2015 Women’s World Cup – United States vs Germany – Americans Brush Aside Poor Germany With Shocking Ease

Starting Tactical Lineup (from FIFA.com)

Starting Tactical Lineup (from FIFA.com)

PRE – So here it is, the veritable clash of the titans between the top two ranked nations in the world, for what those are worth. The U.S. have gambled and gone with a 4-3-3, keeping Morgan Brian in the midfield with the returning Lauren Holiday as part of the double pivot behind Carli Lloyd, who should have license to roam forward. Ellis could get skewered though if the tactical change doesn’t work out, especially with the likes of O’Hara and Rodriguez being hauled back to the bench after both impressed against China. Germany get Bartusiak back from suspension but could be on some weary legs after the penalty shootout win. They struggled with some of France’s dynamism in the quarterfinal. Will that be the case again against the U.S.’ explosive attacking personalities?

3′ – First real chance for Germany, as they win a corner after dominating possession for opening minutes. It swings out towards the penalty spot, and Leupolz is wide open for a weak header that goes over.

4′ – Klingenberg clangs a first touch that lets Laudehr intercept and break the other way. The winger passes to Sasic near the top of the box, but her probing ball inside is blocked by Johnston, with the U.S. clearing the danger.

7′ – Real chance for the U.S. off a Rapinoe corner. She delivers near post, and nobody with Germany picks up Johnston’s sharp cut towards the ball, resulting in a free header. It’s a bullet but right at Angerer, and Germany eventually half-clear. Soon after, Brian crosses far post from the far sideline, with Angerer pawing at it and the ball flying wide.

8′ – Kemme darts up the far sideline before driving a hard cross towards the near post. Solo’s not taking any chances and punches it onto the roof of the goal. The corner comes to nothing.

9′ – Long ball to Lloyd, and she holds up before passing square to an open Rapinoe. Rapinoe shakes her way free of the defense before shooting near post at Angerer, but it’s tame and held.

14′ – The U.S. waste a golden chance to go ahead. Heath, just beyond center circle threads a perfect through ball for Morgan, playing on the shoulder of the center-back and whizzing past her. 1v1 with Angerer, she hits it right at the keeper’s legs with the netminder standing on the six. It’s a potentially costly miss.

26′ – It’s been a litany of half-chances and probing since that last golden opportunity. Klingenberg tries to make something happen with a cross towards the six, but Angerer races off her line to catch.

28′ – Holiday kind of, sort of, clips Maier, giving Germany a chance to swing in a dangerous free kick. Goessling floats it in, but the U.S. clears. Popp and Brian collide heads in the box on the way up for it, and Popp is busted wide open, with both going down in pain. Out come the trainers. Both are able to continue after a long delay.

34′ – YELLOW CARD – Germany (Maier) – Rapinoe dispossesses Maier at midfield, and the German responds by dragging her book for an easy booking.

35′ – Another close shave for the German defense. Off a throw by Krieger on the far sideline, Brian backheels to Heath, who dribbles into the box. Germany clear but only to Klingenberg, who shoots and sees it deflected off a German head and mercifully wide for the Europeans with Angerer wrong-footed.

36′ – The Americans have Germany under unyielding pressure. Off a corner, Johnston steps up, dribbles through some pressure, and slots in Morgan, with Germany putting behind again for a corner. Morgan flies in for the corner, but Angerer claws away. The U.S. keep digging, with Heath seeing an effort deflected behind for another corner.

38′ – YELLOW CARD – United States (Sauerbrunn) – The U.S. see the corner cleared, and it ends up on the far flank. For some reason though, someone (?) chooses to play a terrible backpass towards Sauerbrunn, with Mittag pouncing. Sauerbrunn has to scythe her down and take an avoidable booking.

40′ – Kemme shoots wide from distance. It’s the brightest moment offensively for a long time from the Germans. It’s followed a minute later by another optimistic long effort from Mittag that sails over.

43′ – Klingenberg pops it forward for Morgan, who shakes Krahn out of her boots and cuts inside towards the six. She just needs to thread the needle to Heath charging at the six or back to Lloyd at the edge of the area but tries an odd cross that evades everything.

45′ + 2′ – Popp absolutely crushes Rapinoe with a late sweep of the legs. How it’s not a booking is beyond me. John Kreese would be proud.

