U.S. searching for offense heading into Cup quarters
Edmonton, Alberta — The United States is still looking for its offense at the Women's World Cup even though its stellar defense has it three wins from a title.
Despite glimpses of the formidable attack that the United States has been known for in the past, the Americans have just six goals in their four tournament matches. Top-ranked Germany has 19.
Players say they're happy to be in the quarterfinals but don't think they've shown their best yet. They've still won.
"At the end of the day, we all know we're not playing our best football," midfielder Carli Lloyd admitted, "and we're still finding ways to win. I think that's the history of this team is no matter if it's good, bad, we still find a way to get it done."
The second-ranked Americans play China on Friday in Ottawa in the first World Cup meeting between the two teams since the 1999 final, which the U.S. won on penalty kicks. China, ranked No. 16, has five goals through four matches.
The search for offense is more complicated now that midfielders Megan Rapinoe and Lauren Holiday won't be available against China because of accumulated yellow cards.
Christen Press will likely start for Rapinoe, who has been one of the most effective players in the tournament with two goals against Australia in the opener. Morgan Brian is expected to stand in for Holiday.
Lloyd expressed optimism despite frustrations.
"I've got full confidence and faith in everyone that we'll eventually find our rhythm," she said. "We're working, we're grinding. The effort's there. We just need to kind of put it all together on the field."
Star striker Alex Morgan's return to form may be just what the team needs moving forward.
Morgan came in as a substitute in the first two games of the World Cup as she worked her way back from a bone bruise in her left knee that had sidelined her since early April. The speedy 25-year-old made her second straight start on Monday against Colombia and scored her first goal of the tournament.
Facing a Colombia team that was a player down after the ejection of its goalkeeper, Morgan finally broke through with a right-footed goal. Lloyd later added a penalty kick in the 2-0 victory.
"It's a little bit of a sigh of relief," Morgan said. "As a forward, you always want to score goals, you're expected to score goals."
Colombia's goalkeeper was sent off after a foul on Morgan. Facing a hastily prepared replacement, Abby Wambach looked like she'd get the Americans on the board with a penalty kick. But she took the shot with her left foot and it sailed wide.
Wambach's miss, as well as the lack of scoring in the first half against a team ranked at No. 28, pushed the scoring concerns to the forefront — even though, in the end, it was a win.
Defender Meghan Klingenberg said Wednesday that's all that ultimately matters.
"If we keep teams to zero goals and only score one per game, I wouldn't say that's a deficiency. I would say that's winning," she said.
The United States has been saved by defense, not allowing a goal in 333 minutes. The only team to score on the Americans was Australia in the opener.
Hope Solo leads all goalkeepers at the tournament with nine saves. And World Cup rookie Julie Johnston has been a force on the backline along with Becky Sauerbrunn, who may be the team's best player in the tournament so far.
"I just think it's good team defense," Klingenberg said. "Our forwards and our midfielders, they make it predictable for the backline so we can close in, shut down space, take away options quickly."
Wambach, likely playing her last World Cup, is confident the offense will come.
"Moving on is the most important thing," the 35-year-old said. "I know we need to score goals to move on, but we only need to score one more than our opponent."