The United States Women’s National Team continued their unbeaten Olympic run on Friday morning beating New Zealand 2-0 in the quarterfinals.
Their next match will be against Canada in the Olympic semi-finals Monday afternoon at 2:45 ET.
Here are four keys for the USWNT to beat Canada and advance to the Olympic gold medal match.
The USWNT is 12-0-1 against Canada over the last five years, not losing a single match. With the exception of Christine Sinclair, there is not a player on the Canadian roster who can match the level of play that every member of the U.S. team is capable of.
So, if the U.S. can manage their nerves and play to their capability, there is no doubt the U.S. should come out on top.
Taking advantage of their chances
Over the last two games, the USWNT has not done a good job of taking their chances in front of the net.
They managed a paltry and flat 1-0 victory over North Korea and, while they looked better against New Zealand, missed a number of gilt-edge chances in that match.
If the U.S. is to advance, it needs to convert its chances when presented with them.
Containing Christine Sinclair
While the USWNT backline has looked solid over the tournament, now going over three and half games without giving up a goal, they haven’t been tested since the France game.
Canada’s Christine Sinclair is a world-class striker, and will do just that.
Sinclair’s quality should not be overlooked as she has scored 140 goals in 188 appearances for Canada, almost identical to USWNT star Abby Wambach, who has scored 142 goals in 186 appearances.
The difference is, Sinclair has done it with a team of far less quality than the USWNT, meaning that Sinclair has done it with far fewer chances and far less service.
If the USWNT is to advance, containing Sinclair is key.
Due to the constraints of the 18-woman roster during the Olympic tournament, USWNT head coach Pia Sundhage elected to only roster three center midfielders.
While the wisdom of such a decision can surely be questioned, as she did roster four outside midfielders, the injury to Shannon Boxx has made the problem even worse.
So far in the tournament, USWNT center midfielder Lauren Cheney has played 354 minutes, only missing six minutes of the entire tournament, and her partner in the midfield, Carli Lloyd has played 343 minutes, missing only 17 minutes of the entire tournament.
Throwing a further curveball to the problem is that the Olympic tournament requires each team to play every three days, rather than the usual four or five day gap in the World Cup.
Cheney and Lloyd, who were terrific against France, Colombia and in the first half against North Korea, have begun to look increasingly tired as the tournament has worn on and have been far less productive going forward.
If the U.S. is going to prevail on Monday, and hopefully in the final as well, they will have to find a way to get Cheney and Lloyd playing at 100%.
John D. Halloran