Three thoughts on U.S.-Colombia
Three thoughts after the U.S.' 3-0 win over Colombia clinched a berth for the U.S. in the quarterfinals of the Women's World Cup:
The U.S. scored two of the best goals you'll ever see. I can't remember a better goal scored by the U.S. women than Heather O'Reilly's unstoppable blast into the top corner from distance that opened the scoring against Colombia. But the Americans' second goal wasn't far behind, resulting from a penetrating run and blast by Megan Rapinoe that showed off the skill she brings to this team. On a day when the U.S.' finishing was particularly wasteful -- the U.S. can't afford to miss so many chances later in the tournament -- those goals still provided some memorable highlights. The goals by O'Reilly and Carli Lloyd were both scored from outside the penalty box, an indication that the U.S. should keep firing from distance.
The U.S. has some useful depth. Coach Pia Sundhage put midfielder Lori Lindsey in the starting lineup in place of Shannon Boxx, and Lindsey was one of the U.S.'s best players against Colombia, winning balls and leading the U.S.' ruthless pressure defense that dominated the game. Sundhage has some tough lineup calls to make moving forward, but for nearly all the right reasons. Lauren Cheney won the starting job away from Rapinoe the last two games, but Rapinoe scored and had a solid 45 minutes as a sub on Saturday, putting her back in contention. Another tough call will be at forward, where Amy Rodríguez struggled against Colombia and supersub Alex Morgan (surprisingly) didn't play a single minute. Time for Morgan to start against Sweden on Wednesday?
Don't take too much from these first two U.S. wins. The Americans have done what they needed to do so far, getting six points from the first two games, but keep in mind that the two opponents (North Korea and Colombia) have essentially been those countries' U-20 teams. Things will get tougher against Sweden on Wednesday, when the U.S. will need a tie or a win to take first place in the group. What has to get better? Start with finishing. Abby Wambach can't buy a goal these days and wasted several chances against Colombia, as did Rodríguez. The U.S. can't afford to have that happen again on Wednesday, or Sweden could easily provide a repeat of its victory over the Americans earlier this year.