Finally, against China, the US team clicked, playing much better than previous performances in which critics across the board saw something wrong with the chemistry. No one was doing anything; or moving forward with positive results; it was hard to watch, etc. And then, against China, in the great rematch of 99’ Heath was the player that spun everything together, giving the US side confidence from the dribble, making the opponent look off balance and at times silly for even trying to be on the same field as her.
The quality of play from Germany, the world’s number one, and the rejuvenated US side was world class from the start. Back and forth…great possession from both sides, with technical skill at the highest level. (This match, tallied up with preceding games, marked the most yellow cards in Women’s World Cup history, but the play on the field wasn’t dirty, at times chippy with the referee keeping things under control.) Rapinoe and Lloyd were strong in the first half, winning tackles while surging forward. The Germans switched fields with pinpoint accuracy and pace. The first half reached the highest point with the pass of the game from Heath to Morgan for a one-on-one with Angerer who made a great save. It was one of many saves, as Heath stood out again as the best attacker on the field, creating havoc in the box with multiple attempts at goal.
Moving into the second half Germany couldn’t capitalize on a penalty kick as controversy struck a few minutes later at the other end when Morgan – who is still a little slow, playing with a previous injury – went down just inside the box, or was it outside? Regardless, she made a great move on the German defender who clearly made the foul leading to a game winning penalty kick from the captain Lloyd, who looked left but went right. The subtlety of “looking the wrong way” or even “looking the right way” to throw off a goalie has always been an under-appreciated nuance. Whether Lloyd was trying to fool Angerer or not, and whether the keeper was even watching her eyes, is anyone’s guess. Some great combination play led to the final goal, putting an extremely talented German side out of the game. The winner of England and Japan will be irrelevant as this US team is without a doubt heading to the first place podium. With only one goal scored against the US “the whole tournament” it will take a miracle to overtake this momentum. The correct thing to say is, “We’re not there yet, we’ll take it one game at a time.” But please, nothing short of a shoot-out is going to stop this team. England or Japan: It really doesn’t matter at this point. All they can hope for is tying the game.