45′ + 3′ – Germany are playing with fire. Maier, on a yellow, jumps and plants an elbow in the back of Rapinoe’s head. Just a foul.

HT – Unfathomable as it may have seemed before this one, the U.S. are outplaying Germany and unlucky to not be ahead. They’ve created the bulk of the better scoring opportunities and have bossed possession for the most part and looked stout defensively. Germany look short of ideas going forward and have gotten away with some ridiculous fouls. They’ve still got plenty of quality, but they’re also in a hell of a fight at the moment. Big team talks ahead.
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NWSL – Round Sixteen Fantasy Preview

First, a reminder that Round Sixteen ends the penultimate segment for the AWK Eliminator group, with the field being cut to the Top 25 and round winners for the final four rounds.

Last round was good to me. I hit on nearly all of my picks and made a good choice in captaining Carli Lloyd who had a big round and is pretty much a must play for everyone until she cools down. If she cools down. The Dash have a pretty vibrant offense with her and the rest of the internationals in the lineup, and they look like building momentum down the stretch, so a whole bunch of Houston players will likely be in teams from now to the end of the season.

This week? The pace of double game teams drops to just one…and unfortunately, that one is a Boston side that’s looked generally hopeless as of late. Kristie Mewis is still a must play, and you probably aren’t going to get hurt too badly by playing either Kyah Simon or Stephanie McCaffrey. But after that, I really wouldn’t mess with the Breakers that much.

Seattle and Portland are both good options against Boston this round. I can’t believe I’m tipping Portland, but they’ll be playing at home and face a Boston side that’s flying across the country after hosting Seattle on Saturday. The other matchups are a lot more up in the air, though I do like the looks of SBFC hosting WNY thanks to the New Jersey side having a whole lot of their firepower back now.

GK

This decision was made much harder with the news that HALEY KOPMEYER would miss the match through injury. With HOPE SOLO still out, it means that Seattle goes into what looks like the easiest matchup of the round on paper with undrafted free agent CAROLINE STANLEY as their starting netminder. To put it bluntly, I don’t think Stanley’s good enough for this level, but she’s also got a great backline to protect her. On the road and against a desperate opponent, she’s a big risk, and one I don’t recommend for anyone comfortably in the upper echelon right now.

It sounds batty, but I’m actually tipping Portland to clobber Boston at home on Wednesday. I’m probably going to roll with MICHELLE BETOS in goal as a result. It’s hard to trust Portland’s defense, especially given the history of their rivalry with Boston, but the Breakers will be on rubber legs on the road against a well rested Portland side. The non-Boston opponent option, IMO, is BRITTANY CAMERON of Sky Blue FC. SBFC look a completely different team with Sam Kerr and Kelley O’Hara back and will fancy their chances at home against a WNY side that showed little in defeat last time out.

I’d avoid the other two matches. The potential for a lot of saves is there, but so is the potential for a lot of goals allowed. Ditto with ALYSSA NAEHER and Boston.

DEF

This is one of those weeks where I’m not sure anyone’s getting out with a clean sheet. The teams facing Boston are a good place to start, meaning you’ll probably want fantasy ace KENDALL FLETCHER in for your Seattle fix. Boston are much better at home than away though, so I don’t recommend doubling up on Reign defenders. You aren’t going to know about STEPH CATLEY’s status before the deadline, so don’t bother including her in your team this round. Portland’s defenders are generally interchangeable for fantasy purposes, so pick whoever suits your fancy.

If you’re considering a Boston defender, I’d probably stick with JULIE KING, even with the risk of fouls and bookings, though LAUREN LAZO has also shown potential. Houston’s ELLIE BRUSH has been impressive from a fantasy standpoint thus far, though her matchup against Washington away is less than ideal. There are likely to be goals in the SBFC/WNY tilt, which isn’t great for clean sheet points but could be great for offensive minded full-backs CAITLIN FOORD and JAELENE HINKLE.

Finally, old standbys TARYN HEMMINGS and AMY LEPEILBET could also deliver you a few points this round. Or nothing. It’s not the best round for defenders. Chicago’s ARIN GILLILAND is also questionable on the injury report and should be avoided.

