By Editor | December 9th, 2012 7 Comments
Guest Post by Sophie Alegi
11-year-old soccer player and writer in Michigan. This is her first match report.
December 8, 2012
Detroit –17,371 people came to Ford Field to watch USA vs. China: an attendance record for a women’s soccer game in Michigan.
The US was not used to the artificial surface. Players struggled to control the ball. The surface was clearly not appropriate for soccer because when they passed the ball, it bounced up and down slightly, as if the carpet was ruffled.
China’s defense was shaky in the first five minutes, letting at least six shots be hammered at their goalkeeper, Zhang Yue. The best chance was for Amy Rodriguez who was playing in her 100th international match. China let the US pin them down in their own half. But the Chinese pulled together, playing tight defense.
All of the players were extremely close together; making it very difficult for the US to connect their usual passes. The US started to look a little wobbly in the back, with Shannon Boxx giving up ball after ball in the defensive third. Hope Solo managed to keep out a powerful shot by the Chinese number ten with a spectacular aerial save.
In the midfield, the US gave up at least ten balls, giving China easy opportunities to go forward. But the US defense held up, and only a few shots were directed at Solo.
Unfortunately, the two times the ball went down the wing Megan Rapinoe failed to get the ball to Abby Wambach’s head. China started to get physical about eighteen minutes into the half. Every time an American player turned, she would get brutally fouled. It hurts to fall on that carpet surface!
Twenty minutes in, a Chinese player got a yellow card. On the resulting play, Wambach received a cross. The ball glanced off her head and out. She probably wanted that one back. The young Chinese team did well to close up the gaps, but the US team was playing at the speed of molasses.
Thirty minutes in the US began to play in the Chinese penalty box. They would pass around on the outskirts, trying to find an opening. The referee was not very good. She botched a corner kick call and awarded a goal kick instead. A corner was awarded to the US thirty-one minutes in. Wambach got clattered on the back post by a giant Chinese defender.
The US was not playing well at all. They played into pressure, and lost many balls. Off a corner by China in the 33rd minute, the ball slipped in: there was a moment of panic, but Boxx blasted the ball away. The Chinese were finally doing something offensively. They forced another corner. Amy LePeilbet headed the ball out. Rapinoe collected the ball at the top of her eighteen-yard box and got slammed by a Chinese player. Carli Lloyd had a great chance in the 38th minute, but her shot missed by about a foot.
Finally, the game opened up a bit, with the Chinese not playing as tight as before. Then out of the blue, in the 42nd minute, Ma Xiaoxu, the tall and exceptionally strong Chinese number ten, stole the ball 25 yards out, raced past a US defender and rocketed a shot. Solo, who was about eight yards off her line, reacted like a cat; with lightning quick reflexes, she deflected the ball straight up. The ball was cleared.
Three minutes later the whistle blew for the end of a pretty sloppy, slightly boring first half. The game was slow, and unimpressive, but there were a couple good scoring chances. (That’s me in the photo taking notes for this post during the halftime break.)
In the second half the game changed as Alex Morgan and Heather O’Reilly came in for Abby Wambach and Megan Rapinoe. Two minutes in, Morgan tore forward, stole a bouncing ball and chipped the goalie. It went inches wide. Tobin Heath came in for Amy Rodriguez in the 49th minute. Dramatic changes began happening. Suddenly, China was scrambling. Carli Lloyd began to take over the midfield. Shannon Boxx dropped back, which was good, and China could not do anything with the ball.
GOOOOOOOOOOOL!!!! Lloyd scored a beautiful goal in the 50th minute off a steal from Heath in midfield. Even though I support the US, Heath committed a foul when she stole the ball. Shocking refereeing! Still, Heath went on to pass the ball smoothly across the top of the box to Lloyd, who took a touch and put it into the left bottom corner in full stride.
A few minutes later a quick give ‘n’ go by the United States almost resulted in a goal, but Heath whiffed, and the ball drifted wide. Every time Morgan came close to the Chinese defense, they’d panic, quickly clearing the ball. Midway through the second half, a long ball was lofted forward and Morgan broke toward goal. But when the ball came down, the Chinese player whacked her in the back of the head. She lay on the turf for a few seconds, not moving, and then got up slowly. Thankfully she was okay.
There was Barcelona-like passing by both the United States and China at times in the second half, but China was pinned down heavily, the US closing them down everywhere.
China’s first real chance went sailing over the crossbar. This seemed to unnerve the US, but their defense stayed very solid. At the other end, Zhang Yue pulled off an incredible save, deflecting the ball with her cleats, like a hockey goalie. She had a fistful of nice saves.
In the 71st minute, Sydney Leroux and Heather Mitts came in for Amy LePeilbet and Lauren Cheney. China was still playing a game that involved fouling the US forwards as much as they could. It seemed to anger Christie Rampone so much that when one of her teammates was fouled again, she tried to push the Chinese player away. China’s Li Jiayue got herself a yellow card for cutting Alex Morgan down in the 83rd minute. Wasn’t this supposed to be a friendly?
The Americans keep hammering in shots, desperately hoping to score a second goal. GOOOOOOOOOOOOL! Leroux! She finishes from eight yards out in the 85th minute. 2-0 USA! And that’s how it ended. A top quality second half for the US made this afternoon an experience to remember. Maybe one day I will play at Ford Field . . .