Apparently the U.S. isn’t ready to go home just yet.
So with their backs to the wall, needing the kind of signature performance they’ve lacked so far in this Women’s World Cup, they stepped up big on Tuesday, beating top-ranked Germany, 2-0, in a semifinal that wasn’t nearly that close.
With the win, the U.S. goes on to Sunday’s final in Vancouver, where it will meet the winner of Wednesday’s other semifinal between Japan and England.
Japan, the only unbeaten, untied team in this World Cup, defeated the U.S. on penalty kicks in the 2011 final.
Meanwhile Germany, which had dominated this tournament before Tuesday, heads off to the consolation game.
And the difference was a Carli Lloyd penalty kick in the 69th minute.
Lloyd went to the spot after Germany’s Annika Krahn pulled Alex Morgan down at the edge of the area. And when German keeper Nadine Angerer dove low and to her right, Lloyd shot high to the other side.
Lloyd has scored goals in three consecutive games, two of them game winners -- the first in the quarterfinal with China and again Tuesday.
Second-half substitute Kelley O’Hara then made it official with an insurance goal in the 85th minute.
Lloyd’s goal, which broke open a scoreless game, came nine minutes after Germany’s Celia Sasic, the tournament’s leading scorer, missed a penalty kick of her own, pushing the ball outside the left goalpost.
That seemed to take the wind out of a mounting German comeback while giving new life to the Americans.
Before being beat on the penalty, Angerer had single-handedly kept Germany in the game. She faced 12 shots -- five on goal -- and repeatedly frustrated Morgan, her club teammate with the Portland Thorns of the National Women’s Soccer League.
The speedy Morgan repeatedly got behind the German defense but put one shot off Angerer’s boot and knocked two others wide of an open net.
But the problems finishing were about the only ones the U.S. had on a night when it was dominant. The Germans had no answer for the Americans’ speed up front and couldn’t back down their back line on the other end.
The Germans came into the game leading the tournament with 20 goals but they never got a good look at U.S. keeper Hope Solo, who need just one save to pitch her fifth consecutive shutout.
She has allowed just one goal here, 27 minutes into the opening game.
United States 2, Germany 0 (6:15 left in second half)
Kelley O’Hara makes it 2-0 and the U.S. is on to the final. All it needs to do now is run out the clock. Assist to Carli Lloyd in the 85th minute.
United States 1, Germany 0 (21:00 left in second half)
Less than 10 minutes after Germany’s Celia Sasic, the tournament’s leading scorer, misses a penalty shot Carli Lloyd coverts her to give the U.S. a 1-0 lead over Germany in the 69th minute.
Keeper Nadine Angerer dove low and to her right and Lloyd, who has scored the last three U.S. goals in this tournament, shot high to the other side.
United States 0, Germany 0 (28:15 left in second half)
Germany’s Celia Sasic misses a penalty kick wide left in the 60th minute. She had U.S. keeper Hope Solo diving the other way but she pushed her shot wide.
Julie Johnston, who has played a tremendous tourmanent for the U.S., sent up the penalty kick when she pulled Alexander Popp down from behind in the box.
After a dominant first half, the U.S. came out fast in the second half too with Carli Lloyd header two minutes after intermission -- off the seventh U.S. corner kick of the game -- landing just outside the right post.
The Germans appear plodding next to the speedy Americans and it shows in their passing, which has been horrible thanks to the U.S.'s ability to clog whatever lanes occasionally open up. And the American defense is not making it easy for Germany to put any crosses into the box.
Germany, it seems, has picked an unfortunate time to play its worst game of the tournament while the Americans have chosen an opportune to play their best.
In some ways this game in reminiscent of last summer’s men’s World Cup final when Argentina had the better chances but Germany hung around long enough to win in overtime.
United States 0, Germany 0 (end of first half)
Germany is not playing like a No. 1 team. It has spent most of the first half on its heels and seems to have little idea how to slow the speedy and relentless U.S. attack, nor how to break down the Americans’ well-organized defense.
