The United States has advanced to the Gold Medal Match in every Olympics since women's soccer was added to the program in 1996 and now they stand just one win away from making it five trips to the final in as many Olympics. But if the Americans are going to return to the final and take aim at their third consecutive gold medal, they will have to take down their northern rivals, Canada.
There is no doubt that the U.S. are the favorites to take down Canada, having gone 11 years without losing to the Canucks. The two teams have played twice this year, with the U.S. winning both by a combined score of 6-1. Even the Canadians' mothers would probably throw money down on the Americans if forced to pick a side.
With Abby Wambach, Alex Morgan and the rest of the potent attacking crew, the U.S. doesn't need to throw their entire team forward to create chances and they will have to make sure not to get too far forward pressing for goals. Not only is it unnecessary, but it will open the door for Christine Sinclair and Melissa Tancredi. The two give the Canucks a potent one-two punch going forward and while they can be starved for service, that won't be the case if the Americans lose their shape and discipline by putting too many women forward.
If the U.S. can get ahead, they should be sitting pretty. As good as Sinclair might be the Americans' defense can close her down and limit the chances for Tancredi if they are ahead and putting numbers behind the ball, while Morgan's speed and then Sydney Leroux's off the bench can really punish a Canada team desperate for a goal. But the longer things stay even and the longer the U.S. is left looking for a goal then the more things tilt in Canada's favor.
The winner of the U.S. vs. Canada semifinal will take on either Japan or France in the Gold Medal Match on Thursday at Wembley Stadium. Like the U.S., Japan are the heavy favorites and if the favorites go through, the Gold Medal Match will be a rematch of last year's epic Women's World Cup final, which the Japanese won on penalties.
Game Date/Time: Monday, 2:45 p.m. ET
Venue: Old Trafford, Manchester, England
TV: NBC Sports Network