got her team to the tallest podium yet again.

5 Rachel Buehler (no club) 88/3.
Marked and tackled robustly while struggling to match Japan's quickness and guile. Beaten in the air by the cross that Ogimi headed on goal. She escaped punishment for a rugby tackle during a set play and suffered an injury that forced her out of the game.

6 Kelley O'Hara (no club) 25/0.
Set in motion the sequence that produced the first goal by playing a perfect ball that found Tobin Heath free on the left wing. Her tenacious attention to the combination play of Aya Miyama and Yukari Kinga, a vital facet of Japan's attack in earlier games, usually thwarted those efforts. She also hacked a couple of loose balls out of danger.

5 Shannon Boxx (no club) 170/23.
She returned to the lineup for the first time since leaving the opener against France early with a hamstring injury and seldom looked off the pace. She stabilized the center and limited the touches of Homare Sawa while screening the back line. However, she also reacted too late when Aya Miyama cut inside to find shooting and passing angles.

8 Carli Lloyd (no club) 141/40.
Scored two spectacular goals with a running header and a more Lloydesque 25-yard belter, and didn't hesitate a couple of times to try and score a third. She also applied pressure in midfield and bottled up passing lanes while always looking for a spot to play the ball forward when it was won.

6 Tobin Heath (New York Fury) 51/6.
Her low ball to Alex Morgan at the near post set up the first goal and reflected a more mature approach then the brazen runs at goal she'd attempted in earlier games. Her defensive work, while spotty, occasionally disrupted Japan's forays up the wings, and she held the ball coolly in the final minutes to kill time.

4 Megan Rapinoe (Seattle Sounders Women) 58/15.
She was generously given an assist for playing a short ball near the center circle to Lloyd, who took off on a long dribble to fire home a shot from distance. She didn't much influence the game during the run of play and seldom got opportunities on corners and free kicks. Lauren Cheney replaced her in the 57th minute.

6 Alex Morgan (Seattle Sounders Women) 48/30.
She ran at opponents yet didn't quite seem sharp enough to beat them on the dribble consistently, but her trap, turn and chip to set up Lloyd for the first goal superbly displayed her skill and positional awareness.  She livened up the U.S. attack with her stylish play throughout the tournament.

5 Abby Wambach (no club) 188/143.
She misfired on her shots yet did much of her best work defensively, heading set plays out of danger and blocking shots. While failing to score for the first time in the tournament, she put forth her most gladiatorial effort to win knockdowns and carve out space for teammates.
 
Substitutes
5 Lauren Cheney (no club 73/18).
Jumped into the fray early in the second half and while sometimes late to help out defensively found teammates with her passes after gaining possession.

5 Becky Sauerbrunn (D.C. United Women) 27/0.
Replaced Buehler for the final 10 minutes. Came over to close down Tanaka's angle on last Japanese threat.

(1=low; 5=average; 10=high.)



27 comments
  1. John Smith
    commented on: August 10, 2012 at 8:05 a.m.
    Remind me to never pay attention to anything this guy says.

  1. Mike Murray
    commented on: August 10, 2012 at 8:45 a.m.
    I won't argue too much with Mahoney's assessments except to note that the 5 given Wambach badly underrated her defensive contribution.

  1. Stuart d. Warner
    commented on: August 10, 2012 at 8:55 a.m.
    I'm sorry, but Christie Rampone was dreadful. In the first half, she didn't clear the ball off the line and Japan almost scored; in the second half, she didn't clear the ball off the line and Japan did score; then she gave the ball away and we were fortunate Japan did not bury the ball. And as for her dribbling deep in Japan's zone at the end of the game, what in the world is your center back doing that for with the game on the line and Japan applying great pressure. And while I'm at it, when will LePeilbet start passing the ball to our players more than the opposition, and when will Sauerbrunn take over the starting position from Buehler?

  1. L renee Little
    commented on: August 10, 2012 at 9:17 a.m.
    I agree with JOhn Smoth. Carly Lloyd only plays hard when she is on tv and it's a "major" game. That is why Pia had no faith in her and she didn't start until Shannon was injured. And she straight up POACHED Abby's shot in what might well have been her last WNT game. More than once she tried to take the ball to goal and failed when there was an open teammate she could have passed to. Rapinoe didn't have a great day but is an excellent player who has been instrumental in setting up many many of the goals made by others, as well as scoring her own. And Abby is the backbone of the team, defensively sharp as well as an offensive weapon, and team motivator!

  1. L renee Little
    commented on: August 10, 2012 at 9:18 a.m.
    Sorry that is John Smith not JOhn Smoth!

  1. Raul Zavaleta
    commented on: August 10, 2012 at 9:18 a.m.
    First of all, congrtulations to the USA team for winning a game it should have lost. Japan demonstrated better technical abilities and dominated play. Contrast the two styles: Japan possesing the ball, having the patience to find the open player, and creating scoring opportunities; the US bypassing the midfield by booting long balls to Alex Morgan. The US defense was beaten most of the game. Shannon Box was useless as a defensive mid - clearly the US biggest question mark for its future. Watch the replay of the Japan goal: the offensive mid makes a run, Shannon Box does not follow, stopping at the 18 yard line to watch the entire sequence of shots. Nevertheless, it was a gritty performance with some breaks that sometimes are needed to win.

