By Nathan Engel
PRAVETS, Bulgaria – The U.S. Women’s Soccer Team continued its run through pool play with a 7-0 statement victory against Japan on a sunny day in Pravets, an hour east of Sofia.
In the first half, the U.S. controlled the ball with precise passing, ball control, and a relentless defense that frequently stripped the ball from Japanese players.
“I liked how our team responded today,” head coach Yon Strubel said. “Our pool might have not been the best this year, but our team showed up ready to play nonetheless. We controlled the ball against a quick Japanese team, which was really important today.”
Throughout the first half, Japan struggled to push the ball against the U.S. and as a result was constantly on the defensive, and even there, they could not block U.S. scoring attacks.
A few minutes into the game, the U.S. was able to push the ball deep into Japan territory and earned a corner kick.
Midfielder Liza Offreda set the ball, took her position and fired one into the air. Defender Anna Smither came in all the way from the backfield and met the ball head-on, sending it straight into the net for the first American goal of the day.
20 minutes later, the U.S. had the ball past midfield with a free kick opportunity. Japan intercepted the kick and attempted to deflect it, only to give it straight to midfielder Julia Nelson.
Nelson, in the right place at the right time, found the upper right corner of the net and sent the ball past the goaltender’s outstretched arms for her first of four scores, stretching the U.S. lead to 2-0.
Off a fast break, Offreda made a nice cross pass to Nelson, who converted the pass for her second goal of the day, putting the U.S. up, 3-0.
“We played really good today,” said Offreda, who finished with two assists. “We made a lot of passes and did a god job controlling the ball and scored whenever the opportunities came.”
Minutes before halftime, forward Felicia Schroeder was deep in Japanese territory when she received the ball. Using her field awareness, she spun around the defender and blasted the ball into the net, sending the U.S. into halftime with a 4-0 lead.
After the half, The U.S. again went on the offensive as the ball met Nelson’s red-hot feet and subsequently sailed into the net.
Midway through the second half, Smither made a crossover pass to Schroeder, who converted for her second goal.
Nelson scored once more to complete the U.S. attack and wrap up the game, 7-0.
“This game, we finally played on a high level, which is what we’re capable of,” Schroeder said. “The last two games, we sort of played to the other team’s level, so this was good for us.
“We’re done with pool play now, so the next few games are even more important… but we’re ready for it though,” she said.
U.S. plays Great Britain in the semifinals at 9:30 a.m. (2:30 a.m. ET) Thursday at Pitch No. 2 in Pravets. Russia plays Poland in the other semifinal match.
Meghan Maiwald, Liza Offreda, Anna Smither, Sydney Andrews, Heather Kennedy, Felicia Schroeder, Kate Ward, Madison Taylor, Barbara Previ, Jules Nelson, and Laura Yon Carlson started the game against Japan.
Allison Galoob, Stacy Messner, and Chloe Rice also saw playing time.
The stands were full of American and Japanese fans showing spirit for their teams. There were also a noticeable number of parents and relatives of players who came from overseas to root on the women’s national team.