August 3, 2012
'THIS TEAM IS BOUND FOR GLORY'
U.S. downs New Zealand, 2-0, reach medal round again
By Michael Lewis
|Abby Wambach: "It might not look pretty in every second of the game, but we get it done."
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
NEWCASTLE, England -- The United States women reached the medal round of the Olympics on Friday.
And the sun also rises.
For the fifth time in as many attempts, the Americans qualified for the semifinals, recording a hard-fought 2-0 win over New Zealand, in the quarterfinals at St. James' Park.
In fact, the U.S. has never missed out on the final four in any of the 11 major international women's soccer tournaments since the Women's World Cup began in 1991.
Abby Wambach recorded her 142nd international tally in the 27th minute and second-half substitute Sydney Le Roux added an insurance goal before 10,441 spectators.
The U.S. will play Canada, which blanked host Great Britain, 2-0, later on Friday.
"This team is bound for glory," said Wambach, who scored in her fourth consecutive game. "It might not look pretty in every second of the game, but we get it done."
After watching the U.S. withstand his team's pressure and convert its chances, New Zealand coach Tony Readings felt the Americans will be on the medals' podium receiving yet another gold medal at Wembley Stadium in London on Aug. 9.
"They're hard to stop because they have so many threats," he said. "It's hard to break them down. They can find another gear when they need to."
Added New Zealand captain Rebecca Smith: "They are a really good team and have lots of quality. They threw on some subs and they were just as good as their starting players."
The U.S. defense gave up shots, but none that were of quality or were dangerous as the Americans extended their shutout streak to 346 minutes, dating back to the 14th minute of the 4-2 opening victory over France on July 25. The back four of captain Christie Rampone, Rachel Buehler, Kelley O'Hara and Amy le Peilbet held firm. Goalkeeper Hope Solo was credited with five saves.
"They've proven over the last three games that they are one of the best defenses in the world, regardless how many goals they allowed in against France," Wambach said.
The U.S. broke through in the 27th minute. Alex Morgan latched onto a through ball from Kelly O'Hara, faked out defender Rebecca Smith. As two other defenders were converged on her, Morgan shot through the penalty area to a sliding Wambach, who redirected the ball past goalkeeper Jenny Bindon.
"That's what we call a shross or a crot," Wambach said. "It was going wide. That's why I stuck my foot out. I don't evenknow I was offisde on the chance. That's why yo're supposed to be there for, a forward. We call it framing the net so if in fact the ball goes wide, you are there to tap it in."
Several U.S. players celebrated by doing cartwheels in honor of U.S. gymnast Gabby Douglas' gold medal.
"We wouldn't do it," Readings said. "I would not like if our team did that. It's something that Americans do. . . . It's probably something they work on in training. We have to work on scoring and stopping Wambach and Morgan."
Wambach incurred a yellow card -- her first of the competition -- in the 43rd minute for tackling defender Katie Hoyle hard at midfield. It appeared Hoyle injured her left ankle, but returned to action shortly thereafter.
Bindon took a second knock from an American striker -- Wambach was the first -- in the 73rd minute when Morgan smashed into her face while going for the ball at the penalty arc. Bindon was given medical attention on the field. Morgan, who fell to the ground, was taken off the field and returned a two minutes later.
Morgan eventually left the game in the 81st minute as she was replaced by Sydney Le Roux.
Le Roux gave the Americans some much-needed breathing room in the 87th minute, beating Smith, who fell down in the penalty area, before placing an eight-yard shot past Bindon into the net.
"I'll tell you what. for a kid like Syd to come in, she has no expectations," Wambach said. "Her job is to come in and make things miserable for their backline and run. She did just that. She did her role. She did her job and it paid off for her. We needed that goal. That's a breather. You never know what will happen with a one-goal lead."