USWNT 6, Mexico 2: The SBI Breakdown

USWNT 6, Mexico 2: The SBI Breakdown

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USWNT 6, Mexico 2: The SBI Breakdown

The U.S. Women’s National Team recorded their second victory against Mexico in four days, and in thrilling fashion.

The U.S. was up after three minutes, but after some errors in defending, were down, 2-1, before the half hour mark. They rallied back and scored three more to end the first half on top. Carli Lloyd was able to celebrate a milestone of her own during the first 45 minutes, scoring her 100th international goal to put her team up 4-2.

The second half went much more smoothly for the reigning world champions, as Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan scored to put the game out of reach for Mexico. It was an entertaining match, for sure, that did not come without its talking points.

Here is a closer look at the events of Sunday at BBVA Compass Stadium:

CAMPBELL STUMBLES IN GOAL

Jill Ellis changed out her goalkeeper for the first time in almost a year, allowing Jane Campbell to get some minutes in goal while usual starter Alyssa Naeher rested. It was Campbell’s third cap for the U.S., and it did not go smoothly.

She found herself tested fairly early by the Mexican offense, particularly on set pieces. The first of Mexico’s two goals, scored by Monica Ocampo, saw Campbell position herself poorly, ending up in the back of the net while the ball was still in play. On Mexico’s second, scored by Kiana Palacios, Campbell mistimed an opportunity to make a save, instead conceding a goal.

Campbell is not usually this error-prone in goal, be it for her national team or club team Houston Dash. Be it nerves or something else, the goalkeeper’s 67 minute shift was not a strong one, and may make it harder for her to get more chances in a gig where rotation is limited.

ATTACK SHOWS ITS STRENGTH — AGAIN

One easy way to cancel out any defensive errors is offensive success, which is something the U.S. has boasted for a very long time. With the offensive trio of Mallory Pugh, Morgan, and Rapinoe, the USWNT was able to seriously outscore their opponents once again.

All three scored on the day, with Morgan grabbing a brace. It was her second brace in two games against Mexico, and also her 12th goal in 13 international matches. Pugh once again opened scoring in the match, and gave the Mexican defense a tough time for the remainder of her match. Rapinoe, though, stood out amongst the rest as she notched four assists in addition to her goal.

Rapinoe’s showing comes during a year-long stretch of standout performances after spending most of 2016 out injured. Doubts surrounded her as to whether or not she would be an important part of this team for the next cycle, but she has come an indispensable player in Ellis’s starting lineup.

INJURY WOES CONTINUE

The one constant for the USWNT this year, other than the team’s undefeated run, has been injuries, and another two added themselves to the list against Mexico.

Morgan Brian only made it to the 29th minute before an injury took her out, with Allie Long replacing her. The injury is a blow to Brian, who spent most of 2017 battling with fitness and in and out of the national team picture as a result.

Meanwhile, Lindsey Horan had to come off in the 40th minute with what may be a muscle injury. Haley Hanson came on in her place, as two members of the U.S. midfield had to come off in the first half. There is currently no word on either injury, but it could make matters harder for Ellis as she continues to build a roster ahead of October’s Concacaf Women’s Championship.

NEW FACES ADD TO DEPTH

With a number of starters out, Ellis has had to add new players to the pool, and gave a few their first opportunities at recording their first national team minutes.

Horan’s injury gave Hanson a chance to make her debut, while second half substations allowed for left back Tegan McGrady and center back Hailie Mace to make their way into the match. All three held their own as the momentum continued to shift away from the Mexican team.

The three debutantes follow a habit of Ellis’s since the end of the 2016 Summer Olympics. The head coach has given debuts to 17 different players, which has been crucial as the player pool has grown. Sunday’s trio will likely need more minutes if they are to make their marks during this cycle, but getting inexperienced players familiar with the national team environment certainly cannot hurt.

FRIENDLIES LEAVE SOME QUESTIONS UNANSWERED

While the U.S., as expected, recorded two victories against regional rival Mexico, some of the question marks that existed before the pair of friendlies still remain.

A large place of uncertainty heading into the matches would be if Ellis could find a midfield trio that could click, particularly in the absence of Julie Ertz and Samantha Mewis. The combination of Brian, Horan, and Andi Sullivan got the start on Thursday, and played better than they did against France. Lloyd took Sullivan’s place on Sunday, bringing an entirely different skill set to the role, and playing her with Brian and Horan was not fleshed out, as they both picked up injuries. Long and Hanson came on when the match was starting to get out of Mexico’s reach, though neither of them genuinely played themselves out of contention.

A place that has been up for grabs for even longer than the midfield spots is right back, where Emily Sonnett got the nod for a majority of both matches. She was fine defensively on both games, but whether or not she played herself into a starting role is another question. Sofia Huerta, meanwhile, got 15 minutes to play at the end of Sunday’s game, leaving her with little time for her to show her talents. The place likely is Casey Short’s to lose once she comes back from injury, though she was never a constant starter in the position.

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