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USA tops Group G with 2-2 tie against Colombia

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A bad game for Hope Solo and a persevering Colombia squad made for a tie

Olympics: Football-Women's Team-1st Round Group G-Colombia (COL) vs United States (USA) Erich Schlegel-USA TODAY Sports

USA starting XI: Hope Solo; Ali Krieger, Becky Sauerbrunn, Whitney Engen, Kelley O’Hara; Morgan Brian, Lindsey Horan, Carli Lloyd (c); Megan Rapinoe, Christen Press, Crystal Dunn

Colombia starting XI: Sandra Sepulveda, Carolina Arias, Nataly Arias, Corina Clavijo, Orianica Velasquez, Liana Salazar, Natalia Gaitan, Leicy Santos, Tatiana Ariza, Lady Andrade, Catalina Usme

Today was the last day of group play for the women’s tournament and it was weird from the start. After Germany very nearly came third in Group F, which would have put them in the United States’ way in knockout, the wackiness continued with Colombia scoring first on the U.S.

The U.S. started out looking fairly bright, getting into the Colombia box several times in just the first five minutes. But no one managed to really get their foot on the ball, and gradually Colombia pushed back out and started disrupting U.S. play.

That, combined with a midfield that still looked muddled, kept the U.S. struggling to get looks on goal. It didn’t help that Colombia went ahead first in the 26’ after Megan Rapinoe gave away a dangerous free kick with a pretty haphazard tackle just outside the box. Catalina Usme stood over the ball and her free kick popped through Hope Solo’s fingers and into the goal to make it 1-0.

Rapinoe was shortly subbed out in the 33’ having played all the time coaching staff planned to give her for the day. Other than a couple of crosses, her attacking on the left and her set piece delivery were as rusty as you might expect from someone who hasn’t played since December of last year. Mal Pugh came in for her on the left, but was similarly subdued.

On the right, Crystal Dunn was much more active than her last game against France. She had a number of slashing runs and crossed balls, and in the 41’ she scored the equalizer after pouncing on a rebound when Carli Lloyd’s shot ricocheted off of GK Sepulveda.

The defense was extremely active, not just in trying to clean up turnovers and counters, but in carrying the ball up and slowly pressing Colombia back into their half. O’Hara was a little more active than Krieger in trying to get the ball forward, but Krieger had her share of pushes along the right and also had some good defensive recoveries to keep Colombia from getting up with numbers. Engen and Sauerbrunn had control of the ball a lot, staying patient and looking for options, or sometimes carrying the ball forward themselves.

The midfield of Brian, Lloyd, and Horan seemed a bit out of lockstep. Brian had some good moments linking the defenders with players higher up and had good pressure at times, driving Colombia back into their defensive third. Horan needed to get her touch tidied up, but definitely threatened a few times in the box, especially in the air. Lloyd had too many turnovers for comfort and gradually drifted back from her high pressing spot in tandem with Press back to almost a box-to-box role. A few times Lloyd was able to feed her teammates on the ground with piercing balls through, but Colombia’s defense was swarming in their box and kept it at 1-1 going into the half.

The second half started with another sub, this time Alex Morgan coming on for Carli Lloyd. For a while in the beginning of the second half, the midfield looked a little more coherent. Morgan Brian did an excellent job keeping possession in front of the back line and looking for ways to start play forward. Pugh also dug into the game some more, hustling down to the end line to earn some corners. There was also service to Morgan, with a couple of long diagonals trying to hit her on the run, but she wasn’t able to take them in stride and had to stop and wait for help each time.

The defense and Brian slowed the tempo of the game here, holding it patiently in the back, waiting to spring attackers. It paid off in the 59’ after Dunn and Pugh had switched sides. Dunn picked up the ball deep and sent it across the goal. A diving Sepulveda wasn’t able to get her hands on it and it fell to Pugh, whose first touch rebounded handily off of Press and fell back to her feet. She calmly carried it a few steps, found a seam, and shot through six Colombian players to find the back of the net.

The U.S. made their final sub in the 65’,with Allie Long in for Morgan Brian. This might have been a mistake; Brian was playing in excellently dependable fashion and helping to keep Colombia from pushing out too much. Conversely, Horan was not having a good night, with lots of touches going astray and minimal connectivity with the other attackers. Long coming on for Horan and pushing up ahead of Brian might have created another goal.

The U.S. seemed content to slow the game down even more after the second goal. Very, very patient play was punctuated by a few bursts forward, like Pugh’s rush in the 74’ when she switched back left and burned a player with a combination of footwork and speed to center the ball. Allie Long hit the ball with the side of her feet and it bounced off a defender.

The ball started moving more as the half wore on and Colombia kept pushing. Long had some good defensive work behind the ball, but again, her service from deep was not as good as Brian’s, and it left Alex Morgan isolated at the top of the formation.

Then in the 90’, Kelley O’Hara gave away a foul at the side of the 18, and once again Usme stood over a free kick. She rifled a shot over the heads of defenders and teammates alike and into the side netting, with a leaping Hope Solo completely missing the punch. It was one of several errors from Solo, who just a few days ago had a fantastic outing against France that won them three points.

Several things went wrong for the U.S. here: Rapinoe was rusty (although if she was ever going to get her feet wet, this was definitely the game to get her some time), Horan was dull in the midfield, and Lloyd was not accurate. Long was also in the wrong place in that formation and Press was left almost as isolated in the second half as Morgan. And of course, Solo’s errors in goal on set pieces.

The WNT will now face the third place team from Group E or Group F on Friday, August 12 at 12 PM ET in Brasilia.