Maura Gladys rides with the USWNT
The United States had a workman-like victory over New Zealand on Friday. Not the blowout that was expected, but, still enough to get the job done. The game was scoreless through 25 minutes, partly thanks to New Zealand’s moxie and partly thanks to the U.S., especially Alex Morgan, failing to finish off a couple sitters. But then, in what is becoming a signature play for the U.S., Alex Morgan served up a ball to Abby Wambach who slid home the first, and game-winning goal for the U.S.
Despite the lead, the U.S. failed to fully assert their dominance, leaving the door open for New Zealand to sneak back in the game. What eventually kept them out was the United States composure during the entire match.
Sydney Leroux slammed the door on the Kiwis for good with her 87th minute goal. The goal itself was Alex Morgan-esque, with Leroux using her speed to get behind the defense and slot home a nutmeg between the goalkeeper’s legs.
But the Leroux-Morgan tandem, which is still a few years from coming to fruition, will signal a stark change from the current U.S. scoring threat. Right now, Wambach and Morgan have a very cool, thunder and lightning 1-2 punch going on. Morgan and Leroux are a lightning storm, all speed and flash. But Morgan has already shown immense growth as a playmaker and visionary, which may lead her into a deeper sitting role. In the meantime, with Leroux playing the super sub role, plus Morgan and Wambach on all cylinders, the U.S. is enjoying one of the most prolific offenses in women’s soccer history.
The best part of the goal was the look on Leroux’s face after her first Olympic goal, a mix of shock, surprise, euphoria and joy.
The U.S. win sets up a semifinal match against our neighbors to the north, Canada, a pairing no one expected. It’s an incredibly intriguing matchup though. NBC is trying to hype it as a rivalry match, but in reality, it’s a rivalry only by proximity. The U.S. has historically owned Canada, holding a 7-0-1 advantage since 2009. This year alone, the U.S. thumped Canada in the CONCACAF Olympic qualifying championship match in January (both teams had qualified at this point), and downed them 2-1 in June at the United States’ send-off match. However, you get the feeling that anything could happen in this game. The U.S. could roll 3-0 and I wouldn’t be shocked, but Canada could come out strong and force a 1-1 overtime game, and I wouldn’t be surprised at all.
Canada was sneaky dangerous in their quarterfinal match up against Great Britain.
They put GB on its heels early, netting a goal in the 12th minute and doubling their lead in the 27th. Once they had the lead, they clamped down on defense, snuffing out any and all Great Britain attacks. Canada also has a potent duo of their own in Melissa Tancredi and Christine Sinclair. Sinclair has long been Canada’s star striker, and is chasing Abby Wambach in a race to break Mia Hamm’s all-time goal-scoring record of 158. (Wambach has 142 while Sinclair has 140). But Tancredi has really stepped up, putting in the grunt work of scoring first and creating chances, taking pressure off of Sinclair and freeing her up to do what she does best, deliver in the clutch.
So, this game is kind of a mystery. Both teams are coming in hot. Alex Morgan hasn’t scored since the first game of group play, so, she could be due for a few goals, but other than that, this chapter of the “USA-Canada rivalry” still has a lot of potential to be re-written.