Sophia Smith, Crystal Dunn, Christine Sinclair, Hina Sugita, and Rocky Rodriguez all just played in matches at the World Cup!
Well, that may have been the single worst performance I’ve ever seen from the USWNT. Vlatko should be utterly ashamed of himself: This team has no style, identity, or cohesion. He’s gotten tactically thrashed by coaches overloading the midfield with both a box and a 3-5-2 because of how useless the US midfield is and has no idea how to handle it. Not sure this gets solved by personnel shifts, but I’d go Rodman-Smith-Williams just to allow Soph to play centrally in space, especially with Rose suspended.
I’ve never seen a US team so lacking in confidence going forward. It’s all so slow because there’s never any options, there’s no interplay because it never seems like they don’t know where to be, and random individual presses leave gaps going the other way because the team doesn’t seem to have specific triggers. Almost happy they’re playing Sweden now rather than getting bailed out with a bad second place team. Girma the only bright spot.
This is the worst pass map I’ve ever seen: https://twitter.com/Odriozolite/status/1686317514643660801?s=20
(Also, this is always a given, but fuck Carli Lloyd and her coded nonsense)
To me, the USWNT issue is lack of cohesion. And that's no surprise given that Vlatko continued to tinker and test out new players and lineups right up to and INTO the World Cup, with Savannah DeMelo as Exhibit A (and Julie-Ertz-as-centerback as Exhibit B). If we look like a collection of excellent players who haven't played together much, it's because that's exactly what we are. Vlatko needed to settle on a roster at least by last fall and get the players reps together in the last half-year or more so they know each others' playing patterns. I just don't understand why he kept on with his experimentation ad infinitum.
Jill Ellis said something illuminating, at least to me, in her interview on Tobin and Pressy's RE-CAP show (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m9qGpfsW-OA). She said one of her USWNT training goals was that if you asked anyone on the team "How do we score goals?", they would all be able to answer, and everyone would have the SAME answer. It doesn't feel like this year's team has that, at all - not in the strict sense of having playing patterns down so they could do them in their sleep, but also not in the more general sense of being a unified whole rather than just a collection of parts.
Fun to see all those former Thorns on the Aussie team: Raso, Carpenter, Catley, and Foord all started, and Polkinghorne subbed in late.
I find it hilarious that the Spanish women have the *exact* same problem as the men do (plus, ya know, all the extra federation BS). I guess that’s what happens when an entire country has a unified soccer philosophy: The peaks are high and the valleys are low. They probably got the better second round draw tho- they should handle Switzerland comfortably.
Japan are awesome. The odds were always out of wack at the start of the tournament -- they should never have had worse odds than Norway and Canada-- and they’ve proven it. I love how tactically flexible they are: completely comfortable in and out of possession, great defensive shape, and able to adjust style based on opponent. They play a little more horizontal and possession based against the teams they’re clearly better than, and more vertical and low-block against the Spains of the world (23% possession!!). They also never waste passes or time: Everything they do is so intentional and with pace, regardless of shape. Really impressive. Anything can happen with Norway’s talent, but I don’t see a world where they can handle Japan.
Good News! We're getting back two of our internationals early.
Bad News! They're our slowest midfielders.