  1. Kerry Solomon
    commented on: August 10, 2012 at 9:23 a.m.
    Rampone & LePeilbet struggled and play a weak match. Both of them should have been '4' or below. To rate Megan Rapinoe that low is just wrong. She may not have been her normal outstanding self but she is the overall best player on that team. She is creative, skillful, has very good speed and pace and she is tenacious. Ridge better watch the game again. We must keep in mind that this is a team sport and it takes all players to win matches and that's exactly what these great women accomplished. Congratulations on a great Olympics.

  1. Carl Hudson
    commented on: August 10, 2012 at 9:57 a.m.
    I have been a vocal critic of Lloyd, but for this game I retract it. And I have been a big supporter of Rapinoe, but for this game I retract it........ And Stuart d Warner, what game were you watching? It was not Rampone's job to clear that ball in the first half. It was Number 6's (who otherwise played well). Rampone repeatedly ran down attackers and cleared dangerous balls from the area. And on the play she had the ball stolen, NOBODY was there to cover for her - and they should have been................... And on her dribbling deep down the field at the end of the game- NOBODY ELSE was making a run into the opposing half on a clear scoring opportunity, so she took it upon herself, figuring she should be covered for on defense by her teammates, or she had enough speed to recover back on her own. Rampone played to a 7 in this game, and without her USA would have lost 4-1.

  1. Mark N
    commented on: August 10, 2012 at 10:19 a.m.
    When Cheney came on for Rapinoe, there were 3 slowish CMs and they were not organized or on the same page with Heath (the 4th MF). Boxx was just one of the MFs who were nowhere on the Japan goal, so blaming her is a little much.

  1. Mark N
    commented on: August 10, 2012 at 10:27 a.m.
    As frustrating as Lloyd is to watch sometimes for various reasons, she consistently does one thing well that keeps her in the lineup: score clutch goals. While Abby had an off-day and Morgan tried too hard, Lloyd was in the zone in front of goal. And Renee, based on Wambach's performance in this game, I wouldn't have bet money on her volleying in Carli's headed goal if she had the chance.

  1. Andy Wagner
    commented on: August 10, 2012 at 10:38 a.m.
    It is so frustrating to see the US rely on good fortunes again against a quality team. The US was badly outplayed playing with 12 players. Any soccer officiando will tell you who the superior team was. Our National team program will never get to the next level playing against the competition we do leading up to major competitions. I can understand missing one call for a penalty but two! Buehler was rattled the entire game and even got away with a tackle in the box with her hands.

  1. Mark N
    commented on: August 10, 2012 at 10:39 a.m.
    Solo only a 7? I can't remember any mistakes, but I do recall several full-stretch game-saving blocks that saved Buehler, Rampone, and the CMFs (Lloyd[8] included) from embarrassment for their frequent shoddy defensive play. Seemed more like her teammates needed help from Solo than the opposite.

  1. Mark N
    commented on: August 10, 2012 at 10:46 a.m.
    @Andy - I'm confused. Does the "next level" involve something better than appearances in every olympic final, and Gold in most? Maybe they just hand out a platinum medal to the USA after qualifying? And Those "soccer officiandos" will also remind you that the 'inferior' team often wins. There is no shame in it.

  1. Andy Wagner
    commented on: August 10, 2012 at 11:02 a.m.
    The next level is playing a brand of soccer that a country of our size can sustain. All of the policies that we enact to produce is failing miserably. The womens game has drastically declined from years past. The men's team is floundering. Let me remind you of our peak moment in soccer...beating spain and losing to Brazil in the next game...guess who just did the same thing Honduras. WE ARE FAILING

  1. Albert Harris
    commented on: August 10, 2012 at 11:08 a.m.
    I always enjoy such comments as "remind me never to pay attention to anything this guy says" that don't even identify the "guy" in question (presumably Ridge)or let us know exactly in what way his opinions differ. And let us remember, that's all ratings are: opinions. I sometime think Ridge is right, sometimes wrong but if I'm going to slam him, it would be at least polite to mention what you disagree on. Re: Renee's comment, Lloyd may indeed only get up for the big TV games but since this rating is simply for one game, that hardly is relevant and she probably deserved player of the match in most peoples' opinions. I do agree going forward that the back line is the major point of concern and in need of revamping. Finally opinions as to the player of tournament? For me, Alex Morgan, but then, like Ridge's, that's only one man's opinion.

  1. Mark N
    commented on: August 10, 2012 at 11:17 a.m.
    @Andy - the men's team is floundering, but a generation ago, they made their first WC in 40 yrs, so the current state doesn't seem like the disaster you imply. And if you mean the US women's game has declined, I disagree. It's many other countries that have closed the gap.

