Okay, I have to admit that I had forgotten how wonderful it is to watch the US Women play the beautiful game. It’s been a while since we’ve gotten to see these women play as a team. Wow, I am excited for this sport all over again. The US had their hands full with Lisa De Vanna and her fellow Australians. The US defense wasn’t excellent, but that’s okay for now. I know that Tom Sermani will work on the little things that need to be fixed. Crystal Dunn, the young right back for the USA was my woman of the match. She had to match up with speedster De Vanna, and did quite well. She was able to move up and down the right side as needed to join in the attack of the US.
Coach Sermani is going to have a lot of tough choices to make for the final starting World Cup roster. Shannon Boxx was not in the 18 today, because she is busy expanding her family. Perhaps it’s time for her to hang up the fulltime boots. Her calm experience has been solid for the US team for years, but with Carli Lloyd slotted in the middle, and Yael Averbuch pushing for time in that roll as well, I can see this team moving forward without Boxx sooner, rather than later. Christie Rampone was also missing from the 18, and her not being there was noticed. Although Becky Sauerbrunn is learning to marshal the back line, she isn’t quite as adept at reading the game as Rampone is. Without Hope Solo in goal, our defensive back four could be exploited. Perhaps this is where Stephanie Cox should be put. Her experience on the back line, and her delivery from the back has been missed. With the young speedsters out on the sides, Cox and Sauerbrunn/Engen could be solid together in the middle.
I am happy to see that Coach Sermani is trying to find a way to get Sydney Leroux on the pitch at the same time as Alex Morgan. Although, Leroux found herself in Megan Rapinoe’s spot for this game. Rapinoe is still with her team Lyon, and actually had an assist in their 4-0 win earlier today. When she’s available for the US team, she should be on the pitch. Period. No question. Another player missing, that should find herself in every 18 is Tobin Heath. So where Leroux will find herself once those two are available is anyone’s guess.
For today’s match against the Australian’s Sermani went with the 4-4-2. The starting XI were: Hope Solo, Crystal Dunn, Whitney Engen, Becky Sauerbrunn and Megan Klingenberg in back. Heather O’Reilly, Carli Lloyd, Loren Holiday and Sydney Leroux in the middle. Alex Morgan and Abby Wambach (Captain for the day) up top. The bench players were Yael Averbuch, Ali Krieger, Rachel Buehler, Nicole Barnhart, Stephanie Cox, Christen Press and Morgan Brian. They played in front of 19,109 fans at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas.
The USA got on the board via a set piece. At 4:50 minutes, O’Reilly was fouled. Sauerbrunn had the initial delivery, which was headed out of the box, but only as far as Holiday. She set herself up, and crushed a left footed volley through the crowd. It deflected off a Matilda player and went into the right side of the net, with Williams not even having a chance to react to the shot.
The Matilda’s had quick counters, and it was clear from the beginning that they were going to be looking for the long ball over the top to a hard charging Lisa De Vanna. All but one of Solo’s five saves were on frame shots by De Vanna. She found herself dancing on the line and being called offside at least six times.
In the 14th minute, Crystal Dunn shot up the right side, finding Alex Morgan, who passed into traffic and had the ball deflected right to a waiting Carli Lloyd. Lloyd smashed her volley into the back of the net for the 45th goal of her National Team career. Even with the lopsided score, the Matilda’s never once surrendered. They kept their heads up and continued with their game plan.
In the 56th minute, Abby found herself racing the Australian keeper Lydia Williams to get a rolling ball near the left side netting. Yeah, that’s right, the 5’11″ American was “racing”, and actually got there right before the keeper could stop her from redirecting the slow rolling ball with the outside of her right foot. Even with the awkward angle and the slow roller, the ball found its way into the goal on the far side.
In stoppage time, O’Reilly raced down the right side, and slotted through a perfect pass, which Morgan dummied and allowed to go untouched to Christen Press who easily redirected it into the net for her seventh goal in ten caps. The US Women took the match 4-0.
The defense isn’t solid, and the team as a whole needs to stop playing long ball all the time. They need to rely on their solid ball handling skills through the middle in order to get into the 18 in a more controlled manner. The long ball game opens them up for quick counters, and against a quick team like the Matilda’s it could easily cost them. The score line doesn’t reflect the actual battle that took place on the pitch. The Matilda’s never wavered. They continued spraying the ball over the top to De Vanna and Gorry started getting into the shooting as well. Hope Solo looked better today than she has for quite some time.
The next match for the US is against New Zealand on Oct. 27 at Candlestick Park in San Francisco. Kickoff is at 3:30 p.m. PT with Live Web Stream on ussoccer.com. I look forward to seeing which lineup Sermani uses for the first of two matches against the New Zealanders.