USWNT comeback vs. Germany can’t erase worries of poor form

PHEEEEEEEEEWWWWW.

It was troubling enough for the US women’s national team to suffer three straight defeats in Sunday’s friendly against Germany, but nobody – NOBODY – wants to go down in history like that this team losing four straight games for the first time in USWNT history. Not to mention, it would have been the last USWNT game of the calendar year, and the USWNT would then go into the championship year with a loss. POOH.

So it’s not surprising that after the 2-1 win against a on Sunday you could almost hear the collective relief of the US team very good German team.

We’ll talk about Sunday’s comeback — and whether the win means we can stop worrying about USWNT’s recent form — but first, let’s start with the palpable panic created by Sunday’s three straight losses is caused. They were a 2-1 loss to 4th-placed England at Wembley in October, followed by a 2-0 loss days later to 8th-placed Spain (and a very exhausted Spanish team, mind you given the current struggle between top players and their association) and then the 1-2 defeat against Germany in third place on Thursday evening in Florida.

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I won’t say I was free from panic (or that I didn’t yell at the TV during games, I didn’t yell to ESPN), but it got me thinking about the question we’re all grappling with should: With the growth of women’s football around the world, is it even realistic to expect that our USWNT will dominate the world stage to the extent that we have in the past?

The reality, as I recently wrote, is that the world (and Europe in particular) has gotten so much better. Given this growth, should we expect USWNT to win 24/7, 365 days a year? Should we expect a young, up-and-coming team to be in top form eight months before a World Cup when half of that starting line-up has never played at a World Cup and is playing against three countries that have a legitimate chance of winning that next World Cup? ?

although I love Given the fabulous global development of women’s football, our high hopes for the USWNT seem a bit exaggerated. And for the guy or girl who just yelled that I’m (maybe) getting soft at my age, let me be clear: We should definitely expect this USWNT to be on the top step of the podium at every major World Championship since This is the case. The USA plays more girls and puts more money into supporting women’s football than any other nation in the world. But let’s not get nuclear every time this team stumbles in the transition to friendlies against the top teams in the world.

Does it bother me that the USWNT record for the last eight games against top 10 teams is 2-5-1? Yes. But I’d much rather play the top teams in the world, even if that means losing in the short term, than play 47th-ranked Uzbekistan (sorry to the Uzbek fans out there). So everyone, take a deep breath. Exhale.

And for a final perspective on that stretch of four games against top 10 teams, the US hadn’t played four top 10 teams in a row in friendly games who haven’t ALL BEEN HOME for over a decade. It’s been a long time since the USWNT had a track consistently challenging like this one. OK. I’ll leave it there.

Now back to Sunday’s win in New Jersey: To be honest, the worrying thing for me wasn’t the results, but the way the USWNT plays.

Right now, the Americans lack an agility and creativity that we’ve seen in all the other top teams they’ve just beaten. And as we know, this US team has the ability to play creatively. In fact, I would say this team has a collection of some of our most creative players to ever don red, white and blue. Yet USWNT play continues to be too often rushed, incoherent and lacking in flow.

I give Germany a lot of credit for the various ways they were able to pressure US players, but there were still far too many unforced errors from American players. There were far too many glitches on Sunday as the game required the US team to simply hold and protect the ball. The distance between the lines was too big, Rose Lavelle too high to help USA possess the ball.

We saw how effective the tactical switch was for the USWNT in the second half. Head coach Vlatko Andonovski dropped Lindsey Horan a little lower to help defensively and also help build up attack – and that shift affected the game. (And yes, it also helped that Lena Oberdorf, the 20-year-old German midfield sensation, walked off the field with a shoulder injury.)

But against the top teams, how often do we see this US team patiently connecting 9-10-11 passes and then boooom: explode into a seam that opened up as a result of that possession and build up? Not often.

Much of the USWNT offense relies on Mal Pugh or Sophia Smith working their fast magic out of transition moments and high pressing to get behind defenders. That’s wonderful to have in America’s toolbox, but that too often becomes their only hammer. And while these two players made a heroic effort to pull this Sunday game out of the ashes, a more polished, patient build-up will give Pugh and Smith some breathing room.

With this group of creative US players available – Pugh, Smith, Lavelle, Horan, Emily Fox, Sofia Huerta and Naomi Girma to name a few – how does the US stop dominating the game? This is the next level this US team needs to reach. And maybe, perhapsthat comeback win on Sunday will give this group the confidence and courage to do just that.

“That was HUGE” was the mood of every US player after Sunday’s win. Understandably. Not just from a historical (or fortunately non-historical) point of view, but in the sense that this US team now knows they have the mentality and ability to back and butt to the fire find a wayeven against the best in the world.

THAT, my friends, IS GOLD. May she shine like that at the Women’s World Cup in July 2023. Meanwhile, this US team knows better than anyone: there’s still a lot to improve if they make the gold shine. Eight months to go, party people. Inhale, exhale, repeat.

https://www.espn.com/soccer/united-states-usaw/story/4803728/uswnt-comeback-vs-germany-cant-erase-worries-of-poor-form USWNT comeback vs. Germany can’t erase worries of poor form

Emma Bowman

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