USWNT Notebook: Takeaways from USWNT v. Republic of Ireland, more

Wambach USWNT

by MC Bousquette
USWNT Beat Writer

On Sunday, in the first of the United States’ final three matches before the beginning of Women’s World Cup, the USWNT defeated the Republic of Ireland 3-0 at Avaya Stadium in San Jose, CA.

The surprisingly bumpy victory spurred a number of questions and concerns, and at least some clarity. We’ve boiled it down to four key points to focus on as the road to the World Cup continues:

  •  Julie Johnston is here to stay. The 23 year old defender notched her third international goal, proving her worth yet again both defensively and offensively. Her speed is unparalleled on the pitch, and her communication is that of a seasoned veteran in the back line. Look for her to be a key ingredient in the USWNT’s formula for World Cup success.

  • Abby Wambach’s still got it. Following her controversial decision to sit out the NWSL season in order to focus on preparation for her final World Cup, Wambach has been training on her own. She missed numerous of her trademark headers in the first half, taking several crosses off-frame before she tapped in a loose ball in the 42nd minute. She waited only a few minutes before scoring her second on a perfectly placed header in the 45th. Though she didn’t score in the second half, narrowly missing another header on goal in the 70th, Wambach did play a complete 90 minutes, many of which may have been with a broken nose. As she put it herself, “My nose is great. Doesn’t it look good? Yeah it’s fine. It is what it is. At this stage going into the World Cup you can either get X-Ray’s and scans, but if you’re not going to do anything about it what’s the point in my opinion. So it doesn’t matter if it’s broken or not, I’m pushing forward.”

  • Coach Jill Ellis, who very clearly favors the 4-4-2 formation, still hasn’t found the optimal pair at the front. This dilemma isn’t exactly helped by the absence of stalwart Alex Morgan, who missed Sunday’s match due to a bruised bone in her knee and will miss the upcoming match against Mexico. Abby Wambach has the stamina for a full 90 minutes and accomplished a brace, but didn’t convert enough chances to be a convincing lock for starter against tougher teams than Ireland. Amy Rodriguez started the game, yet was noticeably quiet throughout her half on the field. Sydney Leroux, who appears to finally be healthy, entered the game for Rodriguez just after the start of the second half, and was noticeably more in the heart of the action. Leroux looked like the more solid option on Sunday, though the lack of effective feeder balls to Leroux leaves the final judgement of her comparative effectiveness difficult.
  • Last, and most importantly, the United States needs to find synergy on the pitch– and quickly. There will be much less room for error against Mexico, and the US has only a week to strike an effective balance. Sunday’s match showed an out of sync squad, and the final score of 3-0, against an inexperienced Republic of Ireland team that was missing five of its starters, was far from indicative of the quality of play. Though the US team hasn’t played together in a just over a month, this should be little excuse . The players have been active with their NWSL teams since their last international friendly, and have spent immense quantities of time practicing and playing with each other in the past months as the US team. The USWNT squandered too many set piece opportunities, experimenting unsuccessfully with what can only assume are new plays devised by Ellis in practice. The team needs to eliminate the missed connections between the midfield and forward line, which appeared in the form of too-early serves and off-target feeder passes into the box.The good news here is that the midfield and back line issues that plagued the squad at the beginning of 2015 appear long gone; the US’ problem now lies solidly in the final third.

Other Notes:

A huge congratulachalupny rapinoetions to Megan Rapinoe and Lori Chalupny on their 100th caps for the USWNT. Rapinoe earned with her 100th cap with her start against New Zealand last month, but waited to celebrate until Sunday’s match in her home state of California. In addition, Rapinoe turned down the Rolex customarily given to US Soccer players on their 100th cap, asking that the money be instead given to charity. Lori Chalupny achieved her 100th cap when she entered Sunday’s game in the 46th minute for Rapinoe.

In case you missed the Mother’s Day celebration: US Soccer surprised the USWNT players and flew their mothers out to Sunday’s match, announcing and honoring them on-field in the pre-kickoff lineup. Check it out here.

The US Women’s National Team faces Mexico this Sunday, May 17th, at 3pm EST in Carson, California (FOX Sports 1, Univision Deportes).