Carli Lloyd finally was able to express her creativity on field.
Aided by tweaks in the lineup, the 32-year-old midfielder was able to roam more Friday night, scoring for the United States in a 1-0 victory over China that sent the Americans to the semifinals of the Women's World Cup against Germany.
"These are the moments I live for," she said of her goal on a 51st-minute header. "Having the freedom to attack and do what I do best enabled me to create some chances. Just overall so happy we got the win — and on to the semifinal."
Hope Solo had her fourth straight shutout for the second-ranked United States, which has reached the final four of all seven Women's World Cups but has not won since beating China on penalty kicks for the 1999 title at the Rose Bowl.
Seeking their third world championship, the Americans have not allowed a goal in 423 minutes since this year's tournament opener against Australia. Solo set a record for a U.S. goalkeeper with her 134th win, passing Briana Scurry.
The U.S. plays top-ranked Germany, the 2003 and '07 champion, on Tuesday in Montreal.
Despite missing midfielders Megan Rapinoe and Lauren Holiday, who were suspended for yellow card accumulation, the U.S. managed a more attacking attitude and extended its unbeaten streak against China to 25 matches dating to 2003.
"I think it was a highly energized performance," U.S. coach Jill Ellis said. "I thought we took care of the ball well, still created a lot of opportunities. So, yeah, we're really pleased."
Morgan Brian replaced Holiday in the middle with Lloyd, with Tobin Heath and Kelley O'Hara — making her first start since March — the flanks. Amy Rodriguez started up top with Alex Morgan, injecting more pace, while 35-year-old Abby Wambach, the record-holder for goals in women's international soccer, did not enter until the 86th minute.
The moves allowed Lloyd to move up, giving her more room to roam and be creative.
Wearing the captain's armband, Lloyd got the breakthrough with her 65th goal in 200 international appearances. Julie Johnston lofted a long ball into the penalty area and Lloyd met it with her head 10 yards from the goal line and bounced the ball off the artificial turf and past goalkeeper Fei Wang.
That brought cheers from the overwhelmingly pro-American crowd of 24,141 at Lansdowne Stadium.
"I don't just want to be a participant in the World Cup," Lloyd said. "I want to have a legacy. I want to have people remember me, and let my play do the talking."
Morgan, who started in her third straight match after recovering from a bone bruise, said Lloyd's play helped spark the whole team.
"I really liked getting a central midfielder up on the field," Morgan said. "She took that opportunity and ran with it."
Lloyd scored the winning goal in overtime to beat Brazil for the gold medal in the 2008 Beijing Olympics and scored both U.S. goals in the 2012 London final over Japan.
In the opening half, the best American chance was by Johnston in the 26th minute that was cleared in front of an open net by defender Li Dongna. Johnston also had a header off a corner kick in the 31st minute that popped over the crossbar.
Wambach was impassioned in her plea for a goal as the United States came out of the break.
"One of my teammates had to move away from me because I'm obnoxious on the bench, screaming and yelling for my teammates," she said. "Super proud of Carli and Hope today. For some reason, I knew today was going to be a day for Carli to show up."
Brian had a chance to double the lead in the 73rd, but her long strike hit a post, and Lloyd missed high on the rebound.
The U.S. had a 17-6 advantage in shots and 56 percent possession, creating more chances than in the 2-0 round-of-16 win over Colombia.
China coach Hao Wei took responsibility for the team's loss, saying through a translator he could have used better tactics.
"They did excellent in Canada," he said about his team, which failed to qualify for the 2011 tournament and has not advanced past the quarterfinals since 1999. "I hope that they can carry on the good work and make a greater contribution to soccer in China."
In Saturday's quarterfinals, host Canada faces England and Australia plays defending champion Japan.
The Americans face a considerable challenge in Germany, which lost to Japan in overtime in the 2011 quarter. Germany advanced earlier by beating France 5-4 on penalty kicks after a 1-1 tie. The United States has an 18-4-7 overall record against the Germans, including a 3-2 advantage in World Cup matches.
"We're going back to the drawing board, because for every stage as this tournament goes on, it's a new tournament," Wambach said. "In order to get to the final, we're going to have to play impeccable soccer."