Women’s World Cup 2015: USWNT Preview
photo via fifa.com
The four year wait is over and the 2015 Women’s World Cup has officially begun. The United States Women’s National Team will look to win their first Women’s World Cup trophy in sixteen years after losing the 2011 final to Japan on penalty kicks. The team will open their 2015 World Cup run at 7:30 pm eastern in Winnipeg against Australia on Monday.
So where does the USWNT Stand?
They come into the tournament off a lackluster 0-0 tie against Korea Republic on May 30, which highlighted the team’s current lack of offense. Coach Jill Ellis needs to find a duo up top that works if she is going to stick with the 4-4-2 formation; all indications point that she will.
The oft-injured forward, Alex Morgan, has been nursing a bone bruise to her left knee, which kept her watching all three of the send-off series friendlies from the sidelines. Morgan won’t be starting and playing a full 90 in the game against Australia and has left Ellis searching for the right combination up top.
In 2011, Abby Wambach and Alex Morgan had good chemistry and plenty of time playing together. Now, Wambach is 35 and questions abound about her ability to be effective against top teams and start and play to the final whistle have been asked.
Sydney Leroux seemed the logical replacement for Morgan, supplanting speed with speed, but the pairing failed to produce any goals against Korea Republic. Leroux did net two against Mexico on May 17, but that production was the exception, not the rule for her so far this year.
Ellis has bounced Christen Press back and forth from forward to midfielder. Amy Rodriguez, who is also known for her speed, doesn’t seem to be in any real contention for a starting forward spot at this point.
Offense is not the only phase of the game in which the USWNT is lacking. Prior to the scoring woes, popular opinion placed the biggest concern for this eam on the lack of a true defensive midfielder. Ellis did not agree with the peanut gallery. The only defensive midfielder on the roster is Shannon Boxx who is 37 and has played in only four matches this year, never coming in prior to the 76th minute. Lauren Holliday has been tasked with the role even though she has shown a nose for goal and an impressive playmaking ability, especially when paired with Rodriguez in front of her with their NWSL team, FC Kansas City.
The US was placed into Group D, which was quickly dubbed the “Group of Death” because three of the world’s top ten teams are in it. Along with the second-ranked USWNT, Group D’s members include Australia, ranked tenth, Sweden, ranked fifth, and for good measure, Nigeria ranked thirty-third.
Monday night the USWNT will play Australia. The Australian team has some real speed up front that the Americans will have to watch. Forwards Samantha Kerr and Caitlin Foord, both have youthful exuberance and the speed to match. They have the ability to get behind defenses in a flash.
Friday night the U.S. will face Sweden. The team is coached by former U.S. women’s coach Pia Sunhage, and will be a force to be reckoned with all over the field. Captain Caroline Seger dictates play from the midfield and Lotta Schelin is a physical and imposing figure at forward. Nilla Fischer anchors the back and even scored three goals in the 2013 UEFA Women’s Euro.
Their final game in group play for the U.S. will come Tuesday, June 16th against Nigeria.
The bottom line is that no matter who USWNT plays, the team will need to find a way to score goals, while maintaining their recent defensive success. But at the end of the day, that’s always the key to soccer success: score more goals than you let in.