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.
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.