Despite loss to England, it’s not time for the USWNT to panic

Quick Hits
  • Last week, the United States women’s national team fell 2-1 to England, the reigning European champions, in front of a crowd of 76,893 at Wembley Stadium
  • Despite the disappointing loss, it’s not time to push the panic button with nine months until the 2023 World Cup

This is an excerpt from Monday’s Weekend Recap. Subscribe to our free newsletter to get future editions of the Weekend Recap delivered right to your inbox.

On Friday, the United States women’s national team fell 2-1 to England, the reigning European champions, in front of a crowd of 76,893 at Wembley Stadium. The U.S.’s loss marked the end of the USWNT’s 21-game unbeaten streak that dated back to the 2021 Olympics and featured some sloppy possession play and a handful of defensive errors.

Despite the disappointing loss, it’s not time to push the panic button with nine months until the 2023 World Cup.

There are things to work on any time a team loses a game and concedes multiple goals, but context is important here. Let’s talk about why this loss shouldn’t raise an outsized amount of concern and dash the USWNT’s hopes of defending their World Cup title next summer.

Off-the-field events

The USWNT’s game against England kicked off just four days after U.S. Soccer released the full findings from Sally Q. Yates and King & Spalding’s investigation into allegations of past abusive behavior and sexual misconduct in women’s professional soccer. U.S. captain Becky Sauerbrunn addressed this during her media availability earlier in the week, and shared, “The players are not doing well. We are horrified and heartbroken and frustrated and exhausted and really, really angry.” 

With that said, there was clearly more on players’ minds than soccer on Friday. Combining that with the USWNT’s injury list and a few other factors, it’s difficult to heap criticism on the U.S. for their defeat.

USWNT’s World Cup prep

Relative to the United States, England are in a very different part of their World Cup preparation cycle.

England came into the match against the USWNT unbeaten in 22 games and their schedule has been arguably tougher than the United States’. On the way to lifting their first UEFA Women’s Championship trophy over the summer, England defeated Spain, Sweden, and Germany, all of whom are in the top 10 in the FIFA Women’s Rankings. Put simply, England are coming off a summer where they beat some very good teams and peaked at the right time.

The USWNT also played in a major tournament over the summer, winning the W Championship and booking tickets to the 2023 World Cup and 2024 Olympics. Even so, the tournament was a bit of a trial-and-error period for head coach Vlatko Andonovski, who has been entirely committed to rotating his roster and giving younger players meaningful minutes. It wasn’t until September that Andonovski repeated a line-up in back-to-back games this calendar year. Compare that to England’s Sarina Wiegman, who named the same starting XI in all six tournament matches this summer, and it becomes very clear that the two teams are in different places in their preparations for next year’s World Cup.

This is an excerpt from Monday’s Weekend Recap. Subscribe to our free newsletter to get future editions of the Weekend Recap delivered right to your inbox.

On Friday, the United States women’s national team fell 2-1 to England, the reigning European champions, in front of a crowd of 76,893 at Wembley Stadium. The U.S.’s loss marked the end of the USWNT’s 21-game unbeaten streak that dated back to the 2021 Olympics and featured some sloppy possession play and a handful of defensive errors.

Despite the disappointing loss, it’s not time to push the panic button with nine months until the 2023 World Cup.

There are things to work on any time a team loses a game and concedes multiple goals, but context is important here. Let’s talk about why this loss shouldn’t raise an outsized amount of concern and dash the USWNT’s hopes of defending their World Cup title next summer.

Injuries

Some of Andonovksi’s recent player-rotation decisions haven’t been left entirely to him.

The United States’ injury report is lengthy this year, with the most recent additions to that list being Alex Morgan and Taylor Kornieck. Morgan started in the frontline in four of the USWNT’s five matches in the W Championship and both of the team’s September friendlies, and Kornieck played in the midfield in a handful of those games. Both were ruled out with injuries ahead of this game, and with Mallory Pugh’s family commitment that left her unable to participate in this batch of friendlies, the U.S.’s lineup was shaken up against England.

This set of friendlies aside, the USWNT is nowhere near full strength at the moment. Midfield veteran Samantha Mewis has been battling a knee injury since last year’s Olympics, and Catarina Macario, who is likely to be the U.S.’s starter in the No. 9 role when she returns to the pitch, tore her ACL earlier in the year. Center back Tierna Davidson and forwards Lynn Williams and Christen Press are also still rehabbing from season-ending injuries. 

Altogether, it’s hard to say whether the current version of the USWNT is the same one that will take the field in Australia next July.

Fine margins at the top

Potentially the most important reason that USWNT fans shouldn’t panic after Friday’s loss is that the game was a back-and-forth affair. 

The attacking sequences that led to England’s open-play and penalty kick goals will give the U.S. more tape to review, but the match reminded all of us that the United States’ floor is incredibly high. Plus, the USWNT scored an equalizer after going down a goal early in the first half thanks to Sophia Smith. And if it wasn’t for a questionable VAR decision after Trinity Rodman’s goal, the USWNT would have come back from a one-goal deficit twice in the match. 

When the No. 1 and No. 4 teams in the world battle it out for 90 minutes, the margins are extremely fine. The United States have some improving to do if they want to keep their spot atop the women’s soccer world – and there will be growing concern if the U.S. don’t improve over their next few games. But a 2-1 loss to England isn’t cause for a full-blown panic.

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