U.S. Women Change the Subject, Dominate Colombia
April 06, 2016
FOLLOWING A WEEK of bad news for U.S. Soccer, the United States women’s national team provided a much-needed moment of joy on Wednesday night, defeating Colombia 7-0 in East Hartford, Connecticut.
The Americans started fast with four first-half goals and found three more in the second stanza. Crystal Dunn, Allie Long (2), Mallory Pugh, Carli Lloyd, Tobin Heath, and Christen Press tallied for the U.S. Here are three thoughts on the game.
LONG MAKES MOST OF SURPRISE START
When U.S. Soccer announced the roster for these two matches against Colombia, more than a few fans raised their eyebrows at the inclusion of Allie Long.
While Long had earned a handful of appearances for the U.S. in the past, she last played for the Yanks in 2014 and, when Ellis did begin experimenting with new personnel after the 2015 World Cup, she didn’t include Long.
Despite that—and despite being six months removed from her last competitive NWSL match—Long made the most of her opportunity. (An injury to Morgan Brian no doubt helped Long find her way into the starting lineup.)
Ellis deployed Long as the lone holding midfielder in a newfangled 4-1-2-3, and the Portland Thorns product maintained excellent positioning in the first half. Sitting in front of the U.S. center backs, Long repeatedly pressured the Colombians when they did gain possession, stifling their attacks before they really got started.
On the offensive side, Long jumpstarted the U.S. attack with incisive forward passes, picked up two goals of her own, and allowed Lloyd and Lindsey Horan to play higher up the field. All in all, Long’s performance won’t hurt her chances of sneaking into Ellis’ Olympic plans.
AN AESETHIC WIN
Throughout much of 2014 and 2015, the U.S. women won games but lacked the flair one might normally expect from a No. 1-ranked team. However, in 2016, the team has continued the impressive play that started late in the knockout rounds during last summer’s World Cup. On Wednesday, that trend continued with the team putting together crisp passing combinations finished with outstanding attacking play in the final third.
While the U.S. scored a number of impressive goals, the play of the night came from Tobin Heath, who beat four Colombian players on the dribble in just the fifth minute of play.
The play didn’t result in a goal as Dunn fired the resulting shot right at the keeper, but the skillful play stood in stark contrast to the staid—and often bungling—style the U.S. men’s teams have displayed in recent years.
No team has ever won a World Cup and Olympic gold in back-to-back years, but coming off three wins in the SheBelieves Cup against England, France, and Germany last month, the U.S. looks to be the odds-on favorite to do so.
Wednesday’s skillful exhibition was another indication of just how relaxed the U.S. women are right now. Ellis’ 4-1-2-3 seemed to open up the American attack even more than the 4-2-3-1 that the team changed to during last summer’s World Cup and players like Heath and Dunn seem hungrier than ever.
Add into that mix 17-year-old Mallory Pugh—who has now started six of the team’s last seven games and picked up a goal and an assist on Wednesday—and the U.S. looks primed to take home the ultimate prize this summer in Rio.
John D. Halloran is an American Soccer Now columnist. Follow him on Twitter.