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USWNT defense battered, surrenders record five goals in loss to Denmark

HopeSolovsIreland1 (getty)


Before the U.S. Women’s National Team’s 2014 opener, coach Tom Sermanni declared that the last year had been for experimenting and the USWNT will switch its focus to getting results. With that in mind, Sermanni will probably be leaving the Algarve Cup with some concerns.

The No. 1-ranked USWNT lost again Monday, falling 5-3 to No. 13-ranked Denmark in a surprise upset just three days after a loss to Sweden ended the USWNT’s 43-game unbeaten streak.

The loss to Denmark set a dubious record for the USWNT: It was the first time they have ever given up five goals in a single game. It was also the first time the USWNT had lost two games in a row since 2001.

With their second back-to-back loss after a tie to open the Algarve Cup, the USWNT is at the bottom of their group table for their worst-ever showing in the annual event.

It was a dismal first half for the USWNT, who were outplayed all over the field and went to the locker room down 0-3. By the second half, the USWNT seemed poised for an equalizer after scoring three goals in the span of seven minutes while Denmark scored a fourth for themselves.

But Denmark did not let up, eventually scoring a fifth goal in the final minute of stoppage time to dash any hopes the USWNT could catch up.

The USWNT made six changes to their starting 11 from the roster that started against Sweden – most notably up top, where the pairing of Christen Press and Sydney Leroux led the attack in a 4-4-2. The U.S. out-shot Denmark, 22 to 9, but for the third straight match faltered in their finishing.

Nothing seemed to work for the USWNT, particularly in the first half, but the back line of Meghan Klingenberg, Stephanie Cox, Whitney Engen and captain Christie Rampone especially struggled with allowing Denmark in behind. Hope Solo had little chance to keep the Danes at bay.

As Sermanni looks ahead to the 2015 World Cup, the USWNT’s performances over the past three games are likely giving him plenty to think about.

The USWNT’s final match placement will be determined after other Algarve Cup results later today. The tournament is not being broadcast in the U.S.


What do you think of the result? What does it mean for the USWNT and Tom Sermanni’s plans? What does the USWNT need to do before the 2015 World Cup?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. I am thinking Pia knew the psychological stakes that were being contested earlier in the week to a much greater degree than Sermanni. She threw a grenade in the engine room and placed doubts in all the right places. Careful coah… take your time and get it right… this is a bad situation for band aids.

  2. Strange result. Perhaps Semanni was trying to prove a point and send a message… and the players were having none of it…maybe a few ruffled feathers in the locker room and a cast of newbies led to a flat, disengaged effort. With the talent the US has, even with a B team defense, you’d have to go out of your way to be down 3-0 in the first half and let in 5 total…growing pains for a team in transition.

  3. Good banter here guys.

    Much better than Twitter where it’s just a bunch of teeny-boppers demanding Pia’s return roster continuity and that Abby play all 90 minutes every game.

    This scoreline was coming. I’m just surprised that it was Denmark who put it up on them. Remember that friendly vs. Brazil at the Alamodome? The one where Solo made 4-5 saves in breakaway 1-v-1 situations? Eventually, there had to be a game where she wouldn’t be Superwoman saving the team. That day was today.

    This team almost never gives up goals in the run of play. Everything is off counters and set pieces. How does one remedy that?

    • you get countered when you lose patience and lose your shape. When your middies and outside backs are rushing forward in an disciplined attack at every possible moment counters are guaranteed to happen. If you combine this with poor ball control as the USWNT is sometimes guilty of it can lead to a rout. Or, giving the other team too much space in the mid-field to see and set up their diagonal runs or passes can be a problem. In other words, rushing back to play defense is no longer enough in the women’s game. Somebody has to step out and close down the opposing teams ball movement before it has a chance to develop.

  4. I’ve saying keep JJ as CB, not a lotta pace but excels in the air, and tactical and positional areas.

    Even the kid Cari Roccaro, captain of the U-20 should be already promoted to the seniors.

