By Ryan Mayer, CBS Local Sports
The US Women's National team advanced to the semi-finals with a dominating 1-0 win over China on Friday night. While a 1-0 score line doesn't seem to jive with the word 'dominating', the match was in the US' favor throughout. They played their best game thus far of the tournament despite missing both Lauren Holiday and Megan Rapinoe from the starting line-up due to an accumulation of yellow cards. The three changes to the starting eleven made by coach Jill Ellis in Kelley O'Hara, Amy Rodriguez, and Morgan Brian all were key to the victory.
Meanwhile, the Germans advanced to the semis via penalty kicks after an extremely tough match with France. After regulation and extra time the score sat at 1-1, both teams proceeded to make their first 4 PK's. Germany then buried its fifth attempt before their keeper Nadine Angerer stopped Claire Lovegez's attempt to give the Germans the win.
Tonight's match-up has been billed by some as the "final before the final" as many expect the winner of this match to go on to win the tournament. Here's what you need to know.
US haven't allowed a goal in 4 straight matches
The US defense has been the most consistently strong aspect of this team throughout the tournament. They had a shaky start against Australia in the first match and Lisa De Vanna was able to break through to tie that game at 1 in the 27th minute. Since then, the US has gone 423 minutes (not including stoppage time) without conceding another goal. The US, if they were to record another shutout in tonight's match, would become the first team since Germany in 2007 to advance to the final allowing 1 goal or less. Germany allowed 0 goals in the entire 2007 tournament. (Norway in 1995 is the only other team to advance to the final allowing 1 goal or less)
Germany lead the tournament in team scoring
The Germans have shown a prolific attack in this year's World Cup tallying 20 goals as a team in the group stage and knockout play. That number is skewed by a 10-goal outburst in their first match against a much weaker Ivory Coast squad. However, that doesn't diminish their attacking prowess as they've scored 4 goals two other times in the tournament. One of those times came against Sweden in the Round of 16. That's the same Swedish side that the US were unable to tally against in the group stage.
History between the two sides
The US and Germany have met three times previously in the World Cup including twice in the semi-finals (1991 semis, 1999 quarters, and 2003 semis). Each time, the winner of that contest has gone on to win the World Cup (US in '91 & '99; Germany in '03). All-time series record between the two sides in international play: US 18-4-7. The last time the two teams met was over two years ago in a 3-3 draw in Germany.
Two premier goalkeepers
US fans know about Hope Solo and her talents on the field. For whatever you may think of her off-field incidents, she is a world class keeper on the field. Her counterpart in this match-up though has been just as prolific in her career. Nadine Angerer is tied with Solo with 9 clean sheets (shutouts) in her World Cup career. Solo has four in this tournament while Angerer has 2. The German keeper is also familiar with a couple of the US team members as she's the starting goalkeeper for the Portland Thorns of the NWSL where Alex Morgan and Tobin Heath both ply their trade.
The US throughout the tournament so far have used a more traditional 4-4-2 alignment with two strikers up top (some combination of Leroux, Wambach, Morgan, Rodriguez) and four in the midfield. This kind of set-up doesn't necessarily take advantage of the US' biggest strength which is the depth of their attacking options, but it's the chosen route that head coach Jill Ellis has decided to go. Meanwhile, the Germans in 4 out of their 5 matches so far have used a 3-4-3/4-4-3 set-up. It's a much more attacking style of formation to utilize Germany's strength with Anja Mittage, Celia Sasic, and Alexandra Popp all up top. It will be interesting to see how the US deals with this style of play as they haven't seen a team yet with the kind of attacking options and prowess that the Germans have.
Tonight's match is at 7pm ET on FOX. Whichever team wins will advance to the final on Sunday, while the loser plays in the 3rd place match Saturday.
Ryan Mayer is an Associate Producer for CBS Local Sports. Ryan lives in NY but comes from Philly and life as a Philly sports fan has made him cynical. Anywhere sports are being discussed, that's where you'll find him. Agree/Disagree? Thoughts, comments, complaints? Email him.
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