The U.S. wanted Germany and now the Americans will get their wish.
Dominating China everywhere but on the scoreboard, the U.S. rode Carli Lloyd’s goal in the second half to a 1-0 victory Friday in a Women’s World Cup quarterfinal played before a sellout crowd of 24,141 at T.D. Place. And that will send the U.S. 100 miles down the highway to meet the top-ranked Germans on Tuesday in the tournament semifinals.
The second-ranked U.S. is the only country to reach the semifinals in all seven Women’s World Cups.
The Germans beat France on penalty kicks earlier Friday to win its quarterfinal.
The U.S., unbeaten in five games here, outshot China, 17-7, and put more shots on goal, 5-2. But the only difference on the scoreboard was Lloyd’s goal six minutes into the second half.
It came on a header that was set up by a Julie Johnston pass from just inside the midfield stripe. And it was another clutch goal from a player who has a history of clutch plays, having provided the winning score in the last two Olympic finals.
In this World Cup, Lloyd has the last two U.S. goals in the knockout round.
The Americans were playing without two key players in midfielders Megan Rapinoe and Lauren Holiday, who were ineligible for the game after receiving their second yellow cards of the tournament in their second-round win over Colombia.
And they tried to make up for those absences by pushing hard from the opening whistle, outshooting the Chinese, 11-4, in a one-sided first half. However that produced little of note with Johnston having one shot blocked by a defender and another go over the net.
Amy Rodriguez, Alex Morgan and Kelley O’Hara also had good chances they were unable to convert in the opening half in what was another unconvincing effort by a U.S. team that has yet to put its stamp on this tournament
The U.S. had a decided height advantage over the Chinese, whose tallest player is just 5-foot-9. And they exploited that advantage on Lloyd’s goal, with the U.S. captain outjumping China’s Rong Zhao, who is just 5-6.
The goal was Lloyd’s fourth career score in World Cup play and after that the U.S. backed off a bit and relied on its defense, which hasn’t allowed a goal since the opening half of its first group-play game.
Morgan Brian nearly added an insurance goal in the 73rd minute but her long strike hit the goalpost and bounced away.
Now comes unbeaten Germany, which has scored a tournament-high 20 goals.
The goal from Carli Lloyd will certainly change China’s gameplan since it can no longer sit back and hope to go to penalty kicks. Now, with the game heading into the final 25 minutes of regular time and the U.S. protecting a 1-0 lead, China needs a goal just to force overtime.
But scoring has been been a challenge for China, whose four goals in five games is the second-fewest of the eight quarterfinalists.
The U.S. scoreless streak on defense, meanwhile, passed 400 consecutive minutes early in the second half. The U.S. hasn’t conceded a goal since the opening half of its opening group-play game.
After a quiet group stage in which she had just an assist, Lloyd has scored the last two U.S. goals in the knockout round and matches Megan Rapinoe with a team-high two scores in the tournament.
Midfielder Carli Lloyd scores on a header after a long pass from defender Julie Johnston. It’s the second goal in as many games from the American’s most clutch player.
U.S. is ahead, 1-0, in the 51st minute.
If this Women’s World Cup quarterfinal game was a boxing match, the U.S. would be way ahead on points and China would be looking for a knockout.
But this game tonight in Ottawa is decidely not that so both teams went into the locker room at halftime even on the scoreboard even though the play on the field was one-sided.
One-sided in favor of the U.S., which outshot China, 10-4, and put four of those shots on frame. China did not force U.S. keeper Hope Solo to make a save.
The best U.S. chance in the final 15 minutes of the first half was a free kick from Carli Lloyd that Chinese keeper Fei Wang pushed away with both hands. Wang appeared momentarily shaken up after the play but she stayed in the game.
Midfielder Jiahui Lou wasn’t as fortuante, coming out shortly after colliding with U.S. defender Julie Johnston. She was replaced by Shuang Wang in the 35th minute.
The Americans’ defensive line is playing a bit higher in this Women’s World Cup quarterfinal game against China, apparently answering one of the criticisms some players had raised earlier. But part of the reason for that may have been China’s complete lack of interest in trying to mount an attack.
Either way, it almost paid off for the U.S. in the 26th minute when Chinese keeper Fie Wang came off her line and tried to punch away a cross, only to miss the ball completely. U.S. defender Julie Johnston latched on to the loose ball, but her shot on frame was cleared away by defender Dongna Li.
Four minutes later it was Johnston again, completely unmarked in the center of the area, heading a Tobin Heath corner onto the top netting.
For most of the first half that’s how it went, the U.S. pushing forward, getting good chances -- eight shots, three on goal in the first 31 minutes -- and the Chinese scrambling to keep the ball out of their goal.
Twenty minutes into their Women’s World Cup quarterfinal, China and the U.S. are scoreless at TD Place in Ottawa.
The U.S. came out aggressively with Amy Rodriguez chipping a shot wide of the goal in the second minute. Two minutes later the U.S. rushed two players into the penalty area but the Americans were whistled for offside.
In the fifth minute it was Alex Morgan sending a left-footed shot knuckling into the waiting arms of Chinese keeper Fei Wang, and three minutes after that Kelley O’Hara sent a soft shot just over the crossbar, where it nestled on top of the netting.
But while the U.S. was pushing forward, the defensive-minded Chinese were holding back, keeping as many as 10 players behind the ball at times.
China, which had an extra two days of rest following its second-round win over Cameroon, used that to its benefit, starting the same lineup for the third consecutive game.
Just before the U.S. team’s final training session in preparation for a Women’s World Cup quarterfinal with China on Friday, Coach Jill Ellis dismissed the idea that lineups and formations are all that critical.
“A lineup is just an alignment of players,” she said.
So what to read into Ellis’ decision to have her offensively challenged team start with five defenders against China?
Well, nothing really since Kelley O’Hara is listed as a defender on the start list but as a midfielder in the tactical lineup.
With her team weakened by the one-game suspensions of Megan Rapinoe and Lauren Holiday, Ellis will use O’Hara on a wing, starting starting Carli Lloyd and Morgan Brian in the central midfield and Tobin Heath on the other flank in something of a standard 4-4-2. Alex Morgan and Amy Rodriguez will start at forward.
The backline in front of keeper Hope Solo, who has not allowed a goal in 333 consecutive minutes, remains unchanged. The young backline of Julie Johnston, Meghan Klingenberg, Ali Krieger and Becky Sauerbrunn has conceded just one goal in four World Cup games.
Ellis had hinted strongly she might start the aging Abby Wambach to take advantage of the Americans’ height advantage over China. But Wambach has played 159 minutes on the unforgiving artificial turf in the last 10 days.
The U.S. has scored only six goals in four games here -- just two in the last three games.
China, meanwhile, will start midfielder Han Peng, who needed six stitches to close a wound in her head following China’s second-round win over Cameroon.
Peng bumped heads with a Cameroon player late in game and, after having the wound wrapped in a bandage, was forced to return to the field during injury time because China had already used its three substitutions.