The United States have continued their march to this summer’s Olympic final with a 2-0 win over New Zealand’s Football Ferns. The United States still look as if they have yet to play their best soccer, but once again they were able to get the job done and seal the deal with an insurance goal late in the match from Sydney Leroux.
The first 10 minutes of the match looked nervy from both sides but were still encouraging for the United States in terms of pressure applied to New Zealand’s back line and keeper Jenny Bindon. In the 10th minute, the US got their first chance when Alex Morgan took full advantage of a defensive mistake by Abby Erceg and had a wide open net hers for the taking. Her shot went wide of the post, keeping the score tied at zero.
Seven minutes later, the US again was unable to finish, this time Morgan just missing Megan Rapinoe’s cross right in front of goal by a matter of inches. Abby Wambach unable to redirect the ball in at the back post.
Jenny Bindon’s long 90 minutes of having to withstand the physicality of the US front line began in a collision with Wambach in the 23rd minute, but it wouldn’t be the last time Bindon needed the attention of the trainers.
Chance after chance, and in the 27th minute, Wambach and Morgan were finally able to do what they do best. Morgan beat New Zealand captain Rebecca Smith, then sliced the ball in for Wambach, who easily touched it in at the back post for the first goal of the match. Much like the surgical precision she displayed in the box in the North Korea game, Alex Morgan showed her vision and took the lead in assists for Team USA.
New Zealand must have been happy with their play in the first half, only being down a single goal. While Morgan was consistently beating their back line, the usual finishing touch was lacking, which kept New Zealand in the game. New Zealand stuck to their game plan and were able to force their way into their offensive end, but none of the shots sent in Hope Solo’s general direction were a threat.
Not much was called in the game, with questionable opportunities for penalty kicks for both teams. Morgan had to endure a number of challenges in the box from Rebecca Smith, and one could have perhaps influenced the outcome of the game in the 48th minute. Play continued, and the lack of a whistle for plays in the box would at least remain a constant through the rest of the game.
In the 73rd minute, Bindon would once again be on the unfortunate end of a collision with an American running at full speed, this time Alex Morgan. Bindon came off her line to stop a charging breakaway, with Morgan attempting to leap over her. Unfortunately, her knee made direct contact with Bindon’s face, and both players remained on the ground for quite some time. When Morgan was subbed a few minutes later in the 80th minute, she was still limping. Bindon escaped the foul call, and instead play continued as a drop ball, which New Zealand courteously sent right back to the US.
Morgan’s replacement, Sydney Leroux, had 10 of the most exciting minutes of her soccer career so far, scoring her first Olympic goal in the 87th minute and effectively ending any hopes for New Zealand to equalize late and force the game into extra time. Her shot went through the legs of Jenny Bindon, and Leroux’s reaction is sure to be on the highlight reels on the nightly news in America tonight.
The US will find out soon if they’ll be facing Team GB or Canada in the semifinals. Either team could present a very real challenge, but the familiarity of Canada is a point in their favor. The spectacle of a semifinal showdown between the United States and the United Kingdom, however, could provide one of the greatest games of the tournament.