USWNT shutout by France, 2-0

IMAGE, MLSSOCCER.COM

by MC BOUSQUETTE
Staff Writer

Facing arguably their toughest test on the run-up to this year’s World Cup, the U.S. Women’s National Team fell flat, falling to third ranked France 2-0.

Eugenie Le Summer broke the deadlock in the 50th minute, beating Meghan Klingenberg to the ball and slotting home past Ashlyn Harris.  Jessica Houara made it two one minute later, looping a would-be cross past Harris to double the lead, and seal the match.

Though some may be inclined to simplify the USWNT’s fall to France byblaming a weak midfield, there were many more moving parts contributing to the upset. The entire squad looked off, and France emerged as a clearly stronger side headed into the World Cup.

From the start, there were several major factors impacting the US team’s situation. Christie Rampone and Megan Rapinoe were noted absences and Wambach wasn’t pulled in until the second half; a positive sign for Coach Jill Ellis’ faith in the flexibility to experiment with different combinations, important as the 34 year old Wambach may no longer have the stamina to play at full force for 90’.

That said, when Wambach did enter the game, there was a marked change in US attitude, but not enough to sway the outcome of the game. Forward Sydney Leroux, out with an injury, was another noted absence.

USA France

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In place of Hope Solo, who is serving her 30-day suspension, was young Ashlyn Harris facing a familiar opponent as she started against France in the previous US matchup, which finished 2-2. Harris performed reasonably well both in skill and defensive leadership, save for her misjudgment of Houara’s eventual goal.

Alex Morgan, back from a several month absence due to an ankle injury, showed the expected dexterity and ball-handling skills at striker. Throughout both halves, Morgan’s first touches and movement show her on the road to being back in top form, but there is a slight bit of rust in her shot placement, surely resultant of her months in physical rehabilitation. The United States needs her to return to top form and beyond so she can deliver on setup attempts.

On attack, each effort by the United States was either met with a save or was decidedly off target. Even a poorly called penalty kick given to Wambach resulted in a save as Wambach mishit the ball, leading to a dribbler in what should have been a gift to the United States. The attempts were present, but the ultimate connection and delivery absent.

Perhaps most importantly, the USWNT’s midfield left much to be desired.  The first half began with a US barrage that died rapidly, with the midfield lineup constantly shifting as per Coach Jill Ellis. Even Wambach’s entry could not pull the midfield together, as both their setup attempts and defensive efforts looked flat and uncoordinated. With Rapinoe entirely out, Holiday and Lloyd were unable to step up to coordinate the offensive and defensive efforts.

Particularly in question is Coach Ellis’ ability to manage as a new coach, with her rapid positioning changes and unsolidified lineup falling under scrutiny.  The ultimate result was a lack of coordination and France simply outplaying the United States.

In context, this was the USWNT’s first match of 2015, facing a talented opponent. The midfield isituation is concerning, but Coach Ellis has more than a few combinations with which to work. The importance of Alex Morgan’s recovery cannot be understated, as she was numerous times in both halves positioned to score but lacked her usual exact precision. The position of keeper seems as if it will return to Solo once her suspension is up, though this game absolutely should not be blamed on Ashlyn Harris, who performed reasonably well on an off day for the squad.

The good news for the USWNT is that they have four months until the Women’s World Cup. Ellis and her squad have time to find a balance far different to what we saw today versus France; an opportunity that will be seen as the US team takes on England, February 13 at 3pm EST.

– U.S. Women’s National Team Match Report –

Match: U.S. Women’s National Team vs. France
Date: Feb. 8, 2015
Competition: International Friendly
Venue: Stade du Moustoir; Lorient, France
Kickoff: 12 p.m. ET
Attendance: 15,663
Weather: 46 degrees; Clear

Scoring Summary: 1 2 F
USA                        0 0 0
FRA                        0 2 2

FRA – Eugénie Le Sommer (Elodie Thomis)   50th minute
FRA – Jessica Houara (Amandine Henry)       51

Lineups:
USA: 24-Ashlyn Harris; 25-Meghan Klingenberg, 6-Whitney Engen, 4-Becky Sauerbrunn, 16-Lori Chalupny (11-Ali Krieger, 55); 17-Tobin Heath (8-Amy Rodriguez, 77), 15-Morgan Brian (20-Abby Wambach, 63), 12-Lauren Holiday, 10-Carli Lloyd (capt.); 23-Christen Press, 13-Alex Morgan
Subs Not Used: 5-Kelley O’Hara, 7-Shannon Boxx, 9-Heather O’Reilly, 14-Julie Johnston, 18-Nicole Barnhart, 19-Rachel Van Hollebeke, 21-Alyssa Naeher, 22-Crystal Dunn, 26-Tori Huster 
Head coach: Jill Ellis

FRA: 1-Sarah Bouhaddi; 8-Jessica Houara, 4-Laura Georges, 2-Wendie Renard, 22-Amel Majri; 12-Elodie Thomis (11-Claire Lavogez, 74), 10-Camille Abily (23-Kheira Hamaroui, 82), 6-Amandine Henry, 14-Louisa Necib (7-Kenza Dali, 40); 17-Gaëtane Thiney (18-Marie Laure Delie, 87), 9-Eugénie Le Sommer (15-Elise Bussaglia, 74)
Subs Not Used: 1-Céline Deville, 3-Laure Boulleau, 5-Sabrina Delannoy, 13-Kadiatou Diani, 19-Gridge Mbock Bathy, 20-Anaig Butel, 21-Meline Gerard
Head coach: Philippe Bergeroo

Stats Summary: USA / FRA
Shots: 15 / 11
Shots on Goal: 7 / 4
Saves: 3 / 6
Corner Kicks: 3 / 2
Fouls: 5 / 7
Offside: 0 / 1

Misconduct Summary:
USA – Tobin Heath (caution)          26th minute

Officials:
Referee: Pernilla Larsson (Sweden)
Assistant Referee 1: Anna Nystrom (Sweden)
Assistant Referee 2: Sabrina Keinersdorfer (Switzerland)
Fourth Official: Elodie Coppola (France)

Budweiser Woman of the Match: Becky Sauerbrunn