Women's World Cup: Takeaways from USA's thrilling win over England

The U.S. will face the winner of Wednesday's semifinal match between Sweden and the Netherlands in the finals.

USA soccer

USA has won its last 11 matches at the Women’s World Cup; the best winning streak in the tournament’s history.   -  Getty Images

The U.S. pulled off a thrilling 2-1 win against England in the semifinal of the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup as the Americans advanced to the finals.

In front of a sold-out crowd of 53,512 fans packed into Parc Olympique Lyonnais in Lyon, France, the Americans put on a dominant showing as they made their case to become defending champions.

Both teams played at a high level of physicality, but the U.S. proved to be the stronger team as its depth was tested in the absence of Megan Rapinoe.

The U.S. will face the winner of Wednesday's semifinal match between Sweden and Netherlands, while England will play the loser in the third-place game.

No Megan Rapinoe? No problem

U.S. coach Jill Ellis shocked everyone when she announced her starting XI and it was revealed Megan Rapinoe would start on the bench. While it's not exactly clear why Ellis made this decision, the speculation ranged from a purely tactical choice to questions around the veteran's health because she didn't warm up at all and was seen with tape on her hamstring. Fox Sports reported during halftime that Rapinoe would be out with a hamstring injury.

Christen Press replaced Rapinoe and didn't waste any time getting on the board as she scored USA's first goal in the 10th minute. It gave the U.S. six goals in the opening 15 minutes of matches, which is more than 14 teams had total at the tournament this year. It was her first goal of this tournament and second-ever World Cup goal.

READ | Morgan sends USA into final despite Rapinoe absence

While many were worried about how Press would handle the pressure of playing on such a big stage, she is considered among the fastest and fittest players on the U.S. side and offered a good matchup against England's Lucy Bronze. As good as Rapinoe is, she doesn't contribute a lot defensively, which is why Press made sense as a replacement.

Sure, Rapinoe could have capitalized on a few of the Americans' missed opportunities — but the U.S. held its own without her. 

Defense was the name of the game

Tuesday's semifinal came down to defense. Both England and the U.S. were strong on attack, forcing both sides to play with a high level of defense that tested both goalies at times.

It became Alyssa Naeher's time to shine as she made three big saves. She did have one defensive letdown, which resulted in Ellen White scoring for England, but, other than that, she allowed the U.S. to be in control of the game. What's more is the defending by the forwards was strong, which put England's defense under pressure to get the ball back.

ALSO READ | How 'free spirit' Megan Rapinoe started on the road to greatness

Arguably the biggest defensive play of the tournament? Naeher's huge save on Steph Houghton's penalty kick that will define her World Cup performance.

England's defense was strong, as well, with Carly Telford in goal, but she allowed the Lionesses to concede its first goal after 380 minutes of play. She made two big saves and there was strong communication between her and England's back line. Had that not been the case, the U.S. might have found the back of the net even more.

The U.S. had a bit of luck on its side

The Americans made it to the finals with a bit of luck. Yes, it was a hard-fought match, but one call in the 65th minute changed the course of the game. 

It looked like England's White scored as she sent the ball past Naeher in open play, but after a VAR check, the goal was reversed following video review. She was one step offside on the goal. Had she scored, it would have evened the score at 2-2.

The mistake by White gave the U.S. a chance to advance to the finals and defend its title.