USA Moves to Semis With Shutout of China

Hope Solo and the United States Women’s National Team logged yet another record-shattering performance in victory to advance to the semifinals in the FIFA Women’s World Cup on Friday night in Ottawa. But while many outside the USWNT spent time after the match reflecting on and lauding the things the American women continue to accomplish, and the records Hope and her teammates continue to break, the U.S. goalkeeper fixed her focus forward, on the team’s ultimate goal.

Hope recorded her fourth straight clean sheet and has now gone 423 minutes without allowing a goal—both U.S. World Cup records. No. 1 also moved into first place on the USWNT all-time wins list, passing the legendary Briana Scurry with her 134th victory. But after the 1-0 victory over China, Hope deflected the attention to her team, and back to the task at hand: dealing with the No. 1 team in the world, Germany, in the semifinal round.

“It is strange to have these records in the World Cup because I want the focus to be on the team,” she said following the win. “I feel we are peaking at the right time so we are right where we need to be, so hopefully we are going to beat Germany and head into the final.”

The final score of Friday’s match was just one-nil, but the game was much more lopsided than shown on the scoreboard. The U.S. dominated possession the entire match, resulting in a 17-6 shot advantage. A suffocating defense allowed Hope to extend the longest shutout streak in her team’s history at the World Cup, and in the 51st minute, Julie Johnston set up Carli Lloyd on a header for the game-winning goal.

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Though they managed just the one score, the USWNT had numerous chances throughout the evening to put a lot less doubt in the outcome.

The Americans tallied 11 shots in the first half alone, including four shots on goal. On the other side, China challenged Hope with just four shots, none of which were on frame, and all four of which came from outside of the box. The US kept the ball deep in Chinese territory through much of the first half, and China didn’t manage its best chance until Wang Lisi sent a shot wide in the 45th minute.

The score remained tied at the break, and before the USWNT took the field for the second half, FOX cameras caught the team’s vocal veteran leader—Abby Wambach, who didn’t enter the game until the waning minutes—imploring her squad to score within the first 10 minutes of the second half.

Six minutes later, her request was answered.

The play started with a free kick just inside Chinese territory. Meghan Klingenberg tapped the ball to Johnston, who arced a long cross deep into the box, where Lloyd was waiting. The U.S. captain skied and beat her defender, glancing the ball into the back of the net with a well-placed header.

After that goal in the 51st minute, Ali Krieger nearly added another goal in the 73rd minute, but her hard shot just missed the mark, slamming the post in the upper left corner of the frame.

After the contest, Krieger talked about the quiet match for Hope, but said that she and the rest of the USWNT are confident that their keeper will be ready to perform when she is called upon.

“I think Hope is very happy with that,” Krieger said. “I think she is prepared no matter what. She is the best goalkeeper in the world and she is prepared and professional enough to be ready whenever that moment comes. She is always on her toes, always prepared and ready for a big play. I have no concern about that.”

Hope did make two late saves in this contest. The first came in the 80th minute, when China sent a free kick bouncing her way, which she went down for and corralled into her stomach. Then in the 93rd minute, the Chinese attack found some open space in the box, but all that resulted was a soft shot that short-hopped into Hope’s arms.

The final whistle blew shortly after, locking the USWNT into the semifinals.

NEXT UP

In the penultimate round of the FIFA Women’s World Cup, the American side will face their toughest test yet, when they take on the No. 1 ranked squad in the world: Germany.

The German offense has been the most prolific in World Cup play, amassing 20 goals thus far in the tournament. But they narrowly escaped the quarterfinal round. They trailed France 1-0 late before a hand ball by the French in the late stages of the match set up a penalty kick goal by Germany’s Celia Sasic in the 84th minute to tie it. The teams played to a draw in extra time before Germany overpowered France 5-4 in penalty kicks.

With the tournament down to its final four teams, the U.S. Women’s National Team knows they’re in for a challenge.

“Germany is a great opponent and a great transition team and obviously have a lot of attacking personality on their team,” said USWNT midfielder Heather O’Reilly. “We need to be prepared and ready.”

On the other hand, Hope and the American defense have been the World Cup’s best, allowing just one goal in five matches.

Hope will be vying for her fifth straight clean sheet—which would also move her into a tie with Scurry for the most shutouts (10) in U.S. WWC history.

The semifinal match is set for a 7 p.m. ET start on Tuesday from Olympic Stadium in Montreal and will air on FOX.

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