The United States played what might as well have been a home game in the final round of their group stage against Nigeria. Attendance at BC Place was 52,193, the great of majority of it decked out in red, white, and blue. The U.S. was no doubt hoping to put on a better show than what it presented against Australia and Sweden, but it was not to be.
The U.S. managed just one goal in the game, a fantastic volley by Abby Wambach off Megan Rapinoe's corner kick in the dying moments of the first half. In the end that was to be the difference maker as the Americans were unable to put together a cohesive attack in the Nigerians' defensive third.
Combination play in the midfield sputtered to an ignominious death in the final third. Lauren Holiday and Carli Lloyd looked like two people who had never met each other or the rest of the team before, instead wandering through the midfield in a warped version of Marco Polo.
Attack instead went through the flanks, which demonstrated the brighter merits of Megan Rapinoe and Meghan Klingenberg. Klingenberg was rapacious, hunting up and down the left flank, working with Tobin Heath to move the ball forward. Rapinoe was creative as well, doing her best to spark some movement around the 18-yard box. But their work came to naught as balls didn't find the mark or teammates got dispossessed or attempts to carry ran out of room to maneuver without any help arriving.
If Klingenberg and Rapinoe were bright spots, Alex Morgan was a bulb that was not quite screwed in all the way, flickering off and on. It looked like she was starting to find her legs in the game, but still isn't ready for a full 90, which is a shame given what a healthy Alex Morgan can do with a through ball and a little space to run.
Other bright spots include Becky Sauerbrunn and Julie Johnston, who have both cleaned up the United States' messes throughout this tournament with the patience of saints.
Despite Abby Wambach's goal, she never really threatened otherwise. Part of the problem is the formation behind her. When Abby Wambach is on the field, her goalscoring relies mainly on her service. With Lloyd and Holiday suffering from some mysterious malady that leaves them disconnected from the rest of the team, service to Wambach must come from the flanks, and Tobin Heath was unable to provide much of it despite her hard work. That left Megan Rapinoe, who just as often got stuck lurking around the 18 looking for help.
Things went from middling to unacceptable in the 69' minute when defender Sarah Nnodim picked up her second yellow of the game and was sent off, leaving Nigeria with 10. Instead of going on the offensive, the United States never surged past their middle third, playing as though they were the ones down to 10.
So continues the woes of the United States Women's National Team at the World Cup. They topped group, but in the most meh fashion possible.
The winner of group D plays third place B/E/F Monday, June 22 in Edmonton. As it stands now, that would be Spain or France (Thailand is very unlikely to advance as a third-place team with their -7 goal differential), but depending on the results of the last games in group, could shift around. The winner of that Round of 16 games faces the winner of China vs. Cameroon. Either one of those teams should be manageable, giving the United States a relatively relaxed path to the semis. Based on the way the team has been playing, though, nothing is given at this point.