Women’s World Cup Semifinals Preview: USA vs. Germany

By MC Bousquette
USWNT Beat Writer

The United States faces its ultimate test on Tuesday against Germany. Though the matchup is only the semifinals, Germany is the strongest side in the tournament, and favored by many to win the entire competition.

But, after the US’ performance on Friday, it looks less likely that the Germans will simply walk all over them. The US appears far more prepared after playing China, and are set to put up a tremendous fight.

The Competition:

Germany has the most effective, successful offense of any side in the World Cup. The destructive duo of Anja Mittag and Celia Sasic, the tournament’s top goal scorer, positively tear apart defenses, and will test the US back line and Hope Solo to the utmost extent. Few, save for France, have managed to shut these two down. Germany has twenty goals throughout the tournament, whereas the United States has only seven. The imbalance here should be of great concern to the United States.

The big bad news for Germany is that star midfielder Dzsenifer Marozsan may miss the match due to an ankle injury. The rest of the German midfield provides reinforcement in her absence, but Marozsan is an integral playmaker who will be sorely missed. Melanie Leupolz will be expected to hold Germany together if Marozsan is out, which is a big ask against the US.

Germany’s back line strength is highly comparable to the United States’; they are a sharp, yet brutal line, punctuated by Nadine Angerer in goal. Importantly for the German defense, Saskia Bartusiak is back after her yellow card suspension, and will be a formidable roadblock for the US attack.

Projected Starting Lineup:

USWNT v. Germany LineupAfter Friday’s match, Coach Jill Ellis has a lot to consider in creating her lineup. Some players received their first starts, whereas others had much-improved performances. She has quite an arsenal of talent at her fingertips, so it is difficult to predict in which direction she’ll go.

This is a likely lineup, given Ellis’ proclivities and these players’ performances.

Forwards: Christen Press and Alex Morgan. The US needs speed, creativity, and agility to spearhead an effective attack against Germany. Morgan, presuming she is in form enough to start, and Press are perhaps the two most advanced forwards on the squad. If either of them does not produce, expect to see Amy Rodriguez in the match. Even though A-Rod had only poor shots against China, the space and opportunities she created up top were undeniably beneficial to the United States. At this point, it seems unlikely that Ellis will start Sydney Leroux, who didn’t prove much in her group stage play. Abby Wambach may make an appearance as an impact sub, although her utility is limited by Germany’s defense, which will easily stop direct play.

Midfield: Megan Rapinoe, Carli Lloyd, Morgan Brian, and Tobin Heath. Rapinoe is back from her suspension, and is an obvious choice to start at wing. Ellis will need Rapinoe to defeat Germany’s defense and penetrate the final third with her technical prowess. Lloyd looked much better against China, but Ellis will need to keep an eye on her in case Lloyd breaks down again. The US cannot afford turnovers against Germany’s offensive blitz. Brian played too well in ways that Lauren Holiday, also back from suspension on Tuesday, has failed to produce. Brian can anchor the middle while Lloyd is freer to move up top. If either Heath or Rapinoe have a poor first half and are unable to make their way through the German defense, expect to see the more physical Kelley O’Hara in at wing.

Defense: Meghan Klingenberg, Julie Johnston, Becky Sauerbrunn, and Ali Krieger. Is this even a question anymore? I could leave it at that, but for those just joining the World Cup action, the defense has allowed only one goal throughout the entire tournament, which came in the US’ opening match against Australia. They will need to be on their game during each set piece, as Germany is very skilled at completing set piece opportunities clinically. All four back line starters are at the pinnacle of their fitness, and are just as important on attack as they are on the back line. Johnston in particular has been a standout, and her dual talents of defensive coverage and offensive playmaking help lift the US to victory every match. Krieger has the unique advantage of having played with or against much of the Germany squad during her four years with FFC Frankfurt, so can help her fellow defenders prepare for what is t ocome. In short, the back line is the USWNT’s rock, and will need to notch another stellar performance to stop Germany.

Goalkeeper: Hope Solo. Solo, now the most-capped goalkeeper in team history, is indispensable to the US side. She remains deeply focused, despite intense pressure from opposition and highly publicized personal drama surrounding her domestic violence charges. She will be heavily tested against Germany, and the US is in need of another of her highly dynamic performances.

The Bottom Line

The United States is, for once, the clear underdog in this matchup. But, with the extremely successful US defense squaring up against Germany’s relentless attack, there is no obvious outcome. This truly feels like the World Cup final, and it is safe to say that both teams will treat it as such.

The USA face Germany in the World Cup semifinals this Tuesday, June 30th at 7pm EST in Montreal (FOX).

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