Article by Leanne Elston
In their quarterfinal against New Zealand today, the USWNT came away with a 2-0 win after looking by far the better side for the entire match. Abby Wambach scored yet again (if I were a betting man, er, woman...) and Sydney Leroux grabbed her first Olympic goal. Here’s how this one played out.
Pre-game -- Listen, USWNT. I was really digging your 12:00 PM ET start times. 9:30 AM? I’m only up then during the summer if I’m at work, which I’m obviously not today because I’m typing this. I love you, though, so I rolled out of bed anyway to watch you (hopefully) beast New Zealand. There’s only one change in this lineup -- Tobin Heath is back in for Heather O’Reilly.
4th minute -- Arlo White tells us that Shannon Boxx did train yesterday. She had to be subbed off in the first match because of a right hamstring problem. She should be available off the bench for today’s match.
8th minute -- This game is being played at St. James’s Park, home of Newcastle United. I feel compelled to say that Newcastle always makes me think of the movie Goal!, in which the protagonist goes over there to begin his professional career. Remember that movie? I love that movie. It has awkward cameos by David Beckham, Zinedine Zidane, and Raúl.
10th minute -- It’s a mistake at the back for New Zealand that leaves Alex Morgan through on goal. She’s got an open goal, but it’s not an easy angle and her shot is just wide. That’s not the first error that New Zealand has made back there, by the way.
13th minute -- The camera shows us Christie Rampone’s two daughters in the stands. They are kind of adorable. If you haven’t seen the Studio 90 Reece Race, you need to.
17th minute -- Lauren Cheney makes a nice pass out to Megan Rapinoe on the wing, and she whips a cross across the face of goal, but somehow the ball doesn’t go in. It misses both Morgan and Wambach. The US are looking dangerous here, but eventually they’re gonna need to be finishing these chances.
22nd minute -- Katie Hoyle of New Zealand curls in a shot from distance; it dips in the air but it’s still over the bar. Hope Solo looked to have it covered in any case.
23rd minute -- Carli Lloyd slips a pass through to Abby Wambach. Jenny Bindon, the Kiwi keeper, comes out to collect it and gets a Wambach boot in the head for her trouble. She’s up again and looks to be all right.
27th minute -- GOAL. USA 1-0 New Zealand. Alex Morgan dances around her defender and places a perfect pass to Abby Wambach, who at that close range does not miss. It’s Wambach’s fourth goal in four games in this tournament. The ladies treat us to sweet cartwheels as a celebration.
35th minute -- Brandi Chastain is talking about the “main difference” between the New Zealand forwards and the US forwards. I think the main difference is that the US forwards are Abby Wambach and Alex Morgan, and the New Zealand forwards aren’t.
38th minute -- Chastain explains too much in her commentary. She says things like “it’s what we call...” and defines a soccer term. She just explained what it means to be a number 10. I know that for a tournament like this, there could be a lot of people watching who aren’t well-versed in soccer, but I still think it’s better not to spend so much time explaining. Maybe I’m wrong, but I just think that that sort of explanatory commentary is better suited to sports with which people are less familiar. Also, there’s a fine line between explaining and talking down, and unfortunately, to me, Chastain leans towards the latter.
43rd minute -- Yellow card for Abby Wambach. Only the second yellow that the US have gotten in this tournament (Cheney got one against North Korea).
45th minute -- Betsy Hassett of New Zealand takes a shot now that Hope Solo catches without issue, but it’s something to look out for. Just one shot like that going in could make things a little sticky here for the US.
Halftime -- USA 1-0 New Zealand. The US are definitely the better side and had two excellent chances before getting the only goal of the game so far. In the second half, they’re gonna want to extend their lead and make sure New Zealand don’t get something back. No excuses here -- the US should be in the semifinal.
48th minute -- Alex Morgan dispossesses a defender but her shot is into the side netting. One of these chances has got to go in, doesn’t it? A minute later, Morgan goes down in the box but no penalty is called. Morgan is basically doing everything except finishing. I’ll be surprised if she doesn’t get on the scoreboard today.
60th minute -- It’s still all US here. New Zealand, when they get the ball, lose possession pretty quickly, and the US are making sharp passes to maintain their dominance. But at 1-0, this game is not necessarily in the bag, and a goal or two more would be nice.
62nd minute -- Alex Morgan receives a through ball from Tobin Heath, but her shot bounces off Bindon. Things look uncertain in the box and Wambach almost capitalizes, but she’s offside.
71st minute -- First change for the US. Heather O’Reilly comes in for Megan Rapinoe. It wasn’t Pinoe’s best game, but a solid performance all the same; O’Reilly will undoubtedly inject some energy into this.
73rd minute -- A long ball up to Alex Morgan, who is through on goal. Bindon comes out to deny Morgan, and both are down on the pitch. Replay shows that Morgan’s knee hit Bindon in the face, but Bindon is up and will continue. Morgan left the pitch but came back on when play resumed. The result of all this? A drop ball. A good argument could be made that the keeper should have been called for the foul there, even if she did get hit in the face.
79th minute -- Yellow card for Carli Lloyd. Just a bit of frustration there, really.
81st minute -- Second US substitution. Sydney Leroux comes in for Alex Morgan.
83rd minute -- New Zealand’s Hassett goes down in the US penalty area, but the referee doesn’t give it. That would have made things very hairy. Things could get frantic in the last five minutes here.
87th minute -- GOAL. USA 2-0 New Zealand. Sydney Leroux runs onto a ball and speeds past her defender. She stays composed and the left-footed finish is through Bindon’s legs. Phew. Everyone can breathe a bit easier now as this game winds to a close. Leroux is absolutely elated -- that’s how you react to scoring your first goal in the Olympics.
91st minute -- Final US substitution. Lauren Cheney makes way for Amy Rodriguez.
Full time -- USA 2-0 New Zealand. The US are through to a semifinal against Canada. That semifinal will be Monday, August 6th at 2:45 PM ET; the other semifinal, between France and Japan, will be the same day at 12:00 PM ET. Both will be on the NBC Sports Network.