Going into Monday’s game against 10th seed Australia, American soccer fans were nervous. The USWNT’s poor showing against South Korea last week exposed the American team’s vulnerabilities – leading to a draw against a team that everyone expected the US to beat handily.
Early in the game against Australia, the Americans’ jitters were put to the test (and their faith in Hope Solo restored) when Austrailain midfielder Emily van Egmond (#10) threaded a beautiful shot between the legs of American midfielder Lauren Holiday (#12).
Thankfully, Hope Solo came through with her Jedi-like predictive skills to make the big save, deflecting the ball off the crossbar and behind the back line for the corner. While the save has been touted as further proof of what everyone already knows – that despite Solo’s horrendous history of domestic violence and assault (including beating her 17-yr old nephew), Solo is the greatest keeper in the world right now. She’s the USWNT’s Timmy Howard – the glue holding the team together when times get tough.
What no one on the Internet has mentioned about that shot, however, is that, despite Hope Solo’s skills, it was an incredibly lucky save. A millisecond slower and Solo wouldn’t have had the height to deflect the ball against the crossbar. Not to mention that as two defenders crammed towards the Australian striker, the ball could have easily taken a deflection and wound up in the back of the net. In other words, it could have gone down exactly like how superstar Meghan Rapinoe scored the USA’s first goal:
Just moments later, Hope Solo again had to come in with the spectacular save as the Australian offense was left completely unmarked.
Unfortunately, veteran USWNT player Abby Wombach couldn’t get the ball on goal when she was gifted with a similar opportunity.
The USA’s defensive lapses finally caught up to them when Australian striker De Vanna (unmarked again!) put one in the net.
What the highlights don’t show is the shoddy ball control showed by the US throughout the entire game. Passes went nowhere, and easy shots were skied into the bleachers. The team didn’t really click until late in the second half.
It’s not clear what impact Alex Morgan would have had on the quality of play had she not been forced by injury to sit out most of the game. Known for her finesse more than her work ethic, I’m not convinced she would have been the saving grace so many soccer fans are saying she would have been.
Regardless, the USWNT needs to seriously step it up if they are going to defeat Sweden (ranked 5th) on Friday. With a tie against the much lower-ranked Nigeria, Sweden will have a point to prove. The US better be ready.