USWNT World Cup Progress Report: Takeaways from Australia

On The Bright Side:

Starting with the obvious: Megan Rapinoe absolutely thrives under pressure. Subsequent to her game-saving brace, it is easy to see why Coach Jill Ellis has such high praise for Rapinoe’s initiative and ability to penetrate the opposition. Rapinoe was the most agile player on the field, defeating Aussie defenders with clearly honed technical skills to reach goal. A prime example of her execution is her third goal, in which she explains, “I was doing my best Messi impression. A much slower version of it.” Her creative excellence under high pressure is key to the US’ advancement in the tournament.

There’s only one Hope Solo. And it seems that nothing can distract her from doing her job. The US kicked off against Australia a mere 36 hours after ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” released an extensive report on Solo’s domestic violence charges, including previously unseen details from sealed court documents. Yet Solo appeared in peak form, recording five saves and numerous blocks to keep the US afloat as the defense was in shambles around her. “Bar a couple saves by Hope, we might be down 3-1 in the first half,” said Rapinoe, understandably grateful to have defensive help in the effort to carry the team.

Christen Press can deliver up top. This was particularly evident in the moments leading up to Press’ goal. Sydney Leroux cut outside with the ball, racing up the left flank. Press pushed high and to center, as Leroux moved into the box. What happened next looked like a purely instinctive move – Leroux transferred the ball to Press, who easily finished the effort. Press’ intuition at in front is undeniable, and Ellis would do well to give her another look at striker.

Alex Morgan is back. Though her return came after the game was effectively over, Morgan made an immediate impact on the match with a quick drive into the Australian final third, weaving through defenders before getting off a high-powered, but off-target shot. To avoid risk of re-injuring her key striker, Ellis plans to ease Morgan back into live play, working her back up to the starting slot. The core issue is that it is difficult to return to form after two months of injury; Morgan needs to shake off the inevitable rust as quickly as possible. Fortunately, there are several days between matches during which she will have the opportunity to do exactly that.

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