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USWNT ekes out win in sloppy opening World Cup qualifier

Alex Morgan by John Rieger USA TODAY
Photo by John Rieger/USA TODAY Sports Images


KANSAS CITY, Kan. —  It wasn’t pretty and it certainly lacked polish, but the U.S. Women’s National Team’s road to 2015 World Cup qualification starts with a win.

Abby Wambach scored a decisive header in the 55th minute Wednesday, as the U.S. inched by Trinidad & Tobago 1-0 on a brisk night at Sporting Park.

Alex Morgan assisted Wambach for the 16th time in their illustrious national team careers for the game-winning goal 10 minutes out of halftime. The goal, a mix of excellent dribbling and awareness from Morgan, was the only answer to what was a superb performance from Trinidad & Tobago goalkeeper Kimika Forbes.

“Obviously I’m pleased that we got three points,” U.S. manager Jill Ellis said after the match. “Credit Trinidad — we don’t see teams that often that sit organized and put so many numbers behind the ball. I thought for us it was an excellent challenge. I thought we created a lot of opportunities and obviously defensively we gave up some big mistakes.

“I think for us it’s literally about regrouping and getting ready. Happy that we got three points (tonight).”

Despite not being in top form, the U.S. (1-0-0, 3 points) salvage a victory in their qualifying opener and quickly jump atop Group 1 with Haiti, who upset Guatemala earlier in the day 1-0. Ellis’ squad will return to action Friday in Chicago against the Haitian side.

The U.S. looked poise to jump on the underdogs from Trinidad & Tobago early, playing an aggressive 4-2-4 which gave the attack plenty of room to operate in and hold the ball. An advantage in possession provided the U.S. with chances — 10 to be exact — but quality service in the final third was hard to come by.

Christen Press nearly put the U.S. on top 14 minutes into the match, but her header was sent right at the goalkeeper. Carli Lloyd found an open look herself in the 39th minute, forcing Forbes into a diving stop, but again the Trinidad & Tobago goalkeeper came up huge for her team.

“She (Forbes) was big time tonight, wasn’t she? Player of the game for us for sure,” Trinidad & Tobago manager Randy Waldrum said. “She kept it close and kept us in it. She’s special.”

The consistent pressure finally paid off in the 55th minute. Morgan dribbled by Forbes and patiently picked out Wambach sitting at the back post. The cross was good as the finish, and the U.S. had their first lone goal of the evening.

Wambach threatened to double the lead with a second header in the 68th minute, but her attempt sailed just over the crossbar.

The 1-0 result was likely a bit too close for comfort for the Americans against Trinidad & Tobago, a team that sits way down in the rankings and arrived in the U.S. with precious little funding. The island nation is trying to qualify for its first World Cup.

Waldrum said Trinidad & Tobago couldn’t play as openly on the attack due to the U.S.’s quality. They pressured goalkeeper Hope Solo late, but were unable to find an equalizer after 94 minutes played, resulting in a U.S. win.

“We needed that win. It might not have been pretty but we got it and we move on from this game,” Lauren Holiday said. “Hopefully next game, we’re a little more on and a little better.”

Here are the match highlights:



  1. Coach Ellis wants to put as many of her world class strikers on the field as possible. Abby, Christen, Sydney, Alex and A-rod all had golden opportunities to score………….and blew them all!

    • They may have all had opportunities, but the general play through the midfield was pathetically naive. Definitely not good enough for this team and by far not good enough to win the Cup.

  2. Do we have the right coach to win the World Cup, or do we have the right coach to appease the old guard? I don’t think they are necessarily the same.

  3. I watched the game and the entire strategy/approach looks extremely basic and easy to defend. The US pushed the ball wide as often as possible, sent 3-4 players in front of the goal and hoped for a chance off of one of the poorly struck crosses. There was very very little off ball movement, little showing for the ball or dangerous runs, many poor passes with players unprepared to receive, and tons of hopeful long balls over the top. In addition, the US did not adjust anything at half-time with the score 0-0. I would be disappointed to watch a HS game played in this manner.

