The United States women’s national team continued its 12-game unbeaten streak under head coach Tom Sermanni in 2013, beating Mexico 7-0 on Tuesday night.
Here are three thoughts from the win.
The U.S. has a serious dilemma (in a good way) at forward
With Alex Morgan sidelined with an MCL sprain suffered during the NWSL season, Sydney Leroux had an opportunity to show that she is deserving of more playing time with the USWNT.
Leroux, who is normally a supersub for the U.S. either as a third forward when the U.S. needs a goal, or to replace Abby Wambach or Alex Morgan while killing off a game, used the opportunity as a showcase for her talent.
She finished with four goals, scoring the U.S.’ second and third goals on nice mop-up efforts, scored an absolute gem with her third on a great combination of speed and power against three Mexican defenders and added a fourth on nice headed effort on a set piece.
Over the last two years, a growing contingent of fans have advocated starting Morgan and Leroux together and sitting Wambach, but Wambach’s effort on Tuesday was terrific as well. She scored the opener and eventual game-winner, set up the U.S.’ second and third goals and assisted on the fourth and seventh.
Some have said the U.S. should move to a three-front, but that just creates problems in the midfield pool with Lauren Holiday, Tobin Heath, Carli Lloyd, Heather O’Reilly, Yael Averbuch, Shannon Boxx, Megan Rapinoe, Christen Press and Erika Tymrak all fighting for time. Additionally, why would Sermanni switch the formation with the U.S. being such a dominant side in their 4-1-3-2?
The only bonus for the USWNT is that whatever choice Sermanni makes up front, the U.S. is in good hands.
The U.S. is just scary good
The scary part of the U.S.’ utterly dominant performance against Mexico (excluding a slow start in the first five minutes) was that the U.S. was missing some of its best players.
Besides missing superstars Alex Morgan, Tobin Heath and Megan Rapinoe, the U.S. was missing regular starters Kelley O’Hara, Rachel Buehler, Ali Krieger and Shannon Boxx and potential starters Whitney Engen, Christen Press and Yael Averbuch.
God help whoever steps on the pitch against the U.S.
Lauren Holiday was unleashed
It became pretty obvious watching the NWSL this year (as if it wasn’t already obvious) that both Carli Lloyd and Lauren Holiday are pretty special attacking center midfielders. Lloyd, playing underneath Abby Wambach with the Western New York Flash, was outstanding and her performance in the NWSL semifinals was yet another demonstration of her fantastic goal-scoring ability.
Holiday, playing as the attacking midfielder underneath FC Kansas City’s three-front, led the league in goals and assists and won the league’s MVP award.
With the national team, Lloyd’s attacking prowess has been obvious, especially in the last two Olympic finals, when she had the game-winning goals. Holiday (then Lauren Cheney) made her name with the USWNT originally as a striker, partnering Abby Wambach up top in the 2011 World Cup.
However, in the 2012 Olympics, with Shannon Boxx out with an injury, the two struggled to find a good rhythm together when paired together in the midfield. By then, Morgan had won the job up top and Cheney was moved back to her more natural midfield position. Cheney seemed off for much of 2012, unable to replicate the form which had made her so vital to the team in 2011 and Lloyd couldn’t seem to get forward without the presence of a dedicated holding midfielder like Boxx behind her. In fact, when Lloyd did score her double in the Olympic final, it was because Boxx returned from injury and Cheney went to the bench.
On Tuesday night against Mexico, with Lloyd holding much of the match, Holiday was able to be the lynchpin of the U.S. attack. Besides setting up the U.S.’ second and third goals and assisting on the fifth, Holiday’s passing in the middle was key all night long. She was involved in almost all of the U.S.’ most dangerous attacks with great reverse passes, through balls and constantly switching the point of attack.
Like the forward dilemma, there are no easy answers for Sermanni in the midfield. Perhaps Lloyd and Holiday will be able to develop a cohesive partnership, but it’s likely that partnership will result in one of the two having to give up a fair amount of their runs going forward. Boxx has been injured for most of 2013 and is by no means a guaranteed inclusion on the 2015 World Cup roster. And, with Yael Averbuch being the only true dedicated holding midfielder currently in the player pool, Holiday and Lloyd will likely be the midfield combination going forward if the U.S. stays in its 4-1-3-2 formation.
John D. Halloran