Olympics 2012: U.S. women’s soccer tops New Zealand, heads to semis

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Sundhage said she’s been fine with her players’ antics.

“I’m not a psychologist,” the U.S. coach said. “We score goals, and you’re happy. What the players want to do, whatever they do, it has to be fun. If they come up with ideas, that’s perfectly fine.”

Solo recorded her third consecutive shutout, although once again she was rarely challenged. The Americans haven’t allowed a goal since France scored twice early in the first half of the Olympic opener.

“We haven’t been really tested,” Solo said. “I’m waiting to still get tested, but that’s what happens when you’re ranked No. 1.”

New Zealand, ranked 23rd in the world, was making its first appearance in the knockout phase of a major tournament. The Football Ferns have lost nine straight to the U.S., with their only win in the series coming in 1987.

Even though they’re on a winning streak, the Americans had trouble turning control-of-play dominance into goals for the third straight game. They led Colombia 1-0 before getting two goals late in the second half and beat North Korea 1-0, albeit after slowing the game down in the second half to save their legs for the quarterfinals.

Morgan was just wide with a pair of solid scoring chances, and Morgan and Wambach both had scary collisions with New Zealand goalkeeper Jenny Bindon. Wambach kicked Bindon in the head in the first half, and Morgan did the same in the second half.

Morgan’s collision left her with a charley horse and she soon left for Leroux, the youngest player on the team and the only one who wasn’t on last year’s World Cup squad. It didn’t take long for Leroux to score her first Olympic goal, outpacing the New Zealand defenders with a run down the left side and beating Bindon with a strong left-footed finish.

There were no cartwheels from the 21-year-old forward after the ball went in. Just unbridled joy.

“I didn’t plan anything because I went crazy,” Leroux said. “I was unaware that I scored, I think. I blacked out, I’m pretty sure. I was just, like, going crazy. … I think I almost starting crying and the game wasn’t even over.”

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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