Fourteen minutes had passed, and suddenly it looked the world was ending for the United States National Team. France had scored two shocking goals in a three minute span. Nothing early had indicated France would come out to a 2-0 lead in the first 15 minutes, though the US did start slow. There was an early scare when Alex Morgan went down holding her right ankle after a challenge from France’s Ophelie Meilleroux, although as time would tell, it certainly did not slow her down for long.
Gaetane Thiney drew first blood for France after picking up the ball off a header from Amy LePeilbet. She split Buehler and Rampone, who hesitated for the briefest of moments before shifting to cover. Thiney sent a rocket past Hope Solo, and for the briefest of moments, Solo stayed on her knees and watched the ball ricochet around the back of the net as France celebrated. Two minutes later, Solo was beaten again, this time by Marie-Laure Delie after a mad scramble in the box by the US defense.
The shock was evident, and while France was predicted to not only be a medal-contender but a definite challenge for the US, certainly no one expected the USWNT to be in a 2-0 hole within the first 15 minutes of their Olympic tournament. Despite the shock, the team did an excellent job of regrouping, which led to an impressive comeback and four unanswered goals.
It only took Wambach, Morgan, and company another 17 minutes to tie the game. The first goal was (what else) a header from Abby Wambach on a Megan Rapinoe corner kick in the 19th minute. The momentum shift was immediately evident, and with the US settled down it wasn’t long before Alex Morgan got her chance to continue her incredible goal-scoring streak.
Her speed once again proved essential, as Morgan found herself in perfect position to pick up a loose ball that Wambach had just missed getting a touch on. With a turn and one touch of her own, Morgan equalized by flicking the ball right over the outstretched hands of French keeper Sarah Bouhaddi.
Now it was France’s turn to look shell-shocked. It didn’t stop their offensive efforts, however, with some dangerous chances that tested the US defense and Hope Solo. The score would remain tied going into halftime, although it wouldn’t stay tied for very long as the second half saw the momentum shift to the United States.
Carli Lloyd, who had subbed in for an injured Shannon Boxx (hamstring) fired a missile past Bouhaddi, with a fantastic assist from Megan Rapinoe. Lloyd had time and space to find the left corner of the net from 22 yards out and scored the third goal of her Olympic career.
The final goal of the game saw the United States at their finest, with perfect passes and ball-handling from Megan Rapinoe and Tobin Heath, then a great distraction in the box from Abby Wambach, and an open Alex Morgan merely needing the lightest of touches to redirect the ball into the far corner of the net.
The offense for the United States looks as strong as ever, but the defensive capabilities of this team remain a thorny issue for Pia Sundhage. The team’s inability to clear when the box is packed will result in more goals, even from teams that aren’t as stacked as France. It remains a question as the US moves to the next match in the group stages, though the next two games won’t provide nearly as much of a challenge as France.
This game doesn’t end the medal hunt for Les Bleues by any stretch, but this comeback will only add fuel to the fire for the United States if the teams happen to meet again later in the tournament.
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