  5. They needed this. Should be good for the team to be humbled a bit and add some competitiveness

    Kinda like how Spain lost their 34-game undefeated streak (to Mr Bob Bradley) and then went to refine their game and win the 2010 WC

  6. First, the comments that the women have to worry about the gate and fan attendance but the men don’t face that pressure is just silly nonsense. Every year the US men play a game against Mexico in a stadium close to Mexico. The US anthem typically gets booed, 70-80% of the fans are for El Tri. That game takes place solely b/c of the gate. Revenue from that match goes to support all of USSF (including some of the women’s programs). Soccer is not yet at the point in the US where “draw” and fan attendance can be taken for granted.

    Second, I’m not arguing that Sermani is a great coach. But the argument that he’s played the vets too much is wrong. He’s gotten a tremendous number of new caps, played people in new positions.

    Third, this is a terrible result. It doesn’t work to say it’s just the Algarve cup. Can you imagine the German men giving up 5 goals in a non-friendly? Brasil? Spain? Good teams (especially supposedly the best team in the world) don’t lose in competitions by giving up 5 goals. And the argument that the US women do well in the Olympics is a bit misplaced. For most of the rest of the soccer playing world, they place more emphasis on the WC and that’s when any of their teams get funded. Olympic soccer matters mostly the US and sometimes another country like a Brasil or Nigeria or Mexico will make it a priority (men’s or women’s). The truth is that at the last WC, the French women were far more impressive than the US women technically and tactically. iI wasn’t about playing well or being in-form, the French were just a much more impressive team.

      • I specifically noted “competition” in my post. The Germany “B” team that lost to the US did so in a friendly, not a formal competitive tournament or qualifier, with almost none of their “A” side there, and playing on US soil. I get that every team will lose now and then. Even that a team will have a bad day or things will go catastrophically wrong. But you have to search, really search to find an example where a really strong national team gave up 5 goals and lost in a one-sided match. There are a few 5-4 results that were run and gun, lots of open play. But giving up 5 goals and losing so badly? That just doesn’t happen to go national teams.

      • I was referring to the French women’s loss to the US in the Olympics, not the 4-3 German loss to the US men.

  7. Every team loses, every team. But really it matters what they do in the Word Cup not what they do in the Algarve cup which they have won 8 times.

    Remember the USWNT barely qualified for the last WC and then went on to the final.

    I am sure they will get everything fixed in order come qualifying.

    But I know it’s much more dramatic to be a self loathing US soccer fan.

  8. What, the USWNT has 2 loses in a row, and 3 matches in a row without victory? I tell you, the stars, they are aliening

  9. I like how good the rest of the women’s soccer world is becoming.

    Contrary to some popular opinions–women’s pro ball is actually fun to watch.

  10. a once in a lifetime bruising of a defeat?

    was the team actually playing to win? Weren’t they on a 48 match unbeaten streak until the previous game against Sverige?

    We need to funnel all this PR and fan support for the USWNT and allay it into the womens soccer league

  11. Clearly, now everybody sees the risks of not changing the combination on the safe when a new regime comes in… Now Pia has walked right in and strolled out with our life force (still not sure why we store this externally — i guess nobody asks questions when you’re winning). Not to mention the rare industrial fuel it takes to start-up and operate Abby Wambach. Where are we supposed to get more? Only one other cyborg in the world uses that stuff in such volumes, and I for one don’t feel like asking Dolph Lundgren again…

  12. Its not just the Algarve Cup we have not been in sync for awhile. We won some friendlies but the teams we played were not good. And we still looked off. He makes subs to late. He puts too many inexperienced players in at the same time. People out of position, again not just in the Algarve cup. Maybe this is why the Australians were just OK.
    Now its time to get ready for WWC, everybody else is progressing except U.S. Let Mewis sisters and the rest develop in u23. Cox is not the answer. He saw, now lets get back to real business.

  13. The defense was our biggest problem, but while the scoreline may be alarming, this was bound to happen sooner or later. Young/new player development was almost nonexistent under Sundhage – she stuck with her favorites and as a result, our upcoming talent is behind in experience (and how convenient for Pia now that she coaches one of our biggest rivals).

