U. S. swears out its welcome to semi­fi­nals

Wam­bach’s off- color pep talk, and Lloyd’s goal, pro­vide needed lift

Los Angeles Times - - SPORTS - By Kevin Bax­ter

OT­TAWA — Abby Wam­bach played just four min­utes Fri­day. She didn’t score a goal. She didn’t even take a shot.

Yet she may have been as re­spon­si­ble as any mem­ber of the U. S. team for the Amer­i­cans’ 1- 0 vic­tory over China in a quar­ter­fi­nal of the Women’s World Cup at sold- out TD Place.

Com­ing back onto the field af­ter a score­less f irst half dur­ing which the U. S. wasted op­por­tu­nity af­ter op­por­tu­nity, Wam­bach gath­ered the play­ers in front of their bench and gave them . . . well, let’s call it an in­spi­ra­tional talk.

“First 10 min­utes,” she said, punc­tu­at­ing her pre­dic­tion with pro­fan­ity, “we get a . . . goal!”

Six min­utes later, Carli Lloyd put a header into the back of the net, send­ing the U. S. on to the semi­fi­nals, where it will meet top- ranked Ger­many. The Ger­mans beat France on penalty kicks.

“I love her half­time talks be­cause she al­ways strikes the right mood,” de­fender Meghan Klin­gen­berg said of Wam­bach. “She can kind of read how the team’s feel­ing and go with that.

“This one was more about ‘ Keep do­ing what you’re do­ing.’ ”

That’s one way to de­scribe it. Wam­bach chose another term.

“I’m very pas­sion­ate,” she said. “Some of my team­mates had to move away from me dur­ing the game be­cause I’m kind of ob­nox­ious on the bench.

“I’m scream­ing and yelling for my team­mates.”

Then at half­time she screamed and yelled at them. And they re­sponded. The sec­ond half, Wam­bach said, was “one of the best 45 min­utes that we’ve played.”.

And it was an im­por­tant 45 min­utes for a team that, although un­beaten f ive games into the World

Cup, has yet to put its sig­na­ture on the tour­na­ment.

Fri­day it may have at least printed its name. And that’s a start.

“We talked about try­ing to grow in this tour­na­ment. And to­day was a big, big step for that in terms of just the energy and the con­fi­dence that we had,” Coach Jill El­lis said. “It’s a re­ally good step head­ing into the semi­fi­nals.”

But if Wam­bach did the talk­ing and El­lis did the strate­giz­ing, Lloyd and cen­ter backs Becky Sauer­brunn and Julie John­ston did the heavy lift­ing.

Lloyd, mak­ing her 200th in­ter­na­tional ap­pear­ance, ran the of­fense from the mid­field, then jumped over Chi­nese de­fender Rong Zhao to head in the de­cid­ing goal off a long John­ston pass from just in­side the mid­field stripe.

It was another clutch goal from a player who has built her ca­reer around them, scor­ing the game- win­ners in the last two Olympic fi­nals.

“These are the mo­ments that I live for,” Lloyd said. “It’s just one of those things where you pre­pare for it men­tally, phys­i­cally.”

Lloyd said the ad­di­tion of Mor­gan Brian as a hold­ing midfielder gave her the abil­ity to join the at­tack.

“I wasn’t my­self in the be­gin­ning of the games,” she said. “And now, hav­ing the free­dom to kind of at­tack and do what I do best en­abled me to cre­ate some chances.”

Sauer­brunn and John­ston, mean­while, shut down the Chi­nese at­tack be­fore it could get or­ga­nized, ex­tend­ing the score­less streak of U. S. op­po­nents to 423 min­utes and help­ing goal­keeper Hope Solo to her 88th ca­reer shutout and 134th win, both U. S. records.

Solo faced just two shots on goal in record­ing her ninth World Cup shutout, one be­hind Brianna Scurry’s team record.

Now it’s on to the semi­fi­nals for the sev­enth time in seven World Cups, some­thing no other coun­try has done.

“Ev­ery stage of this tour­na­ment, it’s a new tour­na­ment,” Wam­bach said. “So the group stage is over. Then the round- of- 16 stage is over. The quar­ter­fi­nals are over.

“This is a new tour­na­ment. And in or­der to get to the fi­nal, we’re go­ing to have to play al­most im­pec­ca­ble soc­cer.”

Chris Roussakis Euro­pean Pressphoto Agency

RIS­ING TO THE OC­CA­SION, and above China’s Rong Zhao ( 14), Carli Lloyd ( 10) heads in the game’s only goal in the 51st minute.

Pho­tog r aphs by Chris Roussakis Euro­pean Pressphoto Agency

CHINA’S DE­FENSE al­lowed, and turned away, nu­mer­ous U. S. chances, deny­ing Julie John­ston on this play.

MIDFIELDER Mor­gan Brian ( 14) was among the f irst to con­grat­u­late Carli Lloyd af­ter her goal.

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