Friday, June 19, 2015

Women's World Cup - U.S. vs Nigeria

Source: WWCGraphics
A 45th minute goal from Wambach is what ultimately gave the U.S. the win, but there were plenty of chances, especially in the first 15 minutes.  However, the USWNT's execution of the set pieces were not up to their normal standard.  For a team that handles set pieces as poorly as the Nigerian team against a team that plays them as well as the United States, there should have been more goals scored. I don't like the short corner attempts from the U.S.  Especially when the lineup includes Wambach, Morgan, and Johnston who are excellent at heading on corner kicks.  They're ok to attempt at times when you see something with the way the opponent is defending the kick, but not when that team is Nigeria.

I reserve the right to change my mind and while I love both of them, Rampone and O'Hara can enjoy the World Cup from the sideline unless one of the starting back four is tired or the game is already won.  Sauerbrunn and Johnston have an amazing connection and are playing spectacular beside each other. The way that Sauerbrunn, Johnston, Klingenberg, and Krieger are playing as a group, you don't change that chemistry.  Even when Rampone came in during the second half, it was for a midfielder and she played left back allowing the Sauerbrunn/Johnston combo to remain.  Rampone has mentored Sauerbrunn well and they look to be doing an equally effective job with Johnston. Julie Foudy has been saying that this team should be playing a 4-3-3 lineup and with the way that the back four and Solo are playing, I can't disagree with her. Let the back four do what they've been doing and attack, attack, attack.  Get the early lead and make the other team chase the game.  Then take advantage of what DiCicco calls "the U.S. trap" where the U.S. continually increases their level of play until the opponents can't keep up with them.

DiCicco and Whitehill were big on two players during the game; Morgan and Holiday.  I can't disagree with either of their assessments.  Morgan looked dangerous all game and she and Wambach have a clear connection that the other combinations of forwards just don't seem to have to the same extent. I think that as long as they are both healthy, and I agree with DiCicco that Wambach looked tired at the end, it gives more weight to Foudy's 4-3-3 lineup.  Pair those two with a third speedster (and take your pick between Press, Rodriquez, or Leroux) and let Holiday/Lloyd/Rapinoe/Health/O'Reilly run the other team's midfield and defense ragged by possessing and constantly serving in balls.

There was this series of comments from DiCicco throughout the game:

  • "But here's something the U.S.A. is doing differently. Lloyd is sitting deeper in the midfield and their best #10 player, Holiday, is higher."
  • "And that's what the U.S.A attack has been missing. That little combination there. Holiday underneath a forward."
  • "I thought that first half was the best half for the U.S.A and I think one of the reasons is Lauren Holiday left the #6 position and became more of a #10 position."

All of those preceded this final exchange between he and Whitehill:
DiCicco: "that was good flowing soccer by the U.S.A. there and Holiday's in the center of it."
Whitehill: "I'm with you Tony on Holiday being higher. She's a special player and one of her special gifts is her final pass and she just creates so much more for the U.S...Holiday, I just love her fluidity in the middle and her and Lloyd are playing much better in this game."
DiCicco: "If you talk to Jill Ellis she will tell you 'our best #10 player is Lauren Holiday.'"

This is where things don't make sense to me. You play your best goalie, you make sure you have good center backs, and you make sure that the right person is playing in the position that connects the defense to the offense.  If that person is Holiday, and according to the coach it is, then that should be where she is played.  The U.S. is flush with talent and if within all that talent is one player that stands out as the best to connect the defense/midfield with the forwards, start there.

The World Cup has a path full of teams that will have more defensive and offensive prowess than Nigeria.  That means the USWNT may need to score more than one goal, which means that you have to get the ball to the forwards.  Winning the group helped create a better path to win it, but you have to put your best players in their best positions.

I hope that the Nigeria game was a step in that direction.

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