A Carli Lloyd header in the 51st minute was enough to lead the United States to a 1-0 win over China and a semifinal meeting with Germany.
The United States, missing Megan Rapinoe and Lauren Holiday due to yellow card suspension, made three lineup changes: Amy Rodriguez replaced Abby Wambach, and Morgan Brian played as a defensive midfielder behind Lloyd with Kelley O’Hara earning her first minutes of the tournament as a wide midfielder.
These players helped to instigate a more possession-based style with passing combinations in contrast to the direct tactics employed in the Americans’ unconvincing 2-0 win over Colombia in the Round of 16.
Making her 11th start of the calendar year, defender Julie Johnston sent a ball into the box in the 51st minute. Lloyd beat her defender in the air and headed the ball down past Chinese goalkeeper Wang Fei.
The quick start came after a quiet first half, where the U.S. women looked better in the attack but also posted a tournament-high 136 touches in the attacking third. While the attack was still missing the final touch, O’Hara provided more energy on the wing and Lloyd was able to get into the attack far more the previous matches. The best chance for the Americans in the first half came when Fei came out to clear the ball but missed in the 25th minute. Johnston took the shot with no keeper in the net but it was blocked by two Chinese defenders near the goal line.
The United States had a good mix of short and long passes in the midfield, in sharp contrast to the way the team has typically bypassed the notion of a midfield. The connection between O’Hara and right back Ali Krieger was strong and most of the Americans’ chances came from the right flank.
Despite the passing in the midfield, the United States was unable to consistently penetrate the more dangerous areas of the field. The United States seldom connected more than two passes in the attacking third without having to send the ball back, unable to get through an organized Chinese defense.
The Chinese kept most of their numbers behind the ball and did a good job at limiting the United States to shots unlikely to produce a goal. Most of the United States’ shots came from outside the box and the keeper was not forced to make many difficult saves.
In the 36th minute, Lloyd attempted to convert a free kick from around 25 yards out, but Fei made a quick save to keep the score tied at zero going into the second half.
As the first half wore on the game got increasingly chippier and the United States had trouble finding and keeping a rhythm.
Following a pep talk from Wambach to score a goal in the first 10 minutes of the second half, an increase in urgency and in tempo helped the United States find the back of the net early in the second half.
China continued to have spells of dangerous possesion, but the team played too defensively to employ the quick counter attacks that can make the Steel Roses pose a threat to an opponent dominating in possesion. The Steel Roses’ shots didn’t pose a danger to the United States and typically went straight at keeper Hope Solo. In the 11 games that Krieger, Johnston, Becky Sauerbrunn, and Meghan Klingenberg have started, the backline has conceded an average of 0.18 goals per match. The backline has gone 423 minutes this World Cup without conceding a goal.
The United States will take on Germany in the semifinals on Tuesday at Olympic Stadium in Montreal. The last meeting between the two teams was a 3-3 tie in April 2013. Abby Wambach, Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe each tallied a goal in the draw.
China PR vs United States
June 26, 2015- Lansdowne Stadium, Ottawa
Scoring by Period 1 2 F
China PR 0 0 0
United States 0 1 1
USA: Carli Lloyd- 51’
CHN: Haiyan Wu (caution) -50’
CHN: Wang Fei, Liu Shanshan, Wu Haiyan, Li Dongna, Wang Shanshan, Zhao Rong, Lou Jiahui (Wang Shuang 35’), Han Peng (Tang Jiali 74’), Tan Ruyin (Pang Fengyue 58’), Wang Lisi, Ren Guixin
USA: Hope Solo, Meghan Klingenberg, Becky Sauerbrunn, Julie Johnston, Ali Krieger, Kelley O’Hara (Christen Press 61’), Carli Lloyd, Morgan Brian, Tobin Heath, Alex Morgan (Heather O’Reilly 81’), Amy Rodriguez (Abby Wambach 86’)