The play of Meghan Klingenberg (pictured) has been critical to the USA's defensive prowess at the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup. (Photo: FIFA via Getty Images)
OTTAWA, Canada – In their first FIFA Women’s World Cup (FWWC) meeting since the 1999 final, the United States will square off against China in a quarterfinal encounter on Friday at Landsdowne Stadium.
Here are Three Points to consider ahead of the game:
1) History solidly in the USA’s favor
In 53 all-time meetings between them, the U.S. holds a 32-8 advantage in wins over China, while 13 games ended in a draw. Included in those totals is the historic 1999 FWWC final, when the Americans prevailed 5-4 on penalty kicks after a scoreless draw before 90,185 fans at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California. The current CONCACAF champion’s last loss to the Chinese came January 26, 2003, a 2-0 away setback. They have battled 24 times since then with the Americans going unbeaten with a 20W-4D-0L record. On December 10, 2014, the sides played to a 1-1 draw in Brazil. Carli Lloyd (23’) gave the U.S. a 1-0 lead, before Han Pen (67’) leveled midway through the second half.
2) Defense makes the case
While its vaunted attack is still trying to find a rhythm, the USA’s defense has been nothing short of sensational. Since allowing a 27th minute goal to Australia in their opening match, the Americans have not conceded a goal in 333 minutes. The back-line triumvirate of Julie Johnston, Meghan Klingenberg and Becky Sauerbrunn, plus goalkeeper Hope Solo, have played every minute thus far. Prior to the recent clean-sheet, though, the U.S. allowed at least one goal in five straight FWWC matches. It is questionable if China can pose a serious offensive threat. It has scored four total goals in four matches, with defender Wang Shanshan and midfielder Wang Lisi splitting the haul.
3) Is it time to get offensive?
Since netting three goals in its FWWC opener against Australia, the U.S. has struck only three times in the following three games. After a 0-0 draw with Sweden, the Americans beat Nigeria (1-0) and Colombia (2-0). With two goals, Megan Rapinoe has been the team’s top scorer and most dynamic offensive player in Canada, but she is suspended for the China encounter. Who will step up and ignite the attack? The versatile Morgan Brian, who at 22-years-old is the team’s youngest player, appears to be in line for her second FWWC start. Despite her youth, Brian has already earned 32 caps and has scored four goals. A good sign is that Alex Morgan might be ready for a full role after coming back from injuries. She scored her first goal in this FWWC against Colombia in the round of 16, bringing her career FWWC total to three.