U-20 World Cup: United States Women’s National Team Quarterfinal Preview

August 28, 2012

In the last game of group play early on Monday morning, the United States Under-20 women’s national team was beaten badly by a much stronger German team 3-0.

Despite the loss and a 1-1-1 record in group play, the U.S. still qualified for the quarterfinals on goal differential.

They will now face an impressive North Korean side, who won their group by beating Norway, Canada and Argentina and finished with a goal differential of +12.

The U.S.-North Korea match kicks off on Friday morning at 6:30 ET with coverage available on ESPNU and ESPN3.

Here are five thoughts heading into the game.

Chioma Ubogagu cannot start again

Ubogagu had a very poor outing against Germany. She was consistently caught in possession, lost the ball nearly every time she tried to beat her defender on the dribble and was slow in her decision-making.

Ubogagu also wasted the best chance of the match, losing the ball off a bad touch after being put in behind the German defense.

Worse, she contributed almost nothing defensively. Although she is a forward in the U.S.’ three-striker system, she consistently let the German right-back get outside of her and up the touchline, forcing the U.S.’ midfielders and defenders to pick up the slack.

Maya Hayes needs to play centrally

Hayes, who has scored all three of the U.S.’ goals so far in the tournament (the U.S.’ other goal was on an own goal), was deployed on the left side for Monday’s loss to Germany.

Out wide, Hayes still menaced the German defense, using her pace to get in behind, holding up the ball to allow the midfield to push into the attack and winning the endline on multiple occasions.

However, she would have been better utilized in the middle. On the rare occasion when the U.S. was able to breakdown the German defense, the lack of pace from center forward Katie Stengel killed the U.S. attack.

Hayes’ pace and skill is needed centrally for the U.S. is to be at their best.

Let’s hope Julie Johnston can play against North Korea

Johnston, the U.S. captain, was terrific against Germany on Monday. While it may seem odd to praise one of the U.S.’ defenders in a game they lost 3-0, the final result could have been much worse without her.

Johnston put out fires all day long for the U.S., covering for her fellow defenders when they were beat and by being strong in the air.

Shortly before the half, Johnston injured her knee in a hard tackle with a German attacker. Johnston went back into the match and continued to play well, eventually being replaced in the 59th minute.

At that point, the game was already 3-0, and the move looked to be pre-cautionary. The U.S. will need her strong defensive play against North Korea.

The U.S. might be best to switch to a 4-4-2

Against Germany, the U.S. played in a 4-3-3 and did it poorly.

The American center midfielders struggled to connect passes, or find any space.

When the ball went wide, the American wingers were stranded with little help. As a result, the U.S.’ lone forward, Katie Stengel, struggled to get into the match.

For a 4-3-3 to work, a team needs to be able to connect short 5-10 yard passes to work out of trouble. On the attack, the three forwards must work together to get connected as one or two of the center midfielders push through the middle to find space. For the U.S. on Monday, none of that happened.

Instead, the U.S. midfielders and forwards played a static game, with each player afraid, unwilling or not knowledgeable enough to make runs to space. The U.S. failed to create overloads and the U.S. outside backs rarely pushed forward.

Additionally, one of the benefits of playing a three-front is the ability to play high pressure defense forcing the other team to resort to long-ball out of the back. However, the American forwards rarely put the German defense on their back foot, instead allowing them to work the ball wide and out of trouble with relative ease.

U.S. goalkeeper Bryane Heaberlin needs to play much better

Heaberlin had a rough day against Germany, giving up three goals. She could have done better on all three.

On the first goal, Heaberlin came off her line too early and was caught in no man’s land, allowing the German forward to dink the ball over Heaberlin’s head.

On the second goal, Heaberlin failed to catch a shot from the 18, although it was hit directly at her, and the Germans pounced on the loose ball for the easy goal.

On the third goal, Heaberlin was beaten by a low-driven shot that snuck underneath her. This was the least save-able of the three goals, as no U.S. player pressured the shot, but on a good day, she would have gotten a hand on it.

In addition to the goals against, Heaberlin struggled in other areas of the game. Her punches on crosses into the box were weak and she had multiple drops throughout the game.

She will need to play much better against North Korea.

John D. Halloran

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2 Responses to U-20 World Cup: United States Women’s National Team Quarterfinal Preview

  1. Becca on August 29, 2012 at 12:23 am

    Something else that needs to be addressed is Sam Mewis’ lack of playing time. It completely astounds me that she hasn’t been playing for most of this WWC. She’s shown time after time that her composure is better than most, if not all, of the midfielders. Her timing is consistent, she has great vision, and she has a true knowledge of the game at such a young age. So why hasn’t Swanson started her? Was her two assists in her nineteen minutes against Ghana not proof enough?

    • John D. Halloran on August 29, 2012 at 5:19 am

      They were both very nice assists.

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