They didn’t exactly do it in style, did they?
The United States women’s national team crept into the World Cup knockout rounds with yet another uninspiring performance, closing out the group stage with a 0-0 draw with Portugal on Tuesday. Truthfully, the U.S. have underwhelmed for the majority of their time on the field so far at this World Cup. Far too often, they’re sluggish in the attack when they need to be quick or rushed when they need to be patient.
There’s no clear game plan from manager Vlatko Andonovski, which leads to a frustrating attacking soup for the USWNT where the team’s stars are asked to brute-force their way into opportunities.
Sophia Smith, as just one example, must be begging for some team-wide move that gives her a chance to face forward and drive one-v-one at an opposing fullback. Instead, all she gets are touches with her back to goal because the U.S. don’t have a plan to find her in more advantageous positions.
Taking the field without a solid game plan or overarching tactical approach is nothing new for the USWNT, though.
They’ve lacked cohesion and style throughout the entirety of Andonovski’s tenure. See: the Tokyo Olympics where the team constantly struggled to play as a unit while finishing with a bronze medal, or the U.S.’s three-game losing streak towards the end of last year (their first in almost three decades), or their final few friendlies ahead of this tournament that ended in nervy victories against Ireland and Wales.
With a truck full of weapons on the field at all times, the U.S. have the potential to blow the doors off opponents from all over the world. But they just…don’t. Poor on-field planning forces the United States to consistently play below their ceiling, which has proven to be an issue over and over again in the buildup to this tournament and could be their undoing in it.