EDIT: So apparently, we never moved KELLEY O’HARA up to forward in the game. I didn’t catch that last round, but, obviously, you want to play her as long as she’s listed in defense.
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2015 Women’s World Cup – England vs Canada – Lionesses Pounce on Mistakes to Advance to Semis

Starting Tactical Lineup (from FIFA.com)

Starting Tactical Lineup (from FIFA.com)

PRE – Canada will try to will their way into the semi-final against England after four largely uninspiring performances thus far at the WWC. John Herdman’s side sputtered through the group stages but were able to handle Switzerland fine enough in what looked like a tricky Round of Sixteen match. England will not be as easy an out after the side’s confidence boosting win over Norway in the previous round. Their reputation as slow starters has lingered though, and letting Canada in with an early lead here could make for a disappointing night for the Three Lionesses.

5′ – First half-chance for Canada, as they get a free kick on the far sideline and loft it into the box. Bardsley way off her line to punch and manages to get enough on it to clear the danger.

8′ – That’s absolutely brilliant from Christine Sinclair. She takes a pass from Schmidt near the center stripe at the near sideline and nutmegs both Bassett and Williams before cutting inside and playing a perfect diagonal ball into the stride of Tancredi. Tancredi creates space and shoots just inside the area but shoots over. Huge let off for England.

11′ – GOAL – England (Taylor) – That’s some humiliating defending from England. Scott plays an innocuous backpass to Sesselmann, who somehow trips/slips while trying to pass, letting Taylor in with a big chance to score. She goes forward then cuts outside to send a charging Chapman to the deck. As she gets to the arc, Taylor shoots low and hard to the far post, around Buchanan, under McLeod, and inside the far post. Lethal finishing, poisonous defending.

14′ – GOAL – England (Bronze) – The hosts are in all sorts of trouble now. A long free kick goes to the far post, where Bronze and Chapman battle 1v1. The Canadian full-back stumbles down, and Bronze puts a header over McLeod and off the underside of the bar and in. Shocking start for Canada.

18′ – Another chance goes begging for Canada. Schmidt whips in a free kick from the far flank, and Tancredi leaps centrally at the six with a free header but puts it over the bar. Wasteful.

22′ – Bloody hell, Sesselmann is a walking disaster of a footballer. England try to chip it over the Canadian line, and it’s not an accurate attempt, so Sesselmann should easily control and get the danger away. Instead, she lets it roll and hesitantly hacks it away, with it going behind for a corner.

28′ – Another close shave for Canada. Off a free kick from the near sideline, Williams swings it right into the box, where it’s headed across the face of goal and off the top of the bar as McLeod tries to cover. Canada eventually get it away.

30′ – Scott hits a long ball into the corner for Belanger. The winger cuts back and crosses towards the penalty spot for Sinclair. Sinclair jumps and manages to get a head on it but sends it well wide.

34′ – Shortly after Sinclair has a shot blocked behind after a scramble in the box, Schmidt gets to swing over a corner. Schmidt seemingly thinks “olimpico” with a direct effort, but Bardsley punches away.

41′ – GOAL – Canada (Sinclair) – Canada back in it off a howler from Bardsley. Sinclair passes from the arc to a posted up Lawrence, with the collegian spinning around Bronze before firing a dipping shot that Bardsley saves and fumbles. It falls right to Sinclair’s feet at the six, and she makes no mistake with the gift. That was very much the bad Bardsley showing up.

HT – This was looking like fait accompli after that quick double shot of goals from England early, but Canada have dragged themselves back in it after Sinclair’s late goal. The question is whether the home side can maintain that momentum coming out of the half and find an equalizer. You have to wonder if Herdman will make changes in defense as well, as England will likely be back on the front foot out of the half to try and kill this one off as soon as they can.
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2015 Women’s World Cup – Japan vs Australia – Japan Survives, Advances as Australia Wilts In the Heat

Starting Tactical Lineup (from FIFA.com)

Starting Tactical Lineup (from FIFA.com)

PRE – Lost in the hype surrounding the Germany-France match a day earlier, this showdown between the top two powers in Asia could be an instant classic. Australia are fresh off their upset over Brazil and looked formidable in the group stages. Holders Japan eased past Holland despite the close scoreline and have looked composed throughout. The winner of this match will likely be odds on to end up in the final, and the contrast in styles should make this a fascinating encounter.

8′ – After a bit of a feeling out process, Japan get the first real chance of the match. Naho lifts a ball from center circle towards the box and the stride of Ohno. She tries to hit it on the bounce to try and take advantage of Williams being well off her line, but the half-volley goes over.

