Coming off a thrilling 4-3 victory over Canada in the Olympic semifinals, the United States Women’s National Team now turns its focus to the gold medal match against Japan, which will be a rematch of last summer’s World Cup.
So far in the tournament, the USWNT is a perfect 5-0. Here is how the players grade out so far.
Goalkeeper – Hope Solo
Solo hasn’t had much to do so far in the tournament, with the U.S. comfortably controlling most of its matches. Even though Solo has been beat five times in the tournament, twice in the first half against France in the team’s opener, and three times by Canada’s Christine Sinclair in the semifinals, nearly all of those shots have been unstoppable.
Solo has put in respectable performances each game, and perhaps more importantly, has not cost her team any goals. This might seem like a clear expectation of an international keeper, but any fan of France saw in their game against Japan that avoiding howlers is not a given.
Solo has commanded her penalty area well in each game and done well defending corners and services into the box. She has played well off her line protecting her back four and came up with a number of key stops late in the Canada match.
Grade – 6
Mitts has only seen action in one game for the USWNT during this tournament, playing 90 minutes against Colombia.
In that game, Mitts did not play particularly well and was caught out of position on more than one occasion.
It is also telling how little USWNT head coach Pia Sundhage has decided to use Mitts considering the relatively small size of an Olympic roster and the relative congestion of fixtures.
The USWNT has played five games in only 13 days so far in this tournament, will Kelley O’Hara playing all 480 minutes of the tournament and Amy LePeilbet playing 346 minutes.
If Sundhage had more faith in Mitts, she certainly would have played her against North Korea to give Kelley O’Hara a rest.
The other telling sign was in the Canada match. In the 76th minute, Sundhage withdrew defender Amy LePeilbet in favor of forward Sydney Leroux in an attempt to find the equalizer.
However, when the U.S. found the equalizer just four minutes later, Sundhage elected not put Mitts on and go back to four defenders, instead leaving the U.S. in with three defenders for the remainder of regular time and both extra periods.
Grade – 3
Other than the obvious mistake she made in the Canada match, leaving her post on a corner which resulted in Canada’s third goal, LePeilbet has had a decent tournament.
Although she is certainly not an attacking dynamo, she has gotten forward when possible and done fine in the back.
Grade – 5
The American captain struggled against Canada at times, but, as always, has done well keeping the game in front of her and being the lynchpin of the American defense.
She is sometimes guilty of simply smashing the ball upfield and playing over her midfield, rather than through it, but with the pace of Alex Morgan, it is good once and awhile to keep the opponent’s defense honest.
Grade – 7
Quite simply, this Olympic tournament has represented the best effort yet seen out of Rachel Buehler.
Buehler has faced a lot of criticism from U.S. fans and even commentators in recent weeks and month, but most of it is undeserved, especially considering her quality during this tournament.
Facing Canada’s three-front did make life difficult for Buehler, but she did a good job covering for her other defenders, even when they left her out to dry.
She did have one bad giveaway in the 89th minute which resulted in a clear chance for Canada, but other than that, her possession this tournament has been much improved. She also had a last-ditch tackle in the 104th minute that saved the game for the U.S. in extra time against Canada.
This tournament has clearly represented Buehler’s best.
Grade – 8
O’Hara struggled a lot against Canada, being responsible for the first and second goals, the first through poor positioning, the second getting beat in the air.
But, despite this one poor performance, O’Hara has been a consistent performer for the U.S. One of only two field players to play every minute of the tournament, the other being Christie Rampone, O’Hara’s poor performance against Canada may be partly due to “heavy legs”.
O’Hara gets forward better than anyone else along the backline and her speed, tackling and aggressiveness in the back are fantastic. She adds a dynamic to the U.S. defense that simply wasn’t there prior to her conversion into a defender and has been one of the main reasons the U.S. has been so good in this tournament.
Grade – 7
Sauerbrunn has seen very little action in this tournament seeing only a fifteen minute cameo in the Korea game before being thrown into the cauldron in the 110th minute of the team’s epic battle with Canada.
