Friday, June 12, 2015

Women's World Cup - USA vs Australia

Due to a Megan Rapinoe brace and a third goal by Christen Press, the United States Women's Team overcame a less than stellar start to beat Australia 3-1. A 3-1 victory that has them leading their group and the seemingly overwhelming media narrative is that the United States team is no longer the dominant team and that they are being caught and passed by the other nations in the world.  This is both true and false. The other countries (some of them anyway) are starting to catch up to the talent and athleticism of the American women.  Germany and France in particular are in good form and have the ability to beat the United States.  Japan as well. Even the host team Canada has shown they are getting closer to routinely competing with the United States.

And yet, the United States played a good feisty Australian team, played less than they are capable, and still walked away with a win.  This team is deep at all positions.  The only spot that has any kind of real concern is with a holding midfielder and nobody is a natural in that position.  Shannon Boxx does a good job with it, Morgan Brian is getting there, and Lauren Holiday is using her talent and soccer IQ to do the best she can with it. Though I think most would agree that she is a much better and more natural attacking midfielder.

So what went wrong in the start of the game?

Of the 14 players for the United States, five of them were in their first World Cup and it showed at times. I watched Julie Johnston play in the U-20 World Cup in Japan and she was great.  She's done a great job leading up to the World Cup.  I think the early pressure by Australia caused her to change the way she plays and started relying on blasting the ball as soon as she could.  Even when she had plenty of time.  That will be fixed by Friday night against Sweden.  Oh, and sitting on the bench is ageless wonder Christie Rampone if needed.

Pia Sundhage has caught some grief in the last couple days for her comments about her former team, but I tend to agree with some of them. Wambach would be better served coming off the bench this time around and let Leroux and Rodriguez start because they are both in good form.  Especially while Morgan gets her legs under her after having not played much this year with her injury.  Or even Press up top with O'Reilly as the winger because Press has a nose for the goal and O'Reilly will keep the width better. Wambach affects the team's decisions on restarts.  There were times during the game where the team played long set pieces instead of quick restarts that might have served them better. Set pieces have always been a key part of the U.S. team, both men and women, but there's a time to go quick too and I think the team errs to the side of set pieces when Wambach is on the field.

Defensively, I'm still surprised that O'Hara is sitting given that she played every single minute of the last Olympics, but I think we'll see her before this World Cup finishes.  I think Coach Ellis and the U.S. look at this as a marathon of 7 games and using the team depth against the other countries so I think Rampone gets the start against Sweden.

Pia is also right about Lloyd and Solo.  Lloyd is a scoring midfielder.  I've argued before that is because Lloyd looks to shoot first and hold onto the ball, often at the expense of looking for teammates who have been options.  Since 2011, Lloyd has a 3:1 goal to assist ratio while Holiday has a 1:2.5 goal to assist ratio during that same time.  Lauren has shown she can score goals at all levels, but she looks to get her teammates involved as well.  Lloyd's role of hold the ball and shoot first, pass second was taken by Rapinoe during the game and she scored two goals so maybe that's further proof that I don't know what I'm saying.

Solo...  We've all read the news articles about her.  I've read her book.  She seems to be a complete headcase off the field, but within those white lines, she's the best goalie in the world.  One of the things that has bothered me about nearly every article I've read about the U.S. vs Australia game is the narrative that Australia would have easily beaten the U.S. if Solo didn't bail them out.  There are 11 players on the field and the goalkeeper is a vital part of that and is part of the game plan. As a defender, if you have a goalie of Solo's caliber, you play a little different than if my 80 year old grandmother was playing behind you.  You can call it bailing out the defense, but I think it's just a vital cog in the game plan.

What is concerning for the U.S. moving forward are the two yellow cards given to Holiday and Rapinoe.  Were they fouls? Yes. Were they cards? I don't think so.  Given that a second card by either of them results in a game suspension all the way until the quarterfinal round, both are going to need to be careful with their play.

Three goals for, one against, top of the group and the world is crashing in around them?  Don't believe that narrative.

1 comment:

Jeff C. said...

Holiday's looks like a surefire card to me, a hard tackle from the side that gets all player and no ball; the way she goes in looks designed to take out the opposing player. Rapinoe's, not he other hand, just looks like a bit of clumsiness.

This was a fun match, especially in the second half (I won't comment on last night until you do your write-up).