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After the USA lost to Japan in the 2011 Women's World Cup Final, the performance was labeled as a choke. Doing so, however, ignores the real issues at play.
Regardless of the outcome of the Women’s World Cup Final, US Women’s National Team goalie Hope Solo was bound to garner some individual spotlight.
She took home the Golden Glove award as the tournament’s top goalie, finished third in MVP voting for the tournament, and has already been making the TV talk show rounds.
Now we can add a Sports Illustrated cover appearance to that list.
Solo is the first women’s soccer player to appear on a SI cover since Mia Hamm on the September 22, 2003 issue. However, for those wondering what the USWNT will do for the growth of women’s sports at-large, this cover might hold additional significance: over its first 60 years of existence, women had only graced the cover of four percent of SI’s covers according to Dr. Nicole M. LaVoi.
Explaining the selection of this week’s cover photo, Time Inc. Sports Group editor Terry McDonell says: "The U.S. had just lost one of the greatest games ever played, and the emotions of that are complicated. And it’s reflected in the cover shot of Hope Solo, a nuanced mix of sadness and courage. She is looking back, thinking what might have been, but she is also looking to the future."
With the way the 2011 Women's World Cup had been going for the US Women's National Team, you almost expected the final match of the tournament to come down to the wire. After Alex Morgan put the USA up in the second half with a wonderfully struck goal, it looked like the US, who had been dominating the run of play, would finally survive a game without needing a late hero. But Japan answered, striking a goal of their own while taking advantage of a US miscue to tie the game and force extra time.
As the 30 minutes of extra time began, the USA and Japan appeared tight, both on the edge while worried about conceding an early goal. But just before the whistle to signal the half, Morgan broke free on the left flank, made a run to the byline and whipped a cross into the six-yard-box. As she's been all tournament long, Abby Wambach was there, ready to put a head to the incoming ball. And with that, the USA had the lead as Wambach's powerful header slammed into the back of the net.
All the USA had to do was protect in the second half of extra time to bring home a third Women's World Cup. The shaky back-line of the USA created some drama of their own throughout the final 15 minutes. A failed clearance in the box left Solo out of position early, and Japan nearly equalized. Somehow, the USA was able to side-step a dangerous chance, but the tense moments weren't over.
Another excellent through-ball in the 115th minute caught Hope Solo off her line, leaving Kinga with an open net after she'd chipped the America keeper. Christine Rampone was there to save the day, however, clearing the bouncing ball off the line and preventing the equalizing goal. But on the ensuing corner, Japan found the back of the net as Homare Sawa threaded the needle for the game-tying goal. Her late equalizer forced a penalty shootout, putting Hope Solo in the spotlight once again. It was 1999, and the team Solo has been trying to get out of the shadow of, all over again.
Shannon Boxx stepped up first, went right and saw her shot just barely tipped away by the foot of Kaihori. Solo guess wrong on Miyama's strike, and the US was at a disadvantage down 1-0. Carli Lloyd was next, and skied her penalty kick over the bar, putting the USA on life-support in the shootout. But Solo kept them alive, parrying the next shot away after diving to her right.
With Japan up 1-0, Tobin Heath stepped up with a chance to finally get on the board, but also saw her shot sent away. The penalty shootout start for the USA was simply disastrous. Solo got a hand on the next kick, only to see it trickle through to give Japan a 2-0 lead.
Abby Wambach kept the USA alive with the first goal in the shootout, but all Japan needed was one more. Sake Kumagai stepped up against Solo, went high and finished the USA's dream run.
The Women's World Cup Final was superb, but ended in heartbreak for Solo and the USA as Japan took the title in a penalty shootout, 2-2 (3-1).
If nothing else, the 2011 Women's World Cup Final has been drama-filled. Abby Wambach put the US in front at the end of the first half of extra time, but Japan kept pushing, looking for the equalizing goal in the final 15 minutes. After Christine Rampone cleared a dangerous ball off the line and out of bounds for a corner, Hope Solo stayed down for a moment, taking a knock to her knee. It was a tense moment, and the Japan corner just seemed feel dangerous.
A low, swinging ball in from the corner found Sawa, who somehow threaded the needed past the defense and Solo for the equalizer. The USA was stunned with just minutes to go and a penalty shootout on the horizon.
Alex Morgan got behind the defense just a few minutes later, just before the second half of extra time began to create another dangerous chance. Morgan was hauled-fown on the edge of the box, setting up a dangerous free kick. In addition to the free kick, Japan was given a red card, losing a central defender for the final minute of extra time and the penalty shootout.
The free kick was off the mark, but went out for a goal kick, denying the USA its best chance to avoid a shootout. It's all down to Hope Solo again as the USA and Japan head to penalty kicks tied at two.
Abby Wambach had a significant advantage throughout the 2011 Women's World Cup and has been a terror during the finals against Japan. And finally, in extra time, Wambach came through, coming up with even more heroics to put the USA on top, 2-1. It was Wambach on the end of a cross just inside the six-yard-box, putting a head to it and hammering it into the back of the net. With the way her Women's World Cup has been going, it was only fitting.
And who was it that sent the cross in, setting up Wambach perfectly? None other than Alex Morgan, the first goal-scorer and super-sub for Pia Sundhage's team. Morgan broke free on the left, made it to the by-line and found Wambach in just an inch of space. Wambach did the rest, leaving Japan's keeper no chance to make a stop.
With just 15 minutes to go in extra time, the USA leads Japan, 2-1, thanks to Wambach's superb header. The USA just has to hold-on to prevent a penalty shootout and to win its third World Cup.
After the jubilation of Alex Morgan's second half goal, the USA has been brought back down to Earth, and it was a defensive miscue that left Hope Solo in an impossible position. Rachel Buehler was unable to clear a cross as she fell down in the box, leaving a mess in front of the net as the US and Japan battled for the loose ball. It was Japan, however, that was in the right place at the right time, beating Solo to the net to level the score at one goal apiece.
Suddenly, we're back to an even game, and all it took was a shaky play in defense. The US back-line has been hit-or-miss throughout the Women's World Cup, and the Japan goal was just another example of it. Though the American side has dominated the run of play throughout, narrowly missing numerous times, we're back to level on a counter.
With just a few minutes to go in the second half, the USA and Japan are tied, 1-1. If the game is still level after regulation, we'll head to 30 minutes of extra time. If it's still level, it will be a penalty shootout again for the USA.
Alex Morgan is the fastest player on the US Women's National Team, and has used her speed throughout the Women's World Cup to harass defenses and force mistakes. And after 67 scoreless minutes, it was Alex Morgan coming up big yet again, finally breaking through and putting the USA in front, 1-0. She used her speed, got behind the defense on a lovely through ball, then finished with clinical efficiency, beating the keeper far post to put the USA on front.
It was a deserved goal for Morgan, who just minutes before was robbed of another wonderful goal as she hit the near post. Morgan's been a revelation throughout the Women's World Cup, and continues her superb play. And it could be the youngest member of the US Women's National Team that plays the role of hero in the Women's World Cup Final.
