Well. Another year has almost gone by. The United States women’s national team has played a lot of friendlies in 2017, including two mini-tournaments featuring high-level opposition, and now closes out with old rivals Canada. In a year when the United States took key losses, these games against Canada certainly take on more weight than just another pair of friendlies. England beat the United States for the first time on American home soil, and Australia beat the US for the first time ever. Now, after getting out of Vancouver by the skin of a 1-1 tie, this last game against Canada in San Jose before we enter another cold, dark winter will set the tone for how the team wants to enter 2018.
For Jill Ellis in particular, the winds are shifting at US Soccer as former Seattle Reign head coach Laura Harvey is now onboard with the WNT. Per FourFourTwo, Harvey will start out in an “informal” role, although presumably her position will firm up by next year, at least in time for next spring’s SheBelieves Cup. It’s somewhat telling that USSF wanted Harvey in their system badly enough that they just brought her in with no title and no specific role, perhaps to cut off any attempt at poaching from England, who are currently looking for a replacement head coach of their own and would surely love the optics of having a well-regarded woman in the role after the Mark Sampson fiasco. Putting up a bad performance against Canada doesn’t feel good no matter what; putting up a bad performance against Canada after a year in which you’ve lost to opponents you used to paste and been roundly criticized for your at-times seemingly aimless tinkering with rosters and formations while Laura Harvey is just chilling nearby has got to have Ellis nervously loosening her collar.
So. This game against Canada. The United States will be back on their home turf, undoubtedly energized by getting handled in their last game. Yes, it was 1-1, and yes, it was a pretty ugly game from start to finish. But no one watching would say that Canada didn’t have the majority of the momentum and the energy while the US often chased the game. The USWNT is a team capable of putting together incredible responses, though, and Canada, a team that’s never quite been able to hang with the US in terms of pace for a full 90, surely expended a lot to give their hometown fans a good show. John Herdman only made three subs compared to the United States’ five, and for Herdman to have gone much further into his bench would have meant dipping into a pool of uncapped teenagers. The US bench for these games is deeper and more experienced, and so any attempt at roster rotation here will definitely benefit them more than Canada.
On an individual level, if players like Sam Mewis, Lynn Williams, and Megan Rapinoe can manage to play moderately well - not even particularly good, just a bit better than baseline competent - then honestly the team will probably look much better and more coherent than it did on Thursday in Vancouver. In Canada, the US midfield disappeared and the flanks were ineffective, leading to attempts to play direct that just ended up giving the ball to the Canadian defense. Better distribution from the middle from Mewis and/or Ertz could help unlock Rapinoe, Morgan, Williams, and Press. Perhaps Andi Sullivan will also get a chance to start and put her stamp on controlling the mid. Stay calm and make a tired Canada chase. In the meantime, no pressure Jill. Laura Harvey is just gonna be sitting over here not particularly doing anything at all.
USA vs Canada, Game 2
Avaya Stadium, San Jose
Sunday, November 12
9 PM ET / 6 PM PT
Broadcast live on: FS1