US Ladies Embrace Future in Closing Sweden Draw

USWNT almost atoned for it's group stage blemish on Saturday..

TSG’s Maura Gladys brings us home on the USWNT in 2011. Thanks for hard work, Maura.

If she didn’t prove it with her two goals and one in the 2011 World Cup, Alex Morgan proved last night that she deserves a spot in USWNT the starting lineup. Adding immediate spark and speed to a previously stagnant offense, Morgan came close to scoring several times, and set up the United States only goal of the night in a 1-1 tie against Sweden. This girl is not the future of U.S. Soccer. She is now.

Embracing the future...

Morgan was inserted into the game in the 74th minute, with the U.S. trailing 1-0. Up to that point, the squad had created several good chances, including a Shannon Boxx ringer off the crossbar, a few pushed wide by Amy Rodriguez and a header from Abby Wambach. But up to that point, the U.S. offense had been largely inconsistent and choppy, and their flow was getting broken up just as they were reaching the top of the penalty box, thanks to Sweden’s stout defense and disciplined back four.

But the minute Morgan’s feet hit the pitch, instant offense. First, Lauren Cheney sprung her with a precise ball behind the defense that Morgan ran on to and sent perfectly curving past the Swedish goalkeeper, only to be shut down by the pesky inside of the post.

Then in the 80th minute, the U.S. scored it’s only goal of the night, largely thanks to Morgan. Heather O’Reilly sent a ball over the defense to Morgan who yet again found herself behind the defense. Morgan collected the ball and fired it right at Hamamrstrom who deflected the tough shot right to the feet of a waiting Tobin Heath who struck it into an open goal.

Morgan found her way behind the defense several more times, fed by Lauren Cheney and O’Reilly, with Heath always running up with her, ready to crash or collect a loose ball.

Morgan’s spark had an affect on her teammates as well, especially Tobin Heath, who had seemed nervous and jittery up to that point, and Cheney who had a knack for finding Morgan through the back four.

You get the distinct feeling that had the youngsters been given more time, they almost assuredly could have netted a game-winner. Which goes back to a question we have been asking since this summer’s World Cup. Why isn’t Alex Morgan being used more effectively? As she continues to prove her worth that question is turning more from out-loud speculation to a pointed and spirited call in support of Morgan. Yes, she provides a lift coming off the bench, especially if the team is tied or trailing (which it seems to always be these days). But why let it get to that point when Morgan could score in the first half, giving the U.S. a comfortable lead and no need for a spark? All I want, all I yearn for, is to see Alex Morgan play more than fifteen minutes, preferably with Abby Wambach.

In order for that to happen, a Sundhage favorite, Amy Rodriguez, would need to be dropped from the starting 11, something that doesn’t appear to be happening any time soon, especially now that Pia has switched to the 4-3-2-1, where A-Rod has operated a little bit more comfortably.

Sundhage has been stubborn about the situation, and in last night’s game Alex Morgan exposed that with undeniably stellar play that deserves more than a 15 minute run out.

A few more thoughts from the game:

Summer flashes continued for Sauerbrunn...

-The 4-2-3-1 worked well last night, especially from a defensive perspective. All four outside backs, Ali Krieger, Becky Sauerbrunn, Heather Mitts and Stephanie Cox made several good offensive runs, rarely getting caught out of position on a turnover, a big concern for Pia going into the game. Sauerbrunn played great and looks poised to challenge for that outside left spot. Krieger has the right one all locked up though. She’s the closest thing the USWNT has to a shut-down defender, and there’s something inherently awesome in the way she pushes forward with the ball, striding up field, eating up the sideline with a steely look of determination.

-Barnhart was really only keeping Hope Solo’s goalmouth warm in her absence, but she proved again that she is a solid backup. She wasn’t really tested but made the saves that she needed to. Sweden’s 27th minute goal was a product of lax defending, poor positioning and a lucky swerve.

-Like I mentioned above, Amy Rodriguez will be in the lineup for the foreseeable future. As a favorite of Sundhage’s, she played the majority of this summer’s World Cup, despite being virtually useless.  But she is operating so much better on the left in the 4-2-3-1 instead of paired with Abby Wambach up top. While she hasn’t found the back of the net yet, she is putting herself in good positions and leveraging her speed to blaze down the left sideline. However, her baby steps of form improvement pale in comparison to the strides that Morgan has made, and if room needs to be made, A-Rod should be first to sit. Try telling Pia that though.