After 70 minutes in the Women's World Cup Final, the US women have the goal they've so deserved after creating numerous dangerous chances throughout. What a moment for Morgan, who came on as a sub at the half for the injured Lauren Cheney. As of now, it's the USA 1 and Japan 0 with 20 minutes to play.
The USA has been everywhere in the Women's World Cup Final, dominating the run of play over the first hour as Japan struggles to find an opening. Despite the numerous excellent chances the US Women's National Team has created, nothing has found the back of the net as the battle for the Women's World Cup remains scoreless. The first half began with a wave of US attackers pouring balls toward the Japan goal, but to no avail. And the second half started much like the first: Plenty of attacks, nothing to show for it.
Alex Morgan mad an impact right away after coming on at the half for Lauren Cheney. Morgan has been somewhat of a super-substitute, providing energy and a life for the USA. In the semifinals, it was her goal that ensured victory over France and she nearly got another against Japan in the finals.
Morgan broke free at the near post, redirecting a cross towards the near post. She had the goalkeeper beat, but was denied by the post. Her shot came off the inside, hit the keeper and barely stayed out as the USA was denied yet another chance.
Midway through the second half, the USA and Japan are tied at zeroes, with the US looking ever dangerous but having nothing to show for it.
Lauren Cheney shifted up-top for the US Women's National team in the Women's World Cup, and performed admirably throughout the first half. Unfortunately, Cheney also picked up a knock early, playing thorugh it over the first 45 minutes before succumbing to a swollen foot or ankle at halftime. Because of the injury, Cheney was forced to the bench as head coach Pia Sundhage made a halftime change, shifting the lineup and, perhaps, the tactics.
Alex Morgan is on for the USA, making an appearance earlier than normal in the Women's World Cup Finals. Typically, Sundhage has used Morgan as a late substitution, bringing her on to provide a life and some energy late in the game. With her hand forced by Cheney's injury, Sundhage opted for Morgan, choosing her over Amy Rodriguez.
Early in the second half, the USA and Japan remain tied at zero, though the US has put together multiple dangerous chances throughout. The lack of finishing, though, has been frustrating, with the USA hitting posts, the side netting and everything but the back of the net.
Through 18 minutes, the USA has seven shots in the 2011 Women's World Cup Final, and has Japan on its heels in the early-going. From the start, the US Women's National Team has been dangerous, creating its first chance just a minute in and following that up with multiple more. The American side has used its size, sending balls into Abby Wambach, who holds a significant advantage in the middle. But it's not all Wambach.
The USA also seems to hold a speed advantage on the wings, and has been using it to near-perfection early in the Women's World Cup Final. Heather O'Reilly and Megan Rapinoe have been everywhere, burning down the sidelines and into the box before sending a cross or shot on. There's only been one thing missing from the countless chances as the USA has failed to find the back of the net.
But they've come close, almost painfully so. The USA has hit just about everything but the back of the net, missing high or to the side by inches more than once. Even still, the American side has dominated the run of play, keeping Japan from playing its possession game while playing one of their own.
In the 22nd minute, the USA and Japan remain tied at zero in the Women's World Cup Finals. The game can be found on ESPN and ESPN3.
Hope Solo has been a walking infirmary, picking up a variety of minor injuries before and during the 2011 Women's World Cup. Her injured shoulder has been bothersome, forcing Solo to take an injection ahead to the US Women's National Team's first World Cup match this year. And while her shoulder has been manageable, another injury suffered in warmups ahead of the USA's semifinal matchup with France put a scare into the team.
Solo tweaked her hamstring just minutes before the USA and France battled in the Women's World Cup semifinals, but wasn't enough to keep her out of action. In fact, she should no ill-effects from the minor strain, and performed admirably throughout the match. Solo conceded just one goal, coming on a cross-turned-shot that left her out of position.
With three days of rest before the Women's World Cup semifinals and finals, Solo had plenty of time to rest and receive treatment in an effort to get as healthy as possible ahead of the biggest game of her life. And on Sunday, Solo is ready to go, starting in goal as she has so many times. There's no indication the hamstring is a problem, and she should be as close to full-strength as one could be after a grueling Women's World Cup.
Solo and the USA battle Japan in Germany in the 2011 Women's World Cup Finals at 11:45 a.m. The game will be broadcast on ESPN and an online stream is available at ESPN3.com.
US Women's National Team head coach Pia Sundhage is not afraid to shuffle the lineup or make tactical changes on a whim and Sunday's 2011 Women's World Cup Finals is no exception. Out is Amy Rodriguez, a mainstay at the forward position. Rodriguez has yet to score a goal in the Women's World Cup, and Sundhage felt the USA needed possession against a Japan squad that plays controlled soccer.
Lauren Cheney will start up-top, though the US will likely play more of a 4-5-1 formation instead of a 4-4-2. Megan Rapinoe will slide into the midfield, joining the starting lineup after playing much of the Women's World Cup as a sub. The rest of the lineup remains unchanged, though Amy LePeilbet is back after sitting out due to a red card.
Here are the lineups, courtesy of Grant Wahl.
USA lineup: Solo; Krieger, Rampone, Buehler, LePeilbet; O'Reilly, Boxx, Lloyd, Rapinoe; Wambach, Cheney.
Japan lineup: Kaihori; Kinga, Iwashimizu, Kumagai, Sameshima; Ohno, Sakaguchi, Sawa, Miyama; Kawasumi, Ando.
Look for Rodriguez and/or Alex Morgan to come on late, as has been the case for Morgan throughout the tournament. The USA and Japan take the field in the 2011 Women's World Cup Finals at 11:45 a.m. on ESPN.
For the United States Women's National Team, it all comes down to this. After a drama-filled run through the knockout rounds of the 2011 Women's World Cup, the USA faces one final test for the title. Standing in the American side's way is Japan, a team whose play has been outstanding throughout the tournament, leaving plenty of world soccer powers in its wake. The 2011 Women's World Cup Final is here, and if the rest of the tournament is any indication, it should be a good one.
Japan boasts victories over host country Germany and Sweden in the knockout rounds and has lost just once in the 2011 Women's World Cup. In the final group stage game, England downed Japan, 2-0, to advance as the top seed. The United States boasts a similar story, having lost just once, in the final group stage match, to Sweden. Since then, the American side has been unflappable, clawing back to force a penalty shootout with a 122nd minute goal against Brazil and finishing off France in the semifinals with more late heroics.
The two sides square-off for the tournament's biggest prize on Sunday. Here's the basic information for the Women's World Cup Finals.
Start time: It's a late start for the Women's World Cup Finals, with first kick set for 11:45 a.m. PDT. The match will take place at Frankfurt FIFA WWC Stadium in Germany.
TV information: The beginning of Sunday's match between the USA and France is scheduled to bump up against ESPN's coverage of the British Open. Coverage of the Women's World Cup Finals matchup between the US and Japan is set to begin at 11 a.m., with a pre-match show set for 10:30 a.m.
