Mitch's Sports Report: Two Headers, Epic Save On A Penalty Kick Send U.S. Women To World Cup Final
In a game brimming with drama even before it began, and with every touch once it did, the United States women's national soccer team embraced the spotlight, and exited the stage heading to their third consecutive World Cup final.
The 2-1 victory the U.S. scored over England yesterday was an everything but the kitchen sink game.
A star player missing on the pitch. A goal called back after video review. A brilliant save on a penalty kick. And two spectacular headers converted on passes that served as perfect examples of why football is called "the beautiful game".
This game, a semi-final between two of the most exciting teams in the tournament, began with a question: where is Megan Rapinoe?
The dynamic forward who scored both U.S. goals in the team's 2-1 win over France in the previous match was not dressed for warm-ups, and never appeared in the game. She was spotted on the sidelines as the game went on but there was no official comment from coach Jill Eliis as to why Rapinoe was not available, and it wasn't until late in the second half that word emerged she had a pulled hamstring keeping her off the pitch. After the win Rapinoe was adamant that she will be ready for Sunday's final.
But in Rapinoe's absence, her replacement Christen Press showed how deep the U.S. team is, heading in a gorgeous feed from Kelly O'Hara 15 minutes into the match for a 1-0 U.S. lead.
But give the Lionesses credit for never giving in. They got the equalizer off an angled touch deflection off the foot of Ellen White, her sixth goal of the tournament.
But the U.S. answered again in the 31st minute on a goal very similar to the first, a sensational pass from Lindsey Horan that Alex Morgan headed into the net, not a bad way to celebrate your 30th birthday, and then the drama really began.
It looked as if England had equalized for a second time when Ellen White once again split the U.S. defense and put the ball home, but a video review showed she was half a step off-side and the goal was called back.
But video review would play a role again when a U.S. foul was called in the penalty area and English captain Steph Houghton stepped to the dot with a golden opportunity to tie the game. By far the biggest test of the tournament so far for U.S. keeper Alyssa Naeher, and she came up with the greatest save of her professional career, diving to her right and guessing correctly that was where Houghton was aiming, stopping her low shot to the corner with a brilliant effort, and the U.S. was able to run out the clock after that to make the finals yet again, favorites to defend their title no matter who the opponent will be.
That will be determined when the Netherlands and Sweden run against each other in today's other semi-final, set to begin at 3pm eastern time. Sweden is the team that knocked the U.S. out in the Olympics, but the two squads did play earlier this tournament in group play with the U.S. winning that match. Holland would be a dark horse pick to win today and would be even more of an underdog shoud they make the final.
The U.S. women look every bit like the best team in the world, again, and it will be difficult for any nation to stop the momentum they've built up, especially when they show they can still win the biggest games without one of its biggest stars.
To Major League Baseball, and the Boston Red Sox jumped out to a big lead, and, stop the presses, actually held onto that lead to get a win, a 10-6 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays at the Rogers Centre last night.
It's been a rough season for the Red Sox overall, but not for Rafael Devers, the 22-year old third baseman having a break-out season at the plate, and last night he tied a career high with six runs batted in, belting two home runs in the process.
That performance backed up a fine effort by David Price, who went six innings and won his fifth straight decision. Price's best inning came when he worked out of a bases loaded jam in the second, getting slugger Vladimir Guerrero Jr. to fly out to end the threat. The only real hiccup was three runs given up by Trevor Kelly, who was making his major league debut as the Red Sox try to figure out some way to close out games with no true closer on the roster.
It probably doesn't matter much in actually catching them, but the Red Sox did pick up a game in the standings on the first place NY Yankees, who lost to their crosstown rivals the NY Mets 4-2 at Citi Field in Queens last night.
Michael Conforto had the big hit, snapping a 2-2 tie in the 8th when he doubled home the eventual winning run. J.D. Davis homered for the Mets, who were able end the Yankee streak of home runs hit in consecutive games. After breaking that 28-game string set by the 2002 Texas Rangers, the Yankees passed that mark and extended the home run barrage to 31 games before the Mets pitchers kept them in the yard last night.
Edwin Diaz closed it out for the Mets, making sure a fine start by Zack Wheeler didn't go for naught. Wheeler went six and a third but got a no-decision. Jason Vargas goes for the Mets in game two tonight while the Yankees counter with Domingo German.
There's a power outage in Vermont. Well, at least for the state's single A pro baseball team. The Lake Monsters lost their fourth straight game yesterday, a 1-0 setback against the Lowell Spinners, and in those last four losses for the Monsters, they've failed to score a run in three of them.
Vermont could manage just two hits all night against Lowell pitching in yesterday's loss, and the Spinners struck out 15 Lake Monsters in the process. Richard Morban did pitch five scoreless innings for Vermont, but pitching isn't the problem right now for the Monsters, who need to spark their offense to break their skid.
The Vermont Mountaineers had the good kind of streak going, and were hoping to push their consecutive win total to double digits against the Keene Swamp Bats, who had other ideas. The Swamp Bats ended Vermont's winning streak at nine games with an 8-3 win at Recreational Field in Montpelier last night. The Mountaineers are still in a good spot, though, just half a game behind first place North Adams in the northern division, with a day off today.
The Upper Valley Nighthawks are in fourth place following an 8-5 loss to the Winnipesaukee Muskrats last night. The Muskrats scored five runs in the first inning to jump out to a lead they would not relinquish.
At Wimbledon, Roger Federer lost his first set to Lloyd Harris of South Africa, but recovered to sweep the next three to advance. On the women's side, Serena Williams advanced into the next round after a straight set win.