U.S. Women's National Team
Lavelle Shines, Dunn Scores Twice as Yanks Win 4-0
April 06, 2017
IN ITS FIRST ACTION since the SheBelieves Cup in March, the United States women’s national team defeated Russia 4-0 on Thursday night in Frisco, Texas.
The Americans opened the scoring in the 10th minute of play when Carli Lloyd put Crystal Dunn in behind the Russian defense and Dunn tucked her shot just inside the far post. Then, only eight minutes later, Rose Lavelle found Allie Long on a corner kick for the second goal. Dunn scored again just before the halftime whistle to make it 3-0.
In the second half, Long added a second headed tally from a Mallory Pugh service to round out the final scoreline.
After the team’s poor performance last month, head coach Jill Ellis appears to have abandoned her three-back formation and returned the U.S. to a more familiar four-back against the 25th-ranked Russians. Interestingly enough, the team did not play in the 4-2-3-1 formation that it had become accustomed to between the 2015 World Cup and the fall of 2016, nor in the standard 4-4-2 used prior to 2015.
On Thursday, Ellis lined her team up in a 4-2-2-2 empty-bucket formation, something U.S. men’s national team fans will remember from Bob Bradley's tenure.
Against Russia, Sam Mewis and Long sat deep in the midfield with Lavelle and Pugh running roughshod over the Russians on the flanks. Both Lavelle and Pugh repeatedly found space in front of the Russian backline and ran through, across, and around them.
While no hard and fast conclusions can be drawn from a match against a lower-tier opponent like Russia, nor from a single performance, the 4-2-2-2 showed promise in Frisco—especially with the freedom it offered to Lavelle and Pugh. Lavelle, in particular, put on a spectacular performance with a match full of highlight reel touches.
Sorcery. pic.twitter.com/wKVJXch7p5— Our Game Magazine (@OurGameMagazine) April 7, 2017
Looking ahead, the type of freedom the 4-2-2-2 offers flank players would seem to benefit winger Tobin Heath—who is currently not in camp due to a back injury. The ability to cut in, as Lavelle demonstrated over and over again against Russia, also gives the U.S. attack an element of unpredictability, something the Americans often miss against top opponents.
Dunn, playing up top, also had a strong evening for the national team—her first-half offside infractions aside. Obviously, her brace provided half of the Americans’ goals on the night, but her defensive effort also gave the U.S. a needed punch in a game that easily could have fallen into the doldrums of a meaningless friendly.
On the team’s second tally, Dunn made a strong tackle to win the ball near midfield and started the counter that eventually led to the goal-scoring corner kick. Dunn also scored the third goal of the night due to her defensive effort, winning the ball off a Russian defender before taking it in herself for the finish.
The U.S. plays Russia again on Sunday (2pm ET, ESPN) in Houston.
John D. Halloran is an American Soccer Now columnist. Follow him on Twitter.