USA poses for photographs before kick off during the Women's Football first round Group G match between the United States and DPR Korea,on Day 4 of the London 2012 Olympic Games at Old Trafford on July 31, 2012 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Stanley Chou/Getty Images)
NEWCASTLE, England - The goals will be harder to come by. The celebrations unplanned.
After sweeping its Olympic group for the first time, the U.S. women's soccer team plays New Zealand on Friday in the quarterfinals.
"If you lose in the quarters, you're done. You don't get a chance for a medal," U.S. striker Alex Morgan says. "It's win or go home."
The USA needed two goals by Morgan in the last seven minutes of a February exhibition vs. New Zealand to rally for a 2-1 victory. That game was played for kicks in Frisco, Texas, but a win in Friday's game would earn the USA a semifinal berth in the London Olympics and a potential meeting at historic Old Trafford with host nation Great Britain, which is favored to beat Canada in another quarterfinal.
U.S. coach Pia Sundhage was asked if there was any temptation to look ahead to a showdown that would be likely force organizers to open the upper bowl of the 75,811-capacity stadium.
Sundhage said simply, "No."
Morgan, however, admitted to peeking ahead.
"We have New Zealand tomorrow, and we're focused on that," said Morgan, noting Great Britain drew more than 70,000 fans for a London group-play match vs. Brazil. "But if everything lines up right and we do well this game, we might have them next match, and that would be a huge match for both of us."
The U.S. women played at Old Trafford on Tuesday, when they topped North Korea 1-0 and staged a planned celebration following Abby Wambach's first-half goal. The forward's teammates locked hands in a chorus line and wiggled a worm move out of goalkeeper Hope Solo on the other end of the field.
Players say it's likely to be their final planned celebration and certainly the last dance for Solo, the former Dancing With the Stars competitor who essentially is coming off the shelf for the knockout round. She faced one shot on goal in the past two games, and she spoke this week of the importance of staying mentally sharp.
"You may not do anything for 89 minutes, but when the play comes you better be ready," she says. "And that's just the life of a goalkeeper."
Also seeking action for the first time in two games, Shannon Boxx says she's healthy and ready to play after missing time with an injured hamstring. Sundhage says Boxx probably will come off the bench Friday while Carli Lloyd starts at center midfielder in her place.
"Every single one of us wants to be out there helping this team," Boxx says. "I'm very proud of this team and how they've handled themselves, and I'm just doing everything I can off the field to still be a presence and a leader. I'm going to be ready to go whenever I can."
New Zealand, ranked 24th in the FIFA world rankings which peg the Americans as No. 1, lost 1-0 to both Brazil and Great Britain before defeating Cameroon 3_1 in the final game of group play.
The Football Ferns have on defense a face familiar to U.S. soccer fans:
Ali Riley. The Los Angeles born 24 year old played four years at Stanford alongside American defender Kelley O'Hara, and both played a season for the FC Gold Pride of the now defunct WPS.
O'Hara says one of her best friends is the enemy for a day.
"She's a star for that team and I'm proud that she's done so well for herself," O'Hara says. "When that whistle blows we're no longer friends."
By Robert Klemko