United States Women’s National Team (USWNT) captain Carli Lloyd secured the national team passage to the semifinal round with the 1-0 victory over Mexico on Saturday at Toyota Stadium. The 2015 FIFA Women’s Player of the Year winner stepped up to deliver the Yanks the three points in the 80th minute.
However, there was controversy involved with the play leading up to the game winning goal. U.S. forward Alex Morgan appeared to control the ball with her chest in the middle of the penalty box. The defender behind her or in front of her did not make contact with the 26-year-old striker. Neither of the Mexicans players handled the ball as well, but the referee Melissa Borjas went ahead and awarded the USWNT a penalty.
El Tri was astonished and outraged with the call from the ref. However, the call stood and Lloyd stepped up to take the penalty. She blasted the ball towards the bottom left hand corner of the net. Before Lloyd’s shot entered the goal Mexican goalkeeper Cecilia Santiago dove quickly to the ground and made the save.
However, Santiago failed to hold on to the shot. The ball began to bounce to the right hand side of the box. Lloyd followed the loose ball and then hammered in the eventual game winner for the United States.
Regardless that the USWNT had to win the match from a controversial penalty call, the Yanks were always in control. The Mexicans from the start decided to bunker in and counter when practical. However, El Tri only was able to muster up one shot against the tough U.S. defense on Saturday.
Also the four midfielders for the Americans dominated the tempo of the match. Lloyd, Tobin Heath, Lindsey Horan and Morgan Brian did not allow El Tri to build up any rhythm in the game. They did not accomplish this goal by just play hard defense but also through moving the ball rapidly and accurately around the pitch.
The United States finished with an 88 percent completion of their passes. The Yanks only had 52 of their 428 attempted passes in the game not find their targets. The Stars and Stripes moved the ball around freely, in result of that they created 13 shots.
However, the stingy and physical Mexican defense forced the Yanks into taking long range shots. Six of their 13 shots were off target and one of them banged of the post.
That one shot came from Horan in the 75th minute. She received the ball 25-yards out from the goal. The 21-year-old midfielder took a couple of strides with the ball towards the box. She then fired a low shot heading to the bottom left hand corner of the net.
Horan shot had beaten the outstretched arms of Santiago. However, instead of the ball rolling into the net, the shot smacked the post and the Mexican defense recovered quickly to clear it out. Horan stood there and put her hands on the top of her head and was stunned that the game was still scoreless.
However, five minutes late a poor decision from the referee and the cool and calm reaction from Lloyd crushed the Mexican spirit.
With this result the United States are now just one point away from locking up group A and possibly avoiding Canada in the crucial semifinal match. The USWNT will close out the group stage on Monday against last place Puerto Rico at Toyota Stadium.