Archive for the ‘USWNT’ Category

USA vs. Colombia: Live Commentary

Carli Lloyd manages the middle for the USWNT

Update:

US starting XI vs. Colombia:Solo; Le Peilbet, Buehler, Ramone, Krieger; Cheney, Lindsey, Lloyd, O’Reilly; Rodriguez, Wambach

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Apologies for no preview here; review coming though.

Carli Lloyd, Alex Morgan and the US ladies take on Colombia today in Game 2 in the Group of Bedoya–don’t ask–in Germany.

Kickoff is set for 9am PT.

The match is sold out at Rhein-Neckar-Arena, making it the first game not involving hosts Germany to be at capacity during the 2011 Women’s World Cup. The stadium is typically home to TSG 1899 Hoffenheim.

Colombia’s team? Just out of diapers with an average age of 21.6. They need the win in this one after falling to Sweden in Game 1.

The starting line-ups shortly.

Group Effort: US Women Wields Heavy Stick In 2nd Half, Drop North Korea, 2-0

Editors’s Note: TSG guest columnist Maura Gladys on Game 1 for the USWNT.

Lauren Cheney paid back the boss lady for her surprise start....

Hear that? That’s the sound of the entire U.S. Women’s national team, along with its fan base, exhaling. After weeks of hype, build up, criticism, anxiety and pressure, the U.S. finally has a little room to breath, thanks to a 2-0 win over North Korea. It was not perfect. But the U.S. reached a level of play towards the end of the game that contained promising glimpses of a world champion team.

Those glimpses were not evident in the first 45 minutes. The U.S. looked nervous and shaky, especially on defense. The back four had trouble picking up streaking North Korean runners, and left fullback Amy LePeilbet, the U.S.’ best 1v1 defender, was beat twice in succession, leading to shots. The United States’ struggles weren’t only in the back. They failed to finish several good opportunities. Amy Rodriguez’s touch was off, Abby Wambach couldn’t convert on a few balls that you expect her to convert on, and all of Lauren Cheney’s shots were straight at the keeper. Not the best way to kick off a tournament that is supposed to be your return to glory. (It was around this time when Ian Darke of ESPN began referencing Italy in the 1994 World Cup, when they played poorly in the group stages but went on the win it all.)

Not the best day at the office for LePeilbet...

While many of the U.S.’s struggles were a product of their nerves, North Korea implemented a smart strategy that tied up the midfield and forced the attack to go out to the wings. They clogged the midfield and basically sat on top of Shannon Boxx and Carli Lloyd, neutralizing their distributing abilities, and daring the U.S. to attack from the wings. But with Lauren Cheney pinched in and Amy LePeilbet hesitant to push forward, Heather O’Reilly was the only one consistently out on the wing generating any offense.

Entering halftime with a scoreless draw was not a good feeling. With North Korea creating several good first half chances, a goal from them was not out of the question, and the buildup, hype and expectations seemed to be weighing even heavier on the U.S. squad.

Then, with one cut, cross and header, it was all okay. In the 54th minute, Carli Lloyd sent a floating opposite field cross to Abby Wambach, who collected it near the right corner flag. Wambach faked out her defender with an inside cut that gave her the space and time to pick out Lauren Cheney in the middle of the box. Cheney directed the cross right back where it came from, placing a header at the far post and sending the keeper sliding.

And exhale.

Cheney raced to the sidelines where the she was engulfed by the entire squad in a collective release of anxiety.

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USA vs. North Korea: Live Commentary

Backline vet Rampone sports the armband for the States...

The starting line-ups out shortly.

Pia Sundhage’s crew is about to take on North Korea in their inaugural World Cup game.

Will Lauren Cheney get the nod up front or out wide?

Can the US contain speedster Kim Kyong Hwa?

Grab your pretzels and beer. It’s go time for the ladies.

USWNT: Forwards, March

Editors’s Note:  The US Women are about to kickoff their World Cup, TSG guest columnist Maura Gladys concludes the positional review with the forwards. This piece written last week.

Part I:  Defense: USWNT positioning more core US backline success than experience.

Part II: USWNT: About That Midfield

Lauren Cheney's warm-up golazo against Mexico might have earned her the starting nod tomorrow.....

The United States is poised to have it’s trademark potent offense in Germany next week, thanks to a strong mix of veterans and bright, young talent. Abby Wambach and Amy Rodriguez are pretty clear-cut starters, and should be. Wambach is big, tall, fast and ferocious. She’s the clear the central point of the offense, and her 118 goals in 157 games confirms that.

Amy Rodriguez seems to be the best option to pair with Wambach. Yes, A-Rod blew about a million chances against Mexico, and it was fellow forward Lauren Cheney who netted the game-winner, but Rogriguez has the experience and complementary style that pairs nicely with Wambach. And the two are finally linking up effectively. They struggled finding each other in the two games against Japan, but looked much improved against Mexico.

Then there’s Alex Morgan. Morgan is a firecracker of a player who makes an immediate impact on the game the moment her feet hit the field. She proved that when she netted the game-winner against Italy last fall and created several great opportunities against Japan on May 18 with her speed and timing. In short, she’s the perfect catalyst to come off the bench in the second half to give the team an offensive spark in a close game.

