USWNT 2, Japan 0: Taking A Step To Make Tarpley’s Injury A Footnote

Editors’s Note: Maura Gladys is a former–reformed :>–ESPN writer trialing for the The Shin Guardian. Please use the comment section to let us know what you’d like to hear about the women’s national team as they prepare for World Cup 2011 and another unique hairstyle from head coach Pia Sundhage.

Lindsay Tarpley became a Twitter phenomenon this week...for a regrettable reason.

Going into yesterday’s friendly against Japan, there was speculation that the United States would struggle without their star Lindsay Tarpley, who tore her ACL on May 14 and will now miss all of this summer’s World Cup.

The exquisite play of Heather O’Reilly and some promising flashes from youngster Alex Morgan tonight sought to silence that notion as the US women beat Japan for the second time in five days.

Goals from Amy Rodriguez and Heather O’Reilly were the difference as the US ladies defeated Japan 2-0 at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, N.C. They now prep for their June 5th send-off match against Mexico–retribution or motivation0–and next month’s Women’s World Cup.

Tarpley’s absence is a blow to the US. Her versatile play and ability to come up big in important games is well-stated and on record (re: 2004 Olympic gold medal game). Tonight it was UNC product O’Reilly providing the salve for Tarpley’s injury.

The winger was brilliant, setting up the United States’ first goal and scoring the second, both of which showcased her attacking creativity and gumption. In the 28th minute, O’Reilly received the ball from Shannon Boxx at the near corner by the touchline, charged towards the goal, beat a defender and cooly slotted the ball to a wide-open Amy Rodriguez.

Side footer.

Score.

———-

In the 69th minute, O’Reilly did it herself. A deke to the right, opened O’Reilly’s left and gave her more than adequate space.

O’Reilly yanked the cord and mowed the grass with a perfect low strike past Japanese goalkeeper Ayumi Kaihori. The dicotomy of the scoring plays was obvious and O’Reilly–on her game all evening–will need to “own the play” more as the World Cup group state approaches.

That’s because it’s no secret that the U.S. central midfield of Carli Llloyd and Shannon Boxx haven’t quite hit their grove just yet. At times during the game, lack of central organization saw the US get stretched out of shape and leave dangerous gaps between the mids and the defenders.

Part of the blame of course lies on the cohesion of a youthful backline that’s not quite there yet and needs to move in unison better, but the other part is the pairing of Lloyd and Boxx who together share over 250 caps between them, but have not exhibited that seemless veteran harmony for a consistent game overall.

If O’Reilly can continue to produce and force defenses to respect her–read drop deeper or provide extra cover–it may just open the midfield for Lloyd and Boxx to together find their groove. (Case in point: On the O’Reilly’s first scoring opp, it was a beautifully weighted switch-field ball from Boxx that let O’Reilly got to work.)

Morgan hopes to hit up "that Italy moment" much more often.

Another encouraging game factor was the play of Alex Morgan, a 21-year-old rumbler who proved that she can instantly add a spark to the U.S.’s offense.

Just minutes after entering the match as a substitute, Morgan snuck behind Japan’s defense, beat the offside trap and goalkeeper, and had an empty net to shoot on. Youth took over though and Morgan dillied for an extra touch which proved costly as a Japan defender blocked her play for the mesh on the goal line.

A few minutes later showed that neither Morgan or her foils learned their lesson. The Cal Bear alum  got loose again and but this time it was keeper which Kaihori who beat Morgan’s shot and parried it in amazing display of athleticism.

Despite Morgan’s line coming up goose eggs, her performance confirmed the she’s got the goods to be Pia Sundhage’s catalyst off the pine.

Can’t mention a women’s game without mentioning the biggest star, Abby Wambach, who was dangerous at times but left the scoring burden completely to O’Reilly. Meanwhile at the other end goalkeeper Hope Solo was shall we say “outspoken” in goal on the one dangerous attempt that Japan sent her way early.

The U.S will miss Tarpley however and an uneven lead up to this game showed that depth in the “difference maker” category is not a strength of this team. Tonight however showed a larger breadth of weapons for the U.S. and Morgan and O’Reilly–O’Reilly in particular–will need to maintain their attacking verve if the US is to progress deep in Europe.

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11 responses to this post.

