The Washington Spirit have a game on Sunday, but four of their players already played this week on the other side of the world. We’re going to keep you, possibly a person not getting up at 4am to watch soccer, in the loop on how things have gone for Kelley O’Hara and Emily Sonnett with the USWNT, Julia Roddar with Sweden, and Saori Takarada with Japan.
O’Hara went the full 90 at right back on what was a very rough day for the USWNT. When your team gives up three goals and you’re a defender, that usually looks bad, but it’s hard to find much to pin on O’Hara on that front. The cross from the right on the first goal never reaches her (though, if it had gotten past Stina Blackstenius, Abby Dahlkemper, and Alyssa Naeher, it does appear that Fridolina Rolfö had gotten an advantageous position on O’Hara at the back post), and the corner on the second goal goes to the far post, while O’Hara’s station is at the near post.
While O’Hara is the player closest to Lina Hurtig as the latter headed in the third goal, she was only trying to make up for the fact that Dahlkemper had stepped away from Hurtig, apparently anticipating a near-post delivery from the right. O’Hara had been marking Olivia Schough at the back post, but had to abandon that to try in vain to save the day against the much taller Hurtig.
If there is one part of the game that we can highlight where O’Hara did let herself down, it was going forward. O’Hara attempted four crosses, but completed none, and struggled to combine to get into more dangerous spots further up the field. Of course, some of this was down to a general disconnect throughout the USWNT on the day, so combinations and fluency were in short supply all over. However, a few attacks ended with crosses that were essentially catching practice for Hedving Lindahl. On the plus side, that’s an area of O’Hara’s game where we’ll very likely see improvement in the coming games, as she’s long been a reliable source of scoring chances.
Interestingly, of the game took place on the other side of the field from O’Hara. While a lot of the reactions on Twitter during the game seemed to ascribe this to Sweden targeting Crystal Dunn, it’s worth pointing out that arguably Sweden’s two best players both play on the right side, with Sofia Jakobsson and the outstanding Hanna Glas dominating the game. Their approach seemed more about getting their best players on the ball than it was about attacking any one USWNT player.
O’Hara and the USWNT will look to prove this was just a blip in Saitama on Saturday, where they take on New Zealand (7:30am, NBC Sports Network).
Sonnett was in uniform for the USWNT, but did not play. Interestingly, the U.S. dressed their first 18 players, leaving out all four players who were initially listed as alternates before the rules changed to allow teams to choose 18-player gameday squads from their 22-player roster.
What does that mean for Sonnett? Well, at least right now, it looks like she’s stayed ahead of Casey Krueger as O’Hara’s primary back-up at right back. However, the choice to sub Tierna Davidson in for Dunn for the final 15 minutes means that Sonnett’s probably the third-choice at left back (as well as possibly defensive midfield, and center back).
All in all, given how the game went, not playing may have boosted her chances of more time in the tournament. If Andonovski decides there were issues in the team that extend beyond this being a one-off very bad day at the office, he might consider cycling Sonnett into some games where, as a defensive player, maybe she wouldn’t have gotten her shot.
This coming game against New Zealand may also be one where the USWNT opts to rotate anyway, as the Football Ferns are in theory the weakest team in the group.
Roddar made her Olympic debut late in Sweden’s win over the US, replacing Jonna Andersson at left back. There was no reshuffle from Sweden after the sub, with Roddar killing the game off in a position that we haven’t seen her play in yet (though Richie Burke has mentioned it on the long list of spots she can play).
Going back to the alternate situation just discussed in the Sonnett segment above, Roddar was named as an alternate initially, but Sweden coach Peter Gerhardsson (who, it must be said, put on a masterclass in setting his team up to rob the USWNT of their normal movements and dictate the spaces the game was played in) chose her in the gameday 18 to replace the unavailable Magdalena Eriksson.
Roddar didn’t have much to do, as is often the case when you’re an 88th minute substitute in a game that’s 3-0 and that both teams have more or less agreed is over. The bigger story here is that she’s done enough to not just push her way into the reckoning when a big name is missing (Eriksson, who is Chelsea’s captain, is a big name indeed), but to even get into the game ahead of players who were just a couple of weeks ago higher than her in Gerhardsson’s depth chart.
Sweden’s next match sees them take on Australia at 4:30am Saturday in Saitama.
Takarada was in uniform but did not appear for Japan, who only used three subs in a 1-1 draw against Canada. Despite Takarada’s versatility, Asako Takakura appears to view her as a center back first and foremost. With Saki Kumagai and Moeka Minami seemingly set as the first-choice pairing, it might not be until the third game in the group, against Chile, that Takarada gets her chance to get into a game.
Japan’s next match is at the Sapporo Dome against Great Britain in a 6:30am Eastern time kickoff Saturday morning.