The big question is when Sundhage will choose to bring her in. Against Japan, with the U.S. already leading, Morgan entered in the 61st  minute. But against Mexico, with the U.S. deadlocked in a scoreless tie, and struggling to put the ball in the net, Sundhage waited until the 76th minute to insert Morgan. During that game she also dropped back Lauren Cheney into the midfield when she subbed out Amy Rodriguez, ensuring that there would only be two strikers instead of bumping up a third striker to add some extra offense when a key goal was clearly needed. Sundhage’s justification for this was that the two striker system complements Morgan and Wambach’s skills together, and so adding a third forward would take away from that effectiveness.

This raises a few red flags. If Mexico was a meaningful World Cup game, and Lauren Cheney didn’t save the day with her wonderstrike, the coach would probably take some heat about not throwing a bit more offense forward. That kind of hesitancy to take risks during close games is a bit of a concern, especially for games like North Korea, where possession might be a rare commodity and the U.S. might need to capitalize on the few chances they get.

Let’s not forget aboiut Lauren Cheney. While Cheney will not likely beat out Rodriguez for that starting spot next to Wambach, she adds an important dimension to the squad. Not only does she possess the ability to change a game with one strike (Mexico, anyone?), she can also drop back into midfield and provide support there.

 

Overall, the front line is polished, fast and aggressive, and should be the strongest group of performers in Germany.

USWNT Countdown: Part II: About That Midfield

Editors’s Note:  The US Women are on the ground in Germany, TSG guest columnist Maura Gladys is taking a look at each positional group. Today, the midfield.

Part I:  Defense: USWNT positioning more core US backline success than experience.

Carli Lloyd manages the middle for the USWNT

The midfield is both the strongest and weakest aspect of the United States’ game. There are no personnel issues, as the starting midfield will almost undoubtedly be Megan Rapinoe on the left wing, Heather O’Reilly on the right, and Shannon Boxx and Carli Lloyd in the middle with Boxx playing a holding midfield position and Lloyd creating more of the attack.

Despite knowing the likely lineup, there are still several kinks that need to be worked out, and not where you would think.

Heather O’Reilly and Megan Rapinoe are thriving on the wings, while the central midfield tandem of Shannon Boxx and Carli Lloyd are struggling to click, leaving the middle of the field dangerously vulnerable.

Rapinoe and O’Reilly’s play in the three warm up matches before the squad left for Austria confirmed the notion that the wings are the team’s strongest component. The two are playing like true wingers, sending in mouth-watering crosses, running at defenders and charging into the box when the moment calls for it. O’Reilly’s play in the friendly against Japan on May 18 is textbook for how a winger should play. She set up the U.S.’s first goal by working the wing, then finding Lloyd at the top of the box for an easy slot in. Then, she created a goal for herself, finding space and ripping a shot past the goalkeeper. While she hasn’t showed up on the scoreline lately, Rapinoe has been just as effective. She worked well with left back Amy LePeilbet against Mexico, and sent in several great services to Abby Wambach and Amy Rodriguez. She did flub a few chances in front of the goal, but seriously, who didn’t in that match.

In those warm-up games, a lot of the attack stemmed from the wings, so Rapinoe and O’Reilly will be expected to shoulder a lot of the offensive load in creating opportunities for their teammates and themselves.

One of the reasons that a lot of that offense will be funneled down the wings is because of the struggles of Shannon Boxx and Carli Lloyd to establish a strong presence in the middle.  Lloyd and Boxx have enough caps between them to merit full veteran status. Yet, they just haven’t clicked the way you would think two players of their stature would this close to the World Cup.

They both have their strong and weak points. Boxx is a gritty, scrappy defensive mid, but she will often leave her position and get pulled up into the play, leaving the center of the midfield weak, and sometimes, (especially when a fullback has pushed up) hanging the defense out to dry. Lloyd excels at creating scoring chances for herself, but she struggles to distribute from the midfield effectively and often loses possession.

That said, the central midfield isn’t a mess. It’s just that not as much offense flows from it and it isn’t as tight as you would expect from two veterans with so much experience.

Substitute-wise, Lori Lindsay often relieves Boxx, while Tobin Heath and Kelly O’Hara pitch in on the wings. Forward Lauren Cheney can also sometimes drop back and play a midfielder roll, like she did in the game against Mexico. But, it’s not likely that many of them will see much time.

USWNT: Positioning More Core To US Backline Success Than Experience

Editors’s Note:  The US Women are on the ground in Germany, but how will their back four fare on the pitch?

TSG guest columnist Maura Gladys takes a look. Offer her some feedback.

Christie Rampone, has nearly all the "Been there, done that" of the back four.

A quick scan down the U.S. Women’s World Cup roster and it looks like the U.S. boasts a veteran back line. With Christie Rampone 35, the only holdover from the 1999 World Cup, Amy LePeilbet, 29, Heather Mitts, 32, Ali Krieger, 26, and Rachel Buehler,

Mitts, for all her experience, will likely be doing here high-5'ing on the sideline this summer...

Stephanie Cox and Becky Sauerbrunn, all 25, the average age is a seasoned 28.75. However, the experience of the group is a far different story. Take away Mitts, who will not likely see many minutes this tournament, and LePeilbet, Krieger, Buehler, Cox and Sauerbrunn collectively total 197 caps, 37 less than Rampone has amassed in her career.

More numbers?

Total number of world cup appearance? Six. Four for Rampone, two for Cox.

Olympic appearances? Three for Rampone, two for Mitts and one for Buehler and Cox.

But numbers only show so much. The more significant issue is whether this perceived lack of experience will negatively affect the play of the U.S.’s defense.

Short answer? No.

Slightly longer answer?

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