You want that ball? You're gonna have to win it. CREDIT: Russ Isabella/US PRESSWIRE
We knew this day was coming, and now...here we are. It's the United States. 3rd in the world rankings, and the defending Olympic gold medalists, and still brimming with talent.
Canada hasn't exactly had the best of times against the USA, having not beaten them since 2001. The last friendly before the Olympics was a close-fought affair in Salt Lake City, with the Yanks coming away with the 2-1 victory. Pre-tournament predictions all have them pegged for a gold medal showdown with Japan, and now Canada has a chance to upset that apple cart. Granted, it is a tough task given the star-studded lineup, but there is one thing that Canada could do: overpower the Americans. It may not be the prettiest way to it, but it's worked for other teams before. But let's look at the American arsenal first, shall we?
The US's last line of defense is their goalkeeper and Dancing with the Stars competitor Hope Solo. One of the top goalkeepers in the world, and to most of the media she's completely and utterly perfect. However, she seems to be of the impatient type: a few days ago, she fought a Twitter feud with legendary American player Brandi Chastain, which seems to suggest a short fuse. (Trust me, I know short fuses...) She did also of course fail a drug test, but the USADA (not world, US!) accepted her explanation that it was an innocent mix-up and from a prescription drug given to her for Menstrual cramps, and so here she is.
In the midfield, Shannon Boxx is out with an injury so Lauren Cheney has taken her place alongside Carli Lloyd as the tandem that will try to overpower Canada by controlling the midfield and dominating possession. They were the keys to holding New Zealand during their quarterfinal, and will likely be doing the same again. However, the North Koreans were able to overcome Cheney and Lloyd for some sustained periods, which again frustrated the American advances.
Up front, the Americans have weapons. Megan Rapinoe, Abby Wambach, Alex Morgan...the list goes on and on. Despite the pedigree, the forwards haven't been all that effective save for the four-goal comeback effort against the French in their opening match (it could be said that's the only time they've really had to try). It's no question they will find a way to get through, but this tournament has shown so far that they can be overcome: a solid effort in the midfield, will likely starve them of the attention they need. However, one must be aware of their ability to win the ball themselves, and take it to goal; something that New Zealand saw with Wambach to open the scoring.
Off the bench, we've got one humdinger of a bloodboiler: and her name is Sydney LeRoux. Born in British Columbia but choosing to play for the US; she came off the bench during the win against New Zealand, and scored a goal late to clinch a date with her old country. Pia Sundhage's bench is long, and she''ll have tricks up her sleeve. Canada again must be aware of the threats that are lying in wait as well.
As a whole, the US is a very very good team: they're solid when they need to be, but they can be frustrated as a collective unit. Japan led the way last year, and now teams are starting to see some of those weaknesses in the behemoth: and as the old saying goes: the bigger they are, the harder they'll fall. Play a physical game, come out firing, and knock the Americans off theirs. If Canada can do that, then chances will come.
In the four games that the Americans have played so far, they have conceded two goals, and scored 10 of their own. However, looking at some of the game summaries, it can be noted that most of their goals usually came in the second half; most of their opposition have been able to stonewall them for at least half a match before the dams finally break. To win, Canada must make sure they stretch that stonewall throughout the entire 90, and to outplay the US at their own game: dominance.
The fields of Manchester could provide a surprise to the world; but for it to be the Canadians providing that surprise (and guarantee themselves some hardware) -- they will need to play the game of their lives: one where pure ownage must ooze from every pore: the Americans will come out with nothing less.