New Jersey native Carli Lloyd, back in the starting lineup after an injury to Shannon Boxx, scored in the 77th minute of the U.S. women's soccer team's match against Colombia Saturday, marking the second time the Delran woman has helped lift her team over the competition.
Lloyd scored the go-ahead goal in the qualifying match on Wednesday. Meanwhile, her teammate Megan Rapinoe celebrated her own Saturday goal by reaching into her sock and pulling out a birthday note for an injured teammate, part of a dominant and somewhat feisty performance that kept the soccer team unbeaten after two games at the Olympics.
The Americans moved closer to the quarterfinals Saturday with a 3-0 win over Colombia, peppering the opponent's net from the opening whistle of a physical game. There was no early letdown — as there had been three days earlier in the come-from-behind win over France — and the only surprise was that such a one-sided match didn't yield a more lopsided score.
Abby Wambach finally broke the game open with a goal in the 74th minute, making her the Americans' all-time leading scorer in Olympic play.
Rapinoe's goal came in the 33rd, a play set up when Alex Morgan intercepted a pass near the Colombia box. Morgan passed to Rapinoe, whose curling 20-yarder sailed over goalkeeper Sandra Sepulveda's outstretched hand. Rapinoe then reached into her sock and retrieved a note wishing a happy birthday to Ali Krieger, the U.S. defender who is missing these Olympics after blowing out her knee during a qualifying match.
Krieger turned 28 Saturday and is sorely missed, but the Americans are so deep that there's always someone else seemingly ready to step in and do an effective job. Boxx injured her right hamstring in the 4-2 win over France, but veteran Lloyd — who led the team in minutes at last year's World Cup — started in Boxx's place and scored for the second time in two games.
The win all but assured a berth in the quarterfinals for the Americans, pending the results of Saturday's other matches. The U.S. has one group game remaining against North Korea in Manchester on Tuesday. Colombia wraps up with France in Newcastle on the same day.
Colombia is ranked No. 28 in the world and has nine players on U.S. college teams, but South American national squads generally play a light international schedule that gives them little chance to develop any cohesion. The Colombians threatened goalkeeper Hope Solo's net a few times, but they remain scoreless all-time in five matches in the top women's soccer tournaments — the World Cup and the Olympics.
What they lacked in finesse, they tried to make up for in muscle. The game had some rough moments, with both sides grabbing and pushing as much as the referee would allow. Rapinoe and Colombia's Catalina Usme looked ready to come to blows just before the halftime.
Morgan had a goal disallowed in the 41st minute when she was deemed offside, and Rapinoe had a potential second goal cleared off the line by defender Natalia Gaitan in first-half injury time.
But Wambach was able to convert in the second half, sliding between two defenders to get off the shot after a nice feed from Tobin Heath. Wambach has six career Olympic goals, moving her ahead of Mia Hamm and Tiffeny Milbrett.
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