The U.S.A. is going back to the World Cup Finals after beating Germany 2-0 tonight at Montreal’s Olympic Stadium.
U.S. coach Jill Ellis boldly switched up her team’s formation and was rewarded with what was by far the best performance by the U.S in the 2015 World Cup to date.
Ellis veered from the team’s usual 4-4-2 to a 4-3-3 or maybe a 4-2-3-1, depending on who you ask. As the coach herself said afterwards, it’s not the formation, it’s the players.
Morgan Brian got a second straight start with Lauren Holiday coming back after sitting with a yellow card suspension against China. Megan Rapinoe slotted back in too, with Alex Morgan as a lone striker.
Germany troubled the U.S. in the early going with its high press, but the Americans settled quickly giving the German’s some of its own medicine with its own aggressive pressure.
A packed Olympic Stadium was being treated to women’s soccer at its highest level with the world’s number one and number two national teams putting on a show.
The Americans had golden scoring chances early only to be foiled by German keeper Nadine Angerer. Angerer made a huge save just seven minutes in when Julie Johnston got on the end of a Rapinoe corner kick, throwing her leg out to somehow keep the U.S. off of the board.
The Americans were asserting control of the match, although Rapinoe couldn’t get any power behind her seventh minute shot.
The Americans missed another huge opportunity in the 15th minute when Tobin Heath sent Alex Morgan through with a perfect pass. Facing Angerer one on one Morgan was denied by the keeper, although the American didn’t get much on her shot.
With the U.S in control Germany earned a free kick that nearly had dire consequences for both teams when Brian and Alexandra Popp clashed heads in a scary incident.
The two stayed on the ground receiving treatment for several minutes with Popp bleeding heavily from a nasty cut to her head. Brian looked unsteady as she walked off the field, but both players quickly returned to the field after presumably being medically cleared.
When the halftime whistle blew the Americans had to be disappointed with the 0-0 scoreline. Inevitable comparisons to Germany’s quarterfinal win over France were made and one had to wonder if the U.S., like France, would regret its failure to convert first half dominance into something more tangible, like a goal or two.
That thought was on everyone’s mind when Julie Johnston made her first mistake of the World Cup, misjudging a bouncing ball and pulling Popp to the ground for a penalty.
Germany, who had never missed a penalty in the Women’s World Cup, sent Celia Sasic to the spot. Hope Solo tried to get into her opponents head, going on a bit of a walkabout, but Sasic simply sneered.
Then, with Solo diving the wrong way, Sasic blasted her shot wide of the net and the U.S. were off the hook.
The U.S were off the hook as well when the referee handed Johnston a yellow card and not the red she could well have presented the center back with for denying a clear goal scoring opportunity. Solo could have been yellow carded for time wasting, but no discipline was forthcoming.
Germany had come out well on the restart and despite Sasic’s miss the Americans were chasing the game. Then the Americans got another break, maybe.
Alex Morgan raced at German center back Annike Krahn and was taken down at the edge of the 18 yard box. The referee pointed to the spot, but replays showed that the initial contact had been outside the box.
After the game some experts said penalty, some said no. In any event Carli Lloyd did what Sasic could not and buried her chance.
The Americans were in control now and seemed disinclined to surrender that control. Ellis, who had herself a pretty great night, went to the bench in the 75th minute for Kelley O’Hara to take over for Heath.
O’Hara had been excellent against China before going off with a bloody nose and she made her coach look like a genius nine minutes after checking in when she scored her career first U.S. goal, effectively sending the Americans to the World Cup Final.
The clinching goal came from a bit of brilliance from Player of the Game Carli Lloyd, who has turned this teams fortunes around since being set loose by Ellis for the China match.
With Lloyd in possession in the box, she cooly resisted the urge to shoot and twisted her marker into the ground before crossing. O’Hara got on the end of Lloyd’s cross leaving Angerer no chance.
The U.S. comfortably closed out the final six minutes plus booking its place in a second straight World Cup Final. 2011 ended with a heartbreaking penalty kick loss to Japan.
Four years later the pair could meet again. England will have something to say about that when the two meet tomorrow night in Edmonton.
Whichever team wins tomorrow night will more than likely enter the final as the underdog against a U.S. team that has improved almost beyond recognition as this World Cup as progressed.
Scoring Summary: 1 2 F
USA 0 2 2
GER 0 0 0
USA – Carli Lloyd (penalty kick) 69th minute
USA – Kelley O’Hara (Carli Lloyd) 84
USA: 1-Hope Solo; 11-Ali Krieger, 4-Becky Sauerbrunn, 19-Julie Johnston, 22-Meghan Klingenberg; 12-Lauren Holiday, 14-Morgan Brian, 10-Carli Lloyd (capt.), 15-Megan Rapinoe (20-Abby Wambach,80), 13-Alex Morgan (2-Sydney Leroux, 90+3), 17-Tobin Heath (5-Kelley O’Hara, 75)
Subs Not Used: 3-Christie Rampone, 6-Whitney Engen, 7-Shannon Boxx, 8-Amy Rodriguez, 9-Heather O’Reilly, 16-Lori Chalupny,18-Ashlyn Harris, 21-Alyssa Naeher, 23-Christen Press
Head coach: Jill Ellis
GER : 1-Nadine Angerer (capt.); 4-Leonie Maier, 5-Annike Krahn, 3-Saskia Bartusiak, 22-Tabea Kemme; 6-Simone Laudehr, 20-Lena Goessling, 11-Anja Mittag (10-Dzsenifer Marozsan, 78), 16-Melanie Leupolz, 18-Alexandra Popp; 13-Celia Sasic
Subs not used: 2-Bianca Schmidt, 7-Melanie Behringer, 8-Pauline Bremer, 9-Lena Lotzen, 12-Almuth Schult, 14-Babett Peter, 15-Jennifer Cramer, 17-Josephine Henning, 19-Lena Petermann, 21-Laura Benkarth, 23-Sara Daebritz
Head coach: Silvia Neid
Stats Summary: USA / GER
Shots: 12 / 15
Shots on Goal: 5 / 1
Saves: 1 / 3
Corner Kicks: 8 / 4
Fouls: 10 / 11
Offside: 1 / 1
GER – Leonie Maier (caution) 34th minute
USA – Becky Sauerbrunn (caution) 38
USA – Julie Johnston (caution) 59
GER – Annike Krahn (caution) 69