Online stream: In addition to the television broadcast, ESPN will be providing an online stream of the match, as it has throughout the Women's World Cup. Coverage begins at 11 a.m. and can be found at ESPN3.com.
In the run-up to the 2011 Women's World Cup, the US Women's National Team talked about forming its own identity, becoming its own team. Since the 1999 World Cup, each team has lived in the shadows, unable to break free from what that team accomplished. The memories of 1999 -- Mia Hamm, Brandi Chastain waving her shirt around her head and the thrill Women's World Cup win on American soil -- remained, with every team compared to what was accomplished at the Rose Bowl.
Throughout the 2011 Women's World Cup, the mantra has stayed the same. This team, this year, is different, and wants to separate itself from events that happened 12 years ago. Instead of embracing the past, the players have embraced themselves, using it as motivation during their World Cup run. It's worked, and this version of the US Women's National Team is on the cusp of duplicating what the 1999 team did.
The interplay and dynamic has been interesting to watch. As players talk about blazing their own trail and creating their own identity, ESPN trots out countless players from the 1999 Women's World Cup champion team. Hope Solo talks about wanting this team to be the future, then ESPN pans to Chastain to ask for her thoughts. For better or worse, the 1999 US Women's National Team is the gold standard, and what we all associate women's soccer in the USA with.
Women's soccer has the attention of the American public, thanks to a few thrilling wins and an entertaining brand of soccer. We don't know whether this team will have the same lasting affect that the 1999 team had, and it's all for naught if the American side can't win on Sunday. Beat Japan and win a third Women's World Cup for the United States and, perhaps, the 2011 squad can step out of a shadow that's lingered for 12 years. Lose and it was a great, yet unsatisfying, run that ends in disappointment.
The USA takes the field on Sunday morning at 11:45 a.m. in the 2011 Women's World Cup Finals.
The United States Women's National Team has talked the talk before and during the 2011 Women's World Cup and now it's time to let the actions speak. The American squad has walked with an air of confidence, telling anyone that would listen that this team is the best in the world, ready to take-on all-comers. Even after a nail-biting quarterfinal win over Brazil, goalkeeper Hope Solo was feeling confident, taking about bringing home the cup in an interview. On Sunday, she'll have a chance to deliver on her promise as the USA faces Japan in the Women's World Cup Finals.
Solo said she felt this was a team of destiny, and had never doubted its ability to come up big in crunch time. Even in extra time, with the clock striking 120, she thought her outfield teammates would score the equalizer against Brazil, giving her a chance in a penalty shootout. They did, as Abby Wambach hammered home a header, and Solo did her part, saving one of Brazil's tries to give the American side the win.
The USA plays with confidence, knowing it can face any adversity and come out on the other side of the tunnel unscathed. It's a confidence instilled by head coach Pia Sundhage, who comes across relaxed and composed no matter the conditions. It was a fact brought up by Solo after the semifinal win over France, when she told reporters, "Confidence comes from our preparation and because we know we're damn good."
Solo has become a star thanks to her play on the field and charisma off it. But all the interviews, the new-found celebrity and off-field actions don't matter on Sunday as she faces Japan with the Women's World Cup title on the line. For the USA, it's a chance to break through again after a drought that's been in place since 1999, when another charismatic team captured the hearts of America and the Women's World Cup at the Rose Bowl. After a dream run, only one more test stands in the way of the USA and its "destiny."
Solo and the USA take-on Japan at 11:45 a.m. PDT on ESPN.
Hope Solo and Alex Morgan have become stars in the 2011 Women's World Cup, but their path to widespread recognitions has been anything but the same. On one hand you have Solo, a long-time US Women's National Team keeper that's become a star, the face of the team in this year's World Cup. On the other, there's Morgan, a late-game attacking substitute that's the up-and-comer, the youngest of the bunch. But the two, who have local connections to Washington, share the same ability to make a significant impact on the game, and could be a key in Sunday's Women's World Cup Final.
Solo has been steady in net throughout the Women's World Cup, coming up big in moments of need. Of the five goals she's conceded, only one can be chalked up to keeper error. A wonder strike from Marta, two penalty kicks and a deflected free kick in back-to-back games -- the final group stage match and quarterfinals -- left Solo nearly powerless to make the save, but she quickly redeemed herself each time. It was Solo making the stop in a penalty shootout against Brazil to ensure a happy ending to an already amazing comeback story. And it was Solo stepping up in the semifinals, keeping the US in the game ahead of another batch of late heroics.
Morgan has been the late boost of energy for the American side, coming on in the second half and harassing defenses with speed and skill. Her fresh legs had yet to pay-off in the form of a goal for herself, however, until the semifinals. And it couldn't have come at a more perfect time. After working in more of a setup role, earning corners and sending in crosses, Morgan did it herself against France, springing free and finishing clinically by chipping the goalkeeper.
Judging by how the Women's World Cup has gone for the USA thus far, expect both Solo and Morgan to have an impact on the game. Solo will have to be in top-form as she battles Japan, a team that can score in bunches with skill and precision. And if it comes down to crunch time, as it has in both knockout round matchups, look for Morgan to be in the mix, forcing the tempo with pressure.
The USA and Japan take the field in Germany at 11:45 a.m. on ESPN and ESPN3.
The USA has an air about it in the Women's World Cup. There's something about this team -- a confidence, a cockiness -- that has been on display throughout the tournament. No matter the odds, the US Women's National Team continues to come through in a big way when it matters most -- be it in the 122nd minute against Brazil or the 80th minute against France in the Women's World Cup semifinal. And listening to the team members, including Hope Solo, talk, it's clear they know this can be a special tournament for the USA.
Solo talked to Dave "Softy" Mahler earlier this week, discussing how she felt it was the destiny of this team to win the Women's World Cup. She showed a confidence about her in the interview, saying she never doubted they would top Brazil, even when they were trailing late in extra time. She ended the interview by telling Mahler she'd be "bringing home the cup" by the time all was said and done.
On Wednesday, the USA did it again, hammer home two goals in quick succession with just 10 minutes to go and the score tied against France. After the match, Solo talked about the win and where her team's confidence comes from. This quote, via Michael Felder, sums it up.
"Confidence comes from our preparation and because we know we're damn good"
And they are damn good. Anyone that's watched the US Women's National Team in the World Cup knows it. They have the ability to flip a switch and suddenly dominate, no matter the odds. They've battled twice in consecutive matches in the knockout round. Solo has been outstanding, Abby Wambach is alive and dominant, and the USA has a not-so-quiet confidence.
The USA looked to be in dire straits again in the Women's World Cup, tied at one with France, but looking helpless in the run of play during the second half of Wednesday's quarterfinal. Tactically, France was dominating the midfield, setting up dangerous chances and testing Hope Solo often. But thanks to a quick burst that included two goals in just a few minutes, the USA went from on its heels to in complete control, once again using late heroics to stave-off elimination in the Women's World Cup.
Lauren Cheney got the scoring going for the USA, netting a ninth minute goal to put the Americans on top. Heather O'Reilly came steaming in from the left flank, placing a beautiful cross right on the boot of Cheney. She finished the chance and the USA was in front early.
