The United States Women’s National Team won their opening game of the FIFA 2015 Women’s World Cup 3-1 over Australia. That is the only good news that came out of the game other than the stellar play of goalkeeper Hope Solo and flank midfielder Megan Rapinoe.
Solo came up big in net making four strong saves to help the U.S. avoid an upset loss to the energetic Australia squad. Rapinoe opened the scoring in the 11th minute and closed the scoring in the 78th minute. Making her World Cup debut, Christen Press scored the eventual game winner in the 61st minute.
The United States are in what is being called the “Group of Death”, but Australia was considered the weakest team in the group. However, the Australians had the better of the play for most of the first half. If it were not for Solo coming up big on two saves early in the first half, the game may have had a different result.
The U.S. back line was caught out of position on numerous occasions and they gave too much space for the Australian attack. Coach Jill Ellis decided to stick with World Cup rookie Julie Johnston at center back over Christie Rampone who is making her U.S. record fifth World Cup. The defenders seemed to panic and not work the ball out of the back as is the preferred method of play for the U.S.
Rapinoe was by far the best field player for the U.S. In addition to her two goals, she also sprung forward Sydney LeRoux on a thru ball before LeRoux played the ball from the end line towards the 18 to an oncoming Press who slotted the ball far post with the inside of her right boot. Despite the goal, Press seems better suited as a forward and did not get outside on the right flank quick enough causing right back Ali Krieger to get put in multiple one on one situations for which she is not best suited. Attacking midfielder Carli Lloyd had a quiet game and was invisible on the pitch for big portions of the game. Meanwhile, Lauren Cheney played deep in the midfield and played many simple balls. Cheney’s best contributions were on driven free kicks into the box, but veteran forward Abby Wambach misplayed two headers that she would routinely head home. If Wambach does not prove to be a difference maker in the air, she will find herself coming off the bench late in matches. Instead, Ellis could choose to pair LeRoux with Alex Morgan or Press.
When the U.S. takes the field against Sweden and their former coach, Pia Sundhage, on Friday, they must improve on the opening game mistakes. I would insert Rampone in for Johnston to give them more veteran leadership at center back with Becky Sauerbrun. I was impressed with Megan Klingenberg at left back as she often found herself in attack up the left flank. Another possible change I would make in the back is inserting Kelly O’Hara at right back for Krieger. O’Hara is a converted forward who could be an offensive catalyst on overlaps on the right side. This could be a strong move especially if Ellis employs Press as a right midfielder.The rest of the starting midfield should remain the same. Up top, Elllis can choose any two players from Wambach, LeRoux, Morgan, Amy Rodriguez, or Press. Ellis might be smart to make at least one switch up top to fire up her forwards and keep them focused. Can you imagine an angry Wambach coming in the last 30 minutes of a game? Maybe that is what is needed to spark the attack. Whatever Ellis decides, she must remind her team they could be heading home after their game against Nigeria if the level of play does not improve bar Solo and Rapinoe.
And that’s as I see it!
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Internal photo courtesy of http://www.nbcnews.com
Cover photo courtesy of http://www.heavy.com
Credit all authors of images used in both article and as cover image : Scott D. Mikulski