Alex Morgan back on her game as US takes down Colombia

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The U.S. supporters jumped for joy and passionately displayed their nation’s colors when American midfielder Carli Lloyd managed to score off a crucial penalty kick in the 66th minute. She gave the United States a 2-0 lead and secured its victory against Colombia. More importantly, she rose to the occasion and succeeded after forward Abby Wambach’s penalty kick, in the 50th minute, went wide off its mark.

Normally, the prolific goal-scoring Wambach is the U.S. Women’s National Team’s forward capable of giving her team the lead or securing a victory, but she was unable to get the United States on the scoreboard against the Colombians in her team’s round of 16 fixture at the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup. Wambach appeared to have given the Americans an early lead in the fourth minute when she capitalized on Colombian goalkeeper Catalina Perez’s failure to clear American midfielder Tobin Heath’s shot. The forward’s goal, however, was annulled because the linesman correctly ruled Wambach offside, much to her dismay.

Nonetheless, the Americans walked away victorious and progressed to the quarterfinals. The Cafeteras, however, put up a tough fight in the first half, which the Americans did not seem to see coming. The Colombians used their quick pace, technical ability and forward Lady Andrade’s fancy footwork to outshine the Americans in a couple of plays. Unfortunately for Colombia, Perez’s ejection in the 47th minute largely extinguished the Colombians’ offensive game. This left the team with only 10 players and left Andrade, who was unable to break through in spite of her quick feet and strong technical ability, sorely missing help up top.

Perez’s replacement in between the goal posts, goalkeeper Stefany Castano, was unable to prevent American forward Alex Morgan’s shot to her near post from giving the United States a 1-0 lead in the 53rd minute. Morgan, a Cal alumna, played the full 90 minutes for the first time at the 2015 World Cup and scored her first goal of the tournament. Her performance indicates that her presence on the field will likely continue to help provide some much-needed creativity in the attacking third of the field.

The truth is that the offensive line — which includes Morgan, Wambach, Sydney Leroux and Christen Press — is yet to put on a convincing performance. This will likely be made all the more difficult for the USWNT’s quarterfinal match, when the team must play without midfield wizard Megan Rapinoe. She picked up a yellow card in the 41st minute, her second in the tournament, which means she will be held out of her side’s quarterfinal fixture.

On the other hand, Team USA’s defense has continued to make progress and has proven to be cohesive and reliable. The defense helped goalkeeper Hope Solo pick up her third straight shutout at the 2015 World Cup. Defenders Meghan Klingenberg and Julie Johnston started once again and displayed a solid performance. But their efforts may prove futile against tougher opposition, such as France and Germany, if the American strikers continue to struggle to finish their chances up top.

The 2-0 victory against Colombia is enough for the Americans to advance to the quarterfinals, but next time, there may not be a penalty kick awarded in Team USA’s favor to help secure the match. There almost certainly won’t be a second penalty kick awarded after the team has already missed its first. The USWNT needs to take advantage of any goal-scoring opportunities that come its way in order to make the most of its strong defensive line. If the offense manages to do this, the USWNT will look more deserving of a fourth World Cup final appearance.

Manny Flores is the assistant sports editor. Contact him at [email protected].