The number one ranked USA women's national team was hoping for a easier match-up in today's quarterfinals.
But that all changed when the U.S. defense bent and buckled on Wednesday, leading to a 2-1 upset win by Sweden. It was the first time the U.S. women's team ever lost a World Cup group play match. The loss dropped them to 2nd place in their group, leaving them to face Brazil in their first game of the knockout round this morning.
The Americans have been led all tournament by midfielder and Bruin legend Lauren Cheney. She had a goal and an assist in the team's first two wins over North Korea and Colombia, and added another assist when her corner kick that was headed in by U.S. star Abby Wambach to give the Americans their only goal against Sweden. Cheney also had several other great plays in the game, most notably a nice move along the endline and pass to a wide open Kelley O'Hara about 8 yards out with just 4 minutes remaining. But the Stanford alum missed the easy volley into the open net that would have tied the game and given the US a more favorable match-up with Australia today. The American women missed several other opportunities on the day, including an easy chip by trOJan Amy Rodriguez with an out of position goalkeeper that Rodriguez knocked over the goal instead.
Despite the upset loss, the Americans were expecting to face Brazil in the semifinals anyway, so this is just one game earlier. In Brazil, the U.S. will face a very talented squad led by 5-time FIFA Player of the Year Marta. The front 7 for Brazil are fast, and Marta is the fastest, and the suspect American defense will need to tighten its play markedly to control the Brazilian attack. However, Brazil's own back line is questionable, and a coordinated American attack should see some scoring opportunities. The U.S. will also benefit from the return of midfielder Heather O'Reilly, who missed the Sweden match with a groin injury. Most importantly, this is a chance for payback for the Americans, who were drubbed 4-0 by the Brazilians in the semi-finals of the last World Cup in 2007. The U.S. has beaten Brazil the last 4 times they have played since, including the gold medal match in China, but the World Cup is king, and that loss still stings.
This is your open thread. Let's hope that Cheney and her teammates will cash in on their opportunities today.
Go Bruins and go USA!