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USWNT tops Group D as Wambach volley beats Nigeria



Much has been said in recent days about whether or not Abby Wambach is still serviceable as a starter, but the veteran forward showed on Tuesday that she is still capable of making a difference.

Wambach scored on a well-taken volley just before halftime to lift the U.S. Women’s National Team to a 1-0 victory over Nigeria in its Group D finale at BC Place in Vancouver. Wambach netted the lone goal with a flying effort following a corner kick from Megan Rapinoe, ensuring first place in Group D for the Americans.

Nigeria was forced to finish the match with 10 players. Sarah Nnodim drew her second yellow card in the 69th minute for a foul on Sydney Leroux, dwindling the Nigerians’ chances of finding the equalizer that would have given them a chance to avoid elimination.

The result combined with Sweden’s 1-1 draw with Australia in Edmonton sent the Nigerians crashing out of the tournament. Australia finished in second place in Group D with four points. The Swedes were right behind with three and now have to wait to see if they are one of the four best third-place teams in the tournament to reach the Round of 16.

The U.S. had the bulk of the scoring opportunities in the game, and an early goal from Julie Johnston was whistled back for offside despite replays showing that Johnston was not offside.

Megan Rapinoe, who was active and aggressive throughout her 74 minutes on the field, also tested Nigeria goalkeeper Precious Dede from distance on a couple of occasions in the first half.

Nigeri’s best scoring chance came in the 24th minute when Asisat Oshoala raced in behind the U.S. defense and onto a perfectly-placed through-pass. Oshoala wound up to fire a shot at U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo from close range, but Johnston pulled off a last-ditch sliding tackle to block the effort and send it out for a corner kick.

While the Americans showed improved play in the midfield than they had in their previous two games, the Americans found the breakthrough off a set piece. Rapinoe unleashed a driven corner kick to the far post, and Wambach made contact with a flying left-footed volley to push the ball home seconds before the halftime whistle was blown.

The U.S. continued to challenge Nigeria after the break. Earning her first start of the tournament, Alex Morgan nearly made it 2-0 minutes into the second half. Her lofted shot was not high enough to beat Dede, however.

Morgan was also denied well by Dede in the 63rd minute. Ali Krieger hit a great low cross to Morgan at the far post, but Dede cut off the angle well to make the save and keep Nigeria alive.

The Nigerians’ hopes took a big hit six minutes later, as Nnodim was sent off for taking down Leroux just before the penalty area.

The U.S., which finished group play with a 2-0-1 record, will now take on the third-place finisher of Group B, E, or F on Monday at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton.


  1. Krieger has been truly awful going forward. I don’t know if Rampone can play right back, but she did well at LB for the minutes she was in. Klingenberg has been head and shoulders above Krieger and should be on the field. I’m not a fan of Boxx, but Lloyd has been so bad that I don’t think Boxx could be any worse. It seems a likely opponent for the US will be Colombia which would be a good game to try a different combination up top and/or in the middle.

  2. This team has no killer instinct. Another team will sense it and they may get taken out by their inability to generate real scoring chances. Let’s hope they prove everyone wrong but I don’t think that will happen.

  3. That game was terrible last night despite what the commentators say. Nigeria showed they wanted it more.

  4. I was thinking that this would be the summer of Sydney Leroux but she has been invisible. Perhaps she should focus less on posting bikini pics on instagram and concentrate more on finishing.

  5. This is what happens when you choose your lineup and squad based on sentimentality over talent and who has the most left in the tank. Rampone, Boxx, Lloyd, and even Wambac should not be starting much less in the final 23. I suppose Ellis felt compelled to choose some of the older players to avoid the Donovanization of her decision. Leaving Wambach off the team would have created the same argument when Klinsmann left Landy off (correct decision). For all their experience, they will get left behind by younger faster foes.

  6. Not the performance I’d expect from the #2 team in the world. Holiday & Lloys stink. Heath was a turn over machine. What is wrong with Kelly O’hara?

    Jill Ellis is in way over her head and should take her ancient approach to soccer to some top High School program. She is clueless and will not make the necessary changes. Oh and by the way, except for the goal, Wambach did nothing either. She was the slowest person on the field as she lumbered around. I will give her credit for the win but as a 90 player, she’s dead. And stop the turf comment crap. We all know it stinks but Turf does not make you miss headers. Timing and being rusty does. I saw Mia Hamm in a pregame and would rather see her dress for this game than some of the players Ellis rolls out there. She could prob still give us a better 20 minutes most on the team.

    Fire Ellis as soon as this is over.

  7. Carli Lloyd has been terrible this whole tournament and should never wear the national shirt again. I also question the line up. Why Christen Press was not in the line up is beyone me when she has been one of the bright spots for the team.