But in the second half, France got one back, equalizing on Sonia Bompastore's cross-turned-shot. Solo clearly expected a French attacker to get a head on the ball and was unable to cover the back post. With the score tied, France kept pushing, and it felt as though it was a matter of time before they got another.
The momentum turned on a set piece, and Abby Wambach was the hero again. A deep cross to the back post found Wambach's head, leaving France powerful to make a stop. Up 2-1, the USA was in control with just 10 minutes to go, but still had business to take care of with the French continuing to push forward.
Alex Morgan put the game out of reach just a few minutes later, using her superb speed to get behind the French back-line, earning a one-on-one chance with the keeper. She finished clinically, chipping the keeper to find the back of the net and give the USA a two-goal lead. It was a wonderful finish, and just what the doctor ordered for the American side.
The USA controlled the final seven minutes, keeping France off the scoreboard, and advanced to the Women's World Cup finals with a 3-1 win. Maybe Solo was right, and perhaps this is a team of destiny. Once again, they kept fighting and found a way to suddenly hit the gas and slam the door on France in the Women's World Cup semifinals.
Abby Wambach has looked dangerous throughout the 2011 Women's World Cup semifinals and in the 80th minute, she finally found the back of the net. Wambach had two chances in rapid succession in the first half, just narrowly missing goals each time. But finally, off a corner kick, Wambach got a head on the ball, put it squarely on target and took advantage, hammering home a goal to give the USA a 2-1 lead with just 10 minutes to go.
The US Women's National Team found itself in trouble in the second half, struggling to deal with the attack from the French side. France had been dominating possession, leaving the USA hanging on for dear life before Sonia Bompastore netted the equalizing goal. But the USA suddenly sprung to life, putting together attacks of its own and finally scoring a second goal to take the lead.
And the USA wasn't done. This time, it was Alex Morgan, girlfriend of Seattle Sounders midfielder Servando Carrasco, using her speed to effectively finish off the French. Morgan got loose, using her speed to outrun France's back-line. And then, the 22-year-old finished like a seasoned pro, chipping the keeper to give the USA the all-important two-goal lead.
Suddenly, the USA has gone from the brink of defeat to in complete control, leading by two goals with just seven minutes to play. Thanks to Abby Wambach and Alex Morgan's heroics, the American side is on the bring of a Women's World Cup Finals berth, leading in the 84th minute, 3-1.
France was pressing early in the second half and it paid off as a floated cross confused Hope Solo, resulting in the game-typing goal. It was Sonia Bompastor sending an early cross in from the wing to the back post, leaving Solo in no-man's land just a few minutes into the second half. The French side has been dominating possession throughout the game, and continued to do so early in the second, leading up to Bompastor's goal.
Solo had been outstanding, but the goal was a bit of a miscue. It was almost as if she expected a French attacker to get a head or foot on Bompastor's cross, but when it never came she was in a poor position. Once again, the USA finds itself in a difficult position, facing a France team firing on all cylinders at the moment.
Lauren Cheney scored first, giving the USA the early advantage with a ninth minute goal. France has looked shaky at times in the back, but has the USA has been unable to control possession in the midfield, leading to plenty of French attacks and resulting in Bompastor's goal. As the second half progresses, the midfield is a battle to watch, and the USA has to do better when linking passes through the area.
In the 60th minute, the USA and France are tied in the Women's World Cup semifinals, 1-1.
It was an interesting first half of play in the 2011 Women's World Cup semifinal match between the USA and France, with the American side walking away from the first 45 minutes with 1-0 lead. France, however, held the run of play for much of the half, pinning the US back in its own end and creating quite a few dangerous chances. Hope Solo, playing with a hamstring injury of some sort, was superb over the first 45 minutes, saving more than a few dangerous chances, as well as getting some help from the crossbar.
Thanks to a shaky French back-line and keeper, the Americans have had their chances in the first half, and capitalized on one. Heather O'Reilly came flying down the left flank in the ninth minute, placing a perfect cross right on the foot of Lauren Cheney inside the six-yard-box. Cheney finished the chance and the USA had the early lead, 1-0.
Sonia Bompastor had the most dangerous chance for the French side, drilling a shot from the left flank in a perfect spot, only to see it hit the crossbar. Solo had no shot at making a save, but thanks to a bit of luck, the ball stayed out of the net. Bompastor has been the most dangerous player for France thus far, causing fits on the left side for the American defense.
Abby Wambach had two chances in quick succession late in the first half, testing the French back-line and keeper, but just missing goals each time. A header went just wide in the 39th minute and a right-footed shot from inside the six-yard-box was also just off target, preventing the USA from extending its lead. Wambach has looked dangerous, however, and has been terrorizing the French defense.
At the half, the USA leads France, 1-0 in the Women's World Cup semifinals.
Once again, the United States has an early lead in the Women's World Cup knockout round. On Sunday, facing Brazil in the quarterfinals, the American side scored in the second minute, a lead that held until midway through the second half. Today, it was the ninth minute as Heather O'Reilly sent a beautiful ball into the box where it met the foot of Lauren Cheney for the goal. For the USA, it's been a nearly-perfect start, and the early goal gives the American side a bit of a cushion to work with.
The action has been back and forth in the early minutes, with France threatening in the US half, but coming away empty handed. The first real chance was handled nicely by Hope Solo, who tipped a rocket shot over the crossbar and out for a corner. Solo is dealing with a hamstring injury, but has looked fine thus far, moving around at her typical pace in net for the United States.
For an American team coming off an emotional win, and the high of beating Brazil on Sunday, the early goal could not have been better. The nerves are settled, a lead has been built and all the USA has to do is protect for the next 80 minutes. Nothing to it, of course.
In the 14th minute, the USA leads France in the Women's World Cup semifinals, 1-0.
The USA and France are underway in the 2011 Women's World Cup semifinals, but before they began, Hope Solo had a bit of a problem. According to ESPN's Bob Holtzman, Solo tweaked her hamstring in warmups, suffering some kind of minor injury. However, the injury was not serious to keep the United States' star goalkeeper out of the game, and she will play through it.
Solo is on the field now and will be someone to watch closely as the Women's World Cup semifinals progress. While a hamstring injury to a goalkeeper is not as serious as the same injury to an outfielder, it can still have an affect on her play. Short bursts are needed to make some of the explosive moves necessary to stop shots, something that was on display in Wednesday's penalty shootout win over Brazil.
For Solo, playing injured is nothing new. In fact, she's been injured for this entire World Cup, going so far as to receive shots in her shoulder. She has, at times, favored her injured shoulder, but has shown no ill-effects in her work thus far. And, again, the injury may be minor: It wasn't enough to send her to the bench.
It's early in the Women's World Cup semifinal match between the USA and France, with the score level at zero thus far.
The USA is one step away from the 2011 Women's World Cup Finals, but faces another tough test on Wednesday as they face France in the semifinal round. We all know the American side made it to the semifinals with a wild win over Brazil on Sunday. Abby Wambach's late header in extra time, after the Americans played over an hour down a player, sent the game to penalty kicks, where Hope Solo sealed it with a wonderful save.
