US / USWNT / Women's World Cup

Match report: U.S.A. 2 – 1 England

Photo courtesy of FIFA.com

For the third consecutive time, the United States Women’s National Team is headed to the World Cup final, beating England in their semifinal showdown 2-1 Tuesday afternoon.

Spectators in France and around the world may have had their doubts when they saw U.S. head coach Jill Ellis’s starting lineup. To virtually everyone’s surprise, Ellis had left star forward Megan Rapinoe out of the starting XI. With five goals, Rapinoe has arguably been the tournament’s best player, and at the time this article was published, the reason for her absence on the pitch is believed to be a hamstring injury of some kind. The story dominated the media narrative before the starting whistle.

Luckily, the United States just happens to have one of the best players in the world in Christen Press to take Rapinoe’s place. In the 10th minute, Press proved that missing Rapinoe would be no problem for her side. After Alex Morgan dummied a pass through her legs, U.S. right back Kelly O’Hara gathered the ensuing ball on the right wing and took it to the endline. O’Hara delivered an absolutely perfect cross to Press at the far post, where Press headed it clean past England keeper Carly Telford to give the U.S.A. the early 1-0 lead.

England responded less than 10 minutes later with some pretty impeccable service of their own. Taking advantage of a relatively spacious final third, England managed to get the ball to winger Beth Mead on their left flank. Kelly O’Hara raced to close down on Mead, but she couldn’t get there in time. Mead drove the ball into the center, where star English striker Ellen White had positioned herself between the U.S. centerbacks. White made contact with the cross, angling it to the far post past U.S. keeper Alyssa Naeher for the goal.

As if responding to a challenge, the U.S. once more scored from aerial distribution, this time in the 31st minute. With the ball at the left wing, Press delivered the ball inside to Lindsey Horan outside of the box. Horan took one touch, looked up, and saw U.S. captain Alex Morgan streaking into the box. With precise finesse, Horan floated a ball to Morgan who headed it right into net. The U.S. were back up 2-1. Ellen White had taken the lead for the Golden Boot with her goal in the 19th minute, but in scoring, Morgan retook the lead with six goals and three assists.

In the 68th minute, it looked as if both Alex Morgan and the U.S. would lose their leads, as England’s Jill Scott flicked a perfect ball past the U.S. back line. Once more, Ellen White had positioned herself between the two U.S. centerbacks and ran onto Scott’s pass. One-on-one with Naeher, White hit the ball low to her left and into the net.

It seemed as if England had tied the match once more, but after a VAR review, White was ruled offside but the smallest of margins. The U.S. maintained their 2-1 lead.

Soon after, it again looked like the U.S. would lose their lead. This time VAR gave England an opportunity, as the official ruled that Becky Sauerbrunn made contact with Ellen White in an obvious goal scoring opportunity. England centerback Steph Houghton elected to take the kick. Stepping up to the spot, facing off with Alyssa Naeher, Houghton struck the ball low and to Naeher’s right. Just as she did, Naeher dove in the direction of the ball and made the impressive save. In one of the great moments in U.S. Soccer history, Naeher held onto the ball, and the U.S. still held their delicate lead.

Not long after, in the 86th minute, the United States’ task of maintaining that lead got a bit easier, as England centerback Millie Bright was ejected from the match. Bright slid studs up into Alex Morgan, who has taken a notable beating throughout the tournament. Bright received her second yellow, and England was forced to end the match with 10 women on the pitch.

Though they weren’t without their opportunities, the short-sided England were unable to put the ball into the back of the net. An electric back-and-forth match came to a close after seven minutes of stoppage time as the women in red began to cheer, celebrating before looking to their third consecutive World Cup final.

The U.S.W.N.T. will face the winner of tomorrow’s match between the Netherlands and Sweden in the final on July 7 at 11:00 AM E.S.T.

