The United States Women’s National Team defeated New Zealand 2-0 on Friday morning to advance from the Olympic quarterfinals.
They will now meet Canada on Monday afternoon at 2:45 ET in the semifinals.
Here are six things we learned from the game.
Rachel Buehler was much better
Buehler, who tends to bear the brunt of fan’s and commentator’s criticism of the USWNT defense, had a very solid game.
While New Zealand does not boast a world-class attack, it was an encouraging sign heading into the semifinals.
Buehler did well to repeatedly use Kelly O’Hara as an outlet to maintain possession, provided good help defense to Christie Rampone and Buehler did well throughout the game to keep the New Zealand attackers in front of her and neutralize their attacks.
The referee had a shocker
From start to finish, center official Jesica Di Iorio of Argentina had a horrible game. She called at least a dozen throw-ins, goal kicks or corner kicks incorrectly and missed close to that many fouls, many from behind.
Di Iorio also missed arguably three penalty calls, including one against the U.S., and did not caution, or even call a foul when Alex Morgan was taken down on a breakaway.
Pia Sundhage has a difficult decision to make at outside midfielder
Tobin Heath, who was preferred over Heather O’Reilly at the start of the tournament, and against New Zealand, had a very quiet game.
However, in the first game, against France, Heath was very good and also came on as a substitute against Colombia and played very well.
O’Reilly, meanwhile, had a very subpar game against Colombia when given the start, but was much better against North Korea when she was given a second chance.
The two players could not be more different from each other. While Heath provides better possession, attacking flair and vision, her work rate, especially on the defensive side of the ball, can leave something to be desired.
O’Reilly, on the other hand, is the hardest working player on the field every time she suits up. She runs tirelessly up and down the flank and works very hard on both sides of the ball. O’Reilly’s downside however, is that she tends to lose possession more often, is one-dimensional on the attacking end when she almost always tries to push and run past defenders and she seemingly has no left foot.
Sundhage has a very tough decision on her hands.
Alex Morgan’s mojo is off
Morgan certainly has not been playing poorly. She assisted on the game-winning goal in this game and in the last game against North Korea. Morgan also should have drawn a penalty against New Zealand when she was taken down from behind in the 48th minute and probably should have gotten the New Zealand goalkeeper sent off in the 73rd minute.
However, Morgan has also uncharacteristically missed a number of clear scoring chances of late, including at least three chances in the New Zealand game where she found herself in behind the New Zealand defense, but failed to convert.
The worst of those chances came in the 10th minute when Morgan rounded New Zealand goalkeeper Jenny Bindon, but then missed the open net. In addition to that chance, Morgan whiffed on a gorgeous Megan Rapinoe service in the 17th minute, slammed a wide open shot from 10 yards out into the side-netting in the 47th minute and rushed another open chance from eight yards out in the 58th minute.
Hopefully Morgan is fully recovered from her collision with the New Zealand goalkeeper and fully on her game against Canada.
Jenny Bindon is one tough cookie
Bindon, who was born and raised in Belleville, Illinois, played her college soccer in the United States and even served in the U.S. Coast Guard, takes the field internationally as New Zealand’s goalkeeper.
During the game against the U.S., Bindon took two kicks to the face, including one brutal collision with Alex Morgan, but stayed in the game and played well.
The world should be terrified of Sydney Leroux
Although she only played ten minutes, during that time, Leroux showed a combination of power and pace that should terrify any and all future opponents of the USWNT.
The 22 year-old striker has been slowly working her way up the USWNT depth chart and looked very good, not only on her goal in the 87th minute, but also on a run shortly before that in which she won possession inside the U.S. half and overpowered two New Zealand defenders en route to a 50 yard run down the flank before serving the ball in to Heather O’Reilly.
A prolific goal-scorer as part the USYNT teams, Leroux gave USWNT fans a glimpse into the future when she will make a fearsome partnership with Alex Morgan.
Plus, you gotta love that celebration.
John D. Halloran