Three takeaways from USA-Colombia

Goals by Alex Morgan and Carli Lloyd powered the U.S. women past Colombia, 2-0, and into the Women’s World Cup quarterfinals against China on Friday.

After Morgan’s goal from a sharp angle had broken open a goalless game in the 53rd minute, Lloyd converted the second penalty kick awarded to the USA. Abby Wambach drove the first PK wide of the post in the 48th minute.

Here are three takeaways from the match, which was the USA’s third shutout of the tournament and sets up a match with China in the quarterfinals.

1. Suspensions to Holiday and Rapinoe will force Ellis’ hand.

So far in the tournament, Head coach Jill Ellis has refused to break up the central midfield tandem of Lloyd and Lauren Holiday, but the yellow card incurred by Holiday against Colombia for her second hard foul of the game was her second of the tournament and will suspend her for the quarterfinal.

Morgan Brian, who played the first 58 minutes of the second group game against Sweden and replaced Wambach in the 69th minute on Monday, can take Holiday’s spot. Megan Rapinoe also picked up her second caution and must be replaced. Tobin Heath has started the last two games in a wide role and seems likely to get another call, but that still leaves a midfield slot to be filled if Ellis sticks with a quartet. Christen Press replaced Rapinoe in the 75th minute and could start against China either in midfield or up top if Ellis elects to bench Wambach.

Aside from Rapinoe, the Americans haven’t shown much of the spark and flair flashed by two of the other elite teams in the final eight: France and Germany. Some nice combination play created the chance for Morgan, and a brazen dribble by Rapinoe caused the second penalty kick, yet playing 11-against-11 the Americans did not impress.

2. Red card ends Colombia’s hopes.

Catalina Perez got the start only because Colombian keeper Sandra Sepulveda, who had started in the 2-0 win over France and 2-1 loss to England, was suspended, yet she kept her nation in the game until her red card.

Perez dove to her right to parry a low shot from Heath and though Wambach bundled in the rebound an offside flag annulled the score. Perez also tipped a Morgan header over the bar and the first half ended scoreless. Early in the second half, a Perez challenge upended Morgan and yielded the red card.

Stefany Castano, Colombia's third keeper, had started the 1-1 tie with Mexico. With Sepulveda watching in the stands, she replaced Perez and watched Wambach’s penalty kick sail a foot past the post. But a few minutes later a hard shot by Morgan from a sharp angle handcuffed her and she could only deflect it high into the net. Lloyd sent Castano the wrong way on her penalty kick to seal the U.S. victory.

Colombia didn’t generate many chances when the teams were even yet a few players -- Daniela Montoya, Diana Ospina and Lady Andrade -- caused some minor problems. The Americans, again, were sometimes sluggish in transition though a resilient back line usually snuffed out the danger.

3. U.S. defense has reeled off 333 scoreless minutes.

Until Lori Chalupny replaced right back Ali Krieger in the 81st minute, all four defenders had played every minute of the competition. Their consistent, tenacious play has made life easy for keeper Hope Solo.

After posting five saves in the opener against Australia, Solo has been called upon just four times in the last three games, including twice against Colombia. Strong, cohesive defending blunted the energetic efforts of Colombia to penetrate the penalty area, where Julie Johnston and Becky Sauerbrunn dominated the middle, and Meghan Klingenberg and Krieger were solid on the outside.

Since conceding its only goal to Australia in its opening game, the USA has reeled off 333 scoreless minutes. Canada and eliminated Brazil are the other teams to have conceded just one goal in their first four games. Japan, which plays the Netherlands on Tuesday, also conceded just one goal in three group games.

15 comments about "Three takeaways from USA-Colombia".
  1. James e Chandler, June 23, 2015 at 10:08 a.m.

    This article is full of, well, to put it nicely, some words. First to make the statement that the back line has made it easy on Solo while articles written after that Matilda match were ready to make Solo the hero of the tournament lacks insight, and substance. The same also applies to the gushing about the US only allowing one goal to then rendering it nearly insignificant by noting the other teams that have done the same.
    What about the glob about who's going to replace Holiday, and Rapinoe? No mention of Sydney Leroux-Dwyer when she should probably be starting with Morgan while the "can't hit the frame on a spot kick" kicker watches "the beautiful game" evolve in the team, something it can't do if she, an icon of "ugly American soccer" is off the pitch.
    Holiday seems to have lost her midfielder's vision too often dribbling into pressure, or making bad passes. I've watched her do the same thing while playing with her NWSL team which makes me wonder just how valuable it is as the development tool USSF envisioned. The one thing Holiday still can do is crack from distance, but how many of those chances has she had especially being relegated to more of a defensive/holding role instead of attacking like a true #10, something the team lacks can do.
    That brings me to a final point. Who is running this team, Ellis, or all the players that have grandmothered their way onto the roster. Did she pick Wambach to take that first spot kick? She wouldn't be in my first 5 if a match went to a shoot-out. She's scored with her head because she's taller than most players, but off her foot she's a shankapotomus.
    Here's the real issue for Ellis even after her "Bull Durham" answer to how she'll fill Rapinoe, and Holiday's spots. The best 22 US womnens soccer players aren't all there.
    They might get past China because of the back four, and Solo, but does anyone really believe this squad can beat the Alemanian women?
    I guess, at the least, the article is seed for another thread of mostly gibberish starting with my rant.:-)
    The one thing I always say. You just never know from where the entertainment value of the game will come.

  2. James e Chandler, June 23, 2015 at 10:11 a.m.

    oops, employed a double negative. Meant to say the team's play has a better chance to evolve if #20 is out.

