With Sunday’s convincing defeat of a young but athletic Jamaican side in the CONCACAF semi-finals, the U.S. Women’s National Team secured their place in the field for next summer’s World Cup. It’s a return that was expected, but I’m not sure that anyone expected the U.S. women to dominate like this. Jamaica hadn’t conceded a goal since their opening match of the group round against the Canadians, and advanced to the semis easily. They are a strong and fast side with the potential to counterattack at any moment. While the Jamaicans were able to spring forward a few times, they managed only three shots all night and none on goal. Their best chance came late, but was spoiled by a smart, clean challenge by Becky Sauerbrunn. This iteration of the women’s national team is incredibly solid through the midfield, dispossessing opponents before their offense can even begin to build. One reason for this change has been the movement of Julie Ertz from the back line to center mid. Ertz, along with Sauerbrunn were the bulwarks on the defense of the 2015 World Cup championship team and moving her to center mid has both solidified the center of the field, as well as making her more a frequent threat offensively. Ertz has already netted the ball twice in this tournament. Another key addition to the USWNT’s midfield has been the emergence of 23-year old Rose Lavell. Lavell has shown some great instincts to cut off passing lanes for the U.S.’s opponents, and her passing has been both sharp and clever in her early career with the unit.
Veteran U.S. Captain Megan Rapinoe doesn’t exactly bite her tongue, and she’s not shy about the quality that this team possesses. Said Rapinoe of this year’s team; “I think this team is sort of pound for pound more talented than any team I’ve been involved with on the national team—across the board, all the way through the positions. You could tell the younger players just had something different about them. It was just a matter of putting it all together.”
Put simply, these Americans are just on a different level. Sunday’s match with the Jamaicans saw the Americans on the board early and often in the first half, scoring five times in the opening thirty-three minutes. Tobin Heath opened the scoring in the second minute, then added a second tally in the twenty-ninth. In the fifteenth minute, Megan Rapinoe scored on a blast from the left side that seemed like she was thinking of passing until her foot struck the ball. Julie Ertz put her head on the ball in the twenty-first minute, on a gorgeous pass from Crystal Dunn, and Alex Morgan connected in traffic off a set piece near the corner. Morgan added a second goal late in the game on a penalty kick after she was tackled in the box.
It’s exactly the sort of match that the USWNT wants to see more of before the World Cup starts next year, with a balanced, tactical offense, a methodical, stifling defense and utter domination of the possession.
While the primary goal was qualification, the American women still have one match to play in the CONCACAF Championship. In Wednesday’s final, they’ll face a Canadian team that has coasted to this point as well, going undefeated and outscoring their opponents 24-1. The Canadian women are ranked fifth in the world by FIFA and will likely be a much more serious challenge to the American side.
Image Source: AP