The U.S. Women’s National Team has ended 2018 with a pair of 1-0 victories at Portugal and Scotland, ending the year with 18 wins, two losses, and without a single defeat.
With a spot in the World Cup officially booked, this month’s friendlies provided a different set of tasks for head coach Jill Ellis and company. Spending a majority of the calendar year perfecting a starting lineup, her responsibilities have now turned to whittling down a player pool of about 30 players to 23 players by FIFA’s May World Cup roster deadline. As a result, Ellis rotated her players around the field and added some new ones to the mix with that in mind.
The results, though, were imperfect. Though the USWNT emerged victorious in both matches and kept clean sheets on both occasions, the team was hardly dominant against sides on paper considered clearly inferior. The combination of midfielders and forwards sometimes struggled, leaving the opposition with meaningful possession and plays for long stretches of both matches.
It comes down to a combination of tired players who are unfamiliar with each other and adjusting to the international level, something that the USWNT as a group can get away with currently if it proves to be a one-time occurrence. That said, there were some players who naturally showcased their talents, with the team benefitting by their presences. There is plenty of food for thought for Ellis and company as the team heads into a break before reconvening in January against France.
Here is a closer look at how each player performed this month:
ALYSSA NAEHER (B+)
Playing 90 minutes against Portugal, the goalkeeper was once again tested rarely. Making saves when called upon twice, Naeher otherwise enjoyed a relatively uneventful day.
ASHLYN HARRIS (B)
Getting the full 90 minutes against Scotland, Harris had a somewhat similar performance to Naeher. Though there was a moment early on when she had difficulty controlling the ball, she made two saves in an otherwise relatively inactive night for her.
EMILY FOX (B-)
The University of North Carolina defender earned her first two caps this month, starting at right back against Portugal and at left back against Scotland. It was a relatively quiet 139 minutes, but she did require extra cover on the left flank against Scotland, particularly in the early stages of the match. For the most part, though, she held her own and may have a strong future ahead of her.
EMILY SONNETT (B)
Starting against Scotland and playing a combined 85 minutes over the two matches, the right back was her usual self. A defender who prefers to stay back, she was strong defensively and did well to keep out the Scottish attack during her 68 minutes on the field.
ABBY DAHLKEMPER (B+)
Like the goalkeepers, center back Dahlkemper was only somewhat active during the course of the two friendlies. Playing all 180 minutes, she did well to stop both Portugal and Scotland from advancing further, making life easier for the goalkeepers behind her. She partnered well with Becky Sauerbrunn as they continue to work on their partnership in Tierna Davidson’s absence.
BECKY SAUERBRUNN (B+)
Basically enjoying the same performances as Dahlkemper over the course of 180 minutes, Sauerbrunn was once again reliable in defense. She and Dahlkemper coordinated well to preserve the clean sheets the team earned this month, continuing to be an easy pick for the starting lineup.
CRYSTAL DUNN (A+)
Dunn continued to show her versatility this month, playing as a left back and in midfield. Against Portugal and towards the end of the Scotland match, she was again the left back that could do no wrong, holding her own defensively while frequently being part of an overwhelming USWNT attack. She took on a mostly attacking role against Scotland, linking up well with Alex Morgan on the left flank, making it seem as if there are few positions she cannot play.
ANDI SULLIVAN (C)
Playing the first half against Portugal, Sullivan received her first start since March as a defensive midfielder. The midfield was not running particularly smoothly in those 45 minutes, and Sullivan herself was playing a little sloppily. It was hardly her best performance, especially considering she usually plays further up the pitch for the national team.
JULIE ERTZ (A-)
Ertz played 90 minutes against Scotland, spending most of it as a defensive midfielder but playing at center back towards the end of the match. Again, she was reliable in both positions, doing well to keep Scotland at bay and advance play when possible.
DANIELLE COLAPRICO (B+)
The midfielder received her first caps this month, playing 45 minutes against Portugal and 16 minutes against Scotland. She proved a capable option in defensive midfield particularly against Portugal, as the overall midfield and team performances improved, limiting the Portuguese offense.
ALLIE LONG (N/A)
The midfielder played only two minutes against Scotland, coming on for Morgan.
LINDSEY HORAN (A-)
Playing 90 minutes against Portugal, the box-to-box midfielder capped off an excellent year with a solid performance. Doing well to get the USWNT attack started, she remained active in midfield during her shift.
SAM MEWIS (N/A)
The midfielder came on in second half stoppage time against Scotland, coming on for Carli Lloyd.
ROSE LAVELLE (B+)
Playing all but eight minutes over the course of the week, Lavelle continues to cement herself as an essential part of the USWNT attack. It did not end up being her most productive matches, but she still managed to create opportunities for the teammates in front of her.
MALLORY PUGH (B+)
The forward started in both matches at right forward and picked up the assist on Alex Morgan’s goal against Scotland. She made appropriate runs and linked up well with Morgan and others in attack, but was not as productive as she has been in the past.
JESSICA MCDONALD (B+)
Playing a total of 67 minutes over the course of the two matches, the North Carolina Courage forward walked away from the friendlies with her first USWNT goal. She was mostly silent in her 45 minutes against Portugal, but managed to show up at the right time for the game’s lone goal. Otherwise, she was somewhat limited by play of the midfield behind her before she was subbed off.
ALEX MORGAN (A)
Morgan scored the USWNT’s final goal of the year against Scotland, but also demonstrated a little bit of her own versatility. Playing in the center against Portugal, the team instantly looked better when she came on, while her 88 minute shift against Scotland saw her overwhelm the defense from left forward. It was another strong set of matches for the forward, who continues to climb up the team’s all-time scoring chart.
CARLI LLOYD (C)
One of the team’s co-captains, Lloyd got minutes in midfield against Portugal, but started at the top of the forward line against Scotland. However, she was not particularly effective or active in either match. A missed penalty against Scotland did not help matters, but it seems as if she and Ellis have yet to find her best role.
MEGAN RAPINOE (A)
Playing 90 minutes against Portugal, the forward was active on the right side of the field as usual. Combining well with Morgan in the second half, she even did well in the first, aiding the team in creating space and on set piece opportunities.