USWNT: Pia Sundhage Stuggling to Get Team into Top Gear

November 21, 2011
By

On Saturday night, the United States Women’s National Team faced Sweden in a warmup for January’s Olympic qualifiers. In a game televised only on US Soccer’s website, the U.S. managed a 1-1 tie against a solid Swedish side. While there were some positives to take away from the game, the growing concern is that once again the team struggled to hit top gear on the attack. Here are four thoughts from the game.

The Good

On a positive note, there were several things that went right for the United States. First, despite being broken down on a couple of occasions, the United States displayed solid organization on the defensive side of the ball. The fact that the U.S. women are very comfortable playing with one another and very in tune to expectations was evident. They put pressure on the ball, covered for each other nicely, kept a good line and were a little unlucky to give up the goal that Sweden scored.

The second area that looked good was, as usual, set pieces. The team looked dangerous on corners all night, and even though they let several good chances go wasting, it is still obvious that the U.S. is one of the best in the world in the air.

The formation

The biggest issue for the team still seems to be the formation. Pia Sundhage seems to believe that a single striker set is the best option for the U.S. and that Abby Wambach and Alex Morgan can’t be on the field at the same time. The problem is that Wambach and Morgan are the U.S.’s two best scoring threats.

So, either Sundhage has to be willing to deploy Morgan out wide ( a position she surely deserves over perennial starter Amy Rodriguez) or be willing to play Wambach underneath at the withdrawn forward with Morgan playing as the lone striker. However, Sundhage has shown no willingness to do this in the three friendlies played since the World Cup.

The game against Sweden changed the moment Morgan was put on the field with her repeatedly getting in behind the Swedish backline and creating multiple dangerous chances. The fact that Sundhage will not play a two-striker formation or play either Morgan or Wambach slightly out of position is ludicrious.

What will happen when Megan Rapinoe returns to the lineup?

Megan Rapinoe, easily one of the U.S.’s best players over the past year, missed Saturday’s game with a knee sprain. In Sundhage’s new 4-2-3-1, Lauren Cheney, was deployed in the attacking midfield role occupied by Rapinoe since the World Cup. Cheney is a natural fit for the position having great passing skills, good field vision, composure in the attacking third and the ability to score.

Rapinoe, however, while a fantastic wing player, has looked unsettled as a central attacking midfielder in the three friendlies since the World Cup. So, what will Sundhage do once Rapinoe returns?

The best answer would be keep Cheney as the center attacking midfielder and move Rapinoe back out wide where she can run at defenders and deliver great service into the middle as she did in her famous cross to Abby Wambach against Brazil in the World Cup quarterfinals .

Making the best use of our talent

The USWNT player pool is arguably the deepest in the world, making the job of managing the team a difficult one. However, deploying a team’s talent in the right positions in the right formation is key to success even with a talented team.

This is how the U.S. should lineup if Sundhage insists on playing a 4-2-3-1

Goalkeeper – Solo

Defenders – LePeilet, Rampone, Buehler, Krieger. Substitutes – Sauerbrunn and Cox

Holding midfielders – Boxx and Lloyd. Substitute – Lori Lindsey

Wide attacking midfielders – Rapinoe and Morgan. Substitute – O’Reilly

Withdrawn forward/Attacking center midfielder – Cheney. Subsitute – Heath

Striker – Wambach. Substitute- Morgan (move Morgan up top and put Heath or O’Reilly out wide)

This is how the U.S. should lineup if it reverts to a 4-4-2

Goalkeeper – Solo

Defenders – LePeilet, Rampone, Buehler, Krieger. Substitutes – Sauerbrunn and Cox

Center midfielders – Boxx and Lloyd. Substitute – Lori Lindsey

Outside midfielders – Rapinoe and Cheney. Substitutes – O’Reilly, Heath

Forwards – Wambach and Morgan. Substitute – Cheney (move Cheney up top and put Heath or O’Reilly out wide)

John D. Halloran
johnhalloran@hotmail.com


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