12′ – Close for Australia, as Van Egmond slips through a challenge and plays a weighted ball for Kyah Simon in the area. She and Iwashimizu both dive for it, with Kaihori coming off her line to collect when neither reach it.

20′ – Miyama holds up on the near sideline and plays a nice ball through to the underlapping run of Sameshima. Sameshima’s cutback is right to Australia hand helps spring a counter through Gorry. The diminutive midfielder’s final ball is right to Japan though.

22′ – Williams misplaces a pass to the midfield stripe after a backpass, and Japan pounce. Japan combine at lightning-quick pace to get it wide before crossing in from Naho towards Ohno. The near post finish is wide though, and a great chance is spurned by the holders.

27′ – YELLOW CARD – Japan (Iwashimizu) – That’s probably the Mona Lisa of obstruction fouls. Kerr cuts inside and tries to play the ball past the Japanese defender, but she steps into her and checks her to the ground. Easy card and dangerous free kick. Kennedy aims near post, but her effort bounces wide.

31′ – De Vanna uses her pace to burn up the far sideline on the counter before crossing low to a wide open Katrina Gorry. Gorry is indecisive with it though and hits a tame shot that’s blocked at the edge of the area.

33′ – Sakaguchi plays it out wide to Ohno, who holds her run just enough to keep her onside. She holds up inside the area before shuttling back to Miyama, who rips a shot that’s tipped over.

34′ – Somehow, Iwashimizu is able to squeeze into some space and get a free header on goal. Kellond-Knight stops it on the line though, and Australia escape.

44′ – It’s a sweltering day of half-chances, and after a lot of Japanese possession with little end product, Australia get a half-chance of their own on the break. Kerr rushes through midfield but has it poked away as she goes down, and Simon latches onto the loose ball with a thumping shot from range that Kaihori holds well.

HT – Japan on top at the break. The holders have had the better of the chances despite looking vulnerable on the counter, with Sameshima’s underlapping runs looking particularly dangerous. At the same time though, both sides look to be drowning in the heat on the turf, making this one a war of attrition that hasn’t been pretty to watch given how entertaining both sides have been in earlier matches. It might come down to bench depth in the end here.
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2015 Women’s World Cup – United States vs China – Improved Americans In Control Against China

Starting Tactical Lineup (from FIFA.com)

Starting Tactical Lineup (from FIFA.com)

PRE – So the United States will approach this quarterfinal without the services of the banned Lauren Holiday and Megan Rapinoe, while Abby Wambach drops to the bench. In come Amy Rodriguez up top, Morgan Brian centrally in midfield, and Kelley O’Hara out wide. American fans will be hoping the shakeup ignites an offense which has looked anemic throughout. Defensively, the U.S. probably has little to worry about, with China likely looking to park the bus and hit on a counter or set piece chance. The Asian side have impressed but are still heavy underdogs, despite the U.S.’ stagnant form this tournament.

2′ – The U.S. should already be up, 1-0. Lloyd flicks a ball forward that really should be handled by Dongna Li but isn’t, letting Amy Rordriguez run in 1v1 against Wang Fei. Her finish is ridiculously wide though. As in, it doesn’t even go behind inside of the six-yard box. Shocker.

5′ – Morgan finds a lane of space just outside of the box and fires hard but right at Wang Fei. Bright start for the U.S.

7′ – Dare I say it, the U.S. is pinging it around. O’Hara has time to wind up and crank an uncontested shot from the right edge of the box. It hops onto the roof of the net.

18′ – OK, just because the U.S. is pinging it about doesn’t mean it’s any more palatable at this point. China aim at Solo with an optimistic shot from range by Peng Han but see it rise into Row Z.

20′ – Cross to Lloyd at the edge of the area that she chests down. Dribble back and turn before passing to Morgan at the edge of the box. First time shot bounces right to the keeper.

21′ – Heath shakes Haiyan Wu out of her boots with a dragback at the endline before crossing towards the six. Lloyd jumps and misses, while O’Hara’s diving header doesn’t make clean contact.

24′ – The U.S. is getting all the crosses it can serve in by a Chinese defense content to clog the middle of the park, but the accuracy on said crosses thus far has been woeful.

