Midfielders Lauren Holiday and Megan Rapinoe racked up yellow cards in the first half of the U.S.’s 2-0 win over Colombia, and that’s bad news: because each was already sitting on a yellow from earlier in the World Cup, they’ll miss Friday’s quarterfinal match against China. They were the only two players entering the match in danger of suspension, and captain Abby Wambach implied that wasn’t a coincidence.
“I don’t know if they were yellows. It seemed like she (French referee Stephanie Frappart) was purposefully giving those yellows to, maybe players she knew were sitting on yellows. I don’t know if that’s a psychological thing. Who knows?” Wambach said.
Rapinoe’s 41st-minute yellow may have been debatable, but she acknowledged that it was probably “for an accumulation of calls”—it was her fifth of the first half. Holiday, carded in the 17th minute on her first foul of the game (she would rack up four in the first half), said her call was “soft.”
While the U.S. was called for 22 fouls to Colombia’s 12, that was a function of physical play. If Frappart was out to get the USWNT, she did a poor job of it, showing Colombia’s keeper a red and awarding two penalties. Wambach’s comments came from shaky ground, and FIFA, notoriously defensive about criticism of its officials, could reprimand her.
The U.S. should be fine on Friday; they’re a much stronger team than China, even without Holiday and Rapinoe (who’s been the Americans’ best player throughout the tournament). But after that it gets dicey. The semifinal will pit the U.S. against the winner of Germany (No. 1 in the world) and France (No. 3), and while Holiday and Rapinoe will be back for that one, they’ll be coming in cold. The American midfield has been worryingly underwhelming, and while coach Jill Ellis spoke last night about the team hoping to improve with every match, two key cogs won’t have that chance before the single toughest match the USWNT will face.