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USWNT ready for “real tournament” to begin with Netherlands knockout stage showdown

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The U.S. women’s national team looked anything but defending FIFA Women’s World Cup champions through the group stage at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, but luckily has a major opportunity in the quarterfinal round to turn its misfortune around.

Vlatko Andonovski watched as his squad advanced into the quarterfinals of the tournament despite a scoreless draw against the Matildas at Kashima Soccer Stadium. A second-place finish behind Group G winners Sweden now sees the Americans gear up for their toughest test of the summer yet, a date with 2019 World Cup finalists, the Netherlands.

The Americans held their own against Sam Kerr and the rest of the Matildas attack on Tuesday, but overall didn’t look like the same team that rolled past New Zealand 6-1 just three days prior. Tierna Davidson and the rest of the USWNT back line were the only bright spots in the match, while Alex Morgan seemed to be the only attacking star willing to take a chance towards goal.

The USWNT only recorded a 1-1-1 record over three group stage matches, but now has a fresh slate to get things right against the Netherlands this coming Friday.

“This [knockout stage] is when the tournament starts,” Morgan said at a news conference after the game. “It was a tactical decision by [coach Vlatko Andonovski] to shift defensively, a little more conservatively, and really allow them to get impatient, play along and give it back to us.

“Eventually, I feel like both teams kind of sat in, and it became a matter of playing a professional game and moving on,” Morgan said. “It’s seeing how Vlatko wants us to set up against that [next] team. Tactically we had a little shift this game, we’re experienced enough and professional enough to be able to do so and face a team in a way that puts us on top and really plays to our strengths.”

Not only was the fact that the USWNT was out-possessed 65%-to-35% worrying enough, but the fact it looked content to defend for most of the second half was also a shock. If not for the powerful play of Davidson and the rest of the USWNT, the Americans might’ve suffered a different result over 90 minutes. Star forward Vivianne Miedema led the way with eight goals herself and will be a different type of player for the USWNT to deal with.

While the overall performance wasn’t glamorous by the USWNT on Tuesday, the goal of advancing into the final eight of the tournament is a solid first achievement. The USWNT will now prepare to up its game knowing the stakes are higher with every passing day.

“Coming into this game, we came with the mindset that the first goal was to win the game, and the second goal was to put a good professional performance in and not get scored on,” Andonovski said. “Obviously, we didn’t accomplish the first one, but we did accomplish the second one, which was very important because ultimately it put us in second place.

“I would say it was actually a good opportunity for me to see whether the team is ready to take on the information that was given and execute it, which I was very happy with,” Andonovski said. “Almost every player on the team had a specific role, and they executed it very good.”

Comments

  1. No Question about it, Vivianne Miedema is the equal to USA Legend, Michelle Akers. AND, the success of our USWNT against Netherlands depends on how well we can keep her wrapped up. We did it successfully in 2019 in the finals of the W/C (2-0) but she didn’t play in November when we were able to post another 2-0 win. I would say that keeping her scoreless and improving on our miserable Off-Side statistics (Press, Morgan, & Lloyd) will be the key to any success we will enjoy.

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  2. The USWNT teams have generally been very loose with possession, especially in midfield, dating back to the ’90s. For two decades they could get away with poor passes, glory balls, bad first touches, and ridiculous decision-making because they were physically overrunning teams. Well, the world is catching up and we can no longer be stupid with the ball and expect to win. The first signs of this could be seen about 5 years ago. We played Spain in an under-something-age WC and they made the US look foolish by passing the ball and playing very sophisticated. Our women’s only response was more hustle, more long balls, be more physical. It made me realize that the some day these types of teams would give us trouble. It’s starting to happen.

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  3. @ Ronniet, I get that sense too, that can be tough to do. we’ll see. Vlatko needs to get this one right from the start and all the way throughout the match, and he can, and I’m pulling for him and them to do it. Tactics to match the team on the field, both ours and theirs, ready to match wits and make timely proactive/reactive adjustments, with belief in his players to attack execution aggressively. Get them on the front foot out of the gate! Hope we press more and that he’s been saving that, and again, we’ll see!

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    • Yeah, we’ll see. Some of the comments I’ve heard and read suggest that the somewhat low energy display against Australia was all intentional, and that Vlatko put out a rather conservative, defensive game plan. Basically, he was playing for the tie or maybe a 1-0 win all along. If true, that’s a little disappointing when you’re supposed to be the best team in the world, but if they come out and blow Holland away, I guess it was the right move.

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  4. I get the sense that this team feels like they can just turn it on when they want to, but the way they’ve played, sans obviously the NZ match which was an expected rout, it hasn’t come close to playing what we fans would call fluid, winning soccer like we’ve come to see from them. I dunno, I’m not feeling good about the Netherlands match because they haven’t seen a player like Miedema yet this tourney so they better be ready for what she brings to the table!

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  5. There is quality on all eight of the quarterfinalists. Much tougher to win a medal than in the past.

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    • Yeah, the teams are playing so tough against each other, that there doesn’t appears to be any match, the outcome of which would qualify either as a set-up or upset. I don’t know that I would bet on any match. The only bet I made here was on Sweden to win the Gold Medal. That was because at Las Vegas Sports Book, before the first match was played, they had Sweden rated 5th at 18-1 to win Gold, whereas they had the U.S odds-on to win it at 2-5.
      With those ridiculous odds, I had to put $100 on Sweden, owing to how it manhandled the U.S. in the 1-1 tie a few months ago.

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