    I have never seen the team so disorganized on the field. I also think the team’s attitude was too casual in the first half. On the bright side, we have many attacking threats. Certainly a learning experience for the new players.

    • You might have an off day but a team that looks disorganized is usually a coaching symptom. As is allowing 5 goals and not being able to reverse the trend tactically at about 2-3. 5-3 sounds like roll out the ball not controlled soccer.

  14. We have gotten such a false sense of security about our talent level since Sermanni has taken over. Sure, we have the most talent in the world but games aren’t decided like that. You don’t win by putting 11 players on the pitch with the most talent…it’s about chemistry and coming together as a team and knowing your roles. We have deluded ourselves with fantastic performances against sub-par teams in meaningless friendlies. All of those gaudy statistics from younger players don’t mean squat when the competition heats up. Look at the names of the players we left on the bench as subs today…I mean, c’mon. Fine, 2013 was a year for experimenting and mixing in younger players, but for WC qualifying, give me the battle-tested veterans. I have had enough of the musical chairs. Part of being Number One is maintaining that killer instinct and defeating your opponent before you even take the field and we have completely lost that advantage now. Yes, this may be an emotional reaction immediately after the game, but give me a break…we are WAY too good for this kind of stuff.

    • it’s a hard position to be in. It seems we cakewalk the olympics then get big heads and blow the World Cup when we face actual opponents (the final couple rounds).

      Reminds me of how Hope Solo said “This isn’t the ponytail posse anymore.”
      It sure isn’t, the Ponytail posse actually won World Cups.

      • Wouldn’t it be the other way around? The WC is the year before the Olympics. Certainly this last Olympics wasn’t a cakewalk.

      • Ha, good point. Ok then, we get beat at the World Cup and that makes us try harder at the Olympics the next year but we lose our focus before the next World Cup???

        But in all seriousness, I think we have a major clash between egos of our players and the reality that the top teams around the world have gotten so much better than they used to be. Maybe if we ever get to a point where a women’s league can survive uninterrupted for an entire World Cup cycle we can get back to the top of that competition.

      • That’s right, The ladies worked hard to get that gold.
        Carly crash everything and the kitchen sink Lloyd came through as she does. I know I probably mentioned this before but you ever notice that almost every play Crash is involved in somebody ends up on the ground. got love that heart.
        I already addressed the issues of player personnel and the Defense so I’m not going to beat it to death anymore. lol
        However I did rate Engen with a question mark?, (Now I know why). And Cox is 7th or 8th best defender on the depth chart
        it’s hard to remember at such a level when I witnessed a defender and an attacker in the box and they both were on their own island. Not good…
        “Baby Horse”, and Holiday, the ladies certainly could use you back.

      • It was much easier to win the WC previously – superior athletisism was enough. Now, everyone else has improved and the USWNT has to face the teams that are catching up athletically and/or are superior technically (e.g. Japan) – it is much harder to win now.

      • Well, it’s not like the US has been walking away with world titles. It seems that the top group has remained pretty consistent with each other and that a couple of new teams (Japan, Canada) have stepped up while China has dropped back some. Some of the second tier programs have gotten better, but not enough to really make a difference.

      • Maybe some one can verify this but I thought I heard this was the first time the USWNT conceded five(5) goals? like, ever.

  15. This isn’t half cup full type of sentiment, but it’s the Algarve Cup. It’s the best time to test new and young players of your squad vs quality opposition (finally). Of course, you would want to win and get good results, but this is great time to measure the resolve and ability of the non-veterans.

    Tom won’t have the opportunity to be freely start and sub players during friendlies hosted in the states (even if the opposition isn’t of high quality) because you have to give the money paying crowds what they paid to see & that’s the established super stars. It’s not surprising why you see Wambach get trotted out every friendly in the states although it is surprising how many minutes he leaves her in for especially in back-to-back. IMO it’s either a sign that he is trying to get her fitness up or observing who has great chemistry with her.

