Two games, two wins. Team USA are on course for the quarterfinals at the Olympics, and the defending champions will be sky high on confidence after cruising to a classy 3-0 victory against Colombia.
This time there were no signs of the early nerves we saw against France, nor the defensive frailties that marked the opening 15 minutes of their 2012 campaign. Just a purring demonstration of why the U.S. are gold-medal holders and ranked the No. 1 team in the world.
Megan Rapinoe was once again their catalyst. Switched from the right flank to the left, she looked equally at home and represented Team USA's biggest threat for the 80 minutes her shock of cropped blonde hair lit up the field.
It was Rapinoe who broke the stubborn Colombian resistance in the 32nd minute—picking up possession from Alex Morgan before cutting in from the left to curl a shot into the roof of the net from 20 yards. There were three defenders around her, but Rapinoe played the angles perfectly and got the goal she deserved.
You sensed the floodgates would open. Colombia—ranked 28th in the world and clearly the weakest team in Group G—had been treading water and providing little threat going forward. Goalkeeper Sandra Sepulveda was equipped for battle, but the U.S. firepower was far too deadly to be denied by one woman's heroics.
As halftime approached, it appeared the Colombians had decided to go down swinging. With Rapinoe on the ball, Abby Wambach appeared to take an unprovoked punch in the face from Kelis Peduzine. She went down, but all too predictably was she soon back to her feet and shaking herself off.
Peduzine took her down again almost immediately, this time with a crunching tackle. She should have known not to give Wambach extra motivation.
The veteran striker inevitably got her goal on 73 minutes. Morgan played provider with a slide-rule pass into the box, inviting Wambach to power between two defenders and score her 141st international goal for Team USA. It was also her sixth at the Olympics—a record.
A third for the U.S. followed soon after, with Rapinoe offering up her third assist of the Games to lay on Carli Lloyd for her second fine goal in as many matches. By this time, the U.S. were getting close to irresistible, and Colombia were playing for pride.
At the other end, Hope Solo was barely troubled. With Lloyd dropping back to shield the back four, the U.S. afforded Colombia far less space than France were given and did a much better job of coordinating things defensively. Colombia, by their nature, were never going to be as dangerous, but it was still a positive exercise in reinforcement.
In attack, Team USA were at times breathtaking. Morgan and Wambach played like a strike pair who has been alongside each other for a decade, and the creative combination of Lloyd, Rapinoe and Lauren Cheney gave them plenty to feed off of. Possession was savored and hard work both on and off the ball yielded excellent results.
Overall, it was a thoroughly polished and professional performance by Pia Sundhage's team, who played with fluency and freedom in this match and gave a more clinical account of themselves than we saw against France.
Up next it's DPR Korea on Tuesday. Sundhage will be hoping the upward curve continues.
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