The United States Women’s National Team is bound for the World Cup Final after a fifth consecutive shutout by Hope Solo and the vaunted American defense on Tuesday night against Germany.
Hope erased the only shot on goal by the Germans and orchestrated a phenomenal defensive effort to help guide the USWNT to 2-0 win in their semifinal match at the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup. Afterward, she lauded the effort of her team and their play to keep the No. 1 ranked women’s soccer squad in the world off the board, extending the U.S. clean sheet streak to a staggering 513 minutes.
“Our backline is incredible, I can’t say enough good things about them. But it’s not just our back line, we had our two holding midfielders playing so much defense. It’s our team defense. Players are going in hard for tackles, everybody has each other’s backs, and it feels so good right now going into the final.”
The shutout for No. 1 marked her 10th career clean sheet in World Cup play, tying her with the Team USA great Briana Scurry for the most in WWC history by any nation. On the other end of the pitch, a penalty kick goal by Carli Lloyd in the 69th minute, and an insurance score by Kelley O’Hara 15 minutes later, pushed the American side on to Sunday’s final.
Germany brought the World Cup’s most prolific offense into the match, leading all teams with 20 goals over the course of their first five matches of the tournament. That fierce attack created two chances in the first three minutes—but the first was blocked by Becky Sauerbrunn and the second, a header by Melanie Leupolz, was sent over the crossbar.
The U.S. countered on the other end when Megan Rapinoe sent a fantastic corner into the near side of the six-yard box to Julie Johnston, who sent a hard header on frame—but German goalkeeper Nadine Angerer was there to deflect the opportunity. The game tipped back and forth in thrilling fashion from there, though the USWNT was largely in control throughout the match. Germany held a 15-12 shot advantage, but only one of the German shots was on frame.
That one came in the eighth minute, when the German counterattack sent Alexandra Popp down the left side, where she had a great look at goal. Popp sent a hard shot high toward the near post, but Hope’s positioning and athleticism were too much. No. 1 leaped and redirected the ball over the crossbar. After an early barrage by Germany, the Americans dominated possession for the rest of the first half and held the ball for 55 percent of the first 45 minutes.
Star forward Alex Morgan had several goal-scoring opportunities for the Americans throughout the evening, including a 1-on-1 with Angerer in the 15th minute after a fantastic through ball from Tobin Heath. But Morgan couldn’t convert as the aggressive German keeper stood her ground and made the stop.
In the 28th minute, the youngest player on the American team, 22-year-old Morgan Brian, sacrificed her body for the squad. After a foul on Lauren Holiday, Germany had a free kick just outside the box. The ball was sent in, and Brian leapt up, clearing the ball with an excellent header—but Popp also went up for Germany, and her head collided with Brian’s. The two players laid on the ground for several minutes afterward, and Popp was seen with an open cut on her head. Both players stepped off the field only briefly before coming right back in.
After the match, Hope commended the courageous effort by her teammate, which helped send the game to the half knotted at 0-0.
“You saw Morgan Brian go up on that set piece and take a hit to her head, almost get concussed,” Hope said, praising the young midfielder. “She saved that goal.”
After Brian’s selfless play, the Americans continued their attack. At the end of a long, threatening stretch for the U.S., Tobin Heath gathered a loose ball deep in the box, but she was mobbed by German defenders and had her shot blocked. Two more off-target chances for Germany followed and late in the half Morgan had another big chance, but the American forward sent the 1-on-1 opportunity wide of the goal, sending the game to the half knotted at 0-0.
Much like the USWNT in their quarterfinal match against China, Germany came out firing to start the second half. Three straight chances went off target for the Germans, but the third looked like it would surely result in a goal.
After a lofting through ball in the 60th minute, Johnston pulled Leupolz down in the box, resulting in a yellow card for the American defender and a penalty kick for Germany. The Germans sent the World Cup’s top scorer, Celia Sasic, to the spot against Hope, and she did all she could to throw the opponent’s top finisher off her game.
She stalled as much as she could, pacing around and walking up to the PK spot before settling in on the goal line. Whether it was from Hope’s influence or not, Sasic sent the PK wide left, and the shutout streak lived on for No. 1.
“I would love to share with you my mindset, but unfortunately, or fortunately, we have one more game,” Hope said of that penalty kick. “You do what you can. I did the stall tactic—it worked.”
While Lloyd and O’Hara did their part offensively with second half goals, the contest was won by Hope and the U.S. defense, who haven’t allowed a goal since the 27th minute of their first match of the World Cup against Australia.
In their last 16 games, the Americans have outscored their foes 29-3.
Now the USWNT looks forward to a championship matchup with a yet unknown opponent.
Their competition for the crown will be determined on Wednesday night when defending FIFA Women’s World Cup winner Japan takes on England in the other semifinal matchup to determine the other spot in the final.
That means the 2015 WWC Final will either be an ironic 4th of July weekend matchup against England, or a rematch from the last final in 2011, when Japan walked away with the Cup after delivering the U.S. a heartbreaking defeat on penalty kicks.
While Hope is glad to have helped the U.S. become just the third team in WWC history to reach consecutive finals, she knows that her squad’s mission is not yet complete.
“You really have to take it one game at a time, but we’re really here—we’re finally in the final,” Hope said. “It’s been a huge build up. The monkey’s off our back now that we’re in the final, but it’s not good enough, we have to win it, but we’re there. We set the stage, and hopefully we’re going to be standing on the podium.”
The 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup Final will kickoff on Sunday, July 5 at 7 p.m. ET, from BC Place in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada and the match can be seen live on FOX.
- WNT downs No. 1 Germany 2-0 to advance to World Cup final (US Soccer, June 30, 2015)
- A new generation of US Soccer emerged last night (For The Win, July 1, 2015)
- USA, coach Jill Ellis silence doubters with trip to final (USA Today, July 1, 2015)
- Germany left bloodied, defeated after WWC loss (USA Today, June 30, 2015)
- Jill Ellis finally got starting lineup right in win over Germany (For The Win, June 30, 2015)
- US women endure roller-coaster ride in semifinal win over Germany (Sports Illustrated, July 1, 2015)
- USWNT peaking at the right time (Sports Illustrated, June 30, 2015)
- Lloyd executes Ellis’ plan (ESPNW, July 1, 2015)