USWNT’s Routing of Germany Shows They Can Win It All

U.S. Soccer

By MC Bousquette
USWNT Beat Writer

The United States is peaking at exactly the right time, taking down top-ranked Germany in an incredible showing.

A new lineup and a dominant team performance showed the world a US side no one has seen this tournament – one that has clearly reached their full potential.

Why the US can win the World Cup:

Coach Jill Ellis can adjust. Ellis changed the lineup formation for the first time in the tournament, opting for what functionally became a 4-3-3. She opted to sit Abby Wambach, a less than productive member of the side this World Cup, until late in the match. She started young gun Morgan Brian again, and replaced a struggling Tobin Heath with Kelley O’Hara in the second half. Even Lauren Holiday, who has been on the out-of-position struggle bus all tournament long, had significantly more freedom to play forward. Carli Lloyd, once relegated with Holiday to the uncomfortable role of holding mid, has finally been set free by Brian’s continued presence. And the US’ tactics have moved far from the early tournament “serve it to Abby” playbook, and towards a more deadly short pass, pressing offense.

And to that end, when Carli Lloyd has freedom, she is a force. Lloyd played significant roles in both goals, sinking a penalty kick and providing the assist off which O’Hara scored. Lloyd has scored in each of the past three World Cup matches.  She was the link between the back and front lines, and played high enough that she was a clear and obvious source of chances. Lloyd wears the captain’s armband because of her easy to spot, on-field leadership, and her confidence in this role is only bolstered by her performance.

The future of the USWNT does not lie in its forwards — and that’s ok. No USWNT forward has showed overwhelming success during this World Cup. Each forward does have her added benefit to the rest of the team, but the ultimate source of production lies in the US’ midfield and back line, regardless of which player is the one to finish the opportunity.

With the advancement of the women’s game, the formerly effective method of direct play and a battering, down the middle offensive assault is no longer the game changer it used to be. Instead, the role of the wings in midfield and back line are paramount, with key players like Megan Rapinoe, Tobin Heath, and the rapidly emerging Kelley O’Hara using their intense technical abilities and speed to move around even the most bunkered of defenses, while still stopping opponents dead in midfield.

It may seem counter-intuitive, but the non-forward focused offense has worked well, especially as pertains to the back line. Because…

The United States’ back line is what dreams are made of. The combination of Meghan Klingenberg, Julie Johnston, Becky Sauerbrunn, and Ali Krieger is what kept the United States in the World Cup, even at the side’s worst. As the ever-clutch Sauerbrunn stated, “if they don’t score, we can’t lose.” The back line made sure of that against Germany, even after a mistake by Johnston in the box almost handed Germany a goal. In addition to the back line’s defensive prowess, their ability to move up field and serve as playmakers is absolutely key. The back line’s speed is obvious, as all can be up in the opponent’s box one moment, garnering an assist, and back to stop a breakaway the next. Their vast toolkit has proven to be the best of any defense’s in World Cup play.

Hope Solo. The last time Solo let a ball past her was 27 minutes into the US’ opening match of the World Cup. She’s on top of her game, producing saves and visibly serving as defensive leader. She’s yet to be phased by the off-field drama, and gave one of her greatest performances by taking forever to get to her line, psyching out Celia Sasic into missing her penalty kick. Solo is almost certainly the best women’s goalkeeper in the world, and is a tremendous boon to the US’ success.

The one key component that could hinder the squad is:

Anything but the midfield’s best game. What worked so well against Germany was that midfielders played to their strengths, and did so to the best of their ability. If Lloyd doesn’t make the connections she needs to, if Rapinoe isn’t on top of her game, if Heath or O’Hara aren’t the energetic ankle-breakers on the other wing, or if Brian doesn’t show up as defensively strong as she did on Tuesday, the US is left with a gaping hole in the midfield.

After a long tournament of scraping by, the United States continued by defeating Germany the turnaround it began against China. This US side looks like one that can be and deserves to be the world champions. And, if they notch another performance like Tuesday’s, they very well might be.

 

The United States plays in the World Cup Finals this Sunday, July 5th, in Vancouver at 7pm EST (FOX, Telemundo).

 


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