The U.S. came into its semifinal match against Germany as underdogs. FiveThirtyEight.com gave the American side a 43% chance of advancing. The team, despite an enormous amount of talent, had hardly been playing its best soccer, while Germany had just defeated France and Sweden, ranked 3rd and 5th, respectively.
This match was highly entertaining, fast-paced, and featured end-to-end action. The U.S., who deployed a 4-5-1 lineup for the first time this tournament, looked to be the better team in the first half, creating a number of dangerous chances. Most of that action came from play down the flanks, and Seattle Reign FC midfielder Megan Rapinoe was the key creative engine for the American side.
While the first 45 minutes ended scoreless, the U.S. had already amassed seven shots and six corner kicks and maintained 55% of the possession.
When the second half kicked off, however, the Germans came out aggressive and had the USWNT on their heels to start things off. Fifteen minutes into the half, just as the U.S. began to retake control of the game, Germany earned a penalty after Julie Johnston brought down Alexandra Popp in the box. While she could have seen a red for denying a goal-scoring opportunity, the ref must have thought Hope Solo had a chance to play the ball and Johnston was allowed to remain on the field.
It seemed like a sure goal for Celia Sasic, a clinical finisher, but her shot went well wide of the left post.
That miss gave the U.S. a much-needed boost, and just five minutes later Alex Morgan was pulled down and the U.S. were awarded a penalty kick of their own. On replays, Morgan was clearly outside the box when the foul began. However, the referee gave the U.S. the penalty, and Carli Lloyd buried it in the 69th minute.
The U.S. were not content to leave the score at 1-0, and they found their second goal in the 84th minute. Meghan Klingenberg played it into Carli Lloyd in the box, who took it to the endline and sent the ball across the face of the goal. Kelley O'Hara, who came into the game in the 75th minute, beat her defender to the ball and ninja kicked it into the back of the net.
It was a beautifully orchestrated play and was a fantastic finish from O'Hara.
The U.S. never let Germany get back into the match, and it finished at 2-0. The top-ranked team was sent home. Hope Solo only had to make one save, as Germany only put one of its 15 shots on frame. The shutout extends the U.S. shutout streak to 513 minutes, which is just 28 minutes shy of a World Cup record.
On Sunday, the U.S. hope to become World Cup champions for the third time when they take on either Japan or England. One thing is certain: this game against Germany is going to be a hard one to top, as the U.S. proved that when they move the ball around, find space, and stay disciplined they can beat the top-ranked team in the world.
- Concussion protocols must improve. Alexandra Popp and Morgan Brian collided hard in the box in the first half. Popp was bleeding instantly, and Brian was on the ground for a long time. Yet, both immediately went back into the game after some very light concussion-related tests. Both coaches certainly didn't want to risk a sub so early in the match. That is no excuse, and it's time for something to change.
- Megan Rapinoe is a beast. In the first half, Germany could do nothing to contain Rapinoe on the left. She was putting her and her teammates into dangerous positions and her corner kicks consistently found U.S. players, including a Julie Johnston header that almost went in. As a result of her constant threat in the attack, Germany went after Rapinoe aggressively. It seemed they might walk away with a red card simply for trying to quell Rapinoe, but in the end only earned one yellow for a tactical foul on a counter opportunity.
- Alex Morgan is an amazingly talented soccer player, but it is clear her time away from the game due to injuries affected her play. She was put into so many dangerous positions this match, but could not finish them. Late in the first half, instead of trying to play the ball to a streaking Tobin Heath, she elected to take a low-percentage shot that was nowhere close.
- The U.S. defense continues to impress. Despite the penalty mistake, the U.S. allowed Germany just one shot on goal. This is a team that had seven shots on goal against France, and 11 against Sweden. That steady back line got the U.S. through the group stage and the knockout rounds.