If you start from the front, the USWNT’s win last week over Mexico was good. Mallory Pugh keeps slicing up defenses, Alex Morgan keeps scoring all sorts of goals, and Megan Rapinoe looks creative as ever. It’s just that things get rockier the further back you go, with the midfield unable to get pressure around the ball whenever Mexico tried to counter giving way to some hesitant defending and confused goalkeeping.
As a result, the United States gave up the sort of goal you see in rec leagues when no one communicates, and in fact could have conceded one or two more with a bit more precision from Mexico. They still strolled to a big win, but it’s hardly good news when a team attacking with 2-3 players at the most is able to create chances. That’s where progress needs to be shown today, regardless of how unfamiliar the defense is.
Location: BBVA Compass Stadium (Houston, TX)
Kickoff time: 1:30pm Eastern
Projected USWNT starting 11: (“433”) - Alyssa Naeher; Emily Sonnett, Becky Sauerbrunn, Tierna Davidson, Crystal Dunn; Carli Lloyd, Andi Sullivan, Morgan Brian; Mallory Pugh, Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe
Those quotation marks are there because the U.S. didn’t really play a standard 433 on Thursday. It may have sort of drifted back into that shape defensively, but the USWNT was mostly on the attack, and when they attacked, Dunn pushed up into the midfield, with the right-center midfielder (Horan for most of the game) had to move wide right to provide balance in what became an unusual, asymmetrical 343.
I expect that formation to stay in place, but with an important change: with the game on a major national network and Lloyd one goal away from her 100th with the national team, you can bet that every opportunity will be taken to feed her the ball all game long. Based on how Jill Ellis distributed the roles in the previous game, that means Lloyd sometimes having to take up positions wide (though not running up and down the touchline, a job left to Pugh).
Available TV: Fox. The big one that you get over the air.
Available streaming: Fox Sports Go, Fox Soccer Match Pass
For listings in other countries, check out LiveSoccerTV.com.
we our friends have to say about it?: Stars and Stripes FC takes on the ever-difficult task of trying to divine why Ellis might be more comfortable with this defensive structure than just about any fan of the team would like.
What are you drinking?: I stayed up very late watching Wild, Wild Country and then Jackie Brown, so I’ll be having coffee.
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