The United States wraps up its Scandinavian sojourn this afternoon with a match against Norway, Coming off of a proficient, if disjointed, 1-0 win over Sweden, the USWNT will be looking to improve themselves while imposing their higher talent level over the Norwegians, who are no longer the elite-level adversary they were back in the 90s.
Key player: Crystal Dunn
No one played spectacularly in last week’s 1-0 win over Sweden, but the USWNT was at their best when Dunn was allowed to play as the second forward rather than having to stretch Sweden out with her speed. It’s of course tempting to use that latter approach to unlock a Swedish side that is high on organization but perhaps lacking in pace. However, by taking Dunn out of the build-up, the US was asking the most creative, audacious player they had on the field to make room for others. That’s not ideal.
In the narrow 442 the US is using these days, there’s no natural #10. Rose Lavelle and Mallory Pugh both cut in from the wings, but they’ve still got to cover 40 or so yards to get from their flank roles and into the hole behind the front line. That means the second forward has to be the main creative cog, and it’s high time Jill Ellis let Dunn have that job within the group.
There’s a temptation to look at Dunn as a speedster first, a dribbler second, and a creator third, but that limits her game and underrates her technique and soccer IQ. Dunn is one of the very few players who makes the pass to set Lavelle up (Lavelle is also on that list, for what it’s worth), and the USWNT can also use her speed bursting from underneath another forward.
In other words, Dunn is a great complimentary player, but right now she should be given the room to be the star of the show. It’s time to see if, supported by young attackers who see the game in a similar way, she can be the creative fulcrum this team needs.
Location: Komplett Arena (Sandefjord, Norway)
Kickoff time: 1:00pm Eastern
It would be very beneficial for the US to start Christen Press or Lynn Williams and give Dunn the reins as detailed above, but the reality is that Lloyd will get to start because she’s Carli Lloyd. Elsewhere, I’d like to see Dahlkemper start at center back, where she’s been very good for the North Carolina Courage this season.
Off the bench, look for Sydney Leroux to come in at halftime, and I suspect we’ll also see Megan Rapinoe get more time in this game than she did against Sweden. There’s also a decent chance Julie Ertz (nee Johnson) gets in as a defensive midfielder, the role she’s been playing for the high-flying Chicago Red Stars this season. Finally, it would be nice to see Smith get her first senior cap in goal, as she’s been the best American goalkeeper in the NWSL (using the qualifier because Stephanie Labbe has been on another level for the Washington Spirit).
Available TV: Fox (English, and yes, we mean regular over-the-air Fox)
Available streaming: Fox Sports Go (English), Fox Soccer 2Go (English)
For listings in other countries, check out LiveSoccerTV.com.
What do we have to say about it?: Over at Stars and Stripes FC, there’s more on Press and Williams possibly getting to start in their preview.
What are you drinking?: It’s going to be a hot one, so I’m rolling with iced coffee for this one (specifically, Stok’s unsweetened variety).
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