The United States has played two out of three SheBelieves games now and they have one goal to show for it.
They had 14 shots and two shots on goal against England and 15 shots with three shots on goal against Germany. Their goal against Germany was built on fantastic effort from Christen Press and against England it sometimes looked as though the forwards were surprised that the midfielders were trying to feed them the ball.
Head coach Jill Ellis has now tried pairing Lynn Williams and Christen Press, Alex Morgan and Lindsey Horan, and Alex Morgan and Mallory Pugh, all of them with Carli Lloyd immediately behind them. But Lloyd has been lacking two games in a row. Perhaps it’s time to see if a top two supported by some like Rose Lavelle, with Samantha Mewis and Lindsey Horan behind her, could make more of that central channel. As we saw against England, a midfield four of Lavelle - Mewis - Horan - Dunn was fairly functional, though Dunn wasn’t at her sharpest. With Mewis and Horan having good games and Lavelle having a GREAT game, the US was able to move the ball into the attacking third with relative ease. That’s where things stalled out for them, and now it’s up to Ellis to figure out how to unstick the logjam. Perhaps that means a different front two combo (Press and Morgan?), or perhaps that means giving Lloyd a break and letting Lavelle have 45 or a full 90 there. No matter what, the forwards are going to have to get the timing right when they see the midfield begin their press.
Meanwhile, France won their first game against England 2-1, both headers off balls into the box, and tied Germany 0-0. France’s defense was fairly steady with Wendie Renard at the helm while Germany continued to lack the technical sharpness it needed to break the deadlock. Any US front trio is going to have to figure out Renard if they have any hope of playing through the middle. If they decide to try to pressure the wings, they’ll need substantially more from Dunn or Pugh, whoever ends up wide right. The left side may see Heath starting again, or perhaps Lavelle once again asked to adapt.
France has been rotating their roster a bit, but have looked pretty dangerous when they’re at full strength with players like Gaetane Thiney and Camille Abily on the field. Even if they don’t decide to start out full strength, younger players like Amel Majri created constant danger against Germany. They’ve got the speed to get in behind, and in a three back system the United States can’t afford mistakes that leave open space, like when Julie Johnston didn’t get her tackle in on Jill Scott and left an acre of space behind her for Scott to exploit. That’s the kind of thing a player like Eugénie Le Sommer would probably use to severely punish an opponent, calling for more calm and communication in the back.
USA vs France kicks off at 7 PM ET on Tuesday, March 7 at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C. The game will air live on FS1.