On Wednesday night, the United States Women’s National Team rounded out the Pia Sundhage era with a convincing 6-2 win over Australia.
Here are four belated thoughts from the victory.
Alex Morgan continues to amaze
As good as Morgan is, and as much as she has impressed over the past year with the USWNT, she continues to put in outstanding performances every time she is on the pitch.
Despite every opponent knowing how dangerous she is, she continues to create chances for herself and her teammates and continues to dominate the proceedings up top.
Highlights of Morgan’s night included her assist on Heather O’Reilly’s 25th minute goal, a spectacular turn and finish for a goal to tie up the game just before half, creating the game-winning goal by blasting a shot that Abby Wambach turned into the net on a deflection, scoring a beautiful headed goal in the 63rd minute on a service from Heather Mitts and a ridiculous shot in the 65th minute that careened off the post.
Whoever the next coach is, they need to work on the defense
The U.S. backline was exposed again on Wednesday night, as the USWNT went down 2-1 in the game before coming back. With no disrespect meant towards Australia’s talented attackers, the U.S. needs to do better.
On the first goal the U.S. gave up, Rachel Buehler stepped and didn’t win the ball, Christie Rampone missed the ball as it was played in behind her and Amy LePeilbet couldn’t recover to track Lisa De Vanna’s diagonal run.
A minute later, Australian forward Kyah Simon split Buehler and Rampone with her run forcing American goalkeeper Hope Solo to be strong off her line to clean up the mess.
Then, a minute after that, the U.S. gave up a second goal as Amy LePeilbet gave up enough space on the flank for Australia to get a serve off that Kelley O’Hara did not clear and the U.S. found itself behind in the match.
This type of sloppy play needs to be cleaned up as it has been the U.S.’ Achilles heel for the last few years.
What a great night for Australian forward Sarah Walsh
Walsh, who announced before the two-game series against the U.S. that she would be retiring due to her struggles with injuries, scored a goal in her final appearance and was part of a great moment of sportsmanship between the two teams when she was withdrawn in the 57th minute.
USWNT players Abby Wambach, Megan Rapinoe and American captain Christie Rampone all embraced Walsh when she was being substituted out of her last competitive appearance showing the high level of respect they have for their fellow international.
What a fitting end to Pia’s career
Wednesday night was a showcase of Pia’s work over the last five years.
The USWNT has always been one of the most, if not the most, athletic teams in the world. But, over the past five years, and in particular since the U.S.’ loss to Japan in last summer’s World Cup, the U.S. has drastically improved its technical and tactical prowess.
On Wednesday, that improvement was on full display as players that have been brought up through the ranks under Pia’s watch were instrumental in the team’s success. Tobin Heath, Alex Morgan, Sydney Leroux, Megan Rapinoe and Kelley O’Hara all played their part in the win.
On a personal note, while there were certainly plenty of moments I was critical of Pia’s leadership, she has proven herself over the past five years to be a world-class coach and perhaps the finest at “man-management” in the game.
So – thank you, Pia. Thank you for two Olympic golds, a memorable World Cup run in 2011 and leaving both a legacy and a future that the USWNT can be proud of.
Good luck coaching Sweden in next summer’s Euros.
John D. Halloran