USWNT Uncertainties Prevail Despite Result Versus China


Photo via Meghan Klingenberg’s Twitter account

The final scoreline for the USWNT‘s friendly with China was not indicative of the play and feel of the match. It was the first match after the surprise firing of Tom Sermanni. As a result, Jill Ellis was filling in as interim coach for the second time in her tenure. Two quick goals by Carli Lloyd in the first half basically sealed the outcome. However, the final score was really insignificant as the match action showed the USWNT has plenty of questions moving forward and the awkwardness began before the match even started.

On the television coverage of the match, Heather O’Reilly was interviewed just before the opening kickoff. She was asked about Sermanni and had high praise for him. However, she said the new coach must blend the old with the new. O’Reilly also added that the coach will have to understand the team’s athleticism in combination with their aggression. The interview did nothing to answer questions about Sermanni’s departure and it could be easy to read into her comments. One prevalent comment on twitter was that the veterans did not like his style.

The USWNT came out in a 4-3-3, which is different from the last match with Sermanni. That was to be expected, but the two surprises were players in different roles. Lauren Holiday was put upfront as a central forward with Abby Wambach on the bench. Morgan Brian was asked to move into a defensive midfielder position with the hopes that Megan Rapinoe would help her centrally. This means that Lloyd was in Holiday’s normal position as an attacking midfielder. It was her two late runs from that position that allowed her to score her 49th and 50th goals in the first half.

Brian did a decent job with tackling in the first half, but was often out of position. The television microphones picked up Ellis screaming instructions at the youngster who was still learning her new position. Brian was dispossessed easily on two occasions. and has been given the experience but not consistent direction. It is easy to see that she still needs seasoning. The defensive midfield position is lacking depth which was seen after substitutions when Meghan Klingenberg, the starting left back, was pushed into that position. The defensive issues, back line included, that have been problematic for two years are still prevalent.

Wambach was brought on to begin the second half and contributed to a goal within 15 seconds of the whistle. The middle of the USWNT was pushed back into their normal positions with Brian coming off. Christen Press‘ infusion into the lineup in favor of O’Reilly in the 60th minute was also the right choice. The front line of Sydney Leroux-Wambach-Press was much more dynamic.

The next coach has a lot of work to do figuring out personnel and a formation that gets the best team on the field. Perhaps the 4-3-3 will be the best with even more options at forward in the pipeline. That person will have to work with the back line and identify a defensive midfielder. Ellis cannot be faulted by her strategies since she is not sure if she wants the full time job. Regardless, the next coach, whoever that maybe, has quite the task ahead of him or her.

Douglas Smith is a writer for Stoppage Time Soccer. Follow him on Twitter @DFresh39 add him to your network on Google.

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