Three takeaways from USA-Germany

To reach its fourth Women’s World Cup final, the USA has followed a formula simple to express and difficult to implement: grow stronger as does the opposition.

In the group phase, the Americans were efficient if not effervescent, and scored just one goal combined against Sweden and Nigeria after hitting three past Australia in the opener. They improved slightly but not dramatically to down Colombia, 2-0, in the round of 16, then quickened their tempo and sharpened their edge to beat China in as about a one-sided 1-0 game as you will ever see.

In its semifinal Tuesday, the USA comprehensively overpowered and outclassed Germany, which had seldom looked like the No. 1 team while edging past France in its quarterfinal and sputtered even worse in Montreal. The German attackers were blanketed, their midfielders smothered, and their defenders twisted into knots. Only keeper Nadine Angerer brought her A-game; her teammates played bit parts in a B-movie as the USA triumphed, 2-0.

Of the many aspects of this game dominated by the USA, here are three takeaways of by far the team’s best game in this competition:

1. JJ got off lucky, but this happens all the time.

The penalty-kick miss by Celia Sasic, who drove her kick low a foot wide of the post in the 59th minute of a 0-0 game, illustrates why the rules empower the referee to send off a player whose foul denies the opposition an obvious goal-scoring opportunity. Penalty kicks are not slam dunks, especially in big games.

Many coaches, players, fans, and yes journalists abhor the “triple jeopardy” by which a team is penalized by a penalty kick, the loss of a player, and suspension for the next game. This wasn’t a borderline DOGSO; after misplaying the bounce as Alexandra Popp surged past her, centerback Julie Johnston yanked her back by the shoulder and Popp went down. Yet Johnston stayed in the game.

Not all that surprisingly, the Germans didn’t protest too vehemently when referee Teadora Albon pulled out a yellow card rather than red. No doubt they’d seen this scenario before, a referee reluctant to send off a player in a high-stakes game for not a brutish foul, but rather one of desperation. Of course, their frustration escalated as keeper Hope Solo – who really should have cautioned as well -- played stalling tricks to delay the kick, and turned to anger when the kick whistled past the post.

Another controversy emerged when Albon awarded a second penalty kick to the U.S. when Alex Morgan sailed through the middle and ran into a shuddering body block; first contact was a foot or so shy of the penalty-area line, but Albon pointed to the spot, and up stepped Carli Lloyd to smack the ball in the opposite direction from Angerer’s dive.

The Germans ultimately experienced their own version of triple jeopardy; they missed a penalty kick, conceded a dubious one that the USA converted, and then couldn't break down a back line ably marshalled by Johnston.

2. Lloyd is on a roll. Again.

By scoring in her third consecutive game, Lloyd has run off another impressive streak of hitting the net. She’s played in a variety of midfield roles during her career, and manned the right side earlier this year to help Morgan Brian adjust to the national team. Sporadically, she’s shown a remarkable prowess at scoring in streaks.

This is her best sustained run in a major tournament, but in past years she’s compiled some remarkable accomplishments:

In 2008, she scored three goals in four games prior to the Olympic Games tournament, then hit the only goal of the gold-medal game against Brazil.

She scored three goals in as many games in 2011, nailed six goals in the first four games of 2012 and in the gold-medal game went one better by scoring both goals in a 2-1 defeat of Japan. Lloyd hit three goals in a five-game span in 2013, then ascended into rarified air by scoring 10 goals in seven consecutive games near the tail end of last year.

So perhaps head coach Jill Ellis wasn’t just blowing smoke prior to the tournament when she said he wasn’t concerned about who would score goals at this Women’s World Cup, with Abby Wambach obviously past her prime and Alex Morgan recovering from a knee contusion. Ellis played all five of her forwards in the group match against Sweden and none of them scored, but Wambach netted a sweet volley in the group finale against Nigeria, after which Lloyd took over.

In the three knockout games Lloyd has converted two penalties, crashed home a header to beat China, and served up the cross by which Kelley O’Hara iced the semi against Germany.

3. O’Hara a prime example of Ellis’ management.

O’Hara, a forward for much of her college and club career, played left back for the USA at the 2012 Olympics but injured her ankle in 2013 and with the emergence of Meghan Klingenberg at that position found herself on the bench after she came back.

“I’m not going to lie,” O’Hara said after a Mothers’ Day friendly against Ireland at Avaya Stadium in San Jose, not far from where she attended college at Stanford. She’d scored 26 goals and won the Hermann Trophy in her senior year. “It’s not the easiest mental battle to go through. It’s definitely an obstacle and a challenge but you have to be resilient and be ready for anything.

“I’m pretty comfortable. As an outside back, Jill expects a lot from us, a high volume from us in general, getting up and back. Obviously, defending is our No. 1 priority, but we’re expected to be very active in the final third as well.”

At the Women's World Cup, O’Hara waited out the first four games without getting a minute of action. Suspensions for Megan Rapinoe and Lauren Holiday left a void in midfield for the quarterfinal against China. O’Hara started at right mid against China and in 60 minutes of action helped the USA dominate on that side of the field.

She was back on the bench at kickoff Tuesday, with Rapinoe and Holiday both restored to the starting lineup. In the 75th minute on Tuesday, Ellis sent her on to replace Tobin Heath, and nine minutes later from the right side she knifed inside to stab home her first international goal in 62 appearances.

Ellis took a lot of criticism for the team’s muddled performances in the group phase, but since then it has not conceded a goal and improved each time. Her handling of O’Hara is one reason why.

