5 more things you might not know about USA vs. South Africa

meghan

Meghan Klingenberg and Chrestinah Kgatlana of South Africa, July 9, 2016. (Nam Y. Huh/AP)

With their 1-0 victory over South Africa on Saturday (July 9), the U.S. women are one game away from the start of the Summer Olympics.

rio nbcLast stop before Brazil: Kansas City on July 22, for a game against Costa Rica (8 p.m. CT, ESPN).

The Americans and the South Africans could meet again in Rio. Both are in the 12-nation Olympic tournament.

Until then, here are five parting oddities, curiosities, or (possibly) interesting facts about last Saturday’s game and its participants:

 

1.

The 19,272 fans at Soldier Field in Chicago saw something that’s become rare: Heather O’Reilly on the field.

O’Reilly played the last seven minutes of the game, replacing Kelley O’Hara.  It was her first appearance in three months; on April 10, she came on in the 69th minute of a 7-0 thrashing of Colombia.

The 31-year-old midfielder was once a fixture in the U.S. lineup. She helped the United States win gold medals at the 2004, 2008, and 2012 Olympics. Her 151 starts (in 230 appearances) place her 15th on the all-time U.S. list.

But she never found favor with coach Jill Ellis, whose precision offense and emphasis on versatility don’t play to O’Reilly’s strengths.

Heather O'Reilly. (Getty Images)

Heather O’Reilly. (Getty Images)

She has logged just 75 minutes in 2016, by far the least on the team.

Three days after the South Africa match, Ellis announced her roster for Rio. O’Reilly isn’t on it.

 

2.

The game-winner was scored by Crystal Dunn in the 35th minute, with an assist by Mallory Pugh:

Pugh, the young American, leads the team with seven assists this year. Carli Lloyd is second with five.

 

3.

The shutout was Hope Solo’s 100th. It wasn’t one of the tougher ones. South Africa managed just four shots, two of them on goal. Both were easy saves.

Hope Solo and fans after her 100th shutout, against South Africa, July 9, 2016. (Nam Y. Huh/AP)

Hope Solo and fans after her 100th shutout, against South Africa, July 9, 2016. (Nam Y. Huh/AP)

 

4.

This will be South Africa’s second appearance in the Olympics.  In the London Games of 2012, the team didn’t make it out of the group stage. Its  biggest moment was playing Japan, the eventual silver medal winner, to a scoreless draw.

 

5.

Followers of the international game regard South Africa as a team on the rise. If its gradual, steady progress continues, the team has a chance of qualifying for its first first World Cup, in France in 2019.

Much of the credit goes to coach Vera Pauw, a former captain of the Dutch national team.

Vera Pauw. (UEFA)

Vera Pauw. (UEFA)

Pauw has brought discipline and organization to a team whose style was often freewheeling,  sometimes chaotic.

When she took over in 2014, South Africa was ranked 60th in the world. A year later, it was No. 56. Today, it’s 52.

In 1998, after retiring as a player with 89 caps, she was hired to coach the Scottish women’s team. In 2004, she returned to the Netherlands to take charge of her old team, leading the Orange to the semi–finals of the Women’s Euro 2009 tournament. In 2011, she served as interim coach of the Russian women’s team.

When she was introduced as South Africa’s coach in March of 2014, she spoke of the country’s “massive potential” to develop its women into “international stars.”

More importantly, she said, “There are plenty of opportunities in which we can use football to enhance the future of women in general.”

 

 

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