CONCACAF foes will meet up once again this Monday as Team USA goes up against Canada in the semifinal round of the women’s Olympic soccer tournament.
While the relationship between the teams is labeled by many as a rivalry, this description comes more from the two sides being geographic neighbors rather than competitively equal historically.
Nevertheless, if the men's version of the tournament has taught us anything, it is that anything can happen in the Olympics.
Here is a preview of the North American semifinal.
Last Five Meetings: USWNT 4-0-1
USWNT Leading Scorer: Abby Wambach 4
CanWNT Leading Scorer: Melissa Tancredi/Christine Sinclair 4
2008 USWNT Finish: First (Gold)
2008 CanWNT Finish: Eighth (Did not medal)
What the USWNT Needs to Do to Win
When the USWNT chooses to be aggressive and pressure opposing defenders and midfielders, it finds itself in a much more comfortable game.
The pressure supplied by Alex Morgan specifically in the Colombia game was key, as the opposing defenders often panicked and bombed the ball upfield only for the U.S. to regain possession.
New Zealand was given a little more time on the ball, and this is why the New Zealanders stayed in it longer than Pia Sundhage and the USWNT might have liked.
If the USWNT can pressure upfront, it will prevent a strong Canadian team from ever really getting into a flow offensively.
Work the Wings
The USWNT has a variety of world-class wingers at its disposal, and it is absolutely vital for the U.S. to get them into the game as early as possible.
The simple truth is that if Megan Rapinoe can get enough crosses in, undoubtedly Abby Wambach will put one of the balls in the back of the net by the end of the 90 minutes.
The Canadian defense will have to respect Lloyd’s and Cheney’s long-distance shooting capabilities, meaning Canada might tighten up the middle, allowing passes out wide to be that much more effective.
What the Canadian National Team Needs to Do to Win
While Canada does not have that much experience in big games like this, it is absolutely essential the team keeps its nerves throughout the match.
At times, as the tension built up against Great Britain, the Canadian defense looked confused and nearly conceded a late goal that would have allowed the home side to get back in it. Losing focus for just a matter of seconds could be the difference between the CanWNT being guaranteed a medal for the first time in a long time and battling just to get on the podium.
A strong opponent like USA demands respect and composure at all times, so Canada must not start to fade mentally if it wants to be victorious.
Feed Tancredi and Sinclair
Given the way Tancredi and Sinclair have been playing, Canada has to make sure it finds a way to get them their respective touches in the attacking third. Against a team like USA that can sometimes dominate possession, it is perfectly common for opposing forwards to seem invisible throughout matches.
If Canada has any chance at pulling off the upset, it will need to get its star forwards the ball in the attacking third and have them make the most of their chances.
Whether that is playing balls over the top or crossing as much as possible, the CanWNT needs to give Sinclair and Tancredi maximum opportunities, even if some opportunities don’t have high success rates.
The tournament so far has been thrilling, and this game should certainly keep that adjective relevant. If we have learned anything the last 12 months, it is that the USWNT simply doesn’t know any other way.
While this Canadian offense looks stronger than ever, the USWNT's attacking weapons will still be too much for the Canadian defense to handle.
Sweden and Japan each managed to score twice on Canada. and the USWNT offense is more dynamic and dangerous than that of either of those two teams.
Sinclair and Tancredi might be able to make some magic, but it ultimately won’t be enough in this semifinal matchup.
USA 3-1 Canada
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