Teo: Fearless play from key individuals helps USWNT advance to finals

July 3, 2015, 9:52 a.m.

The United States Women’s National Soccer team’s 2-0 victory over Germany in the Women’s World Cup on June 30 brought the USWNT to the finals of the tournament. Midfielder Carli Lloyd scored a penalty in the 69th minute of the match, while Stanford alum Kelley O’Hara ‘09 extended their lead to 2-0 with a volley in the 84th minute. The win marks the USWNT’s fourth World Cup finals appearance. On July 5, the United States will face Japan in the final.

The United States started the match off with a bang by playing some of the most confident and clean soccer that they have played all tournament. Although the scoreboard at halftime does not support it, the United States’ ability to create scoring opportunities and control the pace and possession all throughout the first half foreshadowed a win for the USWNT.

In the semifinal match of the Women's World Cup, Stanford alum Kelley O'Hara '09 scored the second of two goals by the USWNT. The final result was a 2-0 shutout win over Germany, highlighted by some bold lineup changes and some even bolder play from the likes of O'Hara and Carli Lloyd. (HECTOR GARCIA-MOLINA/Stanford Athletics)
In the semifinal match of the Women’s World Cup, Stanford alum Kelley O’Hara ’09 scored the second of two goals by the USWNT. The final result was a 2-0 shutout win over Germany, highlighted by some bold lineup changes and some even bolder play from the likes of O’Hara and Carli Lloyd. (HECTOR GARCIA-MOLINA/Stanford Athletics)

Germany faced seven shots in the first half alone — a significant amount considering they only had nine shots to defend in the first five games of the tournament. Furthermore, the United States had five corner kicks and four free kicks in the first 45 minutes as well. In particular, it was the USWNT’s speed and aggression that allowed them to dominate the match.

Germany had opportunities as well but was not able to capitalize on them. The United States’ Julie Johnston fouled Alexandra Popp in the 59th minute, and Popp was awarded a penalty. However, Popp’s shot was wide left, devastating Germany players and fans.

Some argue that the referee made several bad calls in favor of the United States. For example, Johnston’s foul that led to a penalty arguably should have been a red card, but Johnston was only given a yellow. Johnston’s defense later in the game was pivotal in maintaining the United States’ lead and dominance. Furthermore, replay cameras show that Lloyd’s penalty should not have even happened, as the foul in the 69th minute actually occurred outside of the penalty box. Regardless, refereeing mistakes are inevitable in every match, and the United States proved to be the stronger team in almost every aspect.

The real hero of the match was O’Hara, who was only subbed onto the field in the 75th minute but scored within nine minutes of match play. Although the goal was O’Hara’s first of the tournament, her persistence has been critical to the USWNT’s morale and spirit.

In the quarterfinal face off against China, O’Hara developed a deep bruise on the bridge of her nose due to an accidental headbutt from a Chinese player, causing blood to stream down her face. Despite the injury, hard-nosed (pun intended) O’Hara insisted on playing on until the referee finally demanded for her to seek treatment.

“Kelley had blood on her face and she absolutely refused to have the training staff come on because she wanted to keep playing,” said teammate Becky Sauerbrunn in an interview with USA Today.

The USWNT has been playing excellent soccer throughout the tournament, and is still undefeated. The major concern with them is head coach Jill Ellis’s tendencies to put players into positions that they usually don’t play. After playing the team in a 4-4-2 formation for the entire tournament, Ellis decided to place stronger emphasis on the team’s midfield game by taking veteran Abby Wambach out of the starting lineup and placing Lloyd (who scored the team’s first goal) at attacking midfield in a 4-2-3-1 formation. The lineup change was beneficial and was what allowed the United States to control the pace of the match against a usually midfield-heavy German team.

Ellis is unlikely to change the lineup for the final, as it seemed to work effectively in the Germany game. Keeping the 4-2-3-1 formation will hopefully allow the United States to once again control the game with a stronger midfield and put pressure on the Japan defense. If the USWNT can play with this same level of tenacity in the final, the team should be able to avenge its loss to the very same team in the 2011 World Cup final and emerge victorious.

Contact Ethan Teo at ethanteo99 ‘at’ gmail.com.

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