With two out, U. S. must rely on depth

Los Angeles Times - - SPORTS - By Kevin Bax­ter kevin. bax­ter@ latimes. com Twit­ter: @ kbax­ter11

OT­TAWA — U. S. Coach Jill El­lis loves to boast about her team’s depth. And in Fri­day’s Women’s World Cup quar­ter­fi­nal with China, that depth prob­a­bly will de­ter­mine whether the Amer­i­cans go on in the tour­na­ment or go home.

U. S. mid­field­ers Me­gan Rapi­noe and Lau­ren Hol­i­day will miss the match af­ter each was handed a sec­ond yel­low card in Mon­day’s 2- 0 win over Colom­bia. That will force the U. S. to call on its deep bench to re­place them and could lead El­lis to ditch the 4- 4- 2 for­ma­tion she’s been wed­ded to, go­ing with three mid­field­ers and three for­wards in­stead.

Hol­i­day has played ev­ery minute of the World Cup in cen­tral mid­field, though she hasn’t been the of­fen­sive force the U. S. had ex­pected. The most likely stand- in for her is Mor­gan Brian, who has started once and come off the bench twice in this tour­na­ment.

Re­plac­ing Rapi­noe, the cre­ative heart of the U. S. at­tack, will be more dif­fi­cult. The U. S. has five goals from open play in the World Cup and Rapi­noe scored two of them while as­sist­ing on another.

El­lis prob­a­bly will fill her spot with Chris­ten Press, who is more com­fort­able up front and could be tempted to push for­ward as a third at­tacker, leav­ing the U. S., in ef­fect, with a 4- 3- 3 for­ma­tion.

“We’ve got some de­ci­sions to make,” El­lis said. “But we’ve in­vested in play­ers sig­nif­i­cantly over the past six months. So I feel very con­fi­dent in the play­ers that we have to be able to come on and con­trib­ute.”

But that’s not the end of the lineup ques­tions fac­ing El­lis. The U. S. has a quick three- day turn­around be­tween games, and that may not be enough re­cov­ery time for Abby Wam­bach, who played 69 min­utes on the pun­ish­ing ar­ti­fi­cial turf Mon­day. El­lis could start ei­ther Syd­ney Ler­oux or Amy Ro­driguez in her place, sav­ing Wam­bach to be a lategame sub­sti­tute. Trump cards

Wam­bach and Rapi­noe were both crit­i­cal of French ref­eree Stephanie Frap­part over her de­ci­sion to is­sue the two first- half cau­tions Mon­day.

“I don’t know if they were yel­lows,” Wam­bach said. “It seemed like she was pur­pose­fully giv­ing those yel­lows to play­ers that she knew were sit­ting on yel­lows. Who knows?”

Rapi­noe said she thought her yel­low, is­sued in the 41st minute, was for “an ac­cu­mu­la­tion of calls” — all of which she con­sid­ered ques­tion- able.

But while Frap­part was giv­ing the U. S. two yel­lows, she also gave them two penalty kicks — the first when Colom­bian keeper Catalina Perez tripped Alex Mor­gan two min­utes into the sec­ond half, deny­ing a goal- scor­ing op­por­tu­nity and the other when de­fender An­gela Clav­ijo knocked Rapi­noe to the turf in­side the penalty area.

Wam­bach, the most pro­lif ic goal- scorer in in­ter­na­tional soc­cer history, took the first penalty but missed the goal com­pletely.

“I just shanked it,” Wam­bach said. “I hit it well, just off the mark, and that’s some­thing that’s on me.” Goal ori­ented

Mor­gan is ap­par­ently fit af­ter sit­ting out more than two months be­cause of a knee in­jury. She made her sec­ond con­sec­u­tive start Mon­day and played the full 90 min­utes, scor­ing her f irst goal of the tour­na­ment and pos­si­bly los­ing two oth­ers to Perez, the first on a splen­did save in the first half and the other on the sec­ond- half tackle that got Perez sent off.

“I don’t re­mem­ber the last goal I’ve had with this team. And that’s not a good sign,” said Mor­gan, who scored against Switzer­land in the Algarve Cup in March.

Kevin C. Cox Getty I mages

ME­GAN RAPI­NOE of the U. S. was handed her sec­ond yel­low card in game against Colom­bia; she and team­mate Lau­ren Hol­i­day will miss match with China.

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