photo by John Todd/ISIphotos.com
By FRANCO PANIZO
The U.S. women's national team are a step away from advancing to the final of the Olympic tournament, but they will have to go through a familiar opponent if they are to have a chance at fighting for gold.
The United States takes on northern rivals Canada at Old Trafford on Monday (2:45 p.m. ET NBC Sports Network, NBCOlympics.com) and the winner will proceed to the Thursday finale against the victor of the other semifinals match between Japan and France. The Americans are coming off a 2-0 win over New Zealand, but Canada also won by the same scoreline against hosts Great Britain in the quarterfinals. Those results have set up what should be a thrilling latest installment of the rivalry between the two CONCACAF nations, even if Canada have not been entirely convincing throughout the tournament.
The Canadians reached the knockout phase of the competition via one of the two third-place berths, and their 1-1-1 record in group play shows they have not been one of the more consistent teams in the tournament. Still, they boast quality forwards Christine Sinclair and Melissa Tancredi, giving them a lethal duo up top that is sure to challenge Hope Solo, Christie Rampone and the rest of an American back line that has not surrendered a goal in its last three games.
On offense, the United States should have no problem creating chances. Canada gave up four goals in their three group games, and Abby Wambach, Alex Morgan and Carli Lloyd should be enough firepower in the attack to keep the likes of Lauren Sesselmann and Rhian Wilkinson busy.
While the match is special in that the winner will have an opportunity to play for gold, it will hold signifcant value for young American forward Sydney Leroux. The 22-year-old Leroux was born in Canada before deciding to play for the United States, and she was heckled non-stop during the Americans' Olympic qualifying final win against Canada at BC Place in Vancouver in January.
In fact, that is the last time the two teams have met and the winner of that bout was the United States, which claimed a decisive 4-0 triumph. Things will likely be tougher this go-around, so the Americans will need to put together another strong outing in order to avoid a massive disappointment while also getting one step closer to grabbing gold.
How do you see the U.S women faring against Canada? Expecting a difficult match from the Americans' northern rivals?
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