It all comes down to Tuesday’s match vs. Nigeria (8 pm on FOX) for the U.S. women’s national team (1-0-1) at the 2015 World Cup in Canada. While they haven’t officially reached the knockout stage yet heading into their third and final group stage game, it would take a blowout loss (very unlikely) at Vancouver’s BC Place to keep them out of the Round-of-16.
After Friday’s frustrating scoreless draw with Sweden, it is clear that the United States have plenty of things to work on if they hope to secure their first World Cup title since 1999 (they still have the second best odds to win behind Germany). It has been a bit of a role reversal so far with their defense carrying the team while their offense has been lacking, particularly against Sweden.
A record television audience tuned in for the U.S.-Sweden match and even though it didn’t deliver much in terms of excitement, American head coach Jill Ellis seemed generally pleased with the proceedings for her squad.
“It was like two heavyweights going at it," the coach said. "I thought that both teams left it all on the field. In the second half, we were better: we had more possession and we’ll take positive things away from this. We’re still in the driver’s seat (in Group D): we can still finish in first-place.”
After tying Sweden 3-3 in its opening match, then getting blanked 2-0 by Australia on Friday, Nigeria has no choice but to go for broke on Tuesday since they need a win (and plenty of help) to advance. Theoretically that should play into the United States’ counterattacking hands and maybe this will get their sputtering goal-scoring untracked.
Abby Wambach surprisingly didn’t start for the first time in years vs. Sweden but she still had the best scoring chance for the U.S.: a diving header that forced a tough stop by the Swedish goalkeeper. Once again, Alex Morgan was used as a late substitute.
American defender Meghan Klingenberg had the play of the game vs. Sweden: she is only 5-foot-2 but she managed to head out a Swedish shot that was headed for the top corner of the goal following a dangerous corner kick. Goalkeeper Hope Solo notched the shutout against Sweden which should help her confidence.
The United States’ goal-differential is +2 while Australia (which has 3 points) and Sweden (which has 2 points) are both zero. Tuesday is the right time for the U.S. to put it all together with their best effort of the tournament thus far; we know that they are capable of better showings than they’ve had so far in Canada.