WASHINGTON, June 30, 2015 – Germany may be favored by odds-makers, but excellent US execution could spoil the predictions.
US soccer fans are elated that their team has made it to the semi-finals, but worried that they are facing Germany.
Tonight’s semifinal game pits the top two teams in the world. Germany, ranked number 1, boasts blitzkrieg offense and opportunistic goal scoring. It’s 10-0 win against the Ivory Coast in the first round left spectators speechless. The United States is known for its impenetrable defense. The goalies vie for best in the world.
Both teams have won the World Cup twice. The United States won in 1991 and 1999, and Germany won in 2003 and 2007.
The game is likely to be the best game of the tournament so far, and will likely even outshine the final game.
Defense will play big in the game. Although US goalie Hope Solo has had few tests so far, she will face a fast and furious offense tonight. Likewise, the back line will see more strong attacks than it has in the past. The US will have to avoid one-on-one footraces and continue to play smart, its hallmark of the tournament, to keep Germany out of the goal.
The United States has conceded only one goal in the tournament so far, in its opening match. Germany, however, has scored more goals than any other team in this tournament, with 20 goals so far.
The big question facing the US is whether they can mount enough offense to put Germany on its heels. Commentators and fans alike have lamented the heavily defensive line-up, known as a 4/4/2, with four defenders, four midfielders, and two forwards. Former US coach turned commentator Tony DiCicco has publicly urged current US coach Jill Ellis to move to a 4/3/3, adding an extra forward and giving “umph” to the offense.
Megan Rapinoe and Lauren Holiday will be available after missing the quarterfinal game due to yellow card accumulation. If a player earns two yellow cards, they cannot play the subsequent game. Ellis almost certainly will return Rapinoe to the lineup, but there are questions about what else she will do. Kelley O’Hara and Morgan Brian played high-pressure mid-field against China, but at least one of them is unlikely to start with Rapinoe back.
Another question is whether Sydney Leroux will make an appearance. Leroux is one of the biggest scoring threats the US has, but she has not made an appearance in the last two games, despite paltry goal chances.
And finally, what of Abby Wambach? At 5’11 and fearless, Abby is a serious header threat on corners and set plays, but she arguably played her best match against China, after coming off the bench. Will she start?
The lackluster offense will square up against a tough German defense, which has only allowed two goals in the tournament.
However, with Alex Morgan appearing healthy and back in the line-up, the US certainly has options. If it can spread the field and use its space wisely and keep up a fast pace, the US will certainly challenge the Germans.
Another advantage for the US is the crowd. Although the World Cup is taking place in Canada, it has a huge US flavor to it, and that love for America is likely to increase in the game today.
Finally, don’t forget momentum and swagger. The US believes it can win the World Cup this year, and has the confidence to carry it through.
The US plays Germany tonight at Olympic Stadium in Montreal, Canada at 7pm. FOX and NBC Universo will provide television coverage.
The second semifinal, which takes place on Wednesday, pits Japan (number 4) against England (number 6).
The World Cup final takes place on July 5, with the third place game on July 4.