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USWNT embracing do-or-die scenario ahead of Round of 16 matchup with improved Colombia


Photo by Michael Chow/USA TODAY Sports


After three grueling match-ups in what was dubbed the tournament’s Group of Death, the U.S. Women’s National Team is now fully aware that, from this point forward, it’s do or die.

The USWNT is set to take on Colombia on Monday evening (8 pm ET, Fox Sports 1) in the Round of 16 of the 2015 Women’s World Cup after successfully navigating its way to a first place in Group D. The knockout game will be played at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton.

For many, that group stage served as a good lead up to what the U.S. now faces. Despite sputtering in the attack throughout their first three games, the Americans find themselves battle-tested as they try to continue through the tournament.

Monday’s match-up presents a whole new test, however, one that will be completely different than the rigorous group stage. Still, forward Abby Wambach expects the U.S.’s character to shine as the Americans try to maneuver through the win-or-go-home matches.

“At this point, every opponent and every game matters and the pressure gets higher,” Wambach said. “The stakes are higher. You win or you go home. I’m pleased with the way that we performed in the group stage. Do we want to score more goals? Sure, but I think more goals are ahead of us.

“Colombia’s team is a great team, but this is where character shines. Who are you in the face of win or go home?”

For the USWNT to avoid that short yet painfully long trip south of the Canadian border, the onus will have to lie on sprucing up a struggling attack. The Americans have just one goal in their past two games, and head coach Jill Ellis understands that the goal-scoring unit will need to be a bit more lively as the tournament wears on.

However, Ellis has full confidence in her team’s ability to create goals, pointing to the team’s chance creation in the group stage.

That, along with the return of a healthy Alex Morgan, Ellis believes will lend itself to more finishes.

“As long as we’re winning, I’ll take that,” Ellis said. “We’re creating chances in multiple different ways: set pieces, wide areas, central areas. I’d be concerned if we weren’t creating chances, but no, I expect that things will happen for us.  I know that. I have confidence in the players we’ve selected. I have confidence in the players we have.

“This will be Alex’s second game coming back into getting more minutes and trying to get her further along. I thought she had some great looks in the Nigeria game. I’m not concerned at the end of the day. We’ve scored more than our opponent, and at this level and with this competitive tournament, the margin will be smaller as you advance, for sure.”

The margin for error will certainly be slim on Monday against a Colombia team that has impressed early in the tournament.

Having earned a 2-0 victory over a contender in France in the group stage, Colombia has shown to be a much improved version of the team the USWNT previously faced in the 2012 Olympics. Led by forward Lady Andrade, Colombia has embraced a technical yet methodical style, slowing the game down a bit before exploiting mistakes made by opposing defenses.

In Colombia, the U.S. will face a more patient and technical side than those of the group stages. However, it will also be a weakened side due to the absence of goalkeeper Sandra Sepulveda, who will be suspended due to yellow card accumulation.

Even so, the U.S. is focusing on maintaining its own style of play. The U.S. is ready for a technical match-up, but will attempt to remain on the ball while also bringing a bit of physicality.

In addition to the USWNT’s hopes of winning the possession and physical battles, the Americans’ experience might also be able to help lead the way in the mental battle. Having a group that has featured in countless big-game situations, the U.S. should be able to lean on previous experiences as it attempts to knock off Colombia and reach the quarterfinals.

“I think we came into this tournament with one goal, an this is the next step in our journey that we have to take. In that way, we know what’s at stake,” said midfielder Tobin Heath. “We don’t have to talk about it, we can all feel it. We feel it in our preparation and our practices. We know how important this is and we know just how good we have to be in order to be successful. “


  1. … and should the US win tonight, they’ll have 3 days to rest and face china with 5 days rest…. so much for FIFA intelligencia when setting up the matches.

  2. Sorry but with the way this team has been playing, I would not be shocked if their WC ends tonight. I sometimes question if this team even wants to be at the cup. They have no sense of urgency and no sense of motivation. The world has caught up, they can’t sleep walk through this tournament.

    • Well, they’ve proven that they can so far.
      Frankly, they should be able to sleepwalk through this game, and the next as well.

