4 Belated Thoughts from USWNT v. Australia

September 23, 2012

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a goal in her final appearance and was part of a great moment of sportsmanship between the two teams when she was withdrawn in the 57th minute.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

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3 Responses to 4 Belated Thoughts from USWNT v. Australia

  1. DE Dupuis on September 23, 2012 at 9:53 pm

    Missed ya.

    Morgan somehow keeps getting better. What’s really impressive is that she keeps imposing her will on the game while receiving loads more attention from the other team.

    In both Aussie games the defense looked shaky. For me it was very sad when Da Vanna turned on Super Mom and then ran away from her – an end of an era. She had to lose a step sooner or later, its incredible she’s still as fast as she is. I’m sure though if the game counted Rampone would have brought Da Vanna down when she saw she wasn’t going to run her down. I thought it was telling that Da Vanna stayed away from O’hara. To my eye, Kelly, Morgan, and Syd are now all faster than Super Mom. Dunn is certainly in that league as well, as is Ohai. Johnston, while not quite as fleet of foot as Rampone, is probably a better reader of the game and is uber tough. I’m glad Rampone is staying on a year – hopfully the plan is for Christie to mentor Julie. Super Mom will be missed.

    The worrisome thing about the Aussies is their youth. At one point most of the on field XI were under 20 and half were actually teenagers. Someone is thinking ahead. Women’s soccer is going to be insanely competitive at the next WC – the Aussies, the Swedes, the German’s, the Japanese, the French, and Canadians, the Brazilians, and perhaps the English and who knows who else is going to be damn good. If we show up with the same team 3 years older we might not get out of our group.

    The next coach is going to have to really rework the team. Who ever it is, we will be switching to 4-3-3. Given the current batch of youngsters, what we still really need is a dominant holding midfielder (a young Boxx) and a gifted playmaker – perhaps Heath or Chenney, or someone even younger. It is difficult to know if Tobin or Lauren can really play playmaker because Pia has played somewhat zany systems. Having Heath play on the wing is just weird. Or even thinking of not having Rapinoe on the field – weird. Having Chenney on the bench – wacky.

    In 2 years I think the USWNT will look something like this
    Solo (for a long time to come, well past the next WC)

    Johnston RB/BS/AL
    Dunn O’hara
    a younger Boxx


    Morgan (in the false 9, Alex will be the female Messi)
    Ohai Laroux

    This team will lift the WC.

    Overall, I agree with you – Pia’s genius and legacy is that she got the team to want to play for each other – which on a women’s team is not always easy – I don’t mean to be sexist, but I guess it is – but it’s also true. As an innovative or insightful soccer coach she barely got passing marks. It was painful during the WC to see Morgan, clearly the best player on the team subjugated to a sub, similar story for Rapinoe. However, the women’s soccer world is moving ahead a wrap speed and the time honored US approach is just no longer good enough. The U20′s just hung on by their fingertips – we are going to have to get better, much better. The players are there. At the world class level, the coach matters, a lot. I am actually happy the Swedes are getting Pia, they were otherwise getting much too good.

    • John D. Halloran on September 25, 2012 at 10:34 am

      Yeah – I’ve been doing a lot of my work exclusively for Bleacher Report now. It’s been much harder to keep the blog updated as often as I’d like.

      It was tough to tell watching the last two games whether De Vanna is really THAT fast, or if Rampone has FINALLY seen her age creep up on her. The Germany friendlies should be a good indicator of that.

      I’d like to see more of Sauerbrunn. She has a lot of supporters out there, but hasn’t really ever been tested. When she played in the semi-final of the World Cup after Buehler saw red against Brazil, I thought Sauerbrunn struggled with the pace of the game. There were shades of that against Australia as well. Buehler is not as good in possession, but speed is always a big plus in the back and Buehler has that.

      In my opinion, especially after watching the last two games, Boxx is going to be the most difficult to replace. We have attacking options coming out our ears, but need someone in front of the backline to break things up and generate our attacks. Julie Johnston plays as a midfielder for Santa Clara, she might be the answer to replace Boxx. Johnston is tough as hell, good in the air, smart, etc…

  2. DE Dupuis on September 25, 2012 at 6:58 pm

    I guess I’ll have to check out the Bleacher Report.
    Since DeVanna stayed on our slower side, the right, I’m guessing she wouldn’t leave Kelly in the dust (and Dunn could give her a 5 yd head start).
    Becky is a good player, a really good player, but not a dominant player.
    I completely agree with you about Boxx and her replacement, this is perhaps THE crucial position for the next WC. At the olympics, the combination of Chenney and Lloyd were wonderful as holders, combined with Heath or Rapinoe as an attacking midfielder that may be the answer.
    I haven’t seen Johnston play midfield. But my goodness at centerback at the WC, she was the rock against which wave after wave of German attacks crashed against and died. Rampone’s days are clearly and sadly numbered, Johnston seems a worthy replacement.

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