  8. Did anyone catch espn fc? Foudy and kate markgraf (sp?) actually think this team played well!! What game were they watching? They gave all 6,7 and 8s to the whole squad. I don’t know if I’m hust making assumptions based off their poor play but it seems this team is complacent and worse, almost entitled, especially the older players.

    I’m going to continue to cheer for success but this team is frustrating and hard to watch. No style or gameplan whatsoever. The saving grace has been the defense.

  9. if you saw the redsox miracle comeback in 2004, you’d be nuts to count the USA out of this years cup. it aint over til its over. they did after all win their group.

    HOWEVER, i watched the games and saw what everyone saw. the players are old (zero USA players on fifa’s list of exciting young players in the tournement). the passing is sloppy (i cringe when kreiger has the ball. i wonder what her completion rate is.) the tactics are predictable and dependant on a few stars (teams that aren’t wowed by the big bad USA should find the going not so tough). so why is the US Soccer speaking with such confidence about victory in this years cup? i don’t get it. more likely its going to take a miracle.

    • From what I’ve seen, would say JJ has been a revelation, very impressive.

      So here’s the irony — we have coaches for our national teams that seem to be at opposite sides of the spectrum on roster development. Both get criticized.

      * Ellis is holding on to the old regime she brought through the ranks — winning the games she should, but not impressively but seemingly losing ground to the world elite.

      * Klinsi is doing everything he can to blow up the old way of doing things. Losing games that we should win, but (maybe?) starting to break through the glass ceiling.

      So is takeaway you need to blend the two or that you can’t win no matter how you play?

  10. What is happening to this team and the USWNT program? This team used to be fun to watch with an aggressive attacking style with pinpoint passing. Now, they look lethargic with very little movement off the ball and lack of creativity. There is no spark, no energy, no desire! They could not even find a way to break down a 10-woman Nigeria team ranked in the 30s! Has it not been for Hope Solo, I am pretty sure this team would be done. Not sure if Jill Ellis is to blame or maybe the team is just not as talented as in years past but I don’t see this team making it far from here on out.

      • So got to agree with Wambach this far — using turf in this WC is a travesty. Changes the game… through balls keep going through, rug burns and pulling up to avoid rug burns. It sucks.

        But blaming the US performance on this is ridiculous. Its the same “it sucks” for everyone. You’re professionals. Adjust and move on.

  11. I’ve reached a point where I find myself asking whether I’d actually want to see this team win the World Cup. By virtue of the quality of their play, I think I’d really rather see a team with some fresh ideas and a progressive approach to the game take the Cup.

    The revelation that is Julie Johnston also raises an important question in my mind: how many other players like her are there in the U.S. pipeline that didn’t find themselves in fortuitous circumstances prior to team selection for the tournament? Because, I mean, were it not for injuries and circumstances outside of her control, Johnston probably wouldn’t even have had the opportunity to force her way into the team—and performances have shown thus far that the team is relying on our defense to advance in this tournament, of which she’s been the standout performer. How many players like her do we have waiting in the wings for some of our standbys to make way for them, one way or another?

    Jill Ellis was brought in to revitalize our team and in that aspect, I think it’s clear she’s not done anything of the sort. Not only do we have the oldest team in the tournament—our style of play seems to indicate an outright aversion to growth and progress in our approach to the game. I know for a fact, young girls have not stopped playing soccer in the United States, nor have their numbers declined. So what evidence is there that the USWNT program is identifying young talent and bringing it through the ranks? I don’t see much from this tournament.

    • BEST post I’ve seen. Great comments across the board.

      The simple fact is … the best players were not chosen for this team nor have they been on the pitch at the same team. Ellis went for familiarity rather than finding the best talent.

    • Great point about Johnston. I was thinking the same thing. Who else is out there? I am not familiar with the player pool; however, I would like to believe that there are a couple of CDMs out there in the pool that could help this team (and I don’t mean Boxx). I can’t recall the specific interview I read (perhaps it was with Wahl), but Ellis commented that the reason that she plays without a traditional CDM is because there was not one in the pool who could pass like Holliday and Lloyd. If she were to take one of them out, then the passing from the central area would drop significantly. I understand what she is saying, but when they aren’t connecting on passes and keeping possession, then they turn into a defensive liability and are prone to getting run through by better teams (recent France friendly). Keeping this pair together is going to continue to put a lot of pressure on the CBs – who have been up to the task so far.

    • The old saying says if you aren’t getting better you are getting worse.

      As I recall Sermanni was fired for doing exactly what you say needs to be done.

      Ellis seems to have been brought back to restore the status quo.

      What you are now seeing is the last World Cup team trying to win this World Cup.

