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.