Abby Wambach scores, U.S. women reach soccer semifinals
NEWCASTLE, England -- It's going to be tough to stop the U.S. women's soccer team in these Olympics. Really tough.
The Americans come at their foes with so many weapons -- on both sides of the ball -- that opponents have not found an answer for them and their wily veteran striker Amy Wambach.
New Zealand tried its best Friday, but the Americans pulled through with a 2-0 quarterfinal win at St. James' Park, which boosted them into the medal round for the fifth consecutive time.
The unbeaten Americans will meet Canada, 2-0 winners over Great Britain, in the semifinals in Manchester on Monday. In the other semifinal Japan, a 2-0 winner over Brazil, will face France, a 2-1 winner over Sweden.
"This team is bound for glory. It might not look pretty in every second of the game, but we get it done," said Wambach, who scored for the fourth consecutive game.
New Zealand coach Tony Readings said the U.S. will prevail and wind up with its third consecutive gold medal and fourth overall. "They're not the No. 1 team in the world for no reason," he said. "They're very hard to stop because they have so many threats."
Such as Wambach, who scored her 142nd international goal. Such as sub Sydney Le Roux, who replaced an ailing Alex Morgan (charley horse) and scored an impressive 87th-minute insurance goal. Such as a defense that hasn't allowed a goal in 346 minutes, or since the 14th minute of the opening 4-2 win over France.
When New Zealand pushed for an equalizer, the U.S. defense shoved back. The back four of captain Christie Rampone, Rachel Buehler, Kelley O'Hara and Amy le Peilbet held firm. Goalkeeper Hope Solo was credited with five saves, all of them routine.
"They've proven over the last three games that they are one of the best defenses in the world, regardless how many goals they allowed in against France," Wambach said.
Wambach, whom Reading called "a nightmare," took advantage of Morgan's errant shot in the 27th minute as she slid, poking the ball past goalkeeper Jenny Bindon from six yards.
For most of the year, Wambach has yielded much of the scoring load to Morgan while using both holistic and traditional treatments to treat nagging Achilles tendinitis. "I'm just playing pain-free for the first time in a long time," she said.