24′ – Johnston steps up from center-back and lofts a cross near the penalty spot. Wang Fei comes and doesn’t quite get there, but China still manage to clear. Soon after, Shanshan Liu obstructs O’Hara as she plays it by her but gets away with just a warning.

26′ – Heath swings through the free kick, but the China defense clears easily. China concedes another quick foul though, and soon enough, Krieger is lumping another cross in. Wang Fei comes out and misses her punch, with the ball bouncing to Johnston with the keeper down. She shoots, but China clear off the line, with Rodriguez’s shot blocked seconds later.

28′ – Brutal tackle from China’s Jiahui Lou. She charges recklessly for a ball against Johnston and plants her studs into the center-back’s right thigh. How that’s not a booking is beyond me.

31′ – Apparently China did not get the memo. Corner kick to the penalty spot towards the late run of Johnston, who’s criminally unmarked. She actually mistimes it a bit and has to slow up to wait for the ball, but the header lands on the roof of the net.

35′ – SUB – Jiahui Lou, who hurt herself in the spiking of Johnston earlier, is forced off, with Shuang Wang. This isn’t going to help China’s cause as they try and weather the storm.

37′ – Free kick from about thirty yards for Lloyd. It arrows towards the upper-left corner but not with the pace to trouble Wang Fei, who bats it away. China clear.

45′ – Wang Lisi (?) gets off a half-chance as she’s unmarked out on the far flank and rips a shot that hits one of the support posts behind the goal. About as close as its gotten for China thus far.

45′ + 1′ – Must do better. Long cross into the box is nodded down by Lloyd, right to a wide open Alex Morgan. Her first touch is scandalous though, and her eventual shot is blocked.

HT – As expected, China hasn’t provided much offensively. Not as expected, the U.S. has shown an ability to pass that hasn’t been evident in their first four matches. The finishing though has been lackluster as ever, with some bad shanks and awful first touches spread throughout. A goal is coming for the U.S. in all likelihood, but everyone’s still likely to be sweating until it actually happens.
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NCAA – 2015 AWK College Soccer Award Preseason Shortlists

You know the drill. No preseason shortlists for coaches or rookies. Position listings are done at my discretion.

Golden Glove

Emily Boyd – Cal
Jane Campbell – Stanford
Britt Eckerstrom – Penn State
Alejandria Godinez – DePaul
Tarah Hobbs – Minnesota
Megan Kufeld – Washington
Lindsey Luke – Utah
Cassie Miller – Florida State
Casey Murphy – Rutgers
Diana Poulin – Saint John’s (NY)
Kate Scheele – Colorado
Hannah Seabert – Pepperdine
Kailen Sheridan – Clemson
Abby Smith – Texas
Andi Tostanoski – Santa Clara
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2015 Women’s World Cup – Germany vs France – Germany Survives French Storm in Instant Classic

Starting Tactical Lineup (from FIFA.com)

Starting Tactical Lineup (from FIFA.com)

PRE – It’s the clash of the titans, much too soon in the eyes of most. On pure talent, these two sides are worthy of meeting in a final, but one will instead not even get the full complement of seven matches in Canada this Summer. Both will be working minus one starting defender with France missing Boulleau through injury, and Germany without Bartusiak through suspension. That may well increase the odds of a goalfest in this most fascinating of encounters between these European giants.

1′ – Oh my God. How are France not already ahead? Some forty seconds in, Le Sommer nods a long ball into the path of Thomis, who jets down the sideline. She bends a cross back to just inside the area and a wide open Necib. She has Angerer dead to rights at the left side of the goal but hits it wide. Shocking miss.

4′ – France free kick bounces around the box a bit before Georges’ awkward falling half-volley goes well wide.

6′ – France have another free kick, almost central from a little more than twenty-five yards out. Two efforts blocked by the wall. Henry tripped again on the near flank for another free kick. Necib plays short, but the referee gets in the way! Majri makes the most of it and hurries a shot, but it goes wide.

9′ – Necib cracks a shot from range that whizzes past the post and dents the adboards. All France early.

12′ – German free kick. Goessling drives it into the corridor of indecision, and Bouhaddi decides to go for it and gets there with a punch. It’s a bouncer right to Peter though, and France are fortunate that Georges hammers the bounce from that header out of danger.

13′ – Kemme slides through Houara from side/behind at the far sideline, with a borderline booking type challenge. Abily tries to flick on the free kick but puts it wide of the target.

