It frequently seems like a charmed life for the U.S. Women’s National Team, who frequently roll past the many opponents they face, but their SheBelieves Cup against France presented a different challenge. Sunday’s match, the second of a three match tournament for each team, was tougher than usual and resulted in a 1-1 draw between the two teams.
Megan Rapinoe described it as “pretty bad all around, for where we are and want to be going” post-match. The midfielder noted that there were a lot of turnovers and mental mistakes, while Rapinoe also noted that speed in midfield needed to improve on a day when the U.S. midfield three underperformed.
Jill Ellis fielded a midfield three of Morgan Brian, Lindsey Horan, and Andi Sullivan, with only Horan having started against Germany on Thursday. Those changes, which created a new U.S. midfield trio, marked the only edits to the lineup that beat Germany in the opening match of the SheBelieves Cup.
Ellis noted that lack of rotation in general could have played a factor in the overall disappointing performance.
“I think, for sure, we got leggy,” Ellis said, “and that’s why we ended up using all six subs.”
She also emphasized that the press that had given the team a lot success against Germany was simply not firing on all cylinders against France.
“We want to be a pressing team,” she said. “Today, I don’t think we generated, especially that first period, how we wanted to.”
The inconsistent play of the U.S. also reflected the varying play of Brian and Sullivan. Brian “is working her way back in” after a string of injuries and missing time with the national team with club commitments, and as for Sullivan, Ellis said she “showed, at times, a young player and an older player in terms of some of the things she did”.
The players in the middle of the park for the U.S. were especially susceptible in defensive moments, when France sometimes easily managed to get further up the field.
“There were spurts where there was some really good play through our midfield,” Ellis said, “and then at times, it just sputtered.”
Brian herself noted that she has some catching up to do.
“It’s been a long time for me since I’ve played, in a national [team] game, 90 minutes,” she said.
Since her last 90 minute shift in last year’s SheBelieves Cup, the midfielder said that the team does “a lot of things different”.
“We defend differently. I think we attack differently, and I think also it depends on the game in general and that the opponent,” she added, so getting experiences in matches is important.
Another blow on the day was the performance of Taylor Smith, who marked her third consecutive start at right back with a substitution after 42 minutes.
“I felt I probably should have made the substitution ten minutes earlier,” Ellis said. “What I saw at that point was a player that was struggling to deal with the situation. They put [Eugenie] Le Sommer out wide, they float her inside, they create an overload, it was a lot, and she also looked a little bit fatigued.”
Despite the day’s shortcomings, Ellis remains positive about her players.
I believe in this group, and I really feel good about them,” the coach said. “I think it’s hard sometimes for players to be the best every single moment,” she added, noting that that then becomes something she and her coaching staff have to manage. Especially with the younger players, it’s watching film and helping them grow and develop.”
“This is a tough one today,” she added. “We want to win, but I think there was again, some areas where we’ve definitely got to get better.”