After weeks of plodding, the United States women’s national team finally plowed at the Women’s World Cup, mesmerizing China with a bevy of offense that rose to the extraordinary standard its defense has raised. The Americans beat China 1-0 in the quarterfinals Friday at Lansdowne Stadium behind Brian’s versatility and Lloyd’s 51st-minute goal and now sit two victories away from their first world title since 1999.
The U.S. did it with a collection of backups, too, as Megan Rapinoe and Lauren Holiday sat out and Abby Wambach subbed in the 85th minute. It was Amy Rodriguez setting the tone with an early chance, Kelley O’Hara threatening constantly and Brian playing a position she had never practiced before joining the national team. “Did I look comfortable out there?” she asked jokingly after the match.
She sure did, and now the U.S. has an attacking midfielder excelling at defensive midfield in Brian, and another attacking midfielder excelling at defense in Julie Johnston. Those two players were the best supporting actors behind Lloyd’s lead. It is a testament to the stunning depth of the U.S. that the team played its best overall match without three of its best players.
It was a cathartic moment, a turning point in the game. Before Lloyd’s goal, the Americans had sent 12 fruitless shots and a continual series of unrewarded attacks toward China’s goal, their frustration mounting with each foray. But Lloyd’s tally, from Julie Johnston’s pinpoint cross, punctured the tension in TD Place Stadium and propelled the United States to a 1-0 victory.