The United States women’s national team took on Colombia yet again yesterday in their last match before they head to Mexico for the Concacaf W Championship. Though they secured another win, this time by a 2-0 scoreline, the team’s performance wasn’t quite championship caliber. In the wake of the match, I was left with more questions than answers ahead of next week’s tournament.
All data cited is from Stats Perform.
WILL THE USWNT’S MIDFIELD ROTATION PLAN WORK?
I have my doubts.
I’ve been beating this drum since head coach Vlatko Andonovski named his 23-player roster, but the same question remains for me, regardless of how many midfield combinations the USWNT comes out with. Andi Sullivan didn’t dress for last night’s match, so Lindsey Horan started in the No. 6 position. Ashley Sanchez and Rose Lavelle slotted in as dual No. 10s. Kristie Mewis switched with Horan at halftime, and Taylor Kornieck came in for Lavelle around the 62-minute mark.
The numbers favor Horan in the defensive midfield position, albeit slightly. Horan’s passing accuracy, both generally and in the final third, aerial duels, tackles, and possession won were all better than Mewis’. And after the Horan-Mewis switch, the Colombian midfield found a bit more success and generated more attacking danger than they did in the first half and in the first match-up on Saturday.
While I still think Horan’s most effective when she’s playing in a more attacking role, Andonovski confirmed that she’ll be the USWNT’s defensive midfielder at least once in qualifying. I suppose that’s what happens when you only bring one true defensive midfielder to a World Cup qualifying tournament. I’m afraid that a lack of true No. 6 depth behind Sullivan could come back to bite this U.S. team, both because it could take Horan out of her best position and because the United States works better with a slightly more mobile option in that spot.
I’m less concerned about the rotation of attacking midfielders, though. Sanchez and Lavelle were bright spots for me, and their creativity will continue to break down opponents for the United States.
WILL ANY ATTACKERS OUTSIDE OF THE WINGERS SCORE GOALS?
Though Andonovski will definitely rely on Mallory Pugh and Sophia Smith as two of his regular starters, the short turn-around time between games in this two-week tournament means that other players will need to step up. Midge Purce and Megan Rapinoe started on the wings last night, with Alex Morgan playing centrally.
The United States struggled to finish some of their chances against Colombia on Tuesday, but the movement from the forwards was a positive for me. Runs from Rapinoe and Purce unlocked space out wide for both outside backs (Carson Pickett and Sofia Huerta), who were consistent in playing quality balls and putting dangerous crosses into the box.
The lone first-half goal for the USWNT was a direct result of a Huerta cross that was headed in by a Colombia defender.
The United States’s second goal, which came shortly after the weather delay, was thanks to Kelley O’Hara. Though I love a defender goal as much as anyone, it would be encouraging to see more attacking production from attackers not named Sophia Smith.
In short, the USWNT’s performance, which Andonovski acknowledged was “not [their] best,” leaves me wondering how they’ll perform down in Mexico. Making nine changes to a starting XI in the last two games before a qualifying tournament is not exactly how I would approach qualifying preparation, and I question whether the United States is underestimating their Concacaf opponents. I guess we won’t have to wait much longer to find out.
The USWNT will open their CONCACAF W Championship slate of games against Haiti on Monday, July 4th at 7p.m. Eastern.