    Secondly, I have no issue with the lack of subs at halftime even at 3-0 because again it’s the Algarve Cup. Let the youngsters have the opportunity to collect themselves and prove/showcase their fight. The veterans have been tested and we have an idea how they would respond.
    True – Tom could have put together and young squad without lining the players in different positions. But I think Tom has to give those new and on the bubble players the opportunity to showcase ability and possibly their versatility. He did mention in your interview the need for utility players. Again – he doesn’t have the luxury for this time & opportunity in the states.
    Here is my only concern with Tom’s player selection and starting XI is what he said in the interview regarding the WWC 2015 squad selection he said

    “When we go into 2015, I don’t think this World Cup is going to be about a starting 11. I think it’s going to be about a squad…. So, the starting 11 is potentially going to vary even when we get to the World Cup.”

    Granted, I think he is speaking to the depth of the squad, but I think it’s hubris to believe that we have such depth that we can trot out whatever combinations of players and expect great chemistry and result against quality opponents in THE WWC. Is Tom hedging so much on player talent forsaking team chemistry? And it’s that tried and true sentiment that it isn’t about the best players on a squad or on the field but which players make the best team and that includes players knowing what their roles and where the opportunities lies. By the time WWC rolls around I would hope there is more or less a settled starting XI and players the USWNT to be reliable and impactful subs.

    On an unrelated note – I think it’s great Tom is giving all these players chances and caps, but even with all that hoopla I think it’s very possible that his ultimate WWC squad selection won’t have been much different under Pia’s. I see the difference might be the progression the young players, but the final squad not much different. Press was on the cusp. Brian & Dunn were rising U20 stars. The older veterans would retire. And I think Pia’s preferences and reluctance to showcase young stars also incurred more so during the WWC and Olympic cycles – which is to be expected if a priority is building team chemistry. But yes, her reluctance was very evident. It took Morgan so long to get into the starting XI even after a fantastic close to the WWC and games thereafter – Pia even changed formation.

    Side note is Pinoe the Allen Iverson of Woso? I mean she’s who we expect her to be when the stakes are high… because everything else is.. ‘practice. It’s just practice.’ Hahaha.

      • 2014 Algarve is Sermanni’s time to test youngsters, young veterans, and new combinations esp. during off cycle years. It’d be different if this Algarve was heading into the WWC next year – one hopes that it would be the time to start fine-tuning vs. tweaking.

        As for Wambach in the Algarve and away matches, she does play significantly less minutes (not counting “The Rematch” in Canada). Out of the 9 away matches, Abby’s only played about 350 minutes (out of possible 810 mins) including 3 matches she never stepped on the pitch and 2 where she was a late game sub. This would not happen during home matches where unbelievably even late last year, Sermanni played her back to back 90 minute matches (and it was very evident of her heavy legs by that point). So yeah Wambach doesn’t play very much during those away matches — similarly to other veterans like Rampone. These seem more like fitness/ working them back up to speed. So yes – it does seem Tom’s more willing to test the youngsters away from home. Because like I mentioned originally – home matches = money paying crowds who want to see what they paid for aka the established stars. And again granted – I’m not sure why Tom needs to play Abby full 90 minutes back to back especially given the depth in that position.

      • That’s what I was wondering. It just seemed odd but you are right. The USWNT does need to put on a show more so than the men.

        Unfairly I might add, but its a money thing.

      • Dude, Klose will play because that German uniform has super powers for him. He just scores. He’ll be scoring from a walker.

      • The Germans aren’t stat padding Klose. If they had any interest in that they would have put him in the 3rd place game in 2010. When asked about that Lowe said that it was more important to give younger players the opportunity.

    • Sounds to me like the wrong lessons were derived from the experimentation, and/or maybe some of these Russia type friendlies weren’t serious enough to get reliable diagnoses. There are enough A teamers — and the coach himself made a distinction that he was pursuing results this year — that you can’t just blow it off as continued experimentation completely. You lose 5-3 to Denmark and you need to fix the defense at least. The US soccer article also suggests they were getting countered which usually hints at system and/or athleticism issues. People cheating forward, defenders not fast enough to get back, those sorts of things.

    • Hey I like your Pinoe Iverson observation. Now that you mention it, they do seem to have the same attitude about practice. Good call.


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