No matter how this one ends -- and it’s scoreless at halftime -- this is clearly the signature performance the Americans have beeen looking for here.
German keeper Nadine Angerer, who was called on to make just nine saves in her first five games, faced seven shots in the first 40 minutes -- but three of those were blocked by defenders.
Alex Morgan had two near misses in the first half, putting a left-footed shot off Angerer’s foot in the early going then lifting another over the onrushing keeper in the final minutes.
The U.S. also had five corners and four free kicks in the opening 45 minutes. But no goals, which gives German Coach Silvia Neid a chance to regroup at the intermission.
United States 0, Germany 0 (10:00 left in first half)
Germany appeared surprised by the Americans’ speed and desire in the first half, repeatedly getting beat down the field and losing the battle for several 50-50 balls.
At one point Germany’s Leonie Maier, beat up the left wing by Megan Rapinoe, reached out and grabbed the America around the shoulders to stop her, drawing a yellow card.
After some early trouble, the U.S. regrouped and found its defensive shape as well.
The physical nature of the game was underscored in the 29th minute when Morgan Brian and Germany’s Alexandra Popp cracked heads going for a free kick.
Popp, who charged into the box from Brian’s right, leapt to attempt to head the ball only to hit the side of Brian’s head instead, opening a wound to her forehead and causing blood to run down into her face.
Both players were attended to on the field, then came to the sidelines. But both quickly returned to the game.
United States 0, Germany 0 (25:30 left in first half)
Tuesday’s semifinal between the U.S. and top-ranked Germany did not start well for the Americans, who entered a Women’s World Cup has an underdog for the first time in recent memory.
And though the U.S. has allowed just 13 shots on goal in the tournament, it came within inches of giving up another one in the first three minutes Tuesday when Melanie Leupolz headed Lena Goessling’s corner kick just over the crossbar.
Moments later, Alexandra Popp got her shot a bit lower, forcing U.S. keeper Hope Solo to leap and lift it over the bar.
The U.S. quickly regained the momentum with Julie Johnston and Megan Rapinoe putting shots on goal, forcing German keeper Nadine Angerer to make saves on both.
Angerer’s best work in the early came in the 14th minute, though, after Alex Morgan ran on to a Tobin Heath long ball and got off a low left-footed shot from inside the box. Angerer got just enough of her boot on it to make a kick save.
Angerer, Morgan and are all teammates on the Portland Thorns of the National Women’s Soccer League.
On the other end Solo, who hasn’t had much action here despite recording four shutouts, was active, once roaming far off her line to catch up with a deflected and deny Germany a corner kick.
U.S. Coach Jill Ellis will start her team’s biggest game of the Women’s World Cup with Abby Wambach on the bench and Alex Morgan as the lone forward.
The unbeaten U.S., ranked No. 2 in the world, meets top-ranked Germany at 4 p.m. PDT in a World Cup semifinal matching the only two teams to have won multiple women’s world championships.
The winner will go on to the final Sunday in Vancouver, where it will play the winner of Wednesday’s second semifinal between England and Japan. Tuesday’s loser will go to Edmonton for Saturday’s third-place game.
Ellis also rewarded the splendid performance of Morgan Brian in last week’s quarterfinal final win over China with a start in the midfield, where she will once again playing a holding role. The back line of Becky Sauerbrunn, Julie Johnston, Ali Krieger and Meghan Klingenberg remains unchanged -- and with reason since it has allowed just 13 shots on goal in five games.
Carli Lloyd, who scored the last two U.S. goals -- including the game-winner against China -- will wear the captain’s armband in a midfield where she’ll be flanked by Tobin Heath, Megan Rapinoe and Lauren Holiday.
Hope Solo starts in goal.
Follow Kevin Baxter on Twitter @kbaxter11