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USWNT blanked by France in troubling start to World Cup year

Abby Wambach USWNT by Derik Hamilton USA TODAY


The toughest test for the U.S. Women’s National Team before the Women’s World Cup raised far more questions than answers for coach Jill Ellis.

France handed the USWNT a tough 2-0 loss as the Americans were overrun and outplayed in the midfield Sunday night in Lorient, France. The loss was the USWNT’s first-ever to France and the USWNT’s first time being shut out in back-to-back games in 13 years.

The big storyline heading into the match was goalkeeper Hope Solo’s suspension, which meant No. 2 backup Ashlyn Harris started for the Americans and earned her fifth international cap. But the story from the pitch Sunday was one of the Americans struggling to control possession as only a lack of finishing from France seemed to keep the score down.

Harris did make two key back-to-back stops that kept the USWNT in the match early. Laura Georges hit a rocketing volley from the box on a set piece in the 33rd minute that Harris knocked over the bar. A minute later, Harris did the same to a long-range Amandine Henry blast.

France dominated the Americans with clever combination play and slick passing, but failed to finish a rash of golden opportunities. Eugenie Le Sommer twice had scoring chances in the first half, but misfired on both, hitting the crossbar on the second in the 16th minute. An early Elodie Thomis cross was also poorly met by Louisa Necib, whose header sailed wide.

Le Sommer finally broke through five minutes into the second half, nodding a Thomis cross past Harris. A minute later, an errant Jessica Houara cross tucked inside the far post for a fluke of a goal.

As a late substitute, Abby Wambach drew a questionable penalty kick, but failed to convert from the spot in the 66th minute. Aside from a shaky couple moments far out of net, French goalkeeper Sarah Bouhaddi had done well to hold her position throughout the match.

Carli Lloyd, the USWNT’s top goalscorer last year, never seemed to find a rhythm in the left flank spot where Ellis started her in a return to a 4-4-2 formation. Lloyd had several volley attempts similar to ones she scored in spectacular fashion all throughout 2014, but struggled with both pace and placement on the day.

In a departure from the 4-3-3 that Ellis has been committed to since taking the helm of the USWNT in April, a pairing of Lauren Holiday and Morgan Brian occupied the central midfield, but never really clicked.

Alex Morgan, in her return from an injury sustained during World Cup qualifying in October, led the attack in tandem with Christen Press, and both did well to thread passes and find spaces behind France’s back line, even as France cut out scoring chances. Sydney Leroux was out with a minor injury.

The match was likely the toughest one the USWNT will get in before the Women’s World Cup in Canada as the quality of opponents will drop off heading toward June. It will surely be a disconcerting result as the USWNT has drawn the toughest group of the World Cup — the U.S. is the only seeded country in a group with two other top 10 teams.

This is Ellis’ second loss as coach after Brazil beat the Americans 3-2 in December, buoyed by a Marta hat trick at the International Tournament of Brasilia. In the final, the two sides met again for a scoreless draw, making Sunday’s shutout the USWNT’s second in a row for the first time in 13 years.

Up next, the USWNT heads to Milton Keynes where they will face England on Friday at 3 p.m. ET, live on FOX Sports 1.

See highlights of the match below:


  1. The ugly truth is that the players run the team. This is a weak coach that is being overun by the “Gang of Girls” that are not happy to have a man as coach. This team and its veterans must be replaced by new players or we will continue to slide down the path to North Carolina type soccer. Sad to say, the team has become politicised.

    • Well that group of veterans you mention was coached by Tony DiCicco and won a World Cup with him, so… They just didn’t like Sermanni. Why bring gender into this? Geez.

  2. Well regardless of how good France looked, Jill Ellis has to be the worst bench coach ever gifted with a plum job in history. How she could sit there and watch her two outside backs get torn to shreds in the first half and not remove them defies belief. If she had acted to shut down the attack down the wings, she might have been able to salvage a draw. The US would have still been badly outplayed but all that matters is the result. Instead she sat there until the game was out of reach.

  3. Fully acknowledging their remarkable contributions to the USWNT in previous years, some of our players have exceeded their shelf life. The midfield game has been disjointed in the last several games. Ms Ellis is not very inspiring or imaginative.. (I miss Pia pumping up the players by breaking into song.) The way it is looking at the moment, Abby Wambach is going to end her career without a World Cup trophy.

