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No Rapinoe, but U.S. reaches third straight Cup final

Kevin Baxter, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Soccer

LYON, France -- Ask Jill Ellis and she'll say her United States women's national soccer team wins so often because it has something no other team has.

No, not the best players. The last three world players of the year have all played for someone else. No, not the best club teams to draw from, because those are all in Europe now.

What Ellis' team has is intangible. Can't see it, touch it or feel it. But it was on full display again Tuesday when the U.S. gutted out a 2-1 semifinal win over England to advance to a third straight Women's World Cup final Sunday. The U.S. will play the winner of the second semifinal Wednesday between Sweden and the Netherlands.

"There's something to be said for always believing that you can win," Ellis said. "We look at the game as every moment is there to seize. So whatever it takes has kind of been the mentality and the mind-set of this team.

"Finding a way to win is straight up. It doesn't matter to me how."

Here's how they did it this time:

 

When Megan Rapinoe, who had all four U.S. goals in the previous two games, is unable to go because of a hamstring issue, Christen Press starts in her place, scores a goal and sets up the other.

When Alyssa Naeher is called upon in the closing minutes to stop a penalty kick that could have tied the score and possibly sent the game to overtime, she dives directly into the path of English captain Steph Houghton's shot, saving the game and potentially the World Cup.

"Everyone is willing to step up. That's the mentality of this entire team," midfielder Julie Ertz said. "Whatever's thrown at us, we're going to take."

And more often than not, beat.

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