The United States Women’s National Team defeated North Korea 1-0 on Tuesday, rounding out group play undefeated.
In the process of winning the game, the USWNT put on a thoroughly dominating display, despite the low score, controlling possession for the overwhelming majority of the game.
Here are three thoughts on the win.
The U.S. dominated possession, but had little final product
While the U.S. put on an impressive display in possession, holding the ball for extended stretches of the game, that possession translated into few quality chances on goal.
The improved possession was nice to see, especially as there have been more than a few games in recent memory in which the U.S. has reverted to its old long-ball habit.
The downside, however, of that possession translating into such anemic offensive production, was that it allowed North Korea to hang around in the game for far longer than they should have been allowed to.
The result was a second-half in which a single U.S. defensive miscue (and there were a few) could have resulted in a North Korean equalizer.
Will the U.S. suffer from the lack of a center midfield substitute?
With Shannon Boxx injured, the USWNT only has two rostered center midfielders in Lauren Cheney and Carli Lloyd. While Tobin Heath and Megan Rapinoe are both capable of playing the position, neither are ideal replacements.
USWNT coach Pia Sundhage has been able to take advantage of the team’s exceptional depth so far in this tournament, rotating players at outside midfielder and outside back, but since the opening minutes of the France game, when Boxx was hurt, Sundhage has been unable to rotate the center midfielders.
During the North Korea game, the U.S.’ offensive firepower diminished considerably in the second half which seemed to be a result of Cheney and Lloyd unable to get forward as much as they had in the first half and in the U.S.’ previous games.
With a tournament format that has the U.S. playing every fourth day, heavy legs in the middle of the park have to be a real concern.
Heather O’Reilly looked better
After a mediocre game against Colombia, many USWNT fans were surprised by the inclusion of Heather O’Reilly in the starting lineup again, preferred over Tobin Heath. Prior to the tournament, Heath had been a part of Sundhage’s self-proclaimed best XI and Heath had looked very good in her start against France and coming off the bench against Colombia.
O’Reilly repaid her coach’s faith, however, with a great workmanlike effort, hustling up and down the touchline on both sides of the ball.
Her defensive effort contributed to breaking up the few North Korean attacks that came down her side of the field and O’Reilly put her body on the line on the offensive end attempting to pick up a loose ball goal late in the first half.
On the play, O’Reilly collided with the North Korean goalkeeper and took a boot to the face for her effort.
John D. Halloran