Not only do I think it's possible, but actually likely that the WC ends for the US this coming weekend. They are so poorly managed, I just don't see Vlatko having a plan for Sweden. Especially true without Lavelle in the midfield. They play as 10 individuals because a cohesive team game plan doesn't exist. You can't play Alex Morgan with Sophia unless you're gonna do a 2-striker formation. Sophia is not a winger, she's playing a striker-playing-on-the-wing, and looked so out of place. Felt really bad for her last night.....and throughout this tournament. This was supposed to be a big breakout for her, but she's been poorly managed and Vlatko has managed to make her look unready for the int'l level. Her touches have been poor and her confidence looks low. Frankly, they don't really deserve to go much further with these sorts of performances. I saw a stat that said the USWNT completed 63% of their passes last night! 63%!! That's....so bad. Julie Ertz with a 58% pass completion rate. You just can't have that from a starting CB. Here's a graphic with how all the starters did: https://twitter.com/chris_awk/status/1686422263950647296
They need a hard reset, starting with the coach. Feel really bad for some of the players who will probably have this be their last WC experience. The good news for the Thorns is that we might get Soph and Crystal back before our next league game....the bad news is that every other NWSL gets their players back as well, and the coaches/teams have figured a lot more out on the coaching front at this point of the season than we have. Laura Harvey, for example, would get Quinn, Huitema, Rapinoe, Sonnet, Cook, Huerta, and Lavelle back before their next league game. Mike Norris still exists here....
Who do we think the next USWNT coach will be? Personally? I'd consider Sean Nahas. I like his style of play...it's scrappy, super cohesive, and he knows how to get a lot out of players who are either young and/or without a ton of individual talent. Players look fit, and he can essentially plug and play. I'd be curious what he could do with a ton of talent. People shout for Laura Harvey....but I honestly don't know if I like her style of play. It's so stale and obvious for me...and she still hasn't won in knockout style games in the NWSL.
A late game Portugal shot and the goal post saved their spot in the knockout round. A few inches to the left and they would have been homeward bound. 'They need a miracle to get past Sweden now and will have to go without the help of a suspended Rose Lavelle. Hoping for one but ready for reality to slap my face. They are just not performing like champs.
Sinc blaming Canada's underwhelming performance in group play on the need for change in the Canadian Federation and the lack of a national women's league seems an agenda in search of a crisis.
Yes, the Aussies have a national women's league, but the best Matilldas have played elsewhere for a long, long time. And... does Nigeria even have a national women's league?
I get that this was a disappointing, even shockingly poor, group play performance by Canada. That in itself is a sign that Canada do have plenty of world-class talent, who should have provided a better accounting of themselves. This was a relatively healthy and complete Canada side compared with those of many other countries.
Simply put, the Matildas, playing at home, came out and got it done today, while Canada laid an egg.
Brazil out. Jamaica and and South Africa moving on. Two African countries with R32 matchups against their colonizers. Wild stuff!
(Also maybe the Thorns should try to snare Lorne, I’m it sure it would make Smith happy!)
More I think about it, the more I think Soph needs to start at the 9 next to Williams and Rodman on Sunday. I don’t think Alex is washed (seeing a lot of Rapinoe/Morgan getting grouped in the same “too old to play bucket on Twitter, which is stupid), but Smith has been nearly twice as productive as the second best NWSL striker in most metrics over the past two years. Play your best players at their best positions.
I don’t think they beat Sweden, but Vlatko needs to change it up. I’d go:
Cook is a risk, but I want Sullivan off the field at all costs. This is where not having a competent backup 6 bites Vlatko in the ass. And please no more Pinoe. Give Thompson some real minutes if you need a spark.
Maybe the US should start taking their best players to these tournaments. There are 4-5 players that are good players, but not our best. Some past their prime, some seem to be favored by the coach for one reason or another
How Vlatko’s “tactics” are making me feel about this team:
Another 4-0 match. Canada went from gold to out cold. Only WWC team to ever do that. That is harsh. Ribbons Raso had herself a first half brace. I stayed up all night and will surely regret it lol.
If there's a way to set up an elimination bracket contest on Stumptown Footy, that would be fun.
Memo to Italy: Consider not spotting your opponent an OG upon taking the lead. Played hard as hell throughout and it cost them their tournament.
Congrats to the Lego pieces for making it to round of 16 first time since [checks notes] 1995. And how about Haiti? What a gutsy run.
We use YouTubeTV and got the one-month free trial of 4K for the Cup. It is fantastic- both picture quality and sound. The outfit that does video for FIFA has to be the world's best. Someday, in my dreams, NWSL will reach that level. Maybe start with the Final?