15′ – Maier, waaaaay high up the pitch, taps to Laudehr right near the endline. The winger evades Necib and crosses across the six, which leaves Bouhaddi wandering a bit. Sasic should score with a reasonably open header via some slack marking from Georges, but she gets it all wrong, sending it off-target.

19′ – France leave Mittag open from range, which isn’t advisable. Her powerful effort is off the mark though.

23′ – France break up a German passing triangle at the edge of the box and counter the other way, with Delie springing Thomis in the box. She tries to cut it back, but Le Sommer has the idea of running far post, so the ball just finds a German.

25′ – Another golden French opportunity. Thomis gets down the flank and crosses in for Delie, successfully fronting Maier. The French forward’s header isn’t on-target though.

28′ – Germany has a free kick on the near flank. Goessling lofts it towards the penalty spot, where Mittag has a couple of efforts, including a blindside overhead volley blocked. It caroms out to Maier outside the box, but her hard shot is held well by Bouhaddi.

29′ – Another golden chance for France. Delie gets to the endline and manages to cut it back towards the penalty spot for Necib. Maier gets a great last ditch tackle in though, and a follow-up by Majri is blocked as well.

33′ – Mittag crosses towards the edge of the area towards Popp, who brings it down with a nice chested effort. She cuts inside, finds space, and shoots but right at Bouhaddi who picks up the soft, low effort with no problem.

35′ – Necib gets it in midfield and turns past Maier while cutting inside towards the area. She dishes back to Henry, who has an open lane to shoot as the German defense sinks back. The midfielder’s effort is a bullet towards Angerer, but the veteran keeper gets behind and stops.

37′ – YELLOW CARD – Germany (Mittag) – Mittag is booked for spiking Houara late with her studs. Painful.

38′ – Long ball by France is headed back towards the box by Krahn. Necib jostles with Peter as the ball bounces in the box and twists into a half-volley that forces Angerer into a brilliant save to push it wide.

39′ – Germany clear the initial corner kick but only as far as Majri, who whisks a shot wide for France.

41′ – Henry again running the show in midfield for France. She spreads wide to Thomis, who crosses in towards the goal, with Angerer rising and batting away from Delie’s head. She doesn’t catch though and is fortunate no France player is there to clean up.

42′ – Swift counter up the pitch by France, with Thomis and Delie playing a one-two into the box. Thomis opts to shoot instead of going far post with a cross to open French attackers, and her effort from a tight angle is to the keeper.

HT – A breathless first half, that’s surely the best of this tournament thus far. France will wonder how they aren’t ahead, given some of their chances. Angerer has made some crucial stops, while the French finishing hasn’t been good enough. They’re still bossing the game, but it remains to be seen if they can keep this pace up for ninety minutes. Germany are far from down and out though and have plenty of weapons off the bench to turn the game on its head.
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Washington Spirit Reserves Down Colorado Pride, 2-1, Win W-League Championship

2015 USL W-League Champion Washington Spirit Reserves

2015 USL W-League Champion Washington Spirit Reserves (photo courtesy of Amber Stobbs)

For five years the Washington Spirit Reserves have been one of the class teams of the W-League. But in the post-season they’ve always been the bridesmaid, second or third while someone wins the crown. No more.

Today they claimed the W-League Championship in a tight, hard-fought battle with the Colorado Pride on two goals from Chilean National Teamer Yanara Aedo, the game-winner coming in the 89th minute.

On paper, it appeared that the Reserves had the stronger roster overall, though the Pride had both the better goalkeeper in W-League Goalkeeper of the Year Britt Eckerstrom and the most dangerous attacking player in Tara Andrews, the league’s leading scorer, leading goal scorer, and Most Valuable Player. In a game in which one big save or one opportunistic goal could turn the tide, there was no clear advantage. And certainly the Pride weren’t going to be intimidated by a strong roster after dealing with the Los Angeles Blues last year and the Seattle Sounders Women this year.

