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Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Your 2015 World Cup Update: The U.S. Women Top Group D With 1-0 Victory Over Nigeria

Well the good news is that the U.S. women's national team advanced out of Group D (by far the toughest Group) unbeaten (2-0-1) with a 1-0 win vs. Nigeria this evening at Vancouver's BC Place. At the moment, all that we know about their round-of-16 match at the 2015 World Cup is that it will take place on Monday night (8, Fox Sports 1) at Edmonton's Commonwealth Stadium. The opponent will be the best third-place finisher from either Group B, E or F-to be determined by tomorrow's results on the final day of group play.

As you can tell by the modest final score, once again the United States struggled to find the back of the net-an issue which has really plagued them in the last two matches. Their lone goal was an important one in many ways: Abby Wambach leaped up to volley Megan Rapinoe's corner kick with her left foot in the 45th minute. The beautiful tally was huge at the time since the U.S. had dominated possession and scoring chances in the first half with nothing to show for it until then. On a personal level, Wambach needed that (her 14th World Cup goal; tied for 2nd all-time) badly since she had looked terrible so far at this tournament and her confidence had to be wavering at least a little bit.

While the offense still worries us, the U.S.' defense seems to get better with each match (granted Nigeria is a step down from Australia-who finished second-and Sweden who placed third). Goalkeeper Hope Solo picked up her second straight shutout and this one required no heavy lifting at all (2 saves that I can't even remember). The United States has scored just four goals so far and only allowed one. Nobody and I mean nobody could have predicted that the breakout stars for the U.S. up to this point have been defenders Meghan Klingenberg and Julie Johnston. Haha who? The latter had the other play of the game for the Americans besides Wambach's goal: she was beaten by a perfect through ball but recovered in time to block the shot out of bounds for a harmless corner kick.

I get that Nigeria had to go for the win but they were pretty reckless: earning five yellow cards in the match including two for defender Sarah Nnodim who was subsequently ejected in the 69th minute. Even though the U.S. was only up by a goal, when that happened you knew that Nigeria was done for good. Alex Morgan and Wambach both started at forward for the U.S. for the first time at this World Cup along with midfielder Tobin Heath. Morgan had two great chances that were stopped by Nigeria's goalkeeper Precious Dede (name of the year?) but it was nice to see her play for 66 minutes after token appearances off the bench in the first two games. Heath didn't do a whole lot but you could say the same thing about Carli Lloyd who has been invisible while Lauren Holiday was very solid vs. Nigeria.

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