  3. James e Chandler, June 23, 2015 at 10:21 a.m.

    . . . which brings up another point. This text editor isn't exactly user friendly. Hard to proofread when you spew as much detritus as I do.

  4. Alan Brown, June 23, 2015 at 10:58 a.m.

    The team's play has been very disappointing so far with no signs of offensive improvement. They are playing nowhere near the level of France or Germany and are going to face an uphill battle in Montreal on June 30--if they can get by the Chinese. At a time when our men are finally starting to show some attacking flair and daring, it is disappointing to see our women going backwards in that area. I agree with DiCicco and Foudy: time to give a 4-3-3 alignment a chance. More commitment to possession and movement off the ball would be welcome.

  5. Tom Symonds, June 23, 2015 at 11 a.m.

    What's most discouraging thing about the USWNT is the aimlessness of play. And I blame our entire coaching system for this black hole in our game -- and Tony DiCicco with all his USWNT pedigree gave me that proof. On the broadcast when talking about counter-attacking football, he offered an acronym which he said he used to teach his philosophy of counter-attack: S.C.O.R.E. So, what is the S? So here's a multiple choice question "S = (a) Switch (b) Sprint (c) Surge (d) Stop. Now I think of Japan (current World Champs) and how prepared they are to immediately switch from defense to attack; I think of France whose wingers sprint so ruthlessly down the flanks on counters; I think of Germany whose front players surge like a North Shore wave full of power and purpose...but, the US answer is ---- STOP! Really, Tony? Stop? Wow, let the first step of a counter-attack be STOP. No wonder our team plays so poorly.

  6. Toby Rappolt, June 23, 2015 at 11:52 a.m.

    The Colombians are clearly better players than ours in terms of individual savvy, deftness, deception and composure on the ball. Why is that?

  7. Eric Shinn, June 23, 2015 at 11:53 a.m.

    It's hard to have much of a cohesive attack when the engine of that attack - the central midfield - has been as atrociously bad as Llyod and Holiday. If those two can't figure it out, we're going to get SMOKED by the French / German winner. If we don't come out in a 4-3-3 against China with O'Reilly, Lloyd, and Heath in the middle and Leroux, Morgan, and Press up top, she ought to be fired. Period.

  8. Eric Shinn, June 23, 2015 at 11:54 a.m.

    Toby - Because the U.S. Feeder systems FAR overvalue speed and athleticism as opposed to technical ability and tactical knowledge. It's the reason Japan beat us in the last World Cup, and it'll be the reason we lose to Germany or France next week.

  9. beautiful game, June 23, 2015 at 11:56 a.m.

    Another TV telecast of 50% ground level and back of the head visuals, thus suffocating team shape and ball movement...worst televised sport. As the USWNT seemed aimless at times, the TV production far surpassed it. When the game demands a visual perspective of multiple players, we are provided with tight in your face nonsense similar to a high speed Ping-Pong contest. Next, Go-Pro cameras on player heads.

  10. James Madison, June 23, 2015 at 12:28 p.m.

    Toby Rappolt,good heavens. I haven't heard your name since you captained SF State. At any rate, (1) Andrade can dance, but she can't score; (2) the US back four are cool, but a bit over-rated---the press needs something to cheer for when the attack is clumsy; and (3) whether it's 4-3-3 or 4-2-2, Eric has the right US players on the field.

  11. Dan Murphy, June 23, 2015 at 1:02 p.m.

    Tom, I agree with your comments, but what I think Tony DiCicco meant by "Stop" was to first stop the opponent's attack. That makes more sense. Do you recall the rest of the acronym? I missed it. We need to use all of athleticism and speed to completely overwhelm the China back 4. I would feel a whole lot better were TDC at the helm than Ellis. At least he can make adjustments when the game plan goes south. And I am certain his subs would make more sense.

  12. Robert Robertson, June 23, 2015 at 1:12 p.m.

    Colombia outplayed the US in the first half. The US defense has now played in 2 games where the opponent was down to 10 players. They will not be continue to be so fortunate. The Colombians where much more entertaining to watch as they connected passes and showed individual skill and creativity. Lastly, Rapinoe saved the US again. She will be missed against Germany or France.

  13. Robert Robertson, June 23, 2015 at 1:14 p.m.

    against China.

  14. Dan Murphy, June 23, 2015 at 1:20 p.m.

    Eric, I would love to see that line-up, even in a 4-4-2. And your comment about US soccer overvaluing speed and athleticism is spot-on. My daughter has held the juggling record for her last 6 teams, yet she keeps getting dropped because of her lack of pace. World-class speed at CM is nice, but if they have a bad touch and lose the ball, what does that give you? If you have all that speed, why not use it to your advantage? When you gain possession, attack! When you get #'s behind the ball, unleash the pressure! We are not playing like the fastest, fittest team in the WC. Right now, we look tactically inept! Fyi, my daughter's record playing against the 6 faster and more talented teams that dropped her: 4 wins and 2 draws. Technical skill and tactical knowledge almost always trumps speed! The rest of the world has made tremendous gains on the US, and sadly, are about to pass us... even with all of our speed.

  15. Bob Ashpole, June 24, 2015 at 12:45 a.m.

    Mr. Chandler, you are ignoring the fact that the 3 teams that the US faced in the group stage were top ten teams, no easy matches. Also Swedish players were bigger and allowed to play a physical game. The 5 players in the back have played excellent so far.

    It is the attacking play that has been a problem. 20 years ago, the US WNT played together like a club team. Now the finals are just like for the men. There is a learning curve. Hopefully, the US attacking play will have an opportunity to improve over three more matches. Assuming success on Friday, resting Holiday and Rapinoe will turn into an advantage.

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