Under the very difficult circumstances of coming into the Canada game so late, Sauerbrunn did well helping to calm possession for the U.S. and making at least one solid mop-up play.
Grade – 4 (due simply to her lack of playing time)
Lloyd’s performance in this tournament has been one of the major reasons the U.S. has been playing so well.
What makes it even more amazing is that shortly before the tournament began, Lloyd had lost her starting position as Sundhage had begun to favor a Shannon Boxx/Lauren Cheney combination in the middle of the field.
Lloyd has played all but 17 minutes of this tournament and has done well to control the middle. Early in the tournament when she was still fresh, Lloyd also got forward very well contributing two important goals.
Even though she hasn’t gotten forward as much in the last two and a half games, her workmanlike performances have to be appreciated as she has continued to do the dirty work for the USWNT in the middle of the pitch.
Grade – 8
Much like Carli Lloyd, Cheney work in the middle has gone largely unnoticed, but has been key to the USWNT’s success.
Cheney has done a good job in possession, been strong in the tackle and does her share helping the U.S. win the 50/50 battles.
Although her position, and probably exhaustion having logged 455 minutes, have prevented her from getting forward much, Cheney’s work in the middle has been vital to the USWNT’s success.
Grade – 8
Megan Rapinoe’s performance in this tournament has been simply world-class. Last summer, Rapinoe was relegated to mostly a substitute’s role, only getting starts in two of the USWNT’s six World Cup games. And, in each of those two games, she was subbed off before the final whistle.
This tournament, however, has revealed how truly amazing Megan Rapinoe is. She has toyed with defenders out wide, provided terrific service and scored world class goals against both France and Canada.
Grade – 10
Heath’s performances in this tournament have been up and down. She was terrific against France and as a substitute against Colombia, but struggled to make an impact in the North Korea and New Zealand matches.
Against Canada, Heath was downright poor, giving away possession after possession and too often trying to take too many touches.
Grade – 4.5
O’Reilly, like Carli Lloyd, was relegated to a substitute’s role shortly before the Olympic tournament began. She did not play at all in the U.S.’ opener against France and when given the start against Colombia, lost possession frequently and provided poor service from the flank.
However, O’Reilly has turned her tournament around, following her performance in the Colombia match with a much better performance against Korea coming off the bench.
In the Canada game, O’Reilly again provided a spark, coming on in the 71st minute to provide her hard running up and down the flank.
To top off her game, she provided the game-winning service in the 123rd minute.
Grade – 5
Leroux has been relegated to mostly substitute performances in the tournament thus far, appearing as a late minute substitute in four of the U.S. matches.
She made the most of those minutes in the New Zealand game with a couple of fierce runs down the field displaying a terrifying combination of pace and power, one of which resulted in a goal.
However, to be fair, that goal was not the most well-taken, luckily finding the net through the New Zealand goalkeeper’s legs.
In the Canada game, Leroux failed to make a significant impact despite playing 45 minutes in a game that seemed tailor-made for her style.
Grade – 5
Wambach has had a very, very strong tournament thus far, scoring in all five of the U.S.’ matches and proving that despite her age and injuries, she is still a tour de force in the women’s game.
Against Canada, Wambach coolly put away the game-tying penalty in the 80th minute.
The only criticism of Wambach is that in the Canada game, she appeared to be feeling the pressure, missing a couple of nice chances set-up for her by strike partner Alex Morgan.
A casual fan might point to Morgan’s mid-tournament goal drought as a sign of a less than spectacular tournament. However, Morgan has been outstanding from start to finish, scoring two goals against France in the USWNT’s opener, provided the game-winning assists against Colombia, Korea and New Zealand and, of course, the 123rd minute game-winner against Canada.
This tournament has revealed that Morgan’s game is about much more than pace, that her passing, vision, work in the air and service is also world-class.
Grade – 10
Nicole Barnhart, Amy Rodriguez and Shannon Boxx
Amy Rodriguez has only seen the field in a couple of brief cameos, and only when the game has already been sealed.
Shannon Boxx has only played 17 minutes of the tournament before injuring her hamstring.
Nicole Barnhart has not seen the field.
Grades – Incomplete.
John D. Halloran