The U.S. Women’s National Team have more than just a trophy on the line when they take on England to close out the 2018 SheBelieves Cup. The final match of the tournament also presents the opportunity for the team to bounce back from a disappointing performance against France.
Sunday’s 1-1 draw against France provided possibly the largest stumbling block for the U.S. and the pressing system it has preferred to use in recent months. While the system was functioning as it was supposed to at times, other instances saw it ineffective, particularly in midfield. The display came off the back of a strong performance against Germany, in which the press worked to the highest of its abilities, keeping their strong opponents at bay.
Alyssa Naeher said ahead of the match against England that Sunday’s match was “not the result we wanted,” though she noted the rapid turnaround between matches puts thing into perspective.
Despite Sunday’s setback, Naeher acknowledged the point that the team collected is still a positive.
“You got to take one game and then learn from it and then move on quickly to the next,” the goalkeeper said.
“With a win over England,” she added, “we give ourselves a chance to win the tournament.”
Both sides sit on four points after beginning the tournament with a win and a draw, with England’s goal difference currently keeping them top of the four-nation table. The match is almost a winner-takes-all situation, though France and Germany both sit on three points ahead of their Wednesday meeting.
In addition to collecting some silverware, certain members of the USWNT may look to redeem themselves after underwhelming performances against France. In the months leading up to World Cup qualifying, cementing a starting lineup has been crucial for Jill Ellis, and with the player pool being fairly deep, the few opportunities the players have with the national team are important.
Mallory Pugh did not have her best day in a U.S. jersey on Sunday, and neither did the midfield trio of Morgan Brian, Lindsey Horan, and Andi Sullivan. The midfield, in particular, was lackluster against France, appearing ineffective at times. Taylor Smith also did not have a match to remember, being switched off after 42 minutes for purely tactical reasons. Sunday may have been a genuine off day for some of the players, while in the case of Brian, she continues to build fitness and chemistry after a long spell away from the national team.
Injury woes have been part of Ellis’s decision making so far in 2018, and they will continue to be for the team’s SheBelieves Cup closer. Casey Short played only half an hour against France before being stretchered off the field with an ankle injury. Though Ellis said post-match that Short should be fine, it is unclear whether or not she will be ready to face England. The situation is similar for Julie Ertz, who missed the France game after picking up a knock against Germany. Again, it is unknown if the defensive midfielder will be fit for the clash against England.
Either way, it may lead Ellis to tinker with her lineup again. Whether or not the change is dramatic, either out of injury or unimpressive performances, or minimal is yet to be seen.