USWNT rebound from France loss, beat England 1-0

IMAGE, MLSSOCCER.COM

by MC BOUSQUETTE
Staff Writer

The second time was indeed a charm for Jill Ellis and the US Women’s National Team.

The squad rebounded from a disappointing loss to France last Sunday to beat sixth ranked England after 1-0 at the Stadiummk. Though England are not projected to be potential World Cup victors, Friday’s match was important for the USWNT to find a groove with only four months remaining before the World Cup kickoff.

The match was filled with no shortage of goal attempts, with shots from numerous USWNT players as the offensive front pressed forward well against England’s defense. Alex Morgan scored via a header in the 25th minute off a cross from Christen Press. Abby Wambach had a strong attempt off another Press cross, and headed one wide right of the English goal at the 38th. Ali Krieger had another try near the 40th, but found her attempt saved as well.

Abby Wambach, who played off the bench against France, proved a continuous threat well into the second half; she headed a corner kick by Holiday in the 73rd minute, but English goalkeeper Bardsley saved the attempt. Alex Morgan had another close call as she connected perfectly with the ball at the 77th minute, only to be greeted by another block from Bardsley.

The United States was the offensively dominant side ; US goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris blocked the first on-target shot late into the first half. There was also a major controversy in what appears to be an extremely poor offsides call rescinding the equalizing goal from England’s Jodie Taylor in the 56th. Subsequent to Taylor’s shot, Harris faced several hard shots, with numerous from Fran Kirby, who truly showed her offensive worth today. Yet, at the match’s conclusion, England’s final score totaled 0 despite all efforts.

lineup v england

Today’s USWNT was a very different team from the one we saw on Sunday against France. Coach Ellis stayed with the 4-4-2 lineup, but two major differences in the US starting lineup stood out as particularly effective. US all-time leading scorer Abby Wambach started the game at forward, while Christen Press moved to the outside midfield. Ali Krieger started instead of Chalupny at right back, and moved up and down the field with the effectiveness needed from a playmaking, versatile back. Where Chalupny was out of position and rusty in Sunday’s friendly, Krieger was present and effective, with both defensive victories and offensive drives. Christen Press at wing complemented the front duo of Wambach and Morgan as a setup woman; a skill she demonstrated vs. France but that appeared more natural today as she played on the outside. Abby Wambach proved that she easily has the stamina to go the full 90’, and that she still has the skill to threaten keepers and assist in the penalty box. Expect to see her back in her starting role as the World Cup approaches.

Injury concern Alex Morgan, who showed only a minute or so of pain at her recovering ankle in the first half, appeared to be far less rusty and much more threatening than she was in her first game back on Sunday. The game’s only goal was her career 50th for the US national team, making her one of the youngest players to ever do so for the squad. Morgan and Wambach operated seamlessly with each other up front, instinctively setting up chances for each other. This combination, should the two remain fit and healthy, should grow to be a tremendous threat before the beginning of the World Cup.

The US midfield, after adjustments from Ellis, was an entirely different picture from that that played against France. They took the defensive burden almost completely off centerbacks Sauerbrunn and Engen, as Lloyd and Holiday stepped up from their previous below par performance, easing somewhat of the worry they created against France. Lloyd looked almost as threatening as Wambach, though the security goal to raise the US two above England never arrived. Looking more settled in goal today than against France, Ashlyn Harris continues to pull ahead as the top goalkeeper available, raising the question as to whether Hope Solo will start if she does return after serving her suspension. Either would provide a strong keeper; the key determinant will be which of the two provides the best leadership from the back.

While Coach Ellis does seem to be reaching equilibrium with today’s starting lineup, her choice to reserve the first substitution for 79th, when Crystal Dunn came on for Meghan Klingenberg, was questionable against an opponent like England. The win today was important for US morale, but the choice not to use this match to give a wider diversity of players more time on the pitch before the World Cup was a confusing one, especially against a weaker English squad.

The final score looked different than it should have, both in the poor offsides call by the referee against England and in the failure of the US to convert more opportunities. If the United States wishes to truly contend for the World Cup, they need to be trouncing squads like England.

Additional training and the hope that Sydney LeRoux, Christie Rampone, and Megan Rapinoe return soon from injury should contribute to the correction of the weaknesses still remaining in the US squad before their sold-out game vs. New Zealand on April 4th.