The USWNT looks like it’s finding its stride before the Women’s World Cup. They have won five of their last six, recording a tie against Iceland in which was essentially a dead rubber. Head Coach Jill Ellis has seemingly found her line up starting ten of eleven starters from their Algarve Cup winning side and fielding the same back line in four of five games. Like Jill Ellis told Grant Wahl, the time for experimentation is over.
Are they there yet? Not quite. The United States didn’t look sharp in the final third against New Zeland. Out of the four goals they scored, only one was from open play. Three were from set pieces with two of those long range efforts. With players like Megan Rapinoe, Alex Morgan, and Sydney LeRoux coming back from injuries, a little bit of rustiness is to be expected. That being said their movement was extremely good and they created a ton of good chances. They only gave up 2 shots, none of them on target, and took 23 themselves with 10 on target. Here are some more specific takeaways from the game:
1) Fullbacks score Golazos
A big staple of the USWNT is getting forward to support the attack, but I don't think Ellis was game planning for them to score like this.
2) Sky (Two)
Sky Blue FC had two players in camp with the USWNT. Christie Rampone injured herself in camp blocking a Carli Lloyd shot, and missed the game with a sprained MCL. Kelley O’Hara was a late 83rd minute substitute and made some nice runs and one cross but didn’t really have enough time to impact the game. While O'Hara's versatility makes her almost a lock for the World Cup, you have to wonder if Rampone's recent string of injuries and age makes her vulnerable to being cut.
3) New Zealand's tired legs.
The game was supposed to be a test for the USWNT. And while they looked good, you wonder how much had to do with New Zealand’s travels. According to Jeff Kassouf of Equalizer Soccer, they had to spend 53 hours in transit. That’ll lead to some heavy legs. Part of me wonders if the closed door friendly on Monday between the two might be a harder test and more of a representation of what New Zealand is bringing to the World Cup, and it’ll be interesting to see how that impacts the final 23. While Ellis has talked about the remaining games being about fine tuning for the World Cup, you wonder if this closed door match might be about those bubble players claiming their seats.
Back to work
Next weekend the NWSL team kicks off with Sky Blue FC beginning their campaign away at FC Kansas City. Stay tuned for more local Sky Blue FC coverage at Once a Metro.