USWNT Recap and Analysis
USWNT down Brazil for a positive end to a disappointing tournament
The USWNT ended the SheBelieves Cup on Tuesday night with a 1-0 win over Brazil. After two difficult draws, the U.S. team was able to end a disappointing tournament on a positive note. The U.S. team finished in second place behind England and now has a lot of work to do ahead of this summer's World Cup.
BY John Halloran PostedTHE UNITED STATES women’s national team wrapped up the 2019 SheBelieves Cup on Tuesday night with a 1-0 win over Brazil in Tampa, Florida. The victory came on the back of a Tobin Heath goal, fired in from the top of the box in the 20th minute of play.
March 06, 2019
March 06, 2019
Overall, the tournament proved a disappointment for the Americans as they finished with a 1-0-2 record and failed to defend their title.
Here are three thoughts on the game.
WHY WASN’T SAM MEWIS STARTING ALL ALONG?
The 2019 SheBelieves Cup looked to be a perfect opportunity for Sam Mewis to reclaim her place in the U.S.’ midfield pecking order. After starting every single match in 2017, an injury that winter caused her to drop on Jill Ellis’ depth chart to the point where Mewis only started two games in the entirety of 2018—despite an outstanding club season with the North Carolina Courage.
Heading into the SheBelieves Cup this year, with Lindsey Horan out injured, Mewis looked set for big minutes. However, Ellis instead elected to start Mallory Pugh in Horan’s place for the first two matches of the tournament against Japan and England.
In those games, the U.S. struggled to maintain control of the midfield. Against Brazil, Mewis finally got her chance.
Her presence completely changed the dynamic. Mewis helped on the defensive end through her strong backtracking, ball-winning, and tackling. On the offensive end, Mewis’ ability to split the Brazilian defense with long, threaded balls repeatedly opened up the U.S.’ transition game and her ability to hold the ball under pressure and work it out with short, calm passes settled the middle of the field.
Improve your soccer team with this one WEIRD trick:— Kimberly McCauley (@lgbtqfc) March 6, 2019
(the trick is playing a midfielder)
The fact remains that Mewis should have been starting the entire tournament, but credit where credit is due—once she got her shot, she made the most of it.
A LESS CHAOTIC BACKLINE
With Becky Sauerbrunn unable to start the first two matches of the tournament, the United States was forced to rely on a partnership between Abby Dahlkemper and Tierna Davidson to get the job done in the center of the American defense.
Ironically, the duo started every match of the 2018 SheBelieves Cup on the way to last year’s championship, but struggled mightily this year. Davidson is coming off a broken ankle suffered during her college season and clearly hasn’t recovered to 100%. At her best, she is a next-generation center back, combining a strong physical presence with the ability to work the ball out of pressure like a seasoned center midfielder. However, in this year’s tournament, she struggled to form a solid partnership with Dahlkemper on one side, or left back Crystal Dunn on her other side.
The U.S. defense looked sixes and eights through the first two games, but with Sauerbrunn re-inserted into the lineup against Brazil, the Americans looked much stronger in the back.
There was one hiccup in the 75th minute when Sauerbrunn and Dahlkemper allowed a Brazilian attacker to slip in for a free header from only four yards out, but goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris—starting for the injured Alyssa Naeher—made a brilliant reaction save to keep the clean sheet for the U.S.
OFFENSE STILL TOO INEFFICIENT
Heath’s goal in the 20th minute of play was truly a thing of beauty. Not only did she take the ball from inside her own half and made a lung-bursting run into the Brazilian defensive third, but she then perfectly laid the ball off to Alex Morgan for an open shot, and finished the second chance opportunity when the Brazilian keeper saved Morgan’s initial effort.
Despite the individual brilliance of Heath’s goal, however, the Americans were not able to capitalize again over the next 70 minutes.
Morgan did a nice job on the night—as she did all tournament long—working back into pockets to win the ball and start transitions. Christen Press, coming off the bench in the second half against Brazil, also did a nice job poaching passes off Brazil in transition. But despite those efforts, the U.S. attack proved unable to generate another goal.
By comparison, the Americans failed to do as much damage against Brazil as either of the other two teams in the tournament, with England beating them 2-1 and Japan beating them 3-1.
With the U.S.’ offense-first mentality, they simply need to be cleaner and more deadly in the attacking third.
The Americans’ next match is against Australia on April 4 in Commerce City, Colorado.
John D. Halloran is an American Soccer Now columnist. Follow him on Twitter.