On the other side of the field is France, who survived a penalty shootout in the quarterfinals, as well. Like the USA, France made it through the group stage with six points, winning two matches and losing another. It's a difficult test for a US team that just laid it all on the field on Sunday, but a task they're up to.
Here's the information for Wednesday's semifinal matchup in the Women's World Cup
Start time: The USA and France will take the field a bit later than the American side did on Sunday, with the action set to begin at 9 a.m. PDT. Sadly, this isn't a weekend, and the time difference puts the game smack-dab in the middle of the day. But never fret, we're here to help.
Online stream: Because it's a work day and a 9 a.m. start time, the online stream of Wednesday's Women's World Cup quarterfinal matchup would seem to be the popular choice. Just like the men's side, the World Cup sleeps for nobody, but does allow workers to sneak a peek at the action online. ESPN has obliged, providing a stream of the USA vs. France on ESPN3.com.
TV information: Like the quarterfinals, both semifinal matches will be broadcast on ESPN. It's a double-header on Wednesday, with a spot in the Women's World Cup Finals on the line for the four remaining teams. Coverage gets underway at 8:30 a.m. PDT on ESPN. Check your local listings.
The USA is two wins away from bringing home the 2011 Women's World Cup, but still has plenty of work to do after Sunday's thrilling win. On Wednesday, the American side will be back on the pitch in Germany, hoping to avoid a letdown from Sunday's big quarterfinal win. While their quarterfinal win over Brazil was a moment that stands on its own, anything less than an encore involving a World Cup Win would be a disappointment, a fact not lost on the Women's National Team.
The challenge for the USA is regrouping with a short turnaround between Sunday's penalty shootout win and Wednesday semifinal match with France. Given the emotional high everyone, including the team itself, was riding after the win, there is a fear that the fire won't be there. But listening to head coach Pia Sundhage and the rest of the team in the run-up to Wednesday's game, it's clear they're focused on a Women's World Cup title.
Hope Solo will be back in net once again, looking to get back on track after allowing two goals in each of her last two matches. In the final group stage match, Solo conceded two goals, off a penalty kick and deflected free kick, as the USA fell to Sweden, setting up Sunday's match with Brazil. In the quarterfinals, Solo parried away a penalty kick try in the second half, only to see the Brazilian side given another chance after a mysterious infraction. An extra time goal by Brazilian phenom Marta put the Americans in the hole, setting up the frenzied, and thrilling, finish.
Solo has a vocal confidence about her ahead of Wednesday match. In a short media tour on Monday, Solo said she never doubted her team in the quarterfinals, and feels it's their destiny to win the Women's World Cup. She ended the interview by telling Dave "Softy" Mahler that she'd be "bringing back the cup." Call it a guarantee, call it confidence, call it cockiness, but whatever it is, Solo has the talent to back it up.
The USA and France hit the field at 9 a.m. PDT on Wednesday in the quarterfinal round of the Women's World Cup. If Sunday taught us anything, the game promises to be a must-watch event. You can find the game on ESPN and ESPN3, with coverage set to begin at 8:30 a.m. PDT.
The Women's World Cup garnered widespread attention on Sunday after a thrilling win by the United States Women's National Team in the quarterfinal round. Facing a tough Brazil team, the USA was on the ropes, trailing by a goal in the waning moments of extra time. An Abby Wambach header with just seconds to spare saved the Americans, and Hope Solo left her mark on the game in the penalty shootout, stopping a try as the USA came back to win.
Solo spoke to Dave "Softy" Mahler on KJR as he was filling in for Jim Rome on Monday. The following quotes come from the interview, which can be found here.
On Monday, I wrote about how Sunday's Women's World Cup quarterfinal matchup between the United States and Brazil opened eyes to women's soccer and soccer as a whole. It was something not lost on Solo, who saw an outpouring of support from athletes in other sports and celebrities.
"I'm starting to get told that LeBron James tweeted about it and Tom Hanks. It's hit the NBA, it's hit the NFL, it's hit the celebrities hands. I mean, it's all over the place and we had no idea," she said while shifting focus to the task at hand. "We're just taking care of business here in Germany, trying to get the job done and we have two more games to do it. So for us, it's getting control of our emotions and trying not to just remain in yesterday. We have to move forward."
Sunday was a big moment for team USA and for Solo herself. It was a fact not lost on the goalkeeper from Richland, and she talked about soaking it all in on the pitch in Germany.
"I don't want to forget it. That was a moment in history. Never had that happen, coming from behind, coming back from a man down, all the controversial calls, the officiating, the emotions, the highs, the lows; that's a moment I never want to forget," Solo told Mahler. "I took a moment to myself before the penalty kicks and I sat on the field and I took every aspect of what was going on around me. I took it in and I locked it in and I will never forget that moment."
The 2011 Women's World Cup is a chance at redemption for Solo, and Sunday's match was her biggest moment. Dealing with a variety of personal problems in 2007, including her father's death, made the tournament difficult, compounded by a confusing benching for the United States' semifinal match with Brazil.
"Everybody knows four years ago -- everything that happened in 2007 -- I didn't get to enjoy the process, enjoy every step, enjoy the moment, enjoy the crowd, enjoy the emotional side of the game. That was because I was grieving," she said, remembering her father. "I lost my father. Fast forward four years later. I took a moment to enjoy everything around me, the crowd, the energy in the stadium, to see how far along women's soccer, women's sports, have come and you felt it. "
And while she did take in the moment, Solo admitted it got the best of her at times. Key decisions went against the US, including an infraction on Solo's penalty kick save in the second half that allow Brazil to try for a second time. She plays with emotion, but knows it can be a bad thing when emotions boil over.
"I play with emotions. I play with intensity, with passion. That can be a false line. It can go one of two ways: You can get too involved in the emotion of the game and not continue your focus, not play to the best of your ability. Or you can manage those emotions," she said when discussing the controversial calls. "I found myself extremely overwhelmed with anger towards the refs, towards the Brazilians, to the players, to their antics, to their unsportsmanship. I found myself just incredibly angry. I knew there was still a way to win this. I did everything I could to manage my emotions, to stay focused and stay in the zone. That's what I was able to do."
Solo was confident in her team, and believes it's their time to shine. It's been 12 years since the 1999 Women's World Cup that put the USA on the map, and Solo feels like it's their time to take the torch.
"There is something special about this team and I do believe this is the team to do it. We want to write our own storyline. We want to write our own destiny. To be honest, we're tired of hearing about 99. It's time for a new team to come in here and make history," Solo said before signing off with a bit of confidence, "All right, we'll be bringing home the cup."
Sunday was a great advertisement for soccer, with eight hours of enthralling coverage on ESPN, beginning with a thriller between the USA and Brazil in the Women's World Cup and capped by the Cascadia Cup.
