The U.S. Women’s National Team was not its vintage self on Thursday night.
The Americans opened the 2021 SheBelieves Cup with a 1-0 win over Canada, but the USWNT looked sluggish and uncoordinated throughout much of the match.
Head coach Vlatko Andonovski may not want to use the word, but many of the players looked rusty. The Americans created plenty of chances, but their shots were very poor. Midfield passing wasn’t in sync. The defense was caught out of position on a number of occasions, leading to Canada nearly going ahead at least twice before Rose Lavelle broke the deadlock in the 79th minute.
“I don’t know if rusty is the right word,” Andonovski said in the postgame zoom call, “but I agree that we could have done a better job in the final third. It was definitely not for a lack of creativity, but I would say more about a lack of execution. We created some good opportunities after a good build up. We were able to come down with with good creativity, but we were not able to execute on it and I’m just glad that after missing all those opportunities that we were able to find a way to score a goal.”
There are plenty of reasons for the USWNT’s lackluster showing on Thursday. Aside from Lynn Williams, the starting front four had a poor night. Catarina Macario looked a little out of her element working with Megan Rapinoe and Carli Lloyd. Her youth and their experience didn’t exactly line up well.
Rapinoe and Lloyd did not look fully match fit or sharp. Both forwards took the pandemic-wrecked 2020 season off and their lack of game action over the past 12 months was certainly on display. They were slow and had trouble navigating through space. Their first touch and shooting were both off and they overall didn’t look to be in game shape.
A lot of the issues plaguing the USWNT in the beginning of the game went away after Macario, Rapinoe, and Lloyd came off in the 64th minute and were replaced by Lavelle, Christen Press, and Alex Morgan. All three of them have been actively playing over the winter, especially Press, and looked up for the challenge of breaking down the Canadian defense.
“We wanted to change the way the game was going in that we wanted to actually bump the intensity up a little bit more and put even more pressure on with the ball and be more aggressive going forward,” Andonovski said about his decision to make the three-way sub.
The USWNT performance still wasn’t quite what we are used to seeing though. The Americans created chances, but only the Lavelle shot went in and the game never looked like it would grow past a 1-0 scoreline.
“When we create 10 opportunities to score and we we score one I’m disappointed, because I wanted to score more goals,” Andonovski said.
The USWNT will face an arguably more difficult challenge on Sunday afternoon against Brazil. Brazil and Canada are both ranked eighth in the world at the moment, but Brazil brought much more complete squad to the SheBelieves Cup than Canada did. None of their top players are hurt or being held back by their clubs. They looked pretty complete in the second half of their 4-1 win over Argentina before the USWNT-Canada match.
All that means is the USWNT will have to look back at the tape and learn from the many mistakes against Canada if it wants to secure all three points against Brazil in a game that will likely decide who lifts the trophy after Wednesday night’s games.
“I think it’s a great learning opportunity,” Andonovski concluded. “Regardless of how we how we did we’re going to go back and try to learn from this. I’m happy to how we were able to solve problems and get in front of the goal. Now, we’re just going to have to finish some of those opportunities.”