Photo: Paul Rudderow
Amy Rodriguez’s 86th minute goal gave the USWNT the win in their Olympic send off match in Salt Lake City, UT. A 15th minute own goal by Canada’s Carmelina Moscato was canceled out by a well-worked Melissa Tancredi goal in the 57th minute. But second half substitute Rodriguez was in the right place at the right time to assure that the Americans headed to London on the back of a 2-1 victory.
Pia Sundhage named her self-described “best XI” with Tobin Heath preferred over Heather O’Reilly and Lauren Cheney preferred over Carli Lloyd in the midfield. Rachel Beuhler seems to have locked down the starting center back role next to Christie Rampone.
The US started on the front foot and took play to the Canadians in the opening stages of the match. Megan Rapinoe, who was probably the best player on the pitch for either side on the day, was particularly effective driving down the right flank. Her mazey dribbles, combination play with Alex Morgan, and delivery from both open play and set pieces tormented the Canadian defenders all afternoon.
A few early set pieces were dealt with by the under-seige Canadian back line. But the barrage finally proved to be too much when one of Rapinoe’s crosses was turned into her own net by Moscato. Goalkeeper Erin McLeod took two steps off her line when Rapinoe flung in another quality cross, but Moscato reached out and deflected the ball as she raced back toward her own goal. McLeod was helpless as the ball pinged into the side netting at the far post. It was a lucky bounce for the Americans, but a well deserved lead through the quality of their play.
The US continued to attack the Canadian flanks—Rapinoe down the right and Kelly O’Hara down the left from her fullback role. But their crosses were weathered by the Canadians and Wambach and Morgan could not lose their markers inside the box.
The Canadians came into the match as the half wore on and better possession and pressure further up the pitch allowed them to relieve some of the pressure on their own goal. Hope Solo was finally called into action in stoppage time of the first half when Christine Sinclair’s 20 yard drive took a massive deflection on the way toward the US goal. The American keeper was wrong footed, but dove back across the goal to get her finger tips to the shot and keep it out. She was up quickly to smother the rebound before it could cross the line.
The Americans reacted immediately and almost opened up a 2-0 lead just before the whistle. Alex Morgan was released down the left side to latch onto a ball inside the Canadian 18-yard box. She brilliantly cut back as two defenders flew past her, and her shot alluded McLeod but was beautifully cleared off the line by a retreating Lauren Sesselmann.
There would be four changes at half time, with Becky Sauerbrunn, Heather O’Reilly, Carli Lloyd, and Heather Mitts replacing Christie Rampone, Tobin Heath, Shannon Boxx, and Amy LePeilbet respectively. Alex Morgan limped off in the 51st minute making quite a few US fans nervous, but NBC reported later that she just had a twisted knee and was taken off as a precaution. Amy Rodriguez came on to replace her and found herself playing up top alongside Wambach for the first time in recent memory, as she’s been converted to more of a winger under Sundhage.
The Canadians would find their equalizer in stylish fashion in the 58th minute when Sinclair was afforded too much time on the ball dribbling down the right side, and her brilliant through pass into the path of substitute Melissa Tancredi was perfectly weighted. Tancredi took it first time from 15 yards and her left footed shot flew over an onrushing Hope Solo, off the underside of the crossbar and into the net.
The US had a huge shout for a penalty when Candace Chapman leveled Abby Wambach in the 67th minute off the ball inside the Canadian box. The defender was shown a yellow card for the incident, but the PK was not given.
With the US searching for a winner, Sundhage changed to a 3-4-3 in the 76th minute, introducing Sydney Leroux for Kelly O’Hara. But it would be Rodriguez who would provide the win. Another good service from Rapinoe, now playing on the left side, was almost cheekily pushed home by an Abby Wambach backheel, only to be blocked. Rodriguez was on hand to poke home the rebound and assure the Americans would head to London on a high note.
Sundhage and her squad will be happy with the result and the dominating nature of the match. But there are still a few worrying signs for the Americans as they head to London. Today’s match marks the fourth consecutive where the team has failed to keep a clean sheet. And for all the chances they were able to create, they only walked away with two goals. Creating chances is never a problem for this group, but consistent finishing has been.
The US Women open their Olympic campaign in Glasgow on July 25 against France. Their group also contains Columbia and North Korea.
USA: 1-Hope Solo; 6-Amy LePeilbet (2-Heather Mitts, 46), 3-Christie Rampone (capt.) (4-Becky Sauerbrunn, 46), 16-Rachel Buehler, 5-Kelley O’Hara (11-Sydney Leroux, 76); 15-Megan Rapinoe, 7-Shannon Boxx (10-Carli Lloyd, 46), 12-Lauren Cheney, 17-Tobin Heath (9-Heather O’Reilly, 46); 13-Alex Morgan (8-Amy Rodriguez, 51), 14-Abby Wambach