In the World Cup knockout rounds, a win is a win. It does not matter how you do it; all that matters is whether your team advances. On Monday, the United States found a way to edge out a 2-0 victory against Colombia, allowing them to advance to a quarterfinal match against China on Friday.
After Colombia's disciplined defense frustrated the U.S. in the first half, everything changed in the second. In the 47th minute, Colombian keeper Catalina Perez received a red card for tackling Alex Morgan in the box — who had a breakaway thanks to a through ball from Seattle Reign midfielder Megan Rapinoe. This forced Colombia to play down a woman for nearly the entire second half.
While Abby Wambach missed the ensuing penalty kick, Morgan was able to find the back of the net six minutes later. On a scramble from a corner kick, Morgan collected the ball on the right side of the box and was looking for Wambach on the cross. She saw that the new Colombian keeper, Stefany Castano, was anticipating a cross, so Morgan took the shot instead.
Or maybe she was trying to cross it.
Either way, the ball deflected off Castano's arm and over the goal line, and the U.S. went up 1-0 with 40 minutes remaining.
In the 66th minute, Rapinoe drew a second penalty kick when she was taken down making a run in the box. It was Carli Lloyd who took this PK, and she buried it for the USWNT's second goal. Up two goals, the U.S. relaxed and focused on ensuring Colombia created few chances in the final 30 minutes.
The match finished at 2-0, and the U.S. now turn their attention to China, a team that advanced to the quarterfinals on a 1-0 win over Cameroon. China made it through the group stage with a disciplined defense, and
While the U.S. advance to the next round, they will have challenges. Both Lauren Holiday and Rapinoe received a yellow card in the match. Both had a previous yellow, which means they will have to sit in the quarterfinal match. Christen Press is expected to fill in for Rapinoe, while Morgan Brian is the most likely replacement for Holiday.
- U.S. defense remains strong: The USWNT extended their shutout streak to 333 minutes. While their attack was what people talked about leading up to the tournament, the U.S. defense has been a rock, allowing just one goal in four matches. Hope Solo was untested today thanks to the entire defensive line and strong breakout play from centerback Julie Johnston, who has played off Becky Sauerbrunn well and continues to be a danger on set pieces.
- Alex Morgan played a full 90: Having Alex Morgan play in back-to-back matches is huge. Her touch is still off at times but her speed and runs are improving. Scoring a goal today can only give Morgan more confidence leading up to the quarterfinals. Her goal today was her first since March 6th.
- Friday's lineup: With creative playmaker Rapinoe out, the U.S. will need a player who can combine with Morgan and the midfielders. Christen Press — who will likely replace Rapinoe out wide — is smart, fast, and dangerous, and could certainly help play this role. Will Abby get another start, or will Jill Ellis opt for a player with more speed to combine with Morgan? Your guess is as good as mine.
- Colombia proved they could keep up: While they did not advance, Colombia leaves the tournament exceeding expectations. They will certainly be a team to watch in the 2016 Rio Olympics. The U.S. did a good job containing the talented Lady Andrade, but she showed moments of technical brilliance throughout the tournament.