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10 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by biff on 2011/11/21 at 8:12 AM

    Nice post on the US Foxy Babes. I had never watched a ladies soccer game until the WWC last summer and got hooked on it, was cheering all the way for the US ladies up until our hearts were broken in the penalty shoot-out against Japan, who are also a great team and deserved the win. Alex Morgan is excellent, as you can see from this video.

    As for Pia Sundhage, no one can argule that she has not done a good job, winning the Olypmics 2008 and becoming Vice World Champion of 2011. But I did question a few of her roster and strategic decisions during WWC 2011, such as having the exact same first three players do penalty kicks in the shoot-out against Japan who kicked in the Brazil shoot-out just a few days before. And then she had Tobin Heath, who is a great player but a bit green, kick in the fourth spot, which if you watch this link you can see the German Soccer Fraus in the stands cheering when her shot is blocked. Not classy at all.

    Anyway, I think Sundhage should announce that she will step down after next summer’s olympics to make way for a new coach. Five years as a national team manager should be the limit. And if she is not ready to pursue new opportunities, then maybe Sunil Gulati should convince her would be for the best.

    Reply

    • Posted by biff on 2011/11/21 at 8:14 AM

      Ooops. Darn. Sorry about that. I did not realize posting a you tube link would embed the video. I will not do that again.

      Reply

  2. Posted by Robert on 2011/11/21 at 8:48 AM

    Keep in mind that Morgan comes in with fresh legs and goes against tired defenses. If she started, the defenses would be as fresh as her, and this would nullify some of her effectiveness. Wambach has been resting her sore achilles and so she wasn’t in game shape.

    Reply

  3. Posted by Sheesh on 2011/11/21 at 9:57 PM

    Pia should put Rapinoe in as left winger instead of A-Rod! Sheesh.

    A-Rod has a “I Get to Start Free” card, no matter how she plays.

    Reply

    • Posted by Danny on 2011/11/22 at 12:55 PM

      Personally I have always been a fan of Pia, but it seems she’s going in the direction of someone we all know…Getting stale, she has her favorites and no matter how bad they play they continue to get the call, deserved players who do play well get the snub, her team giving up the lead twice in an important game…Sound familiar?

      Now don’t get me wrong I think she has done a great job with the team, (minus most of last year up until the WWC) but I feel the Olympics will be to her what the Gold Cup was to Bob Bradley. Only difference is, I’m not so sure there is a clear replacement.

      Reply

  4. Posted by matthewsf on 2011/11/22 at 1:52 PM

    Excellent point Danny.

    I agree with Maura. I can see why Morgan wasn’t tried in the starter role at the World Cup. But all signals point to her being completely ready to contribute at the starting level for the USWNT–I’m not sure why *not* to at least test out the forward complexion with her up top.

    Similarly, how in the world do you play Boxx 90 minutes against Sweden…even Lloyd for that matter with Lori Lindsey sitting on the bench?!

    Boxx is 34-years-old–the introduction and spunk after Morgan’s insertion says as much about the midfield as well. Also, couldn’t you see (Maura, add thoughts here) Lindsey being advanced into Lloyd’s role and Lloyd taking more of a deep lying distributor role? (That’s a bit out there, but then again Lloyd is 29).

    Agree not sure why to play a friendly and not begin figuring out youth.

    Reply

    • Posted by Maura Gladys on 2011/11/23 at 9:27 AM

      I’d be a little hesitant to try and phase Lindsey into the midfield at this juncture. She’s 31, so she’d be more of a stop gap solution rather than a cure-all. I’d rather try and start working a younger player into Lloyd’s spot, and drop Lloyd back to the deep-lying distributor role, where she has shown that she can excel.

      Reply

      • Posted by matthewsf on 2011/11/23 at 10:32 AM

        Fair enough — only reasoning was Lindsey is still younger than Boxx. Who else is in consideration there?

        Reply

        • Posted by Maura Gladys on 2011/11/23 at 2:39 PM

          Haha that’s the problem. No one really, since Pia hasn’t tried anyone else out. (Just a tinge of frustration there haha)

          Reply

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