Hope Notches Second Shutout in Win Over Nigeria

Hope Solo made history for the United States Women’s National Team during Tuesday night’s Group D finale at the Women’s World Cup, and she did so exactly how she and her team hoped: with a shutout victory.

Hope made her 173rd international appearance for the USWNT, tying legendary U.S. goalkeeper Briana Scurry for most in team history by a keeper. She then went out in front of 52,193 in Vancouver, mostly clad in Red, White and Blue, and registered her second straight shutout by keeping Nigeria off the board in a 1-0 win for the USWNT, just as USWNT center back Becky Sauerbrunn had predicted before the match while talking about Hope’s place in the history books.

“I think it is great that we have this history in the U.S. of having great goalkeepers, first with Bri Scurry and now with Hope,” Sauerbrunn said. “I think it is unbelievable that she has played at such a high level for so long so we are all really proud of her. Hopefully we will get her a shutout so it will be a nice one.”

No. 1 made two saves, and the American defense was excellent throughout the evening. On the other end of the pitch, Abby Wambach was inserted back into the starting lineup and volleyed home the game-winner just before halftime.

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While it was just a 1-0 final, the game was much more lopsided than the score indicated. The US women generated 14 shots, including seven on goal, though they struggled to finish around the net as Nigerian keeper Precious Dede tallied six saves.

The Americans controlled possession, and Nigeria logged just seven shots, two of which were on goal. The first serious chance came 12 minutes in when Nigeria penetrated and settled the ball inside the US defense. From there, Asisat Oshoala booted a shot on goal, forcing Hope to dive to her right and make the save.

Those chances for Nigeria were few and far between for Nigeria, thanks to a sound defensive performance and aggressive attack for the Americans that had the field tilted in the other direction for most of the evening.

However, the U.S. aggression nearly resulted in a Nigerian goal in the first half. After Nigeria thwarted an American chance, they knocked a ball through for Oshoala on a breakaway in the 24th minute. With the pressure on, Hope converged on the attacker, and with the help of Julie Johnston, forced the shot wide right.  The teamwork between Hope and Johnston kept Nigeria off the board.


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In the final minute of the first half, the USWNT offense finally broke through. Megan Rapinoe knocked a beautiful corner kick toward the back post, and Wambach did what she does best, slicing through the Nigerian defense, where she made contact with the ball in midair, glancing it into the net with her left foot to make it one-nil going into the locker room.

0616_hs3Shortly after the break, Nigeria found another excellent scoring opportunity after a foul on Ali Krieger. From roughly 25 yards out, the Nigerians blasted a free kick Hope’s way. No. 1 was right on it all the way and leapt in the air as she saw it fly safely over the crossbar.

Things got easier for the Americans in the 70th minute, when Nigeria’s Sarah Nnodim was sent off after receiving her second yellow card, which reduced the Nigerian side to just 10 women.

Now in desperation mode, Nigeria created a couple more chances, though they never truly threatened.

Two minutes after the send-off, Oshoala sent another shot Hope’s way, but No. 1 made a routine save for her second stop of the match. Then in the 93rd minute, the Nigerians booted one last long ball Hope’s way, but it merely settled at her feet, and she collected it just before the final whistle blew.

The victory marked Hope’s seventh shutout in World Cup play, moving her closer to Scurry’s all-time mark of 10.

More importantly, the blank slate helped to send the Americans to the Round of 16 as the top seed from Group D. Afterward, Hope and the US defenders were thrilled at their second shutout in group play.

“As a back line, that’s our ultimate goal,” Johnston said. “We don’t want to have any goals against us. We’re really disappointed that we gave one up against Australia.”

“We take pride in not allowing anybody to score,” Klingenberg said. “It’s a testament to how significant we think that is.”

Hope allowed just one goal through the first three games of the tournament, putting her right on pace with the rest of the group winners. Canada, Germany and Japan—the top three seeds in the first three groups—each allowed one goal in their first three matches. Meanwhile, Brazil and Colombia, which each have one match left in the group stage, have allowed zero and one goals, respectively.

No. 1 has carried a stellar save rate of 87.5 percent into the knockout round, where the USWNT will take on the third-place finisher from either Group B, E or F on Monday, June 22 in Edmonton. If Hope can keep the sheet clean, US head coach Jill Ellis likes her squad’s chances.

“If you don’t give up any goals,” she said, “I think you have a hell of a chance.”

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