    • I agree. I am starting to believe that France really can win the Women’s World Cup this year. They were so dominant the entire time.

  4. That’s why you don’t let your kid who just got his license drive the Porsche in the garage. Ellis is out of her depth. Wrong players, wrong tactics. Just wrong. First round exit in Canada is looming if this doesn’t get fixed, but I don’t know if that’s a bad thing.

    • I’ve followed the team and these players at club level for a long time and this is the first cycle where I’m not as invested – I’m a bit tired of them to be honest. I will still follow them but I’m much more excited to watch some of the other teams this summer.

      • Agreed. What did they expect when they let the inmates run the asylum? The best thing that could happen to this team is a first round exit. The worst would be making/winning the final in Canada. They need to purge the squad of the 30 year old and up and go young. That’s where all the technicality and skill is. Not booting balls to Abby Wambach skull for knock downs and runners. They play like it’s 1991 sometimes

      • Arguing that the worst thing for the national team is winning the world cup is my new favorite thing ever said on this site.

  5. Wow! Another brilliant move by Sunil. The Team looked decent earlier in the game. It’s so funny, a lot of the French Players played College ball in the US and The Women’s League. Just like Teams from the Carribbean and Central America, the Colleges and Clubs do a great job of preparing them to beat us.

    • I think there is only one player that played “college ball” in the US. Actually the French team has done more to develop their own players than other teams who have used the US for that purpose in the past.

    • Robbo,

      I see that you never let facts get in the way of a good argument. A lot of the French players played college ball? Only 1 player played college ball (Laura Georges). They all play in France as well. The turn-around for the French Women’s Football team was when men’s academies started developing female footballers as well (especially Lyon). They had this discussion during the last world cup. If you watch the them (then and now), I would argue that they have a more technical style of play. I won’t say their players are more technical, but their STYLE is more technical. We don’t play that way, but I am willing to bet that there are players in the pool to play that way.

      • I would say that the French players are more technical.
        I would also say that they’re more tactically aware. I remember when the Lyon manager criticized Rapinoe for being tactically naive.
        The U.S. women have been able to win in the past due to their physicality and the occasional brilliant player (Hamm). Unfortunately, we’re seeing a changing of the guard in women’s soccer. The U.S. ain’t at the top anymore.

    • Yes. Blame it on Sunil. He must be the problem. We should probably replace him with [crickets]….

      There are all kinds of administrators with Gulati’s track record and competence floating around out there… like, for example, [crickets].

      I’m sure Robbo will give us some suggestions shortly that don’t involve “fire everybody in sight because that’s what reality TV has taught me is a pretty good idea”

      We’re waiting, Robbo! Enlighten us!

  6. This could be a good thing if it brings about some needed lineup changes or at least shakes the usmnt roster out of their sense of entitlement. Its probably too late to hope for meaningful lineup changes so maybe hope for the latter. UsSoccer more or less guaranteed we’d be at this place when they let Sermanni go and replaced him with an insider who was never going to stand up to the veterans.

  7. Watched the game and the score doesnt really represent the level that we were dominated by France. Worse than that, France has beat Brazil and Germany by the same score in recent days.

    Yes France is a good team but we should still be able to beat them. It’s not for the lack of talent but poor coaching. Wrong people on the field, people playing out of position… it was just a mess. We now have England coming up and that should be a win, if it isn’t then it is time to panic.

    • Why should we expect the USWNT to beat the #3 ranked team on its own soil, especially the way the Americans have been playing of late?
      I’m sorry, but the USWNT is no longer what it used to be, and we have to get used to it.
      We may have to wait a long time for the U.S. to win the WWC again b/c the rest of the world has caught up, and in some cases passed us.

    • They were out played, out classed, and out coached. They weren’t close to being the most athletic team on the field, either.

      The tactics were hit the ball long & Morgan/Press will run onto it. Pathetic. The midfield couldn’t keep possession, when they weren’t bypassed. Really disappointing to watch. Where is the youth in this team? Where is the drive & desire? Where’s the creativity?

      Gulati needs to ask Wambach for his balls (assuming he had any to begin with) back so he can take control of this inevitable train wreck.

  8. Absolute disaster. And the US Soccer twitter has the audacity to claim that “ball just didn’t bounce our way.”



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