Three points

Missing Megan. The big story before the match began was Jill Ellis’s decision not to start Megan Rapinoe, who is believed to have a hamstring injury. With Christen Press filling in, the U.S.W.N.T. didn’t miss a step. If Rapinoe’s injury doesn’t keep her off the pitch entirely, it will be interesting to see what lineup Ellis decides to go with for the final — a tough but good dilemma for the head coach.

Wing depth. Although she did not score herself, Rose Lavelle arguably had her best match of the tournament so far before leaving with an injury, nutmegging Millie Bright in the first five minutes, shooting some absolute rockets from the top of the box, and creating chances in possession. Lindsey Horan started in place of Sam Mewis in this match. Mewis has been spectacular throughout the tournament, but you could make the case that Horan is one of the top three or four players on the roster. It’s been said time and time again, but the depth that this U.S. side has is beyond impressive, particularly on the wings, where Jill Ellis can pick and choose who to play based on tactics and one-on-one matchups.

Closing down the back. The U.S. were evidently the better side throughout most of the match, but more than once England were able to exploit the U.S.’s back third in the attack, either by stretching the backline and opening up space between centerbacks Abby Dahlkemper and Becky Sauerbrunn, or by gathering the ball on the wings with enough space to create a play. Or both. Both the Netherlands and Sweden have scored more goals per match than England. They’re no stranger to offensive tactics, so the U.S. will have to tighten things up defensively if they want to walk away with their second consecutive World Cup.

Lineups

USA

Alyssa Naeher; Kelley O’Hara (Ali Kreiger 88′), Abby Dahlkemper, Becky Sauerbrunn, Crystal Dunn; Rose Lavelle (Sam Mewis – 65′), Julie Ertz, Lindsey Horan; Tobin Heath (Carli Lloyd 80′), Alex Morgan, Christen Press

Unused substitutes: Morgan Brian, Mallory Pugh, Ali Kreiger, Tierna Davidson, Emily Sonnett, Ashlyn Harris, Allie Long, Adrianna Franch, Jessica McDonald, Megan Rapinoe

England

Carly Telford; Demi Stokes, Millie Bright, Steph Houghton, Lucy Bronze; Rachel Daly (Georgia Stanway 89′), Beth Mead (Fran Kirby 58′), Jill Scott, Keira Walsh (Jade Moore 71′); Ellen White, Nikita Parris

Unused substitutes: Karen Bardsley, Alex Greenwood, Jodie Taylor, Toni Duggan, Leah Williamson, Abbie McManus, Karen Carney, Mary Earps, Lucy Staniforth

Goals

USA: 10′ Christen Press (Kelly’ O’Hara)

ENG: 19′ Ellen White (Beth Mead)

USA: 31′ Alex Morgan (Lindsey Horan)

Cards

ENG: 40′ Millie Bright (Unsporting behavior)

USA: 46′ Lindsey Horan (Unsporting behavior)

USA: 82′ Becky Sauerbrunn (Interference in an obvious goalscoring opportunity)

ENG: 86′ Millie Bright (Second yellow ejection – unsporting behavior)

ENG: 90 + 5′ Nikita Parris (Unsporting behavior)

6 Comments

  1. Can we bring that ref to MLS? Quantum leap better than 90% of what we’re used to.

    • Andy Muenz says:

      I think they said she refs in the Brazilian men’s league. My guess is that Brazil pays its refs better than MLS does.

  2. Andy Muenz says:

    I believe Rapinoe admitted to the hamstring tweak in the interviews after the game but said she is hoping it will be better by Sunday. And she wasn’t the only one with hamstring issues. England played their backup keeper because their starter was out with a hamstring injury.

  3. I believe Rose Lavelle also suffered a hammy. She had a great game. She has to be bummed if she can’t play in the final.

    • OneManWolfpack says:

      Rose Lavelle can strike a ball. She had a few shots yesterday that were just absolute rockets. Hope she’s 100% for Sunday

    • Lavelle is my favorite footballer in a US jersey. What a match she had! I’ll be gutted if she can’t play in the final.

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