It's been four years -- four long years -- since Hope Solo lost her chance to face Brazil in a Women's World Cup. In 2007, after guiding the United States Women's National team to the World Cup semifinals, Solo was sent to the bench, the victim of what then head coach Greg Ryan called a gut feeling. He wanted experience in net against a dangerous Brazilian squad and benched Solo in favor of Brianna Scurry. The United States was hammered, 4-0, and Solo was steamed.
Her comments after the game drew the ire of her teammates and fans. It took time for the wounds to heal, both for Solo and for the women's national team. Since then, Solo has been steady in net for the American side, and came into the 2011 Women's World Cup with the full confidence of her coach and team. On Sunday, she showed why with a performance that earned her redemption for the 2007 slight, along with the adoration of viewers across the country.
Solo wasn't perfect, but she was pretty close to it, conceding just two goals in the 120 minute match against Brazil. She faced adversity, stopping a penalty kick only to see a retake awarded for a ticky-tack, at best, infraction. The second attempt was good, knotting the score at one in the second half and eventually forcing 30 minutes of extra time.
In the extra frame, Solo conceded a second goal, coming off a beautiful strike from Marta that left her powerless to make a stop. It looked bleak for the American side as they faced elimination while pushing for a goal. And while Solo had nothing to do with Abby Wambach's 122nd minute equalizer, it did put the power in her hands, giving her the spotlight as the Women's World Cup quarterfinal headed to a penalty shootout.
The first two strikes from Brazil were good, but matched by the American shooters. On the third, though, she had a feeling as she read Daiane while preparing for the kick. The first two Brazilian attempts had gone to Solo's right, and Daiane tried to make it three. Solo laid-out with full extension, punching away the shot for the first, and only, save of the shootout.
It was a save her teammates knew she'd make, and it gave her a sweet bit of redemption for the 2007 Women's World Cup.
"Hope, amazing. She's the best goalkeeper in the world," said U.S. captain Christie Rampone. "We kept saying, 'Hope's going to get one. Hope's going to get one. We just have to finish them off.'"
In an instant, Solo became a hero, erasing the memories of four years ago. Her work, and the work of the American squad, isn't done, but the team took a huge step forward on Sunday, beating one of the favorites to win it all.
After a back-and-forth 120 minutes of open play, the USA and Brazil headed to a penalty kick shootout with a berth in the Women's World Cup semifinals on the line. A 120th minute header by Abby Wambach, which came about as late as a goal could come in the game, saved the United States, pushing the match into penalties and putting Hope Solo on the spot. Solo had saved a penalty kick earlier, only to have it called back due to a controversial encroachment call.
Shannon Boxx stepped up to the spot first and had her attempt stopped, though the Brazilian goalie was well off her line, an infraction that was called by the referee. Her second attempt was pure, placed perfectly in the upper-90. Cristiane's shot for Brazil left Solo with no chance, knotting the shootout at a goal apiece.
The second round began with Carlie Lloyd at the spot for the American side, and her penalty was perfect, drilled low and left. Marta, scorer of both Brazilian goals, took the second penalty for Brazil and hammered it low and left, as well, beating Solo for the goal. Solo guessed wrong on the first two kicks, leaving Brazil with easy conversion.
Abby Wambach, the hero of extra time for the USA, drilled her shot high and right to open the next round, giving the Americans three goals in three attempts and placing the pressure back on Brazil. Daiane stepped up for Brazil, tried to go to Solo's right again, but to no avail. This time Solo guess right, punching away the shot to give the US the advantage.
Megan Rapinoe put her shot in to begin the fourth round, and the United States had Brazil on the ropes. Brazil stayed alive on Francielle's penalty, but the American side controlled its own destiny. Ali Kreiger stepped up, buried the shot and the United States had a 5-3 win on penalty kicks.
What a game for the United States, who was a minute from elimination before coming back to win on penalty kicks. Hope Solo is your hero of the game in net, Abby Wambach is the same in the outfield and the USA is through to the semifinals, where it will face France.
Abby Wambach saved the United States' life in the 2011 Women's World Cup, hammering home a header in added time during the extra time period against Brazil. Trailing the Brazilian side, 2-1, Megan Rapinoe sent in a very early cross, floating it right over the Brazilian keepers' arms and onto the head of Wambach. She was there to finish the goal, giving the United States life and forcing penalty kicks.
For an American squad down to 10 after Rachel Buehler was sent off, this was the best case scenario. The two sides will not square-off at the spot, with a penalty kick duel set to determine who moves on and who is eliminated. The USA went from life support to jubilation with one beautiful cross and a superb header from Wambach, who was running free in the box.
Brazil and the USA had each scored once in regulation, with the American side taking advantage of an own goal and Brazil converting a penalty. Marta scored in extra time, giving Brazil the lead with a second minute goal. And with almost no time left, Wambach hit what amounts to a game-tying buzzer-beater with her header.
It's not over in Germany and it's Hope Solo's time to shine as the game heads to penalty kicks. The USA and Brazil will battle it out at the spot, tied at two goals apiece.
Brazil pulled ahead of the United States for the first time in Sunday's Women's World Cup quarterfinal matchup as Marta found the back of the net in extra time. The goal came after some nifty run-up play, with Marta trickling a precise shot past Hope Solo for the goal. The US and Brazil are only in extra time because of a Marta penalty kick, which came after a controversial retake.
But there was controversy on Marta's extra time goal, as well. Replays showed one of the Brazilian attackers was offside before the cross to Marta, which would have negated the goal. The referees have been calling the offside line tight, but in the case it appeared Brazil got away with one.
The United States must now battle back, down to 10 players after Rachel Buehler was sent-off while conceding a penalty to Marta in regulation. The American side has not scored a goal of their own, either, with the only goal coming off a deflection, credited to a Brazilian defender.
With just about 20 minutes to go, the United States trails Brazil in the Women's World Cup, 2-1.
Hope Solo is under-fire, with the Brazilian attack bearing down on the United States early in the second half. The American side had been clinging to a one-goal lead, brought about by an own-goal just over a minute into Sunday's Women's World Cup quarterfinal match. Ever since, Brazil has been pushing forward, with the United States attack almost non-existent, especially in the second half.
But with Hope Solo in net, the USA has been in good hands. Twice in consecutive minutes, Solo made big saves to prevent an equalizing goal from Brazil. A shot from distance, hit on a rope to a dangerous position, was saved by Solo at full extension, keeping the Brazilian side off the scoreboard. Though the US defense has been shaky, Solo has been consistent.
In the 67th minute, however, Rachel Buehler conceded a penalty kick, getting sent off in the process as the rest gave her a red card. Solo stone-walled the first save, diving to her left to stop the penalty. But in the ensuing chaos, the AR ruled Solo was off her line -- she clearly was not, moving only laterally just before the ball was struck -- and gave Brazil a second chance. Solo was put in the book, Marta converted and the game was drawn level.
The US is down to 10 players and the score is tied in the 70th minute after a horrific judgment call from the AR. With just 20 minutes to go in regulation, it's a 1-1 game in Germany.
