The United States women’s national team proved to be dangerous in front of goal, but once again could not put the ball in the back of the net as they settled for a frustrating scoreless tie with Portugal at Eden Park in Auckland, New Zealand on Tuesday night.
The team has finished in second place in Group E with five points and will head into the Round of 16 clash with most likely Sweden on August 6, in Melbourne, Australia. They are very fortunate to be progressing as Portugal was a whisker away from sending the reigning World Cup champions packing for home.
The Americans had an early chance in the game when Lynn Williams sent a cross toward the six-yard box for Alex Morgan, but her shot took a deflection off the Portuguese defender to make it a corner kick.
Portugal proved to be no pushover in this game as they showed their organization and even carved up the U.S. back for some good chances to score although their attempts were off target.
Midfielder Rose Lavelle received some bad news in the 38th minute when the referee booked her for a tackle on Dolores Silva. Despite replays showing that she did not go in on the challenge, that yellow means she will be suspended for the Sweden game.
It was certainly a frustrating first half as the U.S. dominated in possession and had the better chances.
The frustration carried over to the second half even as head coach Vlato Andonovski went to his bench to find a spark of inspiration.
The U.S. had their best chance in the 54th minute when the captain, Lindsey Horan, dribbled the ball from midfield and played a through-ball to Morgan. The San Diego Wave forward pushed the ball past goalkeeper Ines Pereira and took a shot, but it was cleared off the line.
As the game edged toward its end, Portugal started to gain confidence. They put Americans on their heels in the 82nd minute when Diana Silva collected the ball on the left side from a free-kick and crossed into the middle. Goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher could only parry the ball and had to quickly smother it as it was left loose in the six-yard box.
The real scare came in stoppage time as Portugal was allowed one last attempt to record a shock result. A pass from the back was headed into the path of substitute Ana Capeta. She did well to remain composed with three U.S. defenders surrounding her as she took her shot. The ball got past Naeher and the Portuguese forward was destined to be the hero, but thankfully for the champions it came crashing off the post.
With that, the game ended all square, with the U.S. thanking their lucky stars as they once again showed no answers to resolving their goal-scoring woes. Stats showed they took 17 shots compared to Portugal’s six. Can they get out of this funk before Sunday?