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Direct from Hartford: USWNT Talk

A Rainy Night Provides a Glimpse of USWNT Future

The American women are a team without a coach and most of the players do not have club squads to call their own. Despite the obstacles, they put on a show in Connecticut.
BY Maura Gladys Posted
October 24, 2012
9:31 AM
HARTFORD, CT—In the pouring central Connecticut rain, a crowd of more than 18,000 witnessed 90-plus minutes of transition.

Not the on-field kind—the shift from offense to defense or vice versa—but something more abstract.

The USWNT’s friendly against Germany provided a rare chance to see a squad that is truly suspended in transition. It’s a group of women who are caught between an Olympic gold medal and subsequent celebration tour, and an unknown future. They are waiting for a coach to be named, a league to be created, and a Women’s World Cup that is a very long two and a half years away.

Despite the metaphysical pull and the soggy conditions, the USWNT played a compelling game against Germany. While it won’t do much to clear up the uncertainly, not every game needs to do so. Some games are just games in the rain.

Interim coach Jill Ellis did not make any huge shakeups to the Starting XI that featured in a 1-1 draw against Germany three days prior. Those decisions are for the next coach. Megan Rapinoe and Heather O’Reilly started on the wings, with Carli Lloyd and Shannon Boxx in the middle, leaving young stars Tobin Heath and Lauren Cheney on the bench. The look was a throwback to the 2011 Women’s World Cup, except Abby Wambach's strike partner was Alex Morgan instead of Amy Rodriguez, and Becky Saurbrunn in central defense for Rachel Buehler.

No changes means it was the same old U.S. team, which calls for impressive play up top with one or two blown chances and a shaky defense that was superbly sliced by the opponent at times.

The game started with no flow as both teams fought to get a foothold in the rain. The Americans did do a better job of maintaining possession higher up the field than they had during Saturday’s game.

It paid off as Wambach struck first, nodding in a Morgan cross that benefited from the slick conditions.

“It got a little deflection so there was wicked spin on the ball, which made it really difficult for the goalkeeper to read the bounce. The bounce just skipped straight to my head,” Wambach said.

After Germany equalized shortly into the second half, the U.S. pulled ahead again, thanks to a brilliantly-timed cross from Morgan to Heath. Morgan, now with 18 assists on the year, beelined for the end line and slid the ball over before several defenders converged on her.

“I knew if I cut it back the defenders would be facing their own goal and our players would be running toward the goal,” Morgan said. “I thought we’d have a good opportunity if I could get to the end line.”

Defensively, Hope Solo again proved why she remains the best goalkeeper in the world. She made six saves on the night, all of which were clutch, especially a double save that resulted in a break leading to the Stars and Stripes' second goal.

The two goals Solo conceded were superbly executed gems by rising German star Dzenifer Marozsan. She took advantage of a slip by Christie Rampone to slot home a breakaway against Solo and fired a missile in stride after shaking a defender. Both were the kind of goals that don’t get scored in women’s soccer very often, and left the netminder helpless to stop them.

Transition was evident not just on the field, but by the presence of Sunil Gulati. According to the USSF president, the U.S. has narrowed its coaching search down to seven candidates and will have a decision by early November. He will also have “some interesting things to say” in the coming weeks regarding a women’s professional league.

But the focus of the match in Hartford should be just that: the match. The goals for both teams were top-class, the atmosphere was raucous even with the pelting rain, and despite the uncertain future and the temptation to dwell too long on past victories, the players on the pitch played an impressive game of soccer. Sometimes, that’s all that matters.

Maura Gladys works in production for KICKTV. She also runs the goalkeeping blog All You Need Is Glove.

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