2012 Summer Olympics / Featured / Olympics / USWNT

Olympic quarterfinal match report: USWNT 2-0 New Zealand

Photo: Paul Rudderow

The United States continued their quest for the gold medal with a 2-0 victory over New Zealand in the quarterfinal round at the London Olympics. The US relied on the reliable Abby Wambach for a goal in the first half, and secured their win late in the game with a tally by substitute Sydney Leroux. Tobin Heath started in place of Heather O’Reilly as an outside midfielder, which was the only change to the starting lineup from the last game of qualifying.

First Half

The United States started the game strong, using high pressure up top to force turnovers and create opportunities. The first significant opportunity came in the tenth minute. Kelley O’Hara played a ball over the top, which a New Zealand defender misplayed. The ball fell to Alex Morgan’s feet with only the goalkeeper Bindon in her way. Morgan’s touch to the left around the keeper took her too far wide, and her shot from a tough angle went past the far post.

The Americans continued to put pressure on the New Zealand defense, with the next good opportunity coming from Megan Rapinoe. Her cross on the ground from the right side went directly through the middle of the six yard box. Morgan and the keeper Bindon both missed it, but Abby Wambach met the ball at the far post, only for her touch to knock it wide of the goal. Lauren Cheney started the play by finding Rapinoe on the wing, and her involvement was a positive sign for the Americans.

Carli Lloyd got involved offensively in the 23rd minute. Her slotted ball through the central defenders was just ahead of Wambach, and a sliding Bindon beat the forward to the ball.

The combination of Morgan and Wambach put the US on the scoreboard in the 27th minute when Morgan took on a defender on the left wing. She cut back to her right foot and played a low ball to the back post. She connected with a sliding Wambach, who finished the nutmegging delivery for her 4th goal of the tournament.

The United States seemed to take a foot off the pedal after the goal and did not produce any other quality chances in the first half. New Zealand tried to create some chances, but the US defense limited them to long-range shots which either missed the target, or were easily collected by Hope Solo.

Second Half

The United States again came out with high pressure defense to start the second half in the hopes of securing the game with a few more goals. The pressure created numerous opportunities, especially for Alex Morgan, though she struggled to finish those opportunities. Her shot in the 48th minute found the side netting, and she appeared to be taken down in the box a minute later. Her appeal for a penalty seemed legit enough with the replay showing plenty of contact, while the defender never touched the ball. The ref saw otherwise and play continued.

Morgan had another opportunity in the 58th minute, but she finished a weak shot that went directly to the New Zealand goalkeeper.

The United States continued to dominate throughout the second half, and New Zealand had very few chances to test Hope Solo. The back line for the United States was much improved in their communication and was able to squash attempts by New Zealand as soon as they approached the penalty area. In fact, New Zealand had more opportunities than they should have, due to some careless giveaways in the midfield. The US will need to be better in keeping possession in their half of the field because a better team might make them pay in the later rounds.

There was some controversy in the 73rd minute when Alex Morgan received a ball through the central defenders and appeared to be taken down by Bindon at the top of the box. Morgan was able to touch the ball to the left past the keeper, but collided with her when she tried to go around. Both players lay on the ground after the play and the US team called for action from the referee. The referee made no call on the play and replay showed that the only contact made by the keeper Bindon was from a blow to the head from the left knee of Morgan.

Morgan would continue in the game but would later be replaced by Sydney Leroux, who made an immediate impac. In the 82nd minute, she took the ball to the endline on the left side, and slotted it back to fellow substitute Heather O’Reilly near the penalty mark. O’Reilly took a heavy touch and the chance was squandered.

It was New Zealand’s turn to call for a penalty in the 83rd minute when midfielder Betsy Hassett went down in the box after being challenged by two defenders. The referee again made no call. I was the correct decision, given the precedent she set earlier in the half at the opposite end of the field.

The United States secured their victory in the 87th behind when Leroux’s scored her first Olympic goal. Heath started the play by chipping a ball over the defense to an on-rushing LeRoux. The substitute then controlled the ball and used her speed to beat her defender to the outside. She then struck a right-footed shot through Bindon’s legs to find the back of the net.

Final Thoughts

The United States was much improved in the quarterfinals. The back line is starting to look like a cohesive unit and their attack is creating numerous chances. Still, the defense and midfield need to do a better job of keeping possession after they win the ball. The attack also needs to be more efficient with their chances. The US had many chances on goal, and better teams will make them pay for not finishing.

The US will face Canada in the semifinal round on Monday (2:45pm, NBCSN). The other semifinal will feature France and Japan (12pm, NBCSN).

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