A normally potent offense has given way to a stifling defense throughout the tournament and the US has ridden its backline all the way to the final.
A tweaked lineup in the semi-final proved fruitful for the sometimes-struggling offense, but the US women will need more of the same in the final on Sunday.
Here are four reasons why the US women will take home the World Cup…and one reason they won’t:
The US has been the tournament’s best defense
The US has not allowed a single goal since its opening match of the tournament against Australia. Brazil was the only team not to allow more goals, but they were eliminated from the tournament in the knockout stage.
A backline of veteran Becky Sauerbrunn and Julie Johnston — who is quickly becoming a star in the team — in front of Hope Solo — widely considered the best goalkeeper in the world — makes goals tough to come by against the US.
"U.S. Can Thank Defense for Spot in Women’s World Cup Final" http://t.co/2ymvq0BEAohyphen; Morochosve (@morochosve) July 1, 2015
Attack is finding its feet
Against Germany, the US trotted out a tweaked lineup in the center of the park, opting to play Lauren Holiday, Carli Lloyd and Morgan Brian at central midfield. Brian’s presence as holding mid allowed Lloyd more freedom to roam and she was the best player on the field Tuesday night, scoring the first goal and assisting the second.
Holiday slid into her more-familiar role as an attacking mid and was effective linking the midfield to the attack. It’s no coincidence that the best game for the US attack came with these three patrolling the midfield.
A bit of luck is on the US side
Most champions need a touch of luck to win it all and the US certainly had some against Germany. First was the penalty Johnston gave away and Germany subsequently missed. An argument for “clear denial of a goalscoring opportunity” is not hard to make upon seeing the replay of Johnston pulling Célia Šašić to the ground. Johnston should consider herself fortunate to have only been given a yellow card.
How Julie Johnston's 'worst nightmare' sparked a victory over Germany http://t.co/HYXQC32lochyphen; USA TODAY (@USATODAY) July 1, 2015
Then there is the penalty awarded to the US that resulted in the game’s first goal. Alex Morgan was impeded on the play, but it appeared to be just outside the penalty box.
On another day, the US may have gone down to 10 players and may never have been awarded their opening goal.
The US will be playing for either revenge or history
The second semi-final will be played Wednesday night between England and Japan, and the narrative for the US women is drastically different depending on the outcome.
A Japan victory will give the US women a shot at revenge. The Japanese women beat the US in the 2011 final on penalty kicks.
A matchup against England will give the US an opportunity to hold onto bragging rights against the English. The US beat England 1-0 in February and is 8-3-1 all time against the English.
Defense finally falters
Defense has been the US bread and butter thus far in the tournament and the team has gone 513 minutes without allowing a goal. The World Cup final is no place for a letdown. Though the team has shown no sign of conceding, a rash challenge giving up a penalty could be the team’s undoing.Reuse content