Tonight in Montreal the #2 ranked team, the USA women's soccer team plays the ladies from Germany, the #1 ranked team in the world according to FIFA, to see who gets a chance to play for the 2015 World Cup championship against either England or Japan on Sunday. If you've watched all of the USA's games you know that their offensive attack in the final third on the pitch has been lacking throughout. They had their best game of the tournament against the #16 ranked China, who were no offensive juggernaut, but it still was a very positive sign.
Germany just beat, in my mind the best team of the tournament, France in penalty kicks and had a far tougher road to get to the semifinals after the USA got out of their group of death.
FiveThirtyEight has given Germany a 57% chance to win tonight's game based on their WSPI power rankings and considers this match up the greatest game in the history of women's soccer.
Tonight’s semifinal match between the United States and Germany is the greatest Women’s World Cup game of all time, according to our Women’s Soccer Power Index, which gives this game an average WSPI rating of 95.5. That’s the largest average WSPI of any two teams to ever play each other at a Women’s World Cup. By this measure, the 1999 final is only the eighth-greatest game of all time.
I do believe this game will live up to the hype and the USA needs Carli Lloyd, Megan Rapinoe and Lauren Holiday to be at their best for the US to have a chance. The terrific trio of Holiday, Lloyd and Wambach has been underwhelming so far and the USA attack and defensive pressure was much stronger when they started Morgan Brian, Amy Rodriguez and Kelly O'Hare vs China in their places due to yellow card violations.
But if U.S. coach Jill Ellis starts a lineup similar to the one she did against China – or least keeps a similar shape – the Americans will give the Germans all they can handle. And then some.
Not to get all inside soccer, but with Megan Rapinoe and Lauren Holiday suspended, Ellis was forced to adjust her lineup and the changes gave the U.S. more speed and chances to attack. Carli Lloyd played higher, returning to her natural position of attacking midfielder instead of bogging her down near the backline, where she had little chance to create or score.
In addition, Ellis put Morgan Brian in the defensive midfield spot Lloyd had been in and played Kelley O'Hara on the wing. This meant that, when the Americans got the ball back, they were closer to China's side of the field.
Sure enough, the Americans were on the verge of having squatter's rights they spent so much time there. Lloyd was a particular nuisance, and eventually scored the game-winner.
I'm not sure who coach Jill Ellis will start tonight, but they will need to keep pressuring Germany in their own end if they plan to win.
A big positive for the USA has been their defensive back four, which has only given up one goal the entire tournament. Julie Johnson has been the standout on both ends of the pitch and they will surely be tested by the likes of Celia Sasic and Anja Mittag, who are leading the tournament in scoring.
UPDATE: Coach Ellis changed the starting lineup again and went with a 4-3-3.
Midfield L-R: Holiday, Lloyd, Brian
Forwards L-R: heath, Morgan,Rapinoe
UPDATE 2: That was the best first half for the USA
UPDATE 3: Penalty kick for Germany at 58:53
UPDATE 4: Germany missed the PK!!!!!!!
UPDATE 5: Penalty Kick for USA at 67:43 Score!!!!!!!!! USA 1-0 Carli Lloyd
UPDATE 6: USA Scores!!!!! O'Hare 84:28 USA 2-0
UPDATE: USA Wins 2-0!!!!!
What a performance by this gutsy team tonight. Their defensive back four has been incredible except for one play tonight. We got a break with the penalty kick because the foul looked a hair outside the box, but we'll take it...