By Anne M. Peterson
AP Sports Writer
MONTREAL — It used to be that the U.S. women’s national team was known more for its fierce attack. For the Women’s World Cup in Canada, the Americans are finding success with a locked-down defense.
Goalkeeper Hope Solo, beleaguered at the start by new revelations in her domestic violence assault case last year, has been nearly perfect with five straight shutouts.
Her latest came on Tuesday night when the United States defeated top-ranked Germany in the semifinals before a raucous pro-American crowd at Montreal’s Olympic Stadium.
Normally so focused to the point of almost appearing stern, the television cameras caught Solo break into a smile late in the match when it appeared the United States had guaranteed its place in the final.
Now it’s on to the title match set for Sunday at BC Place in Vancouver. The United States will face the winner of the other semifinal Wednesday night between defending champion Japan and England in Edmonton.
Four years ago in Germany, Japan defeated the United States on penalty kicks after a 2-all draw for its first World Cup title.
The U.S. women have won two World Cups, but the last championship came in 1999. This will be the team’s fourth appearance in the final.
The team’s success so far in the tournament has been boosted not only by Solo’s spectacular work in goal but by a stellar backline of Meghan Klingenberg, Becky Sauerbrunn, Julie Johnston and Ali Krieger.
The United States has gone 513 minutes without conceding a goal. Only Australia, in the first half of the group-stage opener, has managed to score against the Americans.
“It’s a spectacular stat, to be honest with you. I always tell the team, we just need one more than our opponent if we keep a clean sheet,” coach Jill Ellis said. “And it’s not just our goalkeeper and our back four. I think this team has embraced the accountability and responsibility of defending on every line. It’s something we ask of them, but they deliver. They understand that it’s important.”
Klingenberg pulled off a big save in the highly anticipated group stage match against No. 5 Sweden, led by former U.S. coach Pia Sundhage. The diminutive defender leaped to head away a shot by Caroline Seger. The ball hit the crossbar and caromed away from the goal. Goal-line technology was used to confirm the ball never crossed the line.
The save in the 77th minute preserved the 0-0 draw and the United States went on to finish atop the group stage heading into the knockout round.