  3. Its funny how everyone who was crying for press to start up top and to bench Wambach have completely vanished.

    The first half of the 3rd group game is the best they looked. should have had 3 goals (offsides call was bogus it was a good goal, and a handball at the edge of the box should have been a PK).

    She needs to keep Leroux and Press benched, press did absolutely nothing starting in the middle against Sweden. The thing we are desperately lacking is a Defensive Mid, Lloyd is absolutely not comfortable there, at all, lazy giveaways all over the field.

    Keep the back line, Sit Holiday, Start O’hara as defensive mid and lloyd offensive. Start Pinoe on the wing and either Heath/O’rielly as the other winger, with Wambach and Morgan up top. Leroux or press can be a 60-70 min sub if Wambach needs to come off

    • I haven’t vanished.
      Just because a strategy works against a weak team is no reason to keep the strategy. The US isn’t going to beat Germany or France with Wambach starting..they need a more dynamic attack.
      You’re certainly right that the mid-field needs massive improvement…having two fast players up top that can come back and help will be an instant improvement.

    • I would start any of the other forwards over Wambach including Rodriguez. Most of the players you are promoting Vlad, are deeply associated with Abby Ball. O’Reilly, Pinoe, Lloyd, and, yes even Morgan all came to prominence trying to hit Abby’s head with crosses or, in the case of Morgan running on to the occasional Wambach flick on. The reason Press doesn’t do well in these matches is because so many of the players around her want to play the long ball or in the case of Pinoe, look for their own shot. In the first game when Press scored, I think it may have been the first pass the USA completed inside the 18 in the entire match. When Pinoe hit that deflected shot, it pretty much guaranteed she would be shooting the ball everytime it came to her in the final third probably for the rest of the tournament. Press gets into good positions, but for her game to work, it requires someone, anyone willing to make a pass or a run. This team doesn’t do that. If this time relies on Wambach up front, it may make it to the semis, but I don’t see them getting past Germany or France.

    • Norway, who are more or less tactical carbon copies of the US (long ball, long ball, long ball) was just upset by England. There is a place for the occasional long ball to keep high pressing defenses honest, but by now for a team like the USWNT it is like beating a dead horse. Everyone sees it is coming, and pretty much everyone knows how to defend it. Unfortunately, it seems to be the only horse Ellis is willing to give a chance to.

  4. If they win this, then they get China, so they have a pretty good draw. If they make the semis, they will likely play Germany, with France a possibility. I hope they have been practicing their penalty kicks.

  5. The US should play conservatively. The only way Columbia scores is if our midfield gives the ball away stupidly (as the do all too often in this WC) in a position that Hope and the back 4 cannot react. Just play it safe and we will win the game 1-0. It may be boring but it is the best path to victory.

    • That may be the best prescription for all the rest of their games.Win with a quick counter attack by Morgan or on a Wambach header from a set piece and lots of good D.

    • The problem is, you’re right.
      Their best bet is playing conservatively, sending everything to the wings and lobbing in crosses.
      Why is it a problem? Because they’re gonna get to the game against Germany or France and have to revert styles, since that won’t work against with either one. Don’t know if they’ll be able to change tactics smoothly or not.

  6. I see this game as a crap shoot. Columbia is very technical, we’re somewhat athletic. Either team could win.

    A lot has to do whit who Ellis starts and if she makes adjustments over the last two substandard outings. I kind of doubt she will but a good coach would.

    One has to love Brazil crying about the draw after being sent home by Australia.. After a cake walk through the group stage, they have the guts to complain about facing Australia. The first real game they had and they weren’t up for it. Maybe you’re just not that good Brazil

    • They also had a cake walk to the finals if they had won.
      Well, maybe not “cakewalk”, but they certainly had the far easier knockout bracket.

  7. The US needs to stop trying the long through balls. When playing on turf, it needs to be more short passes than anything, and then when the through ball is there and open (it can’t be forced), then go for it. There is no doubt the US has the most talent of any team in this World Cup and they just need to put it together. Possess the ball with simple passes and the build up can be slow. On turf you have to let the ball do the work. If you don’t you will be running around chasing the ball the entire game. They need to be more precise in the final third. That means don’t force the through ball when it’s not there. If the forwards make diagonal runs along the backline the entire game, they are bound to get a few grade A chances for a through ball.

