The USWNT, which didn’t lose a game (excepting on penalty shots) in 2016 lost their second game of the 2017 season to England. The US Women are still in line to finish at the top of the table for the second annual She Believes Cup, assuming they can beat a spry French squad. At first glance this would appear to be a regression for the women under Jill Ellis but that isn’t the case. Here are some of the top takeaways from the England loss.
The US created this tournament, and schedule the top teams in the world for a reason. As long as the opponents are top 5 teams the US will lose more than they are accustomed to. Steel forges steel is the saying. For the USWNT playing difficult opponents in friendlies will give them much needed experience for the major tournaments.
Jill Ellis is still in an experimental phase with this team. She seems committed to a three back set of some kind, though the midfield and up field positions are still evolving. With depth at each position, and Becky Sauerbrunn as a defender, Ellis can afford to play only three defenders.
Continuity appears to be a bit of an issue at the moment. The midfield is still being worked out, although it seems likely that Tobin Heath, Carli Lloyd, Morgan Brian and Crystal Dunn will start. Samantha Mewis appears to have the edge over Lindsey Horan for now but with Rose Lavelle and Andi Sullivan creeping up on the central midfielders, and Mallory Pugh on the outside, it is likely that the midfield will be static for some time.
Ellis seems to have settled on Allie Long as a defensive center back. This seems strange as Long’s play has been inconsistent at times, but allowing Sauerbrunn to move out to the left and the emergence of Casey Short on the right seems to be working well. Kelley O’Hara appears to have moved up into the midfield primarily and Meghan Klingenberg is still missing time with an injury, so again much remains to be settled here. Emily Sonnet has played rather well when given the opportunity and she seems destined to grab Long’s starting spot before 2019.
Christen Press looks like the favorite in the clubhouse to be the focal point of the new offense. Press has played remarkably well since missing her PK at the Olympics and got a start over Alex Morgan in one game. Lynn WIlliams and Kealia Ohai are both moving into the mix as well but Press appears to have established herself as a starter at forward, possibly alongside Morgan. Which brings us to…..
Ellis really looks like she wants to move on from Morgan, or at least the style of play in which Morgan excels. Perhaps it has been the recent injuries, the need to evolve the style of play of the program, or some combination of both but Morgan’s minutes have decreased and the team is clearly missing her pace and presence at the top of their attack. No one on the USWNT can do what Morgan does as a striker developing other options around her seems smart, but not using her incredible talents to help this team seems very short sighted.