Just over a minute into Sunday's Women's World Cup quarterfinal matchup, a costly mistake gave the USA the early advantage, putting Brazil on its heels. Shannon Boxx sent a cross in from the wing, only to see it deflected by Brazilian defender Daiane, giving the USA a 1-0 lead. The early lead gave the United States a cushion, though it's almost as if the American side is content to sit on their lead and defend.
Brazil looked like a dangerous squad over the course of the rest of the half, challenging US keeper Hope Solo with regularity. Solo held form, however, preserving a clean sheet with a few acrobatic saves and a bit of luck. Brazil hit the crossbar, the side netting and kept Solo on her toes with attacks, but was unable to find the back of the net.
Both back lines have been shaky, with the Americans having trouble with communication at multiples times in the first half, leading to dangerous Brazilian chances. Brazil's slip-up, however, was much more costly, leading to an own goal that gave the United States the lead. With the way both defenses are playing, it wouldn't be surprising if the second half is explosive.
At the half in Germany, the USA leads Brazil in the 2011 Women's World Cup quarterfinals, 1-0.
The United States is off to a perfect start in the Women's World Cup quarterfinal round, putting Brazil in an early hole, 1-0. In the second minute, Shannon Boxx sent a cross into the mixer, only to see it misplayed by the Brazilian defense, resulting in an own goal. Daiane was charged with the goal and the USA had itself the early lead in Sunday's blockbuster Women's World Cup quarterfinal matchup.
After a rough outing on Wednesday against Sweden, many expected the United States back-line to be the weak link in Sunday's matchup with Brazil. It was a bit ironic seeing Brazil misplaying a cross so early to give the USA lead, though they'll take it any way they can get it. With the all-important first goal in hand, the USA has a cushion now, and has Brazil in a perilous position.
Hope Solo is perfect through 16 minutes, though she's yet to be seriously tested. She's only given up two goals in this Women's World Cup, both of which came against Sweden. Solo has not allowed a goal each of the four times she's faced Brazil since the 2007 World Cup -- a match she was benched for in favor of Brianna Scurry.
Sunday is another big day in the 2011 Women's World Cup, with a blockbuster matchup between Brazil and the USA headlining the action. Two quarterfinal games are set to get underway, closing out the round of eight in the Women's World Cup. Because of a loss to Sweden on Wednesday, the United States finds itself matched up against a dangerous Brazilian squad, with the loser sent home, eliminated in the first stage of the knockout round.
It's a big day for Hope Solo and the US Women's National Team, along with the supporters following the team. To get primed for the big game, here's the basic information, including the start time and best ways to watch it.
Start time: The USA and Brazil take the field in Germany early on Sunday morning, at least here on the West Coast. The matchup is the second game of the day, following Australia and Sweden, with kickoff set for 8:30 a.m PDT.
TV information: As has been the case throughout the 2011 Women's World Cup, ESPN will broadcast both of Sunday's quarterfinals. The first matchup of the day, Australia vs. Sweden, is set for 4 a.m. PDT, with the US set to take the field at 8:30 a.m.
Online stream: Unable to get to a TV for Sunday's game? One of the few without ESPN? Head over to ESPN3.com for a stream of the game. ESPN3 has broadcast every game of the Women's World Cup, providing an excellent viewing option online.
On Sunday morning, US Women's National Team goalie Hope Solo will get the chance she didn't in 2007 as she faces Brazil. Since the last Women's World Cup, Solo has faced Brazil four times, keeping the Brazilian side off the board each time, including the gold medal match in the 2008 Olympics. But it's Sunday's match, on soccer's biggest stage, that could provide the sweetest redemption for Solo, topped only by a Women's World Cup title.
The four shutouts only reinforce that she should've been starting as the US battled Brazil in the semifinals of the 2007 World Cup; Solo was unexpectedly benched by former manager Greg Ryan in favor of the more experienced Brianna Scurry, with the Americans falling to Brazil, 4-0. It was a move that left Solo stunned and angry, feeling as though Ryan had turned his back on her. After the game, she lashed out, speaking with emotion while criticizing Ryan for the controversial move.
None of that matters anymore: Solo is back in the US Women's National Team's good graces, Ryan is out of the picture and the American side has a blockbuster matchup in an elimination game on Sunday. Since the 2007 benching, Solo has been outstanding in net, developing into one of the best, if not the best, keepers in the world. In the 2011 Women's World Cup, she's conceded just two goals, both coming off dead-ball situations in the Americans' final group stage match against Sweden. A penalty put Solo in a tough spot after a miscue on the back-line and a free kick took an unlucky deflection later, adding up to a 2-1 loss for the US and forcing Sunday's quarterfinal match with Brazil.
With Solo in net, the US is in good hands on Sunday. Head coach Pia Sundhage has the confidence in Solo that Ryan didn't, and the American side will ride Solo as far as she takes them in the 2011 Women's World Cup. And it doesn't get tougher than a quarterfinal test against Brazil for the USA.
Solo and the USA take on Brazil at 8:30 a.m. on Sunday, live on ESPN and ESPN3.com.
In a match meant for the Women's World Cup Finals, but taking place in the quarterfinal round, the United States will face Brazil on Sunday morning. The American side is here because of a disappointing performance in their final group stage match, which ended as a 2-1 loss to Sweden, forcing the US to face Brazil earlier than expected. Sweden moved on as the No. 1 seed out of Group C while the USA advanced as the No. 2 seed.
Brazil has been perfect in the 2011 Women's World Cup thus far, winning all three of its matchups with a plus-seven goal differential. The Brazilian side took care of Australia, the No. 2 seed out of Group D, as well as Norway and Equatorial Guinea. After starting slow against Australia, winning just 1-0, Brazil put its foot down over the course of the final two group stage matches, hammering Norway and Equatorial Guinea by a 3-0 margin each.
So it all comes down to this for the United States, who began the tournament in promising fashion with a 2-0 win over North Korea and a 3-0 win over Colombia. Wednesday's costly loss to Sweden, brought about by two defensive mistakes leading to two dead-ball goals, placed the Americans perilously on the edge of elimination, forced to take-on Brazil in the knockout round.
The back line of the United States needs to tighten up, especially against the technically proficient Brazilian footballers. A costly penalty against Sweden on a sloppy challenge inside the box led to the first goal Hope Solo had given up in the tournament on Wednesday and was followed by another foul deep in the American defensive half, leading to a somewhat unlucky goal off free kick deflection. These are mistakes that can't happen against a Brazilian squad that's able to take advantage of miscues at the blink of an eye.
The United States and Brazil face-off in a blockbuster matchup on Sunday morning at 8:30 a.m. PDT. The game will be televised on ESPN and streamed online at ESPN3.com.
It's hard to fault Hope Solo for the two first half goals conceded by the United States in the first half of their final group stage matchup of the 2011 Women's World Cup. The American back-line was porous, to say the least, giving Sweden two excellent opportunities off dead-ball situations in the first half. As the Swedish National Team hammered home a penalty kick and free kick off a deflection, the USA found itself in an unfamiliar position in this Women's World Cup, trailing for the first time in the tournament.
