Soccer

Colombia's Catalina Perez realizes dream of playing against USWNT

Growing up in Florida, Catalina Perez said she often daydreamed about playing against the U.S. national team.

Monday she finally got her chance, starting in goal for Colombia in a World Cup elimination game. So did she do better in the dream or in the game?

"I think in the game," she said with a laugh. "Other than the red card. That was never in the dream."

In fact the red card, which came two minutes into the second half, turned Perez's dream into a nightmare.

After making three brilliant saves in a scoreless first half, Perez was penalized for tripping Alex Morgan, denying the U.S. player a goal-scoring opportunity. The call not only forced Colombia to go with just 10 players, but Perez's replacement, Stefany Castano, gave up goals on the first two shots she faced.

Still Colombia, which had never won a game in World Cup or Olympic competition before beating third-ranked France in group play here, isn't going home a loser.

"We showed a lot of character and a lot of passion," said Perez, who plays for the University of Miami. "We're leaving here with more respect than we came in [with].

"We wanted to do more. But our goal coming here was to make history and we've already started to do that."

Serving the penalty

Abby Wambach, the leading scorer in the history of international soccer with 183 goals, badly shanked the penalty kick that resulted from Perez's foul, pushing it several feet to the left of the net. So when the U.S. was awarded another penalty 19 minutes later, midfielder Carli Lloyd took the shot — and buried it.

"That call came from the bench," U.S. Coach Jill Ellis said.

"That's my punishment," Wambach said. "I don't get to [take penalties]."

Missing pieces

The U.S. will be without two key midfielders for Friday's quarterfinal with China after Lauren Holiday and Meg Rapinoe drew their second yellow cards of the tournament in the first half, earning a one-game suspension.

Ellis said Morgan Brian, who started earlier in the tournament, will likely replace Holiday. Ellis didn't name a substitute for Rapinoe, the Americans' most creative midfielder, but that job will likely go to Christen Press.

"No matter who they put on, I know they're going to step up," Wambach said. "Whoever it is has to. We're in the quarterfinals. This is the World Cup.

"And China's not a team to take lightly."

A return on investment

The U.S. won more than just a game Monday. By advancing to the quarterfinals, the Americans earned a minimum of $725,000 in prize money.

That may not sound like much — it's about $135,000 less than Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw earns per start — but it's more than the U.S. got for finishing third in 2003. There was no prize money in the Women's World Cup then.

And there are bigger paydays ahead. If the U.S. beats China to reach the semifinals, it will earn an additional $75,000. Winning the title next month in Vancouver is worth $2 million.

Colombia will go home with $500,000 for reaching the round of 16.

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