And that’s about the way it played out. Washington generally had the better of the play in the midfield but didn’t have the close-in teamwork or the killer instinct to get the ball in the net. Players would send in through balls without anyone making a run or with the run not matching where the ball was sent. Meanwhile, at the other end, Andrews lurked at the edge of the defensive line ready to pounce.
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2015 Women’s World Cup – Japan vs Holland – Japan In Control Until Late Scare

Starting Tactical Lineup (from FIFA.com)

Starting Tactical Lineup (from FIFA.com)

PRE – It wasn’t always by the most glamorous of performances, but Japan did end up winning all three of their group matches whilst rotating their squad and underlining their status as one of the favorites to make it all the way to the final. Opponents Holland are in tough. They beat New Zealand unimpressively, lost to China unimpressively, and battled back gamely to draw with Canada. But they’ve also shown little to suggest they can cause a shock here.

6′ – Holland get the first decent half-chance of the match, as Spitse corks a shot from about thirty yards over the bar. Japan already doing well to defend deep and stop the Dutch from playing through them at the edge of the area.

7′ – So about that “defending deep” thing. Right after I typed that, Martens plays a beautiful through ball on the turf towards Melis, who plays on the shoulder of Kumagai expertly. She runs through and has a clear chance in the box but utterly whiffs on her shot and falls. Bizarre.

10′ – GOAL – Japan (Ariyoshi) – Miyama jets down the nearside flank and drives a cross into the box that a pair of Dutch defenders miss. Flick header from an open Ogimi comes off the bar, and Van Dongen makes an absolute mess of the clearance, hitting it right back to an unmarked Ariyoshi. The full-back fires low and hard to inside the far post. Self-destructive defending.

11′ – Holland almost hit right back. Melis whips a cross in that goes over Miedema’s head, with Martens missing with a sliding attempt a split second later.

13′ – Another nervy moment for the Dutch. Off an innocuous looking backpass from Van den Berg, Geurts is almost caught napping, as she takes too many touches and is forced to put it into touch by Ohno.

19′ – Miedema keeps her legs churning and forces some serious pressure on the Japanese backline, with Sameshima forced into an awkward backpass to Kaihori. The keeper has to scramble it out into touch.

21′ – Japan really should’ve done more with that. Naho gets it out wide on the right and catches the Dutch defense totally out, with nobody within a mile of Aya Miyama in the box. The shot from the veteran veers well wide.

22′ – Movement, movement, movement. Sameshima is allowed to dribble towards the box before playing a slow one-two with Ohno. Sameshima tries to volley home Ohno’s chip for what would be a spectacular goal, but it isn’t on target.

24′ – Beautiful interplay, as Japan pings it around before Ohno posts up and squares for Naho, who dribbles a bit before sliding a shot wide. Holland being cut apart.

29′ – The Dutch get caught in possession trying to build out of the back, with Ogimi getting a foot in to create an opportunity the other way. Ohno passes it back to Ogimi, who shoots the ball wide of the target.

33′ – More slick passing to the endline and a deep run by Ariyoshi. She crosses short of the endline, with Ohno in space, but the forward mistimes her header. It drops for Utsugi, whose awkward sliding shot is wide.

42′ – Sameshima rumbles to the endline again to win a corner for Japan. Geurts manages to get a one-fisted punch on the delivery, with Holland trying to counter through Martens. Too many passes though allows Japan to clear with a mighty thump.

44′ – Kaihori falls on a deflected cross from Martens. That’s about the bulk of the danger thus far for the Japanese keeper.

45′ – The Dutch already look gassed from doing all the chasing with Japan pinging it about. Ogimi gets wide and is under no pressure whatsoever as she floats a cross in to Ohno who whips a header wide. That would’ve likely been curtains for the Europeans.

HT – A rather easy half for the holders, who wasted a few chances but made the most of a grievous Holland error in defense. They’re bossing possession and creating many opportunities in the box thanks to lacking ball pressure on service as well as slack marking in the box. The Dutch look like breaking through on occasion thanks to their pace, but they just aren’t technically proficient enough to avoid the slight errors in their passes that allow Japan to pounce and clear the danger. They aren’t out of it by any means, but it’s an uphill climb for the debutants.
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Spirit Reserves, Colorado Pride to Play for W-League Championship

To few people’s surprise, the favored Washington Spirit Reserves and Colorado Pride won their semifinal matches tonight and will face each other on Sunday for the trophy. What was a surprise were the scores. Top seed Washington struggled to get past fourth-seeded Quebec Dynamo ARSQ, 1-0, despite the Dynamo being down to 10 players with a field player as goalkeeper the final 14 minutes. On the other hand #2 Colorado thrashed the #3 seed and hosts Laval Comets, 4-0, and it could easily have been more.
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