In a game that was not beautiful, the US still managed to dominate the play and win. Abby Wambach scored the loan goal of the game. The North Koreans finished the game a woman down after second half sub, Choe Mi Gyong was given her second yellow in a five minute span for a harsh tackle on Lauren Cheney. The US strategy was different for this game. They went in knowing that they merely had to tie in order to move on to the quarterfinals. That meant that the forwards were not going to be called upon as much. It meant that the midfield would be crucial. It also meant that they would be trying to rest legs. Megan Rapinoe was pulled at the half in order to have her fresh for the next game. The North Koreans had a couple of game plans of their own.
They played the majority of the match with a minimum of five defenders, which clogged the normal passing lanes for the US. The goal in the 25th minute was scored after Alex Morgan fought her way through two defenders, and slotted a pass to Abby Wambach who was able to choose her spot in the basically empty net. The keeper had come out to defend, but had no chance. This was Abby’s 141st career goal in international games. She is closing on the all time top scorer, Mia Hamm. She only needs 17 more to pass Mia, and she’s doing it a lot more quickly.
The second strategy for the North Koreans seemed to be a page out of Colombia’s game plan in the previous match; thuggery. They were issued four yellows in the match, but it should have been more. At one point near the end of the match, Alex Morgan literally had two players on her back in the box, but no foul was called. I guess by that point, the ref didn’t feel it was necessary to control to game. She had already reduced to North Koreans to ten players, and the USA already had the game in hand.
The USA prevailed, and seemingly escaped without loosing anyone to injury. Morgan has two assists in two games, and Wambach has three goals in three games. When asked about the pace of this game, Abby is quoted in the US press release as saying,
"I think it was a professional game. We wanted to preserve our energy in the second half by keeping the ball; I think that was pretty clear. Moving forward, the quarterfinal game is the most important thing and we knew we were already through. We put ourselves into a position to go through and possession was the name of our game."
Abby became the first foreign woman to score in Old Trafford. Abby said that playing in the home of Manchester United was "… awesome. So many U.S. fans came for this game specifically to watch at Old Trafford. It’s a dream come true for a lot of us and it’s amazing to have got a goal."
They next face New Zealand at 6:30am PST on Friday, August 3. This begins the single elimination portion of the tournament for the women. They should be able to handle the Ferns easily enough, but they should have been able to handle the North Koreans too. When the US beat NZ, then they will face the winner of the Great Brittan/Canada game on August 6th.