Eye on Tactics: How The USWNT Evolved Into World Champions

USWNT Starting Lineup (Photo: US Soccer)
usa ger sharmytactics

USAvGER: formation

USA vs Germany

The USA gained Rapinoe and Holiday back for their most daunting match, as they slotted into the best formation and intention the side had all tournament.

Jill Ellis masterfully inserted both Brian and Holiday behind a severely advanced Lloyd, who was now given complete freedom to affect the game as she see fit. Heath was tucked in even more than in the shape against China to combine internally and to complete with overwhelming, German numbers in the midfield.

The structure had a variety of shapes, but were all permutations of a 4-2-3-1 – defensively in contracted into a 4-4-1-1 and offensively it expanded to 4-2-3-1 and 4-2-2-1-1 formations.

This was the most tactically dynamic the USA was all tournament: fluid balance, inventive length and accurate overloading.

usa germ formation

USAvGER: 4-2-3-1 shape

The midfield pair of Brian and Holiday played in similar roles, but Brian was trusted with most of the possession and opportunities to dictate the offense.  Because of Heath’s willingness to play narrow and participate in possession, both Holiday or Brian cycled out to withdraw a defender and create space for Heath. This allowed Heath to pick up possession centrally and slip through balls into a streaking Lloyd or Morgan off the back shoulder of defenders.

usa ger heath brian switch pinch

USAvGER: Brian cycling out Heath filling space to run at center and distribute

Lloyd’s work rate was unmatched through the game, and the new advanced role suited her form. If she did check back to possession, as she frequently did, she wouldn’t have to pick up possession deep into the middle third, as she struggled to effectively do so previously with her back to goal. Her runs broadly curled, instead of having to create support angles which tend to subtly be more complex.

Because her starting position was so high up the field, the curling runs would withdraw central defenders out of their defensive shell. As she curled, her stamina and pace allowed her to break away from the defender and welcome balls over the top into the space she previously vacated. Brian was able to ping balls over Germany’s back four (now or three because of Lloyd’s runs) and Lloyd was happy to take them down herself or benefit from a Morgan flicked header.

usa ger lloyd roam

USAvGER: Lloyd large, curled runs to withdraw defender and attack back 3

The USA was surprisingly comfortable, besides the first 15 minutes of the match, and seemed like a well-drilled, organized unit (although the shape was being used for the first time in the tournament).

This was Jill Ellis’ finest moment and something that should be reflected upon and revered as a tactical masterpiece against a formidable world power.

The breakthrough finally came after a missed penalty by Germany in the 63′, as Lloyd made no mistake with her penalty conversion in the 69′. O’Hara was also rewarded in the 75′ from an incisive through from the tireless Klingenberg to an advanced Lloyd who was able to square the ball across the box to a stretch O’Hara.


The Americans grew into the tournament and undoubtedly proved they were the best in the world. So, some obviousness identifications:

Most consistently outstanding player: Meghan Klingenberg

Most influential surprise: Morgan Brian

Best shape: 4-2-3-1

Biggest disappointment: Lauren Holiday

Most influential moment: Introduction of Morgan Brian to starting lineup/Sasic missed penalty

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