The United States had a 7-3 advantage in corner kicks and scored its first two goals off restarts and three of its five. Carli Lloyd put the Americans ahead in the third minute off a grass-hugging corner kick from Megan Rapinoe, who appeared to surprise a Japanese team that on average is 2 inches shorter than the Americans and likely was expecting a ball in the air. Lloyd doubled the lead two minutes later when Lauren Holiday took a free kick from the flank and played a low one-hopper that Julie Johnston played to Lloyd with a back-heel flick. The final goal was scored when Holiday's corner kick went to the far post and Morgan Brian played the ball back in front to Tobin Heath.
U.S. coach Jill Ellis, criticized for her tactics and lineup selections early in the tournament — even by former American star Michelle Akers — switched from a 4-4-2 in the 1-0 quarterfinal win over China to a 4-2-3-1 for the 2-0 semifinal win over Germany, putting the 22-year-old Brian, the youngest player on her roster, in a defensive midfield role and freeing Lloyd to move higher up the field.
Speaking of switches
Pia Sundhage left as coach in 2012 after a pair of Olympic titles to coach her native Sweden and was replaced by Tom Sermanni, who took over at the start of 2013. After a dismal 1-2-1 record at the 2014 Algarve Cup, Sermanni was fired that April and the U.S. Soccer Federation turned to Ellis, its director of development. She had gone 5-0-2 in an interim role in 2012, was given the job on an interim basis again after Sermanni's departure and then was appointed head coach in May 2014. She had never used the same starting lineup in consecutive matches until the group stage finale against Nigeria and the round-of-16 game against Colombia, then used an identical lineup once again in the semifinal against Germany and the final vs. Japan.