USWNT Tops Colombia 3-0 to Guarantee Advancement to Olympic Quarterfinals

July 29, 2012

On Saturday morning, the USWNT took another step towards its goal of Olympic Gold, soundly beating Colombia in the second game of group stage play and guaranteeing itself a berth in the Olympic quarterfinals.

Here are five thoughts from the game.

Tobin Heath has surpassed Heather O’Reilly

Shortly before the World Cup began, in a send-off match against Canada, Pia Sundhage fielded a lineup that she declared was her “best XI”.

Many fans, however, raised their eyebrows at the fact that Heather O’Reilly was not in that lineup, but that Tobin Heath was preferred instead.

This choice was especially surprising considering O’Reilly’s gritty, hustle-based playing style has been key to the U.S.’ success for the last decade.

However, Saturday morning’s game showed why Sundhage has made the right decision. Resting Heath after a strong effort in the opening game against France, Sundhage replaced Heath in the starting lineup with O’Reilly.

And while no one could ever question O’Reilly’s hustle and fight, she was responsible for a high number of lost possessions and her service in the final third was lacking throughout the Colombia match.

In the 67th minute, Heath replaced O’Reilly, and in less than ten minutes provided the bit of skill the U.S. needed, putting Abby Wambach in behind the Colombia defense with a neat through ball.

Wambach tucked the ball away to put the U.S. up 2-0 and put the game out of reach.

The fact is, in today’s game, where the U.S. can no longer win games simply because of its advantages in athleticism and fitness, the type of skill and possession Heath can provide trumps O’Reilly’s speed and work-rate.

Megan Rapinoe had another superb game

Continuing her run of fine form, Megan Rapinoe scored the opening goal of the game, which proved to be the game-winner, with a fantastic drive from outside the box.

The goal also provided a heart-warming feel good moment for USWNT fans as Rapinoe, shortly after scoring the goal, ran to the sideline and pulled a Happy Birthday message out of her sock to injured teammate Ali Krieger.

Later in the game, Rapinoe put Carli Lloyd in behind the Colombian defense on a great through ball which Lloyd put away to seal the game at 3-0.

Alex Morgan continues to show her game is about more than just pace

Rapinoe’s opening goal came off a fantastic assist from Alex Morgan, who pulled the ball out of tight space, picked her head up, and found Rapinoe open on the weak side of the field.

Morgan also had two other fantastic plays during the game that didn’t show up on the scoresheet where she held the ball in traffic to allow her midfielders to overlap her before putting them in behind the Colombia defense.

Morgan could have easily ended up with three assists on the day.

When is FIFA going to get a clue about replay?

In the first half while running down the field, Abby Wambach was assaulted by a Colombian defender.

Whether you want to call it gamesmanship, or justify it with another platitude, the fact is that such hooliganism has no place in football.

With the use of replay, it would have taken the fourth official less than 15 seconds to review the play and recommend to the center official that the Colombian defender be sent off, which she certainly deserved.

The U.S. is going to get exposed if it plays Heather Mitts against a top opponent

For over the past year, USWNT defender Heather Mitts has shown that she is no longer a world-class defender. That trend continued again on Saturday morning, as Mitts was responsible for several of Colombia’s best chances.

Mitts has a tendency to come too narrow, and on occasion even overlap her center defenders, leaving a huge gap on the right side of the field.

Although the Colombians didn’t have enough vision and/or skill to repeatedly expose the imbalance in the U.S.’ defensive shape caused by Mitts’ suspect positioning, teams like Brazil, Japan and Sweden will.

John D. Halloran

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4 Responses to USWNT Tops Colombia 3-0 to Guarantee Advancement to Olympic Quarterfinals

  1. AM13 on July 29, 2012 at 12:43 pm

    Alas, Alex Morgan has not fully developed on her passing and I showed yesterday. She took too many touches and that slowed down the game’s momentum. The Colombian rarely caught off guard from her ball. They shut her off completely and you can see frustration on her face. This is expected though because she’s learning and growing everyday, which is a beautiful thing to watch.

  2. DE Dupuis on July 29, 2012 at 10:26 pm

    I respectfully completely disagree with the Alex passes poorly comment. I think Rapinoe will back me up on that. In 2012, only Cheney has more assists, 10 to Alex’s 9, oh and 19 goals all in 14 starts. I agree she is still developing, which should send a chill down the rest of the world’s back; but she is already on her own level.

    You’ve got to love Heather, she is all go. However, with Alex, Rapinoe, and Ohara now regulars, the team’s balance has shifted to superior athletes and superior quality, still a good sub.

    To my eye the key to the game was the Lloyd – Cheney pairing in the middle of the park, they can both hold and attack, they both are very good with the ball, smart, tough, and work together very well. They just don’t give the ball away. They owned the midfield, double so when Heath joined the fray. Boxx will not get her place back.

    I’ve previously been unimpressed with Abby and Tobin, shows you what I know, they are both having a wonderful Olympics so far.

    The attacking six are outrageously good, and getting better – the back four looked a bit rickety now and again – and it wasn’t just Mitts (whose 1 on 1 defending was good, but I agree she was sometimes no where to be found) just not enough cohesion (does Pia ever play the same back 4 twice?), and super mom may have finally lost a step, although she is still plenty fast.

    Even with our iffy defending, unless we suffer injuries to our crumby passer, Rapinoe, or Abby, all the other teams will be loosing sleep before playing our USWNT. This team is damn good!

    And, I love the hoops jerseys.

    • John D. Halloran on July 30, 2012 at 7:44 am

      Have to admit I wasn’t a fan of the candy-cane jerseys at first, but they are starting to grow on me.

  3. AM13 on July 30, 2012 at 10:25 am

    I just want to make it clear. When I said Alex still hadn’t fully developed her passing skill, I meant for this Colombia type of game. And the reason was because the style changed. Instead of relying on long passes, they used quick multiple short passes on the ground to adjust to the opponent’s game. With this style, you don’t have much time to make a decision or make a good touch on the ball. The USWNT hasn’t been using this style very often, so Alex will just need to learn it. I know she will! :)

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