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US women’s soccer team focuses on big picture

By Kevin Baxter, Los Angeles Times –

LONDON — Two games into the women’s Olympic soccer tournament, one trend has already become clear: Opponents have decided assault and battery may be the most effective way to slow the high-powered U.S. attack.

In the Americans’ opening win over France, Alex Morgan and Shannon Boxx went down after hard tackles. Boxx has yet to return, missing all but the first 17 minutes of the tournament.

Then in Saturday’s victory over Colombia, Lady Andrade punched U.S. striker Abby Wambach from behind, producing a nasty shiner under her right eye.

None of that produced so much as a yellow card from the officials, however, leaving some of the U.S. players to wonder whether they are on their own heading into Tuesday’s group-play final against North Korea at historic Old Trafford in Manchester.

“In the Colombia game, I was surprised that there weren’t any cards handed out,” said U.S. midfielder Tobin Heath. “But this game is going to be physical and that’s what you expect at this level.”

FIFA, the world governing body for international soccer, stepped in Monday and suspended Andrade two games for her attack on Wambach, who would not be provoked into fighting back. She did respond by scoring a second-half goal, though, her team-record sixth in Olympic competition.

The U.S. — one of three unbeaten, untied teams remaining in the women’s competition — will have to show similar restraint should the North Koreans also get physical. The U.S. has already qualified for the tournament quarterfinals and a red card Tuesday would carry over into the knockout round.

“She handled her composure well. She saw the bigger picture,” team captain Christie Rampone said of Wambach. “We know that a yellow card can affect the team. Two yellow cards back to back, you are out of the next game.

“We are definitely mindful of the tournament play and what we need to do to advance.”

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