U.S. women’s soccer beats top-ranked Germany, will play in final

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Photo credit: American Soccer Now

(June 30, 2015) — The impossible-to-crack defense almost gave one up Tuesday night.

The United States, unscored upon since its opening match of the Women’s World Cup, finally showed some vulnerability about 15 minutes into the second half of its semifinal against No.1 Germany.

Stalwart defender Julie Johnston made a mistake in trying to chest down the ball as she neared goalkeeper Hope Solo. Germany’s Alexandra Popp scooted by and eyed a goal-scoring chance. Johnston tugged on her opponent’s shoulder with her right hand. Popp got off a half-hearted chip and went down.

Foul in the penalty area. Yellow card for Johnston, one that commentators felt could have been a red card. Penalty kick for Germany and Celia Sasic, the leading scorer in the tournament.

The long goal-less streak seemed certainly over as Solo took a walk away from goal as Sasic readied for her attempt to break the 0-0 deadlock.

It wasn’t. Sasic missed wide left in the 63rd minute — Germany’s first miss of a penalty kick during a Women’s World Cup match. It had been 17-for-17 before the striker failed.

Six minutes later, the United States was on top when midfielder Carli Lloyd converted a penalty kick for the Americans and a 1-0 lead. Substitute Kelley O’Hara netted in the 84th minute off a Lloyd cross to seal the U.S. team’s 2-0 victory.

The two-time champions will play the winner of England-Japan, which meet Wednesday.

The World Cup final is Sunday in Vancouver, British Columbia.

The Americans have now kept opponents from scoring for 513 minutes.

Lloyd’s U.S. goal came after striker Alex Morgan was fouled near the top of the penalty area, her momentum carrying her into the box. It was Lloyd’s third goal of the tournament, her second from a penalty kick.

She was named Player of the Match for the third consecutive game.

Lloyd told reporters she has been “trained to become a fierce competitor, live for challenges and never quit.”

She also said that U.S. coach Jill Ellis has given her more flexibility on the field and she is determined to deliver.

Ellis was asked about the controversial calls — the yellow card on Johnston and the foul against Morgan — and shrugged them off, saying they are just part of the game.

“I thought it was an unbelievable duel between two tremendous teams,” Ellis said. “We’re delighted to be moving on. … Really, really pleased and proud of the players. I thought they stepped up and they did a fantastic job tonight.”

Germany outshot the United States 15 to 12 but only managed to get one on target, which Solo, who has five shutouts in the Cup, pushed over the crossbar.

“We weren’t dangerous enough. We didn’t follow through. We could have scored goals, but we had problems around the goal mouth,” Germany coach Silvia Neid said, according to a translator. “That was our problem today.”

When asked whether the card for Johnston should have been red, Neid said, “The rule says yes, but she didn’t get a red card.”

FIFA’s rules say a red card should be given to a player who “denies an obvious goal-scoring opportunity to an opponent moving towards the player’s goal by an offense punishable by a free kick or a penalty kick.”

The U.S. would have had to finish the final 30 minutes a player down if Johnston had been sent off.

The United States played its best match of the tournament, after a slow start.

Much of the play in the first 10 minutes was in the U.S. half, but after an early German header went over the crossbar Germany only threatened seriously one more time until Sasic’s penalty kick.

The United States had the possession advantage in the first half, and the better goal-scoring chances. Morgan, who has worked her way back to full fitness after a knee injury, twice had one-on-one opportunities against Germany goalkeeper Nadine Angerer. But one shot was easily saved and another effort went wide right.

Angerer had three saves in the match, all in the first half.

Germany played better in the second half but most of its shots were well wide or over.

The United States is looking to add to its 1991 and 1999 trophies.

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