With the semifinal of the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup scoreless midway through the second half, the mostly pro-United States crowd rose into an intense fervor as Alex Morgan dribbled the ball at full speed toward the German goal for the U.S. Women’s National Team. The Cal alumna’s path was obstructed by German defender Annike Krahn, who took down Morgan just outside the penalty box. To the surprise of the commentators and the excitement of the U.S. fans, the referee awarded a penalty kick to the United States.
The USWNT’s Carli Lloyd then stepped forward and placed the ball onto the penalty spot, where she shot the ball toward German goalkeeper Nadine Angerer’s left post and buried it into the net to give Team USA a 1-0 lead in the 69th minute. The United States would hold onto this lead, eventually going on to win, 2-0, and secure a spot in its second consecutive World Cup final.
Despite the official’s highly questionable call, it is hard to argue that it was only a matter of time until the Americans got on the scoreboard, especially after German forward Celia Sasic’s right-footed penalty kick in the 60th minute went wide off its mark. Sasic was unable to capitalize on the penalty kick to give her side the lead after her teammate Alexandra Popp was pulled down in the American box by defender Julie Johnston — a play that drew a yellow card.
Johnston’s defensive lapse, however, is a minor blemish in Team USA’s well-rounded performance that finally saw it look like a side worthy of competing for the World Cup crown. Unlike what spectators may have initially expected, the American defense did not struggle at all to neutralize Germany’s dangerous offensive line. The defense remained as solid and reliable as ever against its dangerous foe, and it helped goalkeeper Hope Solo record her fifth consecutive clean sheet.
Heading into the match, the Germans led the tournament in goals and assists, which made it seem that they would have the offensive edge, but the American offensive line finally lived up to the expectations placed on it. Going into the game, the U.S. offense had yet to tap into its full potential at the World Cup, and it wasn’t really expected for it to outshine the dangerous German offense. The Americans outplayed the Germans, as Team USA maintained possession throughout most of the bout and created numerous goal scoring opportunities up top. It tallied 12 shots, with five on target. Germany managed to get off 15 shots, but most of them didn’t even present a danger to Solo, as there was only one on target.
One of the USWNT’s shots on target includes the game-clinching goal scored by Kelly O’Hara, who came in as a substitute for Tobin Heath, in the 75th minute. O’Hara found the back of the net in the 84th minute off a cross from Lloyd, who made a great run into the heart of the German box. Lloyd’s standout performance was her second great performance in a row, after she was the best player in the U.S. game against China in the quarterfinals. Against Germany, she put up one goal and one assist, and helped the United States end the game without needing to go into dreaded extra time. By not playing an additional 30 minutes, the Americans did not walk away feeling too worn out. This is big for the team, because it will be able to rest more and prepare better for the World Cup final.
With this crucial victory against Die Nationalelf, the United States heads into the World Cup final with some peace of mind, knowing that it earned the opportunity to make the highly sought-after trip to Vancouver.