On the brilliant facet, the U.S. girls’s nationwide group received its last pre-World Cup pleasant towards Wales on Sunday. It escaped with no extra severe accidents, and did not concede a purpose. On the floor, to the untrained eye, all is properly because the USWNT embarks on its quest for a three-peat.
However nearly every little thing else, every little thing under the floor, earlier than the seventy fifth minute of the USWNT’s lone send-off match, was worrying.
For 75 minutes, it was boring and sluggish.
It was disjointed and uninspiring.
For 75 minutes, it sparked all types of questions concerning the group’s World Cup readiness. They have been questions on its attacking form, about its stagnant system, and about whether or not head coach Vlatko Andonovski even knew the id of his three most harmful attackers.
Within the 76th minute and past, Trinity Rodman answered a part of that last query. She broke the impasse, then later discovered the highest nook, and put her two-goal stamp on a 2-0 win.
She’d been excluded from a starting 11 that in any other case regarded near the USWNT’s first-choice 11. After coming into at halftime, she made it abundantly clear that Andonovski should put her on the sphere.
However the place?
And in entrance of whom, if Rose Lavelle stays sidelined by a mysterious damage?
On Sunday night time, the USWNT will board a aircraft sure for New Zealand with these questions, and plenty of others, unanswered.
As a result of for 45 minutes, after which important chunks of the second half, Sunday’s efficiency was borderline dreadful. Andonovski has spent a number of months assuring a fearful fan base that his plan is almost full, that solely last particulars are being refined, that his group is able to compete for a third-consecutive World Cup title. However most on-field proof urged in any other case, and Sunday supplied extra of the identical.
The U.S. morphed from one attacking form to the subsequent, however none of them produced constant penetration.
It largely managed the sport, and the ball, however that was a given towards the thirtieth ranked group on the planet. The problem was unlocking a resolute however overmatched Welsh protection; and the Individuals could not.
Or, no less than, they could not with Alex Morgan up high.
Morgan, coming into her fourth World Cup as a co-captain and face of the group, has been an undisputed starter for months. Her expertise and her goal-scoring report have made her undroppable. However she is not the participant she as soon as was; kids, in the meantime, have ascended. On Sunday, the U.S. regarded much more dynamic with both Rodman or Lynn Williams spearheading its assault.
Rodman scored the targets, however Williams, a flexible and dogged ahead, created the primary with excellent hold-up play and a line-breaking through-ball to Sophia Smith:
Andonovski has hardly ever strayed from a stale, predictable 4-3-3 with Smith and one other winger — beforehand Mallory Swanson, earlier than her damage — bookending Morgan. However all three of Smith, Rodman and Williams are skilled and arguably simplest in the midst of the three. That is the place Smith performs in Portland. That is near the place Rodman performs in Washington. So, would possibly Morgan’s beginning place be in jeopardy?
After which there may be Alyssa Thompson, the 18-year-old phenom who surprisingly began Sunday. (She was lively however imprecise along with her last ball.)
After which there may be Megan Rapinoe, who, if wholesome, may very properly have been the important thing to unlock a group like Wales.
With 11 days till the World Cup begins, it is totally unclear what the USWNT’s simplest attacking trident could be.
Behind them, there are different unsettled issues. Lavelle didn’t get minutes Sunday, as Andonovski had stated she would possibly. She’s the group’s high creator, however hasn’t performed in three months. And with out her, the U.S. midfield lacks incisiveness. Ashley Sanchez hasn’t regarded as much as par at worldwide stage. Savannah DeMelo, who entered as a second-half sub, has now performed all of 26 USWNT minutes.
And behind them, the protection, with out an injured Becky Sauerbrunn, stays semi-untested.
The defensive midfield place — the dependable Andi Sullivan, or the possibly impactful Julie Ertz — stays unsure. Ertz did not play on Sunday, however Andonovski indicated she was “wholesome,” however then appeared to point she wasn’t. “They’re all within the buildup section,” he stated of Lavelle, Ertz and Rapinoe.
And the broader drawback is that the USWNT, as a complete, continues to depend on particular person brilliance.
Particular person brilliance arrived but once more Sunday to earn a ninth straight win, and it may very properly propel the U.S. deep into the 2023 World Cup knockout rounds. However there aren’t any ensures. Amongst opponents, there is no such thing as a longer concern. And amongst a fan base that will be pleased with solely one other title, expectations are wavering.