  1. Great stuff. As a huge USWNT fan I look forward to more of your writing during the upcoming Women’s World Cup. Welcome to TSG Maura!

    Reply

  2. Posted by Mud on 2011/05/19 at 8:07 AM

    pissed i missed this game. looking forward to the WC this summer though! WOMEN = WC and MEN = GC. gonna be good times

    Reply

  3. Posted by John on 2011/05/19 at 8:10 AM

    Not being as informed as I really should be on the USWNT, I sat down to at least watch the first half of the Japan friendly in Columbus. Megan Rapinoe really stuck out in my mind as just being scattershot over the field. Some times she would complete the right pass, but often it seemed that she didn’t quite see the field and would kill the attack.

    Clearly not having watched enough games, is this a function of her game or is this just a consequence of the first big friendly in the last few months?

    Reply

    • I had the same thought about everyone on the field. It looked like the teams had been playing on turf for weeks and finally switched to natural surface that hadn’t been mowed in a while – a lot of passes were completely under hit and not precise enought. Seeing close ups of the field I know that the surface wasn’t the problem. It seems that the intense training camp they’re currently in and Japan’s familiarity with them (from another friendly being played less than 5 days ago) was the main reason behind all of this. Or, at least I hope so.

      Reply

      • Posted by Johninho on 2011/05/20 at 11:55 AM

        Cosign. I would add, the great USWNTs of the Mia Hamm and Michelle Akers eras had Gretzky-like anticipation, to a woman. You used to be able to know, as soon as we had possession, that we were at most, 10 passes away from a shot on goal, and that everybody knew precisely when and where to make a run for maximum danger.

        This Nats team doesn’t link up nearly as well. It almost looks like, for example, that they’re freezing out Abby Wambach. But it’s just that they don’t understand each other like the Foudys, Chastains and Lillys did.

        I hope we get at least some of that going forward. It’s nice we beat Japan, distracted and on our home soil and all, by kicking and chasing. But that crap won’t make the semis, let alone stand up to Germany in front of their fans.

        At least we’ve got the number one keeper back in net. Ironically, the source of that whole controversy is now in the studio. That might exceed Harkesian bitterness.

        Reply

        • Posted by matthewsf on 2011/05/20 at 12:05 PM

          Great points here.

          One thing I’ve watched and Pia’s made a point of is getting the flanks forward and I think where and how that happens is still a work in progress and occasionally bypasses that link up play with Wambach.

          I think that’s a good strategy by Pia in that she *knows* the team will gravitate back to Wambach, but she needs to develop other threats.

          The challenge to that is, correctly as you point out, the linking play which seems confused far too often. Plus how much is that midfield tasked with protecting the young backline?

          That’s the extent of my educated commentary. Would love to hear other opinions.

          Reply

  4. […] against Mexico at Red Bull Arena in NY. Then off to the tournament! The only down side was the loss of key veteran Lindsay Tarpley to an ACL tear in the first of those […]

    Reply

  5. Posted by kaya on 2011/05/19 at 12:37 PM

    I’m Looking forward to being able to watch the WC on espn3 and follow here on TSG. I’m still frustrated that the US seems to rely on their physicality rather than technical ability. I hope they bring the loose ends together for Germany.

    Reply

  6. I think your right that O’Reilly played well but I also think that Carli Lloyd played very well in NC since her job is to sit in front of Boxx and start the offense. Both goals were started by a pass wide or a long ball through. Also not to mention her great ball through to Morgan that Morgan eventually could not put away.

    Also Morgan did not look that great. Besides coming in and providing some good runs her finishing needs to be better. Plain and simple.

    Reply

    • Posted by matthewsf on 2011/05/19 at 3:48 PM

      True on Morgan, but that she got open is step one I think.
      Her finishing does need work, but she’s done it.


      On Boxx and Llloyd, I’m very worried about Shannon Boxx. I’m worried that as the pace of the games get faster with each round and she tires, there is no other replacement for her and she’s been highly inconsistent.

      I’m a Yael Averbuch fan and I really would have liked to see her make the squad.

      Reply

  7. […] they have already begun to analyze and break things down in the run-up to the tournament– I highly recommend both their and ESPN’s Jeff Carlisle’s pieces about the 2-0 win over Japan Wednesday evening. […]

    Reply

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