The United States women’s national team is headed to the World Cup.
Coming off a win against Haiti in their tournament opener on Monday, the USWNT earned a 5-0 victory over Jamaica in their second Concacaf W Championship group stage game. The win helped them clinch a top-two finish in the group and a spot at the 2023 World Cup. Though head coach Vlatko Andonovski made five changes to the lineup ahead of the match, the U.S. put together a more cohesive and dominant performance compared to their game against Haiti earlier in the week.
So, what have we learned about the U.S. after two games in Mexico? Let’s talk about that.
THE USWNT IS EFFECTIVE WHEN RUNNING AT THE OPPOSING BACKLINE
The United States’ attack relies heavily on playing crosses into the box to create chances and score goals, but their performance against Jamaica showed they also excel at taking players on in the final third. Sophia Smith’s absolutely absurd goal in the fifth minute is a perfect example.
Smith was out on the right wing when she received a long diagonal ball from Naomi Girma. Instead of playing a cross into Ashley Hatch or Mallory Pugh, she beat the Jamaican defender before finishing past the goalkeeper at the far post.
Later on in the 69th minute, Margaret Purce controlled a cross on the flank from Alana Cook. Instead of cutting outside to beat her defender, she faced up, drove forward, and played a ball directly into the box.
Jamaica’s goalkeeper came up with a big save to deny Mallory Pugh at the end of this sequence, but it’s promising to know that the United States attack has more in their arsenal than hitting crosses into the box from the wings. They’ll need to continue to show that kind of attacking diversity against better teams going forward.
NAOMI GIRMA CONTINUES TO PROVE HERSELF
One of the five changes Andonovski made to his lineup against Jamaica was Girma for Becky Sauerbrunn in the center back position.
Girma filled in for the veteran rather seamlessly despite only having two USWNT appearances under her belt prior to this match. In her third international appearance, Girma showed off her impressive passing range. The long ball out to Smith in the fifth minute ended up being her first senior national team assist and the firestarter for the U.S.’s attack on Thursday.
She and Alana Cook also stayed organized in the back and successfully shut down Jamaica’s Bunny Shaw. Shaw was the goalscorer in Jamaica’s 1-0 win over Mexico on Monday and the U.S. expected her to be a problem for the backline. Andonovski praised Girma after the game, noting that she “accepted the challenge” of marking Shaw and worked with Lindsey Horan, who played in the No. 6 position, to limit Jamaica’s chances.
On that note, it’s important to mention that Jamaica wasn’t very dangerous on Thursday. They finished the game with only four shots and had just 32% of the possession. Regardless, Girma made it very clear that she adds quality depth to the United States’ defense.
ASHLEY SANCHEZ IS THE FUTURE AND THE NOW OF THE MIDFIELD
Sanchez was excellent in the USWNT’s two matches against Colombia ahead of the W Championship – and she’s clearly continuing her international hot streak for the United States.
Last time out, Rose Lavelle and Lindsey Horan occupied the attacking midfield positions. With Andi Sullivan on the bench and Horan sitting deeper in the midfield on Thursday, Sanchez paired up with Lavelle to run the USWNT midfield. Her creativity helped find and create space for the United States’ attack against Jamaica. It was Sanchez’s run in the 59th minute that ultimately sent Rose Lavelle and the United States in behind the Jamaican defense to up the score to 3-0.
These little flashes of brilliance from Sanchez make the USWNT more exciting to watch (and more difficult to beat). While she’s not quite an every-game starter for the United States just yet, Sanchez rises to the occasion whenever called upon. I have no doubt that we’ll continue to see Sanchez rotate into the lineup and make Adonovski’s personnel decisions even more difficult.
The United States will close out group play against Mexico on Monday, July 11th at 10pm Eastern Time.