Try as they might, the U.S. women’s national team struggles — and I mean really struggles — to play up to their talent level.
In their final game ahead of the 2023 Women’s World Cup, which kicks off later this month, the United States topped Wales 2-0 at PayPal Park in San Jose, California.
Even with the initial lineup missing a couple of likely starters as the USWNT’s coaching staff eases some players back into the fold, the U.S. still had enough talent on the field to thrive on Sunday afternoon. Between Sophia Smith, Alyssa Thompson, Crystal Dunn, and others, there were real match-winners in Vlatko Andonovski’s lineup.
And yet, the United States looked sluggish, individualistic, and out of ideas for most of the match.
Those attributes have all been major themes for the U.S. throughout the entirety of Andonovski’s tenure, which began in the fall of 2019 and includes a failed showing at the Tokyo Olympics. Sure, things looked up a bit in the second half and the USWNT found a way to take down the 30th-ranked team in the world thanks to a late Trinity Rodman brace.
But a narrow win against an overmatched opponent shouldn’t encourage the U.S. as much as the team’s poor on-field play should concern them.
Now, in World Cup send-off games like the one the U.S. played against Wales, there are always more things to consider than just what happens on the field for 90 minutes. Players desperately want to avoid injuries in what amounts to a glorified friendly. Some are only just getting back to fitness. Coaches may even be hesitant to give too much away if they have any cards up their sleeves ahead of the tournament.
Even with those caveats, though, it’s impossible to ignore the signs of trouble that popped up for the U.S. from this game.
Why? Well, because they’ve been popping up for years now in the big moments and the small ones, in friendlies and in Olympic knockout games, with an aging roster and with a younger one. The predictable possession play. The extra touches. The lack of patterns and creativity in the final third. All of those things continue to rear their ugly heads for the USWNT.
This clash with Wales simply served as the latest in a long series of reminders that success for the USWNT at this summer’s World Cup is far from guaranteed.