Defender Becky Sauerbrunn summed up the United States’ defensive excellence simply.
“As long as you keep a clean sheet, you’re always in it,” she said.
The U.S. stretched its scoreless streak at the Women’s World Cup to 288 minutes Monday night with its third straight shutout, eliminating upstart Colombia 2-0 at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton.
Forward Alex Morgan and midfielder Carli Lloyd scored second-half goals as the U.S. moved into a quarterfinal with China in Ottawa on Friday night, although the Americans won’t be at full strength for that match.
Midfielders Lauren Holiday and Megan Rapinoe each drew yellow cards in the first half Monday, their second apiece of the tournament. They earned the duo automatic one-game suspensions, forcing coach Jill Ellis to change nearly 20 percent of the lineup.
“We have decisions to make,” Ellis said. “But we’ve invested in players significantly over the last six months. We have players with tremendous technical skills, so I feel good about the players we have.”
Another card of a different color turned the match toward the U.S. for good. In the 49th minute, Morgan’s run down the left side left her one-on-one with goalie Catalina Perez, playing her first match of the event.
At the edge of the 18-yard box, Perez tripped Morgan and was sent
off with a red card by French referee Stephanie Frappart. While forward Abby Wambach fanned the penalty kick wide left, the U.S. still had a one-woman advantage for the game’s remainder.
It took Morgan four minutes to convert, as she finished a run down the right side with a shot that struck the outstretched left hand of backup goalie Stefany Castano and caromed just under the crossbar for her first goal of the tournament.
“I’m really happy I got that goal,” Morgan said. “I think we had to be patient. We were rushing things in the first half.”
Rapinoe set up the second goal in the 66th minute, beating defender Angela Clavijo in the 18-yard box and getting tripped from behind for the half’s second penalty kick. Lloyd buried that one for her 64th international goal.
Although the shorthanded Colombians put together some decent sequences over the last 29 minutes, they never really threatened goalie Hope Solo. She was required to make just two saves, neither a tough one.
“It was good form from us,” Ellis said. “I thought we were persistent. I was really happy with the win. I’ll take 2-0 any day.”
After shocking France and nearly beating England in group play, Colombia came into this match very confident. Several players predicted a win and also criticized the U.S. for not according them respect.
But Colombia’s animosity really didn’t manifest itself into a chippy match during the first half. While the U.S. crafted slight advantages in possession and shots and missed on a goal in the fourth minute when Wambach was called offsides as she buried the rebound of a shot by midfielder Tobin Heath, Colombia carried the play to the U.S. over the last five minutes.
The opening minutes of the second half suggested more of the same, until Perez tripped Morgan and presented the U.S. with a match-changing advantage.
“The penalty changed the whole game,” Wambach said. “It gave us the advantage we kind of needed. I missed the penalty (kick), but it didn’t matter. Goals don’t come easy and you’ve got to take them where you can get them.”