    There was no surprise in T&T’s strategy, the advertised line-up before the game was a 5-4-1, so that’s a pathetic excuse. The US needed to use their superior skill to force the defense out of position in order to create openings. Instead, the approach was to either kick long balls into the T&T’s overloaded D or try to dribble through that overloaded D. How can anyone be surprised it didn’t work?

    There is no doubt that the US will be in major trouble going up against any decent team if this is the style of play they plan to continue with. Extremely disappointing and wasteful!

  4. I didn’t watch the whole game but from what I saw the US is still mostly relying on superior athleticism and strength over superior soccer ability. It should be plenty to get them through qualifying but if they want to win the world cup they need to develop their tactics and ability to hold possession and work the ball. They score goals mostly because Morgan is a better player than the opposing defenders, and nobody can handle Wambach’s size. Teams like Brazil, Japan and Sweeden who I think actually are better tactically can counteract their advantage in strength and speed. Long story short, I think the program is stagnating and possibly slightly regressing since Pia left, they don’t seem to be looking at the long term prospects and eventually other teams will be just as fast and strong.

    • This is exactly what worries me, (not simply one result as Sregis implies above). I don’t see the U.S. team playing a particularly sophisticated game, instead relying on the pure athleticism that has worked in the past. The rest of the world is rapidly catching up, and that’s simply not going to cut it anymore. I was hoping that the NWSL experience would broaden the U.S. team’s approach and skill set, but I’m still seeing too much of the kick-the-ball-up-to-Wambach-and-hope-for-a-header style to be confident that this is going to happen in time for 2015.

    • Good points; however, I think that ship has sailed for this World Cup. The late coaching move and the hiring of a coach from within indicates that we will see the US team try to win with athleticism, physicality, and sheer will – much like in the past. The big problem with this is that they still haven’t taken a hard look in the mirror and fully admitted this. They are still trying to play a mix of possession and straight-forward soccer while trying to integrate the young (supposedly)”technical” players. As we saw last night, it is not working. As much as I hate to say it, they probably need to revert back to what they know (a straight forward, physical, athletic style) and put the right people in the right positions. The 4-2-4 (or 4-2-2-2) last night was a failure. Overall, 5 “true” strikers played! If they want to even have a chance at this late stage of doing well at the World Cup, they probably need to do the following: 1) Stick with the 4-4-2 and decide on a striker pair and use regular midfielders in the wide positions – not out of position strikers 2) Decide on a CDM 3) Put out a cohesive unit with a defined approach, not a bunch of “names”: be a big girl and tell those outside the starting 11 what their role is going forward and/or leave those players off the roster all together. This may sound like an attack just on the coach, but the players are to blame as well. A U-13 coach could have picked a line up for last night and still expected to win by more than a goal. The players did not come to play.

  5. Didn’t watch the game but if these highlights are any indication, I’m not too worried. sometimes, the ball just doesn’t want to go in, the goalie plays lights out, or the forwards are wasteful with their chances. In this case, all three happened on the same night. Looks like it could have been easily been 8-0.

  6. Wambach was extremely wasteful. I didn’t count but did she actually create anything for herself or set anyone else up?

  7. Enjoyed hearing the bozo Sportcenter anchors describe “Carrie Lloyd’s” role in the buildup to the goal. Meh… I guess we should be happy that Sportcenter is at least showing highlights of USWNT qualifying matches– that wouuldn’t have happened a decade ago.

  8. Oh, Trinidad was an organized sit back and counter kind of team, huh? Always difficult to score against those teams, lest you risk getting hurt on the counterattack. Not gonna read too much into it unless they mess up in the next qualifying matches.

    • Its hard to know how good T&T are so….its difficult to judge. There’s absolutely no reason the USWNT should not do well, they have the personel.

    • TNT’s best previous result to the US was a 3-1 loss (they’ve also lost by double digit amounts). Their strategy was simple: don’t lose so badly where you will never erase the goal differential. And they did exactly that.

      If you watch the highlights, US was unlucky on a number of occasions. They had plenty of opportunities to increase the lead, just did not find the back of the net. It will be interesting to see if Guatemala tries to park the bus as well, seeing how we beat them 14-0 four years ago. Fortunately enough, as the tournament goes on, other teams will have to go for a win, thus opening the game up more.


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