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USA defeats France 1-0 off Carli Lloyd goal

USA got outplayed by France for long stretches but stayed in the game on the strength of Hope Solo’s goalkeeping

Olympics: Football-Women's Team-1st Round Group G-United States (USA) vs France (FRA) John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

USA starting XI: Solo, Sauerbrunn, O'Hara, Engen, Klingenberg, Long, Lloyd (c), Brian, Dunn, Heath, Morgan

France starting XI: Bouhaddi, Mbock Bathy, Renard (c), Henry, Majri, Houara, Abily, Diani, Cadamuro, Bussaglia, Delie

Jill Ellis sat usual center back Julie Johnston against France, citing it as a precautionary measure.

France came out of the gate pressing hard and didn’t really let up for the rest of the half. They controlled the midfield from the beginning while the United States struggled to put together their own attacks. Early attempts by Tobin Heath to penetrate on the left were fewer and farther between as the half progressed, but at least Heath managed to get the ball moving with several dynamic runs. Klingenberg got burned by Kadidiatou Diani several times, limiting her ability to push forward. The right was a bit of a dead zone for the U.S. with Dunn either having to stay more defensive on the ball or getting stymied by Wendie Renard as soon as she approached the 18.

Allie Long and Morgan Brian weren’t as engaged in the midfield as they needed to be either. Long was good as a shield in front of the back line and helped calm things down several times when working with the center backs, but looking forward her distribution was poor. She wasn’t the only one; a lot of lobbed balls from the defense went into a no-man’s-land between the middle and attacking third, resulting in turnovers that had the French pressing forward again.

There wasn’t enough movement from Carli Lloyd, who started out higher up the field again as a second striker behind Alex Morgan, but dropped deeper and deeper into the midfield as the half went on in an attempt to regain some control. Morgan herself was left isolated, unable to get more than some glancing touches on the ball in front of net.

If not for some bad decisions from French forward Marie-Laure Delie and a spectacular save from Hope Solo, France probably would have at least come out of the half up 1-0. Solo snagged a ball right in the breadbasket in the 41’ and managed to hang on to it, preventing a rebound and a scramble in the box.

The second was better, if only marginally. The United States came out with more energy and attacked the French box right away. There was better ball movement through Lloyd and Brian, allowing some threaded balls through the French defense for Morgan to pounce on from time to time. Heath continued to attack up the left, her persistence paying off in the 64’ when Heath got into the box and was left unattended by a French defense more focused on Lloyd. Heath carried the ball deep into the box and attempted to shoot at a steep angle; the ball pinged off the post and right to Lloyd, who promptly popped in the rebound to make it 1-0.

The United States seemed energized by the goal, but continued to struggle. They fought and scrapped their way up the field by inches, slowly moving the action closer to the French defensive third, but France didn’t give up for a second.

A sub at the 70’ had Ali Krieger in for Crystal Dunn, pushing Kelley O’Hara up to right mid so Krieger could settle in at right back. It was a good move from Jill Ellis; Dunn didn’t have her best day on the field and was often isolated when she wasn’t being shut down by Amel Majri.

Several times, the French had free kicks or corner kicks that saw Renard free to to move in the box and it was a combination of luck and Solo’s strong goalkeeping that kept things at 1-0.

The US made their second sub in the 82’ with Lindsey Horan on for Carli Lloyd. The game continued to be back-and-forth, with France doing their best to create chaos in the U.S. box. Solo had to smother yet another Renard attempt in the 83’ as her defense didn’t properly attend to having a 5’11” scoring threat in front of goal. Multiple French corner kicks late in the game managed not to get on frame.

The final U.S. sub was in the 90’ with Christen Press in and Meghan Klingenberg out, once again shifting Kelley O’Hara, who went to the left back position now from right mid so Press could slot in on the right.

Alex Morgan got more stuck in during stoppage, drawing fouls, fighting for balls, and generally drawing attention away from her defensive third. It helped the U.S. close things out after a better but still rough second half, ending things at 1-0.

It wasn’t the prettiest win, but it was the toughest game they were likely to face in group, and now the U.S. is sitting on six points and is poised to get through to quarterfinals. They’ll face Colombia on Tuesdsay, and will hopefully be able to rotate more players, including a rested Julie Johnston.

Next game: USA vs Colombia, Tuesday, August 9, 6 PM ET on NBCSN.