USWNT Defeats Canada; Alex Morgan Injures Knee

July 1, 2012

The United States Women’s National Team defeated Canada 2-1 on Saturday afternoon in the team’s Olympic send-off match held at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah.

The result follows a great string of victories for the USWNT following recent victories over Sweden and Japan.

Here are eight thoughts from the game.

Pia Sundhage Announced “her best XI”

The NBC announcers repeatedly said that Sundhage had claimed the starters of Saturday’s game were “her best XI”.

Most of the choices were predictable, especially after the team’s recent friendlies against Sweden and Japan, but the one choice that would be debatable would be the selection of Tobin Heath over Heather O’Reilly.

To be fair, even though they play the same position, they are not similar players, so a direct comparison is difficult. While Heath is more of a technical, and cheeky, player, O’Reilly’s game is built much more around speed, power and runs down the flanks.

Megan Rapinoe Had an Amazing Game

Rapinoe announced early in the game her intention for an all-out effort when she was nearly decapitated in the first ten seconds trying to get on the end of a service into the box.

Throughout the game, she played like a woman possessed, taking on defenders without fear, driving into the middle and working hard to provide service to the forwards.

Some of her best moments included megging a Canadian defender to win the endline and one sequence in the corner when she beat three Canadian defenders dribbling them in circles.

Rapinoe created the opening goal with a world-class service into the box behind the Canadian defenders which they bungled into their own net, put Alex Morgan in behind the Canadian defense on at least two occasions and provided Abby Wambach with at-least two gilt-edge chances laying the ball across the box.

To top the game off, Rapinoe provided the service for the game-winning-goal.

The Game Certainly Wasn’t Very “Friendly”

Although a “friendly”, the game between these two rivals included a number of crunching challenges.

Rampone was taken out by Christine Sinclair, Shannon Boxx and Kelley O’Hara were both booked for challenges, Abby Wambach was body-blocked in the box in the 67th minute which went unnoticed by the official and Canadian forward Laura Sesselmann’s shorts were literally ripped in half.

Kelley O’Hara Had Another Good Game at Left Back

The transition of Kelley O’Hara from an attacking player to a left back has gone remarkably well and is something that Pia Sundhage should be given credit for.

O’Hara, again, went forward very well, provided great service with her left foot (even though she is naturally right-footed) and at one point launched a terrific blast from just outside the 18 as she drove forward from her defensive position.

The conversion of O’Hara has gone so well that it makes one think…

Heather O’Reilly or Amy Rodriguez Should be Converted to Right Back

Ok, it’s a little too late to be making this switch and the conversion of O’Hara started over six months ago, but it has become increasingly obvious over the past year that Heather Mitts is no longer a strong enough option as a back-up outside back to Amy LePeilbet and Kelley O’Hara.

As soon as Mitts was introduced, Canada found the equalizer down her side of the field. This problem is even more pronounced heading into the Olympics because the roster size is only 18 players, instead of the usual 23 players for FIFA events. At some point in the Olympic tournament, the U.S. is going to need a third outside back.

With the U.S. depth at forward and attacking mid, one of these two attacking players could easily be sacrificed to provide some depth, and speed, to the backline.

O’Reilly’s effort is unmatched, and her service from an outside back position would be tremendous.

Rodriguez’s speed also makes her a strong candidate, and even though she scored the game-winner against Canada as a forward, it was obvious, in only a fifteen minute time-span after she was introduced, that Sydney Leroux is a much more dangerous attacker.

Hope Solo is Ridiculously Good

Solo is the only female goalkeeper in the world that could have made this save which came in stoppage time of the first-half.

Alex Morgan Hurt Her Knee

Shortly into the second-half, Alex Morgan went down from what looked to be a fairly innocuous challenge.

At first, it looked like she hurt her shin, but as the trainers were eventually called to the field to give her assistance, it became obvious her knee was the problem.

After being brought to the bench, Morgan was seen on the bench with her head in her hands, a feeling that made many USWNT fans sick to their stomach.

In fact, the only thing that can currently stop Morgan, arguably the best forward in the world right now, is an injury.

USWNT officials later told various sources that Morgan was pulled out of the game for precautionary reasons and it is thought the injury is not serious.

Kudos to NBC for Putting the Game on their Main Channel and Providing the Game in High Definition

Thank you.

John D. Halloran

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5 Responses to USWNT Defeats Canada; Alex Morgan Injures Knee

  1. DE Dupuis on July 1, 2012 at 9:30 pm

    Wasn’t that great that we could watch our really good national team play on a real TV station.
    I just love it that you follow both USNTs.
    A couple of additional thoughts:
    Our defense is NOT the same without Rampone – and how is she still so fast at her age?
    Rapinoe has been one of our best for a long time, long before Pia seemed to agree.
    Neither Heath nor O’Reilly are great, but O’Reilly is much more dangerous and has a great work rate.
    Oh please God let Morgan’s injury be a nothing – we are about half the team without her – she is everything that is and has been good about American women’s soccer, she’s way above average (for the NT) technically gifted, she and Hope are the best athlete’s on the team, she really really really wants to score and win, she’s really easy on the eyes (OK yes totally sexiest), and she seems nice.
    If Pia is serious that Leroux is NOT one of our best XI, she should be fired immediately as she clearly is no judge of soccer ability.
    Given that we have Morgan, Leroux, and Wambach on the same team, it seems crazy not to play a 4-3-3, with Rapinoe, Chenney, and O’Reilly in the middle, oh well.
    I just don’t get ARod, yeah she scored the second goal, but other than that she wasn’t very good, she’s athletic (albeit not like Solo, Morgan, or Leroux) but really pretty poor technically.
    Mitts almost always seemed out of position.
    I really like your idea about switching some speedier players to defense, Rampone will probably retire one of these days – I hope Pia reads your stuff – if announces that we really have a best XI plus Laroux then we’ll know.