  1. Jack Niner
    commented on: August 10, 2012 at 11:52 a.m.
    I don't really want to pick apart the USWNT because they did manage to win the gold, albeit with a great deal of help from the Ref. Many will be gone from this team by the time WC roles around let alone the next Olympics. However, I do have to be critical of the US back line as they appeared overmatched by JPN in quickness and skill. Mr Mahoney's negative comments about the US midfield appear to ignore the fact of all the support they had to provide on defense. I'm not going to name names, for they are our champions. But I do believe that USWNT must rebuild the back line to win the WC and Olympics again.

  1. bF BF
    commented on: August 10, 2012 at 12:05 p.m.
    Yesterdays win did nothing to advance the game in the US for both women's and men's side. And yes mark, the men's program needs some major fixes when you compare it to what Mexico has done over last few years. Better coaching and better talent identification at all levels is needed right now.

  1. Mario Araujo
    commented on: August 10, 2012 at 12:40 p.m.
    The USWNT's victory is stained in my opinion due to the help of the German Referee. It is a shame that at that level of play the referee has trouble calling fouls that are clear to everyone. I really want to point out the hugging of the Japanese forward and she is trying to head the ball in the penalty area. Not to mention, the clear hand ball in the penalty area. The USWNT should have had a chance to win on their own merits alone without help from the referee.

  1. Luis Arreola
    commented on: August 10, 2012 at 12:49 p.m.
    Bf, thankyou for stating the obvious. Mark, other countries are closing the gap? What is noticeable is the playing styles. Usa womens side has been superior for so many years only because they were basically the only women in the world to have the support and liberty of playing soccer. Now that other countrie are showing the sane support for their women they are making sure they actually play with tecnique. The reason the gap is closing is because Usa women could get away with kicking it down the field since other cpuntrie did not have the athleticim or tecnical ability. Now the tecbical ability in Japan and Brazil have surpassed Usa while still catching up on the physical side. How long has Marta from Brazil now been the best in the world? Why isnt it an American if we are so dominant? We are so arrogant that we dont even want to look at howwell Mexico is doing with payer development. We are still stuck on one generation on the mens side instead of focusing on the future. Recruitment in Usa must improve and is not hard to do.

  1. Sue Gier
    commented on: August 10, 2012 at 2:13 p.m.
    Why no grades for Japan's players? I guess they don't count--just nameless opponents to be beaten.

  1. john haley
    commented on: August 10, 2012 at 2:28 p.m.
    Congratulations to both teams for a very entertaining game. I would submit that both USWNT's and USWMT's are constantly being exposed defensively. I am a long time coach, and you frequently hear and preach scoring wins games; defense wins championships. I counted several times on US attacks, the Japanese women had 8 players in the 6 yard box, plus the keeper defending. I have never seen that type of defending by any US team. Go back and watch past games and you will see lack of numbers on defense. We need better defensive coaching. we almost treat it like 1v1 (sort of like the "and 1" basketball), when from 7-8 years old, they have been, and or should have been taught P,C,B or 1st, 2nd, third, and fourth defender, and total team defending at the higher levels. If they were, they are not executing it.

  1. bF BF
    commented on: August 10, 2012 at 2:34 p.m.
    While it may be obvious to you Luis it is by far not obvious to average supporter and 90% of the coaches in this country. Around what you said ,out punching your opponent for 90 minutes is not a recipe for success long term, we need smart and skilled players, not galloping horses that know one speed!

  1. James Madison
    commented on: August 10, 2012 at 6:01 p.m.
    In my opinion, LePielbet, Rampone, Lloyd and Morgan are all over-rated, and Wambach's contributions---the beatings she endures, the passes she makes, the defensive assistance she provides and the leadership she displays may not be underrated, but should not be under-appreciated. It would be instructive to learn what's with Rapinoe. She was superb in games 1,2 and 5; awful in 3 and 4 and so-so in 6. She does not have "a curl in the middle of her forehead," so it cannot be that. On both the men's side and the women's side, we still are burdened with a youth parent and coaching culture that pays and gets paid for wins based on strength and speed, not development based on skill. So long as that is the case, other nationa will progress faster than we do.

  1. Robert Heinrich
    commented on: August 11, 2012 at 1:53 a.m.
    "...seldom looked off the pace. She stabilized the center and limited the touches of Homare Sawa while screening the back line." Sorry to call out Shannon Boxx but I thought she was awful, 3 at best. She is too slow to pressure anybody and was easily passed around. It was often 11 v 10 with her inability to slow down the Japanese midfield at all. I can't recall her cutting out a single pass the entire game. If stabilizing the center means occupying space, she did do that, but this team desperately needs someone with quickness who can read the play and STEP to the ball.

  1. Chris Steers
    commented on: August 11, 2012 at 9:43 a.m.
    Hard to say the US Womens soccer program is in decline. they are still on top and are by far the most consistent. Where have Germany and China gone.? Where has Norway gone.? Where has Brazil gone.? Those teams were all dependent on 1 or 2 stars. When those players are gone, the teams falter. And the pipeline of young players continues. Lets see where Japan is in 4 years.

  1. Chris Sapien
    commented on: August 13, 2012 at 2:57 p.m.
    yada, yada,......had we finished more chances early in the first half, none of you would be bitchin', because you would like fools......Champions rountinely win in different ways on different days....! And as far as skills go, they are never taught, they come from within a player's personal desire!


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