  12. If they continue to play poorly as today they will not even reach to semifinal. They was outplayed by 10 Nigerians.
    As I mentioned a year ago: No Hope for USWNT

  13. I’m also not very impressed. Imagine Germany (Men’s) is playing Iran, leading the game, and they go up a man in the 69th minute. Imagine what the rest of the game would be like and compare that with this evening’s performance of the US vs Nigeria. That’s roughly the same difference in world ranking. I expected the US to take control of the game once Nigeria went down to 10 women. Instead, it was wave after wave of, thankfully, uncoordinated attacks. The only reason Nigeria didn’t score was a little lack of quality on their part.

    The midfield of Lloyd and Holliday seems unable to keep the ball and dictate pace at all. At the same time, they seem incapable of consistently stopping opposition attacks. That’s extremely worrisome.

    Very poor overall.

    • That isn’t a fair comparison because Nigeria (Women) are much better comparatively than Iran (Men) when comparing them to the rest of the competition. On top of that USWNT team are definitely not Germany. They have an easy path to the semis. I would eager that they are arguably the 4th/5th best team in the world right now, but they play such ugly football/soccer. I would much rather watch France, Japan, Brazil, Germany before them. Even Cameroon was more fun to watch, but they are not as good as the USWNT.

    • Poor analogy – how did Germany do against Algeria in the round of 16 last year? Had to go to extra time to advance. Many of the other favorites have stubbed their toe so far too.

  14. Really terrible to watch them play. This is the first tournament where I’m actually not that invested in how this team does, I don’t enjoy watching them. They shouldn’t go far but probably will get close and not go all the way.

    The defense gets it done in the end – credit to them – but overall the team lacks cohesiveness. Huge problems in the midfield due to personnel and coaching decisions. This in turn affects the forward line no matter who is playing. Sure Wambach and Morgan under Pia had developed a great chemistry. But without a supportive midfield (and after injury/time) they are much less effective. I really liked the work ethic shown by Press up top – she tried to involve her teammates in the midfield more than the other forward players – but it just seems like she won’t thrive in the current “system.”

    Overall this tournament the mentality seems different – more based on individual talents and contributions than on building a team collective that will succeed. Hope they prove me wrong.

  15. Honestly, Holiday and Lloyd have been dreadful. They were constantly turning the ball over with very poor passing, even under very little pressure. I was blown away by how many times I saw a U.S. player pass the ball directly to a Nigerian. Leroux has not impressed either. This team may get to the semis, but I highly doubt they’ll get to the final. Just not good enough.

    • “USWNT left all of their good central midfielders at home” was a line I read from another story- any thoughts on who they might be referring to?

  16. I know it was three points; however, this was a poor performance. The midfield was given lots of space and time on the ball yet they were still unable to generate much in the way of quality chances. The few times that the US did threaten it was through the long ball. With what we have seen so far, the US is a far better team with Wambach on the pitch. If they are going to go far in the tournament, they are going to have to continue to play good defense and rely on set pieces and/or the long ball. I think the ship has long sailed with this group being able to generate enough goals by keeping the ball on the ground – despite the odd moment or two when they hold possession and string together a handful of nice passes. At some point, you just have to be what you are. – for better or worse. Also, Krieger was especially poor today. I would wager that the majority of her forward passes found green shirts. They really rely on her to generate width on the right side and she has been absent thus far in the tournament.

    • I don’t know if I’d say it so forcefully, but agree the US side is not clicking as well as some of their competition in the short pasing game.

      I thought Krieger was far from absent in the Sweden game.

    • What I wrote during half time was true for the whole game. Their passing in the final third was really poor. So many times all they needed was a simple touch pass to send an attacking player through and the ensuing pass wasn’t even close; usually over hit. And once they went a player up, their play went down hill with I think 4 turnovers in a row with some really dreadful play. So many times you see a team dominate, fail to put the game away and then lose the win because of a mistake at the end (US vs. Portugal, 2014 WC, US vs. Guatemala in 2011 Olympic qualifying, to name a couple) that I was afraid that was going to happen here. Maybe they should just play defensively and hope for a break and to win games 1-0. It used to work for the Italian men. Their offense just isn’t clicking and they are also hampered by poor decision making.

    • This team is not better with Wambach on the field. No way. Play slows to a complete crawl while long ball after long ball miss their mark. She is just not mobile enough anymore to do what she is being asked to do, but with her on the field the play is focused on hitting her head from a deep cross or a set piece. Look, this team is going to have trouble breaking other teams down, in part because of its own shortcomings and in part because other teams have/are going to play very defensively against the US. Sweden bunkered the entire game and Nigeria basically did too, despite needing a win. Australia, to their credit, exposed the US defense by playing attacking football, but paid the price when Solo made some great saves. The point is, that any team will have trouble scoring goals when the other sides’ tactics are to park the bus. To break the bunker they need to give Rodriguez or someone else a chance to provide better hold-up play.


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