Amy LePeilbet's sloppy challenge inside the box gave Sweden a penalty in the 15th minute, putting Solo on the spot right away and placing her shutout streak in jeopardy. Solo guessed right on Lisa Dahlkvist's shot, but the pace put it just out of reach, ending the streak and giving Sweden a 1-0 lead.
Later in the half, the US conceded a dangerous free kick just outside the box as the back-line struggled to contain the Swedish attack. Nilla Fischer's free kick clipped a US player on the outside of the wall, changing the ball's direction and throwing Solo off. The ball trickled into the net and the United States found itself stunned, trailing by two goals.
Abby Wambach got one back in the second half as she redirected a corner into the net to cut Sweden's lead to 2-1, but that was all the USA could muster. The Americans fell to Sweden by a goal, but will still advance to the Women's World Cup quarterfinals. Unfortunately, the loss results in a matchup with powerhouse Brazil in what's sure to be the blockbuster match of the round.
Sweden took the Group C crown with a perfect nine points, with the USA advancing as the second team out of the group stage with six points. The US and Brazil take the field on Sunday in a loser-out game in the quarterfinals of the 2011 Women's World Cup. It's not the matchup the Americans hoped for, but they're through to the next round and into the knockout stages.
The United States finally found the back of the net in its group stage matchup with Sweden, cutting the deficit to just one goal in the second half. At the half, Alex Morgan came on as a sub, and it was her play that set up the corner which resulted in the lone American goal of the game. Abby Wambach got onto the end of the cross from the corner, nudging it into the net with the top of her shoulder to cut the Sweden lead to 2-1.
The Americans still have work to do with just over 10 minutes remaining in their last group stage matchup. The winner will move-on to face Australia while the loser faces powerhouse Brazil in the quarterfinals. The US can also advance with a draw.
After conceding two goals off dead ball situations in the first half, Hope Solo has kept a clean sheet in the second, keeping the USA in the game as the outfield players work to break the Swedish defense. The Americans are pressing, and Morgan's play has been a big part of the attack up-front. Her speed has been a thorn in the sides of Sweden, and has helped force corners and create dangerous changes.
With 10 minutes to go in Germany, the United States trails Sweden in the 2011 Women's World Cup, 2-1.
The USA is in trouble in its final group stage match in the 2011 Women's World Cup, trailing Sweden in the first half, 2-0. Both the United States and Sweden will advance no matter the outcome, but the USA needs a draw or win to avoid Brazil in the quarterfinals. And after Hope Solo carried a shutout streak that lasted two games in the Women's World Cup, she's given up two goals in the first 35 minutes, both of which came from dead-ball situation.
Like the first goal -- a penalty conceded by Amy LePeilbet and hammered home by Lisa Dahlkvist -- there was little Solo could do. A Rachel Buehler foul just outside the 18-yard-box put Sweden in prime position to score a free kick goal. Nilla Fischer took advantage, though Solo could do little to stop the effort after an unlucky bounce off the wall sent the incoming ball away from the direction she was headed.
The goal puts the United States in an almost impossible hole, and is the first test the American side has faced in the Women's World Cup. If this score holds, Sweden would face Australia in the quarterfinals while the Americans would battle Brazil. If the United States can come back to tie or win the game, the American side would face Australia and Sweden would get Brazil.
It took 195 minutes, but Hope Solo finally conceded a goal in the 2011 Women's World Cup as Sweden took a 1-0 lead in the final group stage matchup for both sides. The goal, however, did not come from the run of play, instead coming after Amy LePeilbet was whistled for a foul in the box, conceding a penalty as a result. Solo guessed correctly, diving to her right on the penalty attempt, but Lisa Dahlkvist's shot had enough pace to make any attempt to save it nearly futile.
Solo had just made a brilliant kick save to prevent a goal minutes earlier, recovering from a slight misstep in the process. The penalty came after the American back-line allowed Dahlkvist to burst free, with LePeilbet making a clumsy tackle in the box to both draw a yellow card and concede the penalty.
Both the USA and Sweden are already through to the quarterfinals having won their first two group stage matches for a total of six points. The US holds an edge in goal differential, meaning a tie would give the American side the No. 1 seed out of Group C with either a win or draw. Sweden must win to earn the easier path to the semifinals.
A win on Wednesday is all-important for the USA: Brazil is waiting for the No. 2 seed from Group C. Brazil picked up a full nine points in its group, winning all three matches with a +7 goal differential.
With just 25 minutes gone in the first half, the United States trails Sweden in the Women's World Cup, 1-0.
The United States faces its final test in the group stage of the 2011 Women's World Cup on Wednesday, squaring-off against Sweden with first-place in Group C on the line. For the American side, the scenario is simple: Win or tie and the top spot in Group C is theirs; lose and it's a second-place finish. Either way, the US will advance by virtue of its two wins in the first two group stage matches, a feat matched by Sweden, though the Americans hold a 5-2 edge in goal differential.
Thus far, the USA has been nearly-perfect, blanking North Korea to begin the Women's World Cup, 2-0, before handling Colombia in the second match, 3-0. After a slow start in the first half of its opening match in the Women's World Cup, the US offense has sprung to life, earning the tournament's best goal differential as a result. But it hasn't been all about the offense for the American side.
Hope Solo has been perfect in net, recording 180 minutes plus stoppage time of scoreless play. Solo is playing with a shoulder injury that required her to take a shot before the Womens World Cup opener against North Korea, but shown no ill-effects from the injury. North Korea tested her early, but Solo was up to the task, making seven saves while recording a clean sheet. Against Colombia, Solo had less work to take care of, only making four saves while, once again, holding the opponent scoreless.
For Solo, the 2011 Womens World Cup offers a chance at redemption. Former United States Womens National Team head coach Greg Ryan benched Solo for a 2007 World Cup semifinal against Brazil after she'd conceded just two goals in four games. With Briana Scurry in net, the Americans were shelled as Brazil handily won, 4-0. Solo's displeasure was evident in the post-match interview as she gave candid comments criticizing Ryan. Solo was suspended and shunned, but worked her way back into the team's good graces for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, where the United States won the gold medal by defeating Brazil, 1-0.
Due to an injury Abby Wambach sustained in the Colombia match, the USA may start a familiar name to fans who have followed the love-life of a certain Seattle Sounders midfield. Alex Morgan, the girlfriend of rookie defensive midfielder Servando Carrasco, may get the start in place of Wambach on Wednesday.
The United States will probably be missing both Abby Wambach and Heather O'Reilly due to injury, but neither is seriously injured and will be sat purely for precautionary reasons. Megan Rapinoe should replace O'Reilly, while Alex Morgan should replace Wambach.
The USA faces Sweden in the final group stage matchup at 11:45 a.m. PDT on Wednesday in Germany. The match will be broadcast live on ESPN and streamed online at ESPN3.com. Both sides are through to the quarterfinals and all that's left is determining which team will take the groups top-seed, earning the right to face a No. 2 seed in the next round.
For more on the tournament, be sure to visit SB Nation Soccer's 2011 Women's World Cup StoryStream. Stay with this StoryStream for more on Hope Solo and the United States Womens National Team.
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