USA vs. China & Canada vs. England
By Gunnar Berndt
Quarterfinal: USA (world no. 2) vs. China (world no. 16)
June 26 – Kickoff: 6:30 p.m. CT
Red Stars: Julie Johnston (DEF), Lori Chalupny (MID-DEF), Shannon Boxx (MID), Christen Press (FWD) – all USA
The Americans’ quarterfinal fixture is a rematch of the 1999 World Cup final, which the U.S. won on penalty kicks following a scoreless draw in regulation time. While Chicago center back Julie Johnston and company are widely viewed as favorites, it should not come as a shock if Friday’s match were to be as fiercely contested as the battle in Los Angeles 16 years ago. After all, the Stars and Stripes have earned three consecutive shutouts in the 2015 tournament and their technically skilled counterparts from Asia have gone without conceding from the run of play in three of their four games thus far.
The U.S. Women received mixed reviews after their 2-0 win over fiery Colombians in the round of 16, some pundits pointing to a perceived lack of attacking creativity, while China continued its resurrection on the international stage with a 1-0 win over a strong Cameroon side. The current success of Hao Wei’s squad has been somewhat surprising, as the Chinese Head Coach has been charged with a complete overhaul of the program entailing player pool expansion and the development of young prospects, efforts that many expected to start paying off in the next World Cup circle or beyond.
With the USWNT offense arguably having left room for improvement, Chicago star Christen Press may have a shot at reclaiming her spot in the first eleven after scoring in the group opener against Australia and last starting in the team’s second match against Sweden. Press entered the recent win over Colombia in the second half, alongside fellow Red Stars standout Lori Chalupny, who logged her first minutes of the 2015 World Cup. U.S legend Shannon Boxx looks to feature again after helping close out a 1-0 result against Nigeria in the final group game and serving as a backup in the round of 16.
Quarterfinal: Canada (world no. 8) vs. England (world no. 6)
June 27 – Kickoff: 6:30 p.m. CT
Red Stars: Karina LeBlanc (GK), Adriana Leon (FWD), Melissa Tancredi (FWD) – all Canada
Having struggled to produce convincing attacking play, the Canadians will have their work cut out against an England side that has not conceded more than a goal in any of its four 2015 World Cup matches and that some pundits consider a dark horse to win the trophy. While 23-year-old Adriana Leon looks to add to her one start for the Canucks thus far, fellow Red Stars and Canada striker Melissa Tancredi is expected to be in the first eleven once more, having featured prominently throughout the tournament.
With Chicago goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc serving as backup for the hosts, former Red Star Erin McLeod has been her usual world-class self in net and has had the support of a mostly solid backline, conceding just one goal over the course of the group stage and the 1-0 win against Switzerland in the round of 16. McLeod and company will be charged with containing an England attack that has scored a pair of goals in each of its previous three matches, another former Chicago standout, Karen Carney, leading the charge with two tallies in just 170 minutes played.
The Canadians’ European opponents have thrived since the hiring of Head Coach Mark Sampson, who has led the team to three consecutive 2-1 victories since the 1-0 defeat to mighty France in the World Cup group opener. Most recently, the Three Lionesses downed Norway to advance to the quarterfinals.