It was somewhat fitting that this away friendly between the United States and Portugal should take place during lunch hours in the US; it had the slowed-down, aimless feel of midday in the office, when all you can think about is staying awake, not getting caught by your boss, and making it to 5 PM.
The United States started out in their by-now usual 4-3-3, with three big changes in Jess McDonald at the top of the formation, Andi Sullivan down at holding mid, and Emily Fox at right fullback. This was Fox’s debut for the United States and she looked a little bit shaky as you might expect from a college player in her first cap, sometimes leaving space for Portugal to exploit that Abby Dahlkemper had to clean up. Sullivan wasn’t on top of her space either, sometimes physically challenging Portugal but not particularly playing the ball out in useful ways.
Mostly the United States tried to move the ball up through the wings, having Dunn, Rapinoe, and Pugh looking to turn the corner around their defenders, but crosses were sparse. Horan and Lavelle looked comfortable switching sides at least, continuing the work of building a fluid, interchangeable midfield.
The game’s first and only goal came from another positional switch, this one from Crystal Dunn, who jumped over to right fullback for a minute and hit McDonald right in front of goal with a sharply paced cross. McDonald bodied her own rebounded shot into goal to make it 1-0 in the 42’.
The second half started off with two subs as Alex Morgan came on for McDonald and Danny Colaprico came on for Sullivan. Morgan pushed at the goal pretty immediately, linking up more with Rapinoe and Horan. Colaprico was also an improvement in the midfield, moving the ball out more and particularly finding Horan in space, which in turn set up more chance on goal.
Carli Lloyd came on in the 64’ for Fox, slotting in up top around Alex Morgan and temporarily shifting the team into a 3-4-3. Portugal tried to take advantage, pushing harder end-to-end, although Lavelle did a good enough job dropping into space and helping to defend the ball out.
The United States continued to find a lot of energy through Crystal Dunn; she kept wheeling around the back line, often trailing two or three players, trying to nudge the ball into space in front of goal.
Mal Pugh came off in the 73’ for Emily Sonnett, returning the US to a 4-3-3. Sonnett also tried to inject the game with a warmer tempo, pushing up more, but overall there wasn’t really a feeling of urgency from the US to get a second. They seemed more interested in trying to figure out how to set up around Portugal’s swarming defense without particularly aiming to get at the goal, if that makes sense, like someone shifting puzzle pieces around but not yet going for the solve.
The last sub was in the 82’ with Lavelle of for Julie Ertz, who went in at Lavelle’s position instead of displacing Colaprico. It would have been interesting if Ertz and Colaprico had gotten more time to see if they could also switch off easily, but for the last 10 minutes they stayed pretty much positionally locked. Ertz had a bit of a chance in the 89’ with a deceptively easy-looking flick header off a free kick, but it dropped for the goalkeeper. The last chance came in stoppage as Horan sent a ball for Lloyd to run off the back line, but Lloyd wasn’t able to get a touch on it, and the game ended at 1-0.
It was a very lowkey game (polite for “boring”), and the United States definitely looked like a team that has players in various states of game readiness as some are deep in their offseason and others are playing internationally. Honestly, it’s fine that they never put it into high gear and instead fiddled with putting different players in the starting XI, including getting first caps for Emily Fox and Danny Colaprico. There are bigger games to come that have more relevance to World Cup preparation and Ellis got to evaluate both new players and a different formation, even if it was just to see how it held out for 10 minutes.
Next up: Scotland. Ideally, Colaprico and McDonald at the least would get a second game here just for the sake of thorough evaluation. After all, despite the depth in their positions, you can never really have too deep a player pool.
USA vs Scotland
Tuesday, November 13
2 PM ET / 11 AM PT