    • I honestly don’t know about the Americans possessing the most talent in this world cup. I’ve seen markedly better midfields on two or three teams (Germany, France) and hungrier forwards (even Cameroon has one that’s shown more than our front set thus far). Yes, we have the best goalkeeper in the tournament (by some distance, actually), and Johnston (sp?) has been incredible on D, and Rapinoe has been thrilling at times, but it feels like a substantial drop-off after that on current form. I didn’t think Sweden played any less well against Germany than against us, and yet they were lucky to walk off with a 3-1 loss against a better team than ours.

      • For what it’s worth, I agree with everything you just said.

        I don’t disagree that our current playing style has encumbered our performance at this World Cup—in fact I agree entirely that it has. However, that doesn’t presuppose that if we were to change our style to resemble the tidy combination play and incisive passing demonstrated by teams like France and Germany that we would all of a sudden be world beaters. It’s very possible that our current squad—as a unit, on the whole—isn’t capable of making that jump. It may be that our program is late to the party and will need to spend the next four to eight years playing catchup.

        I haven’t completely dismissed the prospect of a late run for the U.S. team, but I think it’s clear that we’re not leading the curve anymore.

      • I agree with that the definitely do not look like the most talented team in the tournament right now, but I believe they have not played nearly their best soccer yet. The defensive end right now is solid, so no worries there. On the offensive end (attacking midfielders included) they do not look like themselves. The coach may be partly to blame there though. They really didn’t improve much game-to-game in the group stage. They had nearly the same problems each game. I know it is the players job to execute, but I’m not sure she has made many adjustments with the attack strategy-wise. An attack should not be struggling this much with a world class player in Alex Morgan and also a top player in Abby Wambach. So for me the talent is there but the adjustments(maybe) and execution is not. I still think this team has a lot more to show.

      • Abby Wambach is no longer a top player. She was brought in to do one thing, get her head onto crosses, and she has failed at that in this tournament, badly missing numerous gimmees. When she is in the pace of play slows way down as the US sends long ball after long ball up the field in the hopes that someone can run onto it and put a cross on to Abby’s head. Teams have seen it so many times, of course they know how to defend it. It doesn’t help that Abby is well past her prime. Her place is on the bench until desperation time.

      • I’d like to disagree with you. The back line is not solid. Except for one good cross into the box that Alex Morgan missed, Krieger should not be starting any games, she’s slow in defense and she was horrible against Nigeria, she lost possesion 1v1, gave outta bound passes and was very timid going forward.

        Krieger had a devastating ACL injury to her knee, she’s not the RB from 4 yrs ago, she was never athletic enough to begin with… unfortunately, Ellis left home the young horses that ex coach Sermani was integrating into the team.

    • I have been saying the same thing and there have been a number of times the US has tried to play that way. However, the entry passes from the midfielders to the forwards in the final third have generally been woefully lacking. Not only has their passing been poor, their decision making has also been suspect. In watching the games I see a lot of opportunities for through balls between defenders to go left begging. This seems especially true when the ball is brought up the wing and they could pass the ball for forwards to run onto to the back line and pass back.

  8. “Colombia has embraced a technical yet methodical style, slowing the game down a bit before punching their opponents in the eye.”

    • And all that “Lady” Andrade got was a 2 game suspension. Compare that to Dempsey’s 3 games for tearing up a notebook.

      • Let’s say you are sitting in a restaurant next to somebody who, without warning, coldcocks you and knocks you down. That is assault and battery for which the perpetrator can go to jail. Only in sports can someone get away with that so lightly. So, yes it is apples and oranges, and the assault is much worse. My problem is not the 3 games for Dempsey, but only two games (or 8 games for Suarez) for Andrade. So, physically assaulting someone without warning isn’t so bad in your book?.

      • What are you more likely to go to jail for, punching a guy you’re playing a pick-up game with, or stealing the ticket book of the cop that comes to break the fight up?

      • All the comparisons are ridiculous when acknowledging we’re talking about a soccer game and a notepad from a referee.

      • I’ll grant you that both of our comparisons are pretty ridiculous.
        But if there’s one standard that cuts through all sports, it’s that you don’t touch/interfere with the refs. Period. It’s as close to a sports taboo as you can get, and I have no sympathy for anyone that crosses that line in any way.

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