Team USA blazed through the first round of the women’s soccer tournament, going 4-0 in clear-cut victories against France, Columbia, North Korea and New Zealand.
While the Americans have been dominant so far through the tournament, team Canada might present the biggest challenge to them as they square off against their North American rivals in the semifinal round at Old Trafford.
The Canadians have been the dark horse of this tournament with their most notable win coming against Great Britain in the quarterfinals, upsetting the host country 2-0 spurned two quick goals by team captain Christine Sinclair and Jonelle Filigno of Rutgers University in the first half. The upstart Canadians are 2-1-1 through the tournament and have solid momentum going into Monday’s match.
Canada is lead by their superstar Sinclair, who plays for the Western New York Flash of the Women’s Premier Soccer League Elite. She is the reigning seven-time Canadian women’s soccer player of the year, having won the award consecutively since 2005. At age 29, she appears to be at the apex of her career and is widely regarded as the most accomplished Canadian footballer ever.
A true veteran, her 11-year career with the Canadian national team is highlighted by three FIFA world cup appearances (2003, 2007, 2011) and two Olympiads (2008, 2012).
While Sinclair will certainly be a handful for world renown goalie Hope Solo of Team USA to keep off the scoreboard, the Americans are boosted by their own superstar in forward Abby Wambach.
The forward Wambach leads the Americans in scoring through the Olympics with four. Her veteran presence competing in her third Olympic games at age 32 (as well as being the USA’s second all-time leading goal scorer behind the legendary Mia Hamm) give team USA the perfect counterpart to Sinclair.
What should be the difference maker through the match is goal keeping.
The notoriously stingy Solo has led the Americans to three shutouts, and has let in just two goals throughout the tournament. With a defense led by captain Christine Rampone in front of her, the Americans look like the most stalwart defensive squad in the world.
Canada has fared adequately on the defensive end, with Erin McLeod pitching a shutout against Great Britain, but has given up twice as many goals as Team USA and simply just isn't as dominant in the box as the Americans.
Regardless of the advantages going in, it should be a neck-wrenching, hard fought match in Manchester on Monday, and should draw a full crowd of over 70,000 fans at the Theater of Dreams. It would be a stunning upset victory for the Canadians, but it’ll be tough to overcome a powerhouse program like Team USA.