By CAITLIN MURRAY
For the U.S. Women’s National Team, 2014 was a very mixed year, to say the least.
On one hand, the team suffered some very serious setbacks — serious enough that coach Tom Sermanni was fired after a mere 18 months on the job. They lost their first match in 43 games. They conceded their most-ever goals in a single match. And they achieved their worst placement in the annual Algarve Cup since that tournament began in 1994.
For all the bad news, however, the USWNT did what they set out to do this year: the Americans coasted through CONCACAF World Cup qualifying and were granted a seeded slot for next summer’s tournament in Canada. With that, regardless of losses and unconvincing wins along the way, the USWNT remains in prime position for the only real prize U.S. Soccer cares about.
With all the ups and downs, it was a tough batch to wade through, but here is a look at SBI’s top five USWNT matches of the year:
5. USWNT vs. Brazil (2-3), Dec. 14 at Brasilia, Brazil
Everyone loves a winner, but lessons are best learned in defeat. Thanks to a dazzling performance and hat trick from Brazil’s Marta, the USWNT suffered a 2-3 loss this month against Brazil – a team that could lie in wait at the World Cup’s Round of 16 next summer – in coach Jill Ellis’ first loss as head coach.
But it appears the USWNT took it as a serious learning opportunity. Days later, the USWNT came out in a new formation and new starting lineup to take on Marta, the five-time women’s Player of the Year – and it seemed to work, at least somewhat. The USWNT finished 2014 in a scoreless stalemate Brazil, but there’s no question their earlier loss to Brazil may have forced the team to be better prepared as they enter 2015.
4. USWNT vs. France (2-2), June 19 at East Hartford, Connecticut
The USWNT may have talent to spare, but that doesn’t mean it was easy having Alex Morgan out of commission for the first half of the year with an ankle injury. Morgan made it clear what the USWNT had been missing with a roaring return off the bench in June to score a brace against a very talented France side for a 2-2 draw.
It wasn’t just that Morgan scored both the USWNT goals against one of the favorites for next summer’s World Cup. It was that Morgan’s goals were of such good quality: A composed touch around a defender and a shot from the top of the box, followed by a close shot after dribbling through traffic — both goals showing flashes of individual brilliance.
3. USWNT vs. Mexico (8-0), Sept. 13 at Sandy, Utah
There was not a more dominant win from the USWNT this year than their crushing 8-0 win over Mexico to start a two-game set before CONCACAF World Cup qualifying. As part of the send-off for the qualifying tournament, the monster win over the Americans’ toughest competition was certainly the high point in USWNT confidence amid a rocky year.
The match was almost nostalgic for the huge wins the team amassed in the previous year, with a throwback pairing of Alex Morgan and Abby Wambach up top in a 4-2-2 looking as in sync as ever – the duo scored four goals between them. On the other end, goalkeeper Hope Solo set the USWNT’s all-time shutout record at 73 clean sheets and bolstered her case as the greatest goalkeeper the U.S. women’s program has ever produced.
2. USWNT vs. Canada (1-1), May 8 at Winnipeg, Canada
The U.S.-Canada rivalry never gets old, it seems. The North American foes have faced off several times since their epic Olympic semifinal showdown when the USWNT controversially advanced with a last-gasp 123rd-minute goal — but in May the rift felt just as fresh as it had back in 2012.
Playing in Winnipeg, Canada at a 2015 World Cup site, the Americans faced a hostile Canadian crowd in sharp contrast to the friendly audiences they would play before for most the year. As the soccer gods seem to dictate, it was Canadian-born Sydney Leroux who, for the third straight matchup against Canada, scored the game’s final goal for the U.S. as a chorus of boos and taunts rained down. Serving as a sneak peek for what Canada 2015 may bring, the match sure gave fans plenty to be excited about.
1. USWNT vs. Denmark (3-5), March 10 at the Algarve Cup
This match lands on SBI’s Top 5 for all the wrong reasons. It was the first time the USWNT had ever conceded five goals in a single game and arguably marked the beginning of the end for coach Tom Sermanni, who was fired the following month. It also marked the USWNT’s first back-to-back losses since 2001 and, to make matters worse, Denmark wasn’t even one of the strongest opponents the USWNT faced in 2014.
The match was a turning point for the USWNT where it became clear they aren’t as invincible as they had looked the previous year. Rather than leaving the annual Algarve Cup with a medal, the USWNT went home with a clear understanding of the work ahead on both sides of the ball before the World Cup. Although the USWNT eventually coasted through World Cup qualifying and remain a favorite for next summer’s tournament, this loss to Denmark probably best defines a controversial year for the USWNT in the minds of many fans.
What did you think of SBI’s top five USWNT matches of the year? Which games stood out the most to you? Which matches define the 2014 season for you?
Share your thoughts below.
Wow. I didn’t realize how badly this year sucked until it was so nicely encapsulated in this article.
But on the bright side the team gets to lose those crummy uniforms in 2015.
Marta is the GOAT, correct?
It wasnt the results as much as how they got them that was telling. In the loss to Brazil they coughed up a two goal lead and were shredded by the only player on the pitch that could hurt them. In the rematch they played for a draw even tho a draw was as good as a loss. Canada and France werent much better, both draws forced by an American comeback but at least they got it done. The most telling match for me was against Trinidad & Tobaggo. Their 1-0 win against a team with much less talent that played harder and had a better coach.
Didn’t want Caitlin’s hard work to go without comment. Nice job!
Lots of losses. =[
One win out of five matches ain’t bad. Hell, you get one hit every five at bats in baseball, and you’re going to the Hall of Fame, brother!