U.S. Women's National Team
Alex Morgan Lifts U.S. to Sloppy Win Over England
The striker's 50th international goal gave Jill Ellis' team a much-needed victory, but it also masked a few worrisome performances in the midfield and up top. John D. Halloran assesses the situation.
BY John D. Halloran PostedTHE UNITED STATES WOMEN'S NATIONAL TEAM really needed a win against England on Friday. After going 1-1-2 in December, and suffering a humbling 2-0 loss to France on Sunday, questions about whether the team was ready for this summer’s World Cup were becoming more frequent—and louder. Thanks to Alex Morgan's first-half header the U.S. got out in front and held onto the lead, defeating England 1-0 in a sloppy match played in Milton Keynes. Here are three things we learned from the contest.
February 14, 2015
February 14, 2015
The Defense Looked BetterAgainst France, wide backs Meghan Klingenberg and Lori Chalupny took a beating. U.S. head coach Jill Ellis made some adjustments to the starting lineup, reinserting Ali Krieger at right back while pushing Klingenberg to the left and dropping Chalupny to the bench. At first glance, the changes seemed to help, but England also made things easy on the Americans with low pressure and an inability to sustain possession for any length of time. Krieger looked good, making a number of important tackles, and she did well to protect the back post late in the match, heading away a dangerous pass in the dying moments. But the big story from the last two matches on the defensive side for the U.S. has been the play of Becky Sauerbrunn, Whitney Engen, and Ashlyn Harris. Since the 2012 Olympics Sauerbrunn has established herself as one of the best center backs in the world and in these two friendlies, especially with captain Christie Rampone out injured, Sauerbrunn showed her worth. Engen’s last two performances also inspired confidence. Replacing Rampone in the lineup, Engen played well in both matches—a fact that should give Ellis and U.S. fans confidence in their depth at the position, and maybe even give Ellis a selection headache when Rampone returns. Harris, filling in for suspended goalkeeper Hope Solo, played well for her second match in a row, parrying into the crossbar the one good shot England managed. The rebound fell to an England attacker who put the ball away, but the goal was (incorrectly) ruled to be offside.
Midfield is Still Sixes and EightsIf the U.S. backline inspired confidence, the midfield did just the opposite. England did not apply much pressure but the U.S. still spent much of the match resorting to fruitless long balls and clearly lacked a creative presence in the attacking third.
Morgan Brian and Lauren Holiday were deployed as the dual No. 6’s in Ellis’ newfangled 4-2-2-2. While neither could effectively get forward against France, both could do so against England’s low-pressure defense and did so in creating the game’s lone goal. However, that isn’t likely to happen if and when the U.S. plays teams like Germany, France, Brazil, or Sweden in the World Cup—and the U.S. is likely to struggle with two of its key creative forces pinned back. Carli Lloyd was again, confusingly, deployed wide in the midfield and once again she struggled to make much of an impact. Christen Press, the U.S.’s other wide midfielder, had an uncharacteristically sloppy game.
Alex Morgan gets her first touch in the 21st minute.— Caitlin Murray (@caitlinmurr) February 13, 2015