    • John D. Halloran on July 2, 2012 at 5:51 am

      Morgan tweeted that her knee was ok. Watching it, it did not look like an ACL at all. I think she just banged her knee on the turf. I was a little surprised they were playing on turf at all, but maybe one of the Olympic venues is turf. I haven’t dug that far into it yet.

      Leroux is going to be a player. Pia switched to a 3-4-3 for the last 15 minutes on Saturday. I think she’s prepping that as the back-up plan in case they are down a goal in London. Add Leroux and take off a defender.

      • DE Dupuis on July 2, 2012 at 5:19 pm

        I understand Pia’s logic for the 3-4-3 switch if a goal down.
        Here’s my take on that logic:
        The other team has already scored on us, when we had 4 defenders and 4 midfielders, so are they more or less likely to score again on us if we play with 1 less defender?
        OK, you say that now with 3 strikers and 4 midfielders we will pose more of a problem for the other team forward and they will have less opportunity to push back at us. But if its true that the best defense is a good offense, or at least the best defense is to press high (which I certainly believe is true) then why not always play with 3 strikers (particularly if their names are Morgan, Leroux, and Wambach), but still keep 4 defenders – thus the 4-3-3. Think Spain, think Barca. I’m pretty sure it would fit the women’s NT better than either the 4-4-2 or the 3-4-3 as well.

        • John D. Halloran on July 4, 2012 at 1:00 pm

          In the last few games, they have been pressing a much higher line than in the past. In my opinion, that is the major reason why they are seeing such solid results. Wins against Sweden, Japan and Canada in the last two weeks put us in a good place headed into London. In the last World Cup we gave up too much space in the attacking third and essentially gave away possession to many teams – the semi-final against France and the final against Japan stand out in my mind. With a higher line, we’ve been able to do a much better job of pressing high. Even though Pia keeps releasing the lineup as a 4-4-2 with a diamond midfield, in the last few games it has essentially been a 4-2-2-2 with Cheney joining Boxx as a holding mid and the outside mids playing very high up the pitch to apply pressure and not let teams out of the back. Even Japan, probably the best possession team in the world right now, struggled with our pressure when we beat them a couple weeks ago.

          When we used to play the 4-3-3 on the women’s side early on in the Pia reign, we always played it very static with little of the interchanging necessary to make it work. (Creating the overloads as you’ve spoken of before) Spain has even figured out how to do it without a true striker on the field (not including Barca in this because even though they call it a false 9, Messi really is a striker); not sure if that type of system would work for the U.S. considering Wambach, Morgan and Leroux are all true strikers and probably can’t play that type of interchanging soccer. Spain and Barca essentially put 8 center mids on the pitch and knock it around until 1) you can’t run anymore 2) are hypnotized/bored and stop picking up runners into your box.

          Barca and Spain have also been prepping for that type of play since those guys were kids. Without spending the time to research it, I’m betting that close to 75% of both of those squads came through La Masia and have been playing that style since they were like eight years old. I would be utterly shocked if any other club/country is disciplined enough to ever try and replicate that style.

          Sorry for the long post. Love discussing tactics/formations.

          • DE Dupuis on July 4, 2012 at 4:05 pm

            The keys to making a 4-3-3 work with the current team are Morgan and Laroux. Compared to their teammates they are more mobile, much faster (Rampone aside, how does she stay so damn fast, there must be a painting aging somewhere), have superior technique, and like the rest of the team have high work rates, great motors, and are committed to defending when required – either can play on either wing or in the middle – against quality opposition, France, Japan, Brazil, I (for one American) would really like these two women on the field, along with Wambach, as much as possible.

            It is the epitome of beautiful soccer to play a high pressing, tika taka 4-3-3 if you have a team full of Masia gradutates (in the final 7/14 Spainish players, 2/4 goals, and 3/4 assists were Masia), BUT, based on years of coaching junior players, I can assure you that you do not need spanish wonderkids to make a 4-3-3 work well, nor must one play a media punta to make the 4-3-3 work. What the 4-3-3 really is, is: structurally committing players forward to press high, simplifying the midfield shape, and by keeping the midfield a bit narrower (no one who thinks he/she is a fulltime winger) structurally committing the fullbacks to come forward – all of this allows the quick concentration of players almost anywhere on the field to rapidly achieve local overloads (often the triangles people keep talking about) to pass around players and sucking deeper players out of position and unbalancing the defense. This works with junior players, and would certainly work with the likes of Morgan, Laroux, Rapinoe, and Chenney.
            I think Laroux’s situation now is the same as Morgan’s was before the WC, a player who CLEARLY should by starting, Pia is just too conservative – but maybe the players like her loyalty to them.

            Ditto on the long post thing, apparently we have the same illness. Keep up the fine work.

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