PSP is pleased to welcome back Allison Frank, who last year provided coverage of the Women’s World Cup.
The U.S. Women’s National Team got off to a nerve-wracking start in their first game of the 2012 Olympics. Entering the tournament with a “Gold or Bust” attitude, many expected them to come out strong from the start against France, the team that was expected to give them the biggest challenge in the group. France reached the semifinals of the World Cup in 2011 and fielded many of the same players that made an impression last summer.
The game began slowly, with both teams looking to find their rhythm. Neither team had any good chances in the opening minutes until France began the scoring in the 12th minute.
The opening scoring sequence began when US defender Amy LePeilbet won a header near the top of the 18 only for the ball fell right to the feet of Gaetane Thiney. Thiney settled the ball and had time and space to strike a strong right-footed shot to the far post. The blast beat Hope Solo, who got a hand to the ball but couldn’t keep it out of the net. Central defenders Christie Rampone and Rachel Buehler were caught off guard on the play and neither was able to step up quickly on Thiney to disrupt the shot. The US team looked surprised by the goal, as if they weren’t quite ready to play.
That same feeling appeared again two minutes later. On a French corner, multiple US defenders struggled to clear the ball from danger only for it to fall to Marie Laure Delie. Shielding the ball from US midfielder Shannon Boxx, Delie blasted a shot past an unprotected Hope Solo. Less than 15 minutes into the game and the US found themselves in a 2-0 hole. Fans at home had to be wondering where the “Gold or Bust” attitude had run off to and hoping it would have a quick return.
It appears that the second French goal was exactly the wake-up call that the Americans needed as they began to better possess the ball and started to create some scoring opportunities. Soon after, Abby Wambach started the scoring for the US in the 19th minute when she out-jumped Wendi Renard at the backpost to head home a beautiful corner from Megan Rapinoe.
The US continued to press for a tying goal and were rewarded by Alex Morgan in the 32nd minute. The play began when Solo delivered a long ball out of the back to Wambach. While she was unable to control the ball, Wambach prevented her defender from beating her to it. The ball then took a perfect bounce to an onrushing Alex Morgan, who coolly delivered a volleyed chip past the French goalkeeper.
The US continued to build on their momentum after halftime. In the 56th minute, Rapinoe controlled a turnover in the French half of the field and played the ball to Carli Lloyd. Lloyd had time for two touches, and then hit a right-footed strike to the far post. It was a shot that we had grown accustomed to seeing her kick into the stands last summer in Germany, but this time it was a beautiful strike, and one that reminded us just why the New Jersey native belongs on this team. In addition to the goal, Lloyd, who came on early in the first half for the injured Boxx, was a calming presence as the defensive midfielder.
Morgan capped off the scoring for the US in the 66th minute. The play started again with Rapinoe, who switched the ball across the field to Tobin Heath on the left wing. Heath took the ball to the endline, and slotted it across the face of the goal. Wambach rushed the goalmouth, and though she couldn’t connect, her movement prevented the defender and the French goalkeeper from getting a touch on the ball. Morgan was free on the back post and only needed to redirect the ball onto the net for her second goal of the day.
Overall, scoring four goals in a win against their toughest group opponent is a good start for the US in their quest for the goal medal. It is also impressive that the US showed their resilience after going down two goals in the first 15 minutes by immediately launching their comeback behind the lethal pair of Morgan and Wambach. Fans will take heart in the fact that the US is a team that is both capable and confident enough to able to come from behind.
However, there are some concerns that, by being addressed, will hopefully prevent them from needing such heroics in later games. Lauren Cheney must be stronger with possession in the midfield. She is a creative player and she needs to make her mark on the game to create chances for the forwards. The US also must be quicker defensively. The central defenders were a step slow on more than one occasion, the biggest of which led to the goal by Thiney. Quite simply, US will need to be sharper defensively as the tournament continues.
The US take on Columbia on Saturday in their second group game (12pm, NBCSN). Look for Wambach and Morgan to have strong games against a weaker Colombian team.