13 comments about "Three takeaways from USA-Germany".
  1. John Bamford, July 1, 2015 at 5:04 a.m.

    Great performance and a great win, but questions must be asked of Jill Ellis.

    First, how is it that more than a year into her tenure, and five games into this WC, she has just now seen that she should play with three CMs? The team should’ve been playing this formation and training on this formation MONTHS AGO.

    Second, did anyone notice how inane the Wambach substitution was? One, we were up 1-0, so why was she bringing on a forward for a midfielder (Rapinoe)? Why would you reduce your midfield when up a goal? Two, even worse, why did Ellis not send someone to play on the far left after subbing out Rapinoe? We had NO WIDE LEFT PLAYER, for like ten minutes. It all worked out, but it was a bit daft.

    Now the team's defense and defensive shape has been excellent, so I will give Ellis credit there. But I still think her weaknesses are glaring.

  2. Ralph Ferrigno, July 1, 2015 at 7:54 a.m.

    By all means give the coach credit. Its easy from the outside to say Jill Ellis should have played this formation months ago. She has to deal with a number of strong players, their egos and a number of different tactical options open to her potentially day to day. She found the formula eventually!! The USA were no more than solid prior to last night's game. Against the Germans they were dominant both individually and as a team. Yes there were some breaks over both penalties but as so many say you make your own luck. The US merited that luck!

    Regarding the Abby Wambach substitution ... whilst it may have been a risk to play a man down in the midfield I would guess that Ellis gambled on some of the intangibles. Wambach is the talisman and her entrance certainly galvanized the crowd behind the team. Plus, it keeps Wambach involved & invested in the team effort after many years of great service. Finally, whilst she may be past her prime she is always capable of scoring a goal. A gamble perhaps but that is the art of being a coach. From a distance I have no knowledge of the finer point of Ellis’ coaching but what I do know is the management of the squad has been consistently excellent over the course of this tournament.

    If the USA play like this in the final they will be tough to stop. I suspect its going to be a rematch of the last final with Japan. However, I’m hoping England can keep the dream alive especially as team captain, Fara Williams, plays for my hometown team …. Liverpool!! Meantime, congratulations USA on a superb performance against Germany.

  3. Lou vulovich, July 1, 2015 at 8:33 a.m.

    Alex Morgan.

  4. Roy Gordon, July 1, 2015 at 8:34 a.m.

    For me Wambach was sent into the game for her ability to hold balls and to win air balls, especially on defensive corners. As to the formation of the team, Coach Ellis has said that it is not the formation that counts, it is how players cover the field that is important. The Team maintained their balanced shape after that substitution was made.

  5. David Mont, July 1, 2015 at 10:58 a.m.

    Re the first point. A small payback for the men's WC-02 quarterfinal.

  6. Tim Gibson, July 1, 2015 at 11:37 a.m.

    The German Coach should get canned for how she managed her bench

  7. Lee Katterman, July 1, 2015 at 11:58 a.m.

    I give Ellis credit for NOT using this formation sooner. If she had, Germany might have been better prepared. It had to be something the team used from time to time in training and in a few friendlies.

  8. Ed Arvizo, July 1, 2015 at 12:10 p.m.

    The US is 1 game away from winning the World Cup so to me and I assume the majority of the US supporters we look forward to the final and continuing the dominating performance. I could care less what Jill Ellis did 5 months ago- she made the adjustments and the US dominated against the #1 ranked team in the world. The 2nd goal was set up when Abby took the pass along the left flank went to the end line held the ball up then passed back which started the sequence for the 2nd goal. Rather than dissect and criticize a coach or a player let's celebrate the victory and the growth of the team before our eyes. I was watching the game with my 16 year old daughter and when the announcers said this the 2nd US substitute (Wambach) I said no we still have 2 more- my daughter corrected me with the name of the previous sub - she was just as into the game and excited about watching the game and the victory as I was. The Women's game will only get stronger in the US with the play of the USA this WC.

  9. Raymond Weigand, July 1, 2015 at 12:34 p.m.

    Captain Carli is Captain for a reason ... Carli demonstrated that team play is when you score. Heath was twice open for Alex - when she was forced into a bad angle. Carli was forced into a bad angle and hit's Heath's replacement ... coincidence?

  10. John Soares, July 1, 2015 at 2:37 p.m.

    Great game, dominating performance.. Great coaching, know your players and make the right moves... And to all those that just yesterday were saying the USA did not stand a chance against Germany. Never underestimate the USA:)

  11. Ramon Creager, July 1, 2015 at 2:42 p.m.

    I realize that there is some truth to "this happens all the time", but rarely is a DOGSO so blatant and clear-cut, and I wonder if it happens all the time when they are this obvious. Give me a reason not to call it and I'll take it like a lifeline; but there was none here.

  12. Bob Ashpole, July 2, 2015 at 3:13 a.m.

    Mr. Bamford, the Wambach for Rapino substituton gave the team more height and size for set pieces and defending in front of our goal. It was a reasonable expectation that Germany's best chances at the end of the match would come on corners and fee kicks in the attacking third. Short of watching a replay of the match together, I don't think I can change your mind about your other comments.

  13. Bob Ashpole, July 2, 2015 at 3:26 a.m.

    Mr. Ferrigno, my impression is that the US was not playing with less numbers in the midfield after the Wambach substitution, but rather more as forwards were withdrawn. My recall was they stopped pressing high and bunkered down well. At one point I distinctly remember them defending in a 541 shape in the defensive half. In possession, they pushed numbers higher. As far as team shape goes, this match was the best performance to date.

Next story loading loading..

Discover Our Publications