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USA v. Mexico, What We Learned

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The USWNT wrapped up their pre-World Cup games with a pedestrian 3-0 win. Here’s what we learned from it.

Mexico v United States Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

The USWNT marked the end of their World Cup prep matches with a send off to France against Mexico. It was a sleepy match, with the US completely dominating the ball, constantly on the verge of scoring, and, for most of the game, not actually completing that last decisive move. I think Stephanie might have put what we learned from this game best.

But we are going to try and take something away from this game anyway. Let’s get started.

Just Take it Slow

Three goals sounds like a really good result, right? Uh, well, the USWNT played Mexico last year and ran them out 6-0. The expectation was that the US would actually dominate over a far weaker side. Instead, the American attack mostly looked stale, struggling to actually test the keeper for large stretches of time in spite of their control of the run of play.

In the early minutes, the USWNT dominated on the ball but mostly lacked on the final ball. Alex Morgan and Tobin Heath frequently tried to get on long balls into space behind the center backs. However, those runs were either mistimed or just a little bit to long. Inside the box, the story was the same, with the US generating plenty of crosses and shots, but unable to put an incisive shot on frame to test the Mexican keeper. That is, if the shot came off at all. Plenty of attacks simply ended with a muddled play and the ball stuck at the feet between one or two Mexican Defenders. Instead, the US found their opening goal through a defensive mistake.

Time and time again, the US actually would SLOW DOWN in the box instead of trying to make the incisive play towards goal. The goal actually demonstrates this. Watch closely. Heath doesn’t run onto the ball. She slows down as she gets close to it, allowing the center back to set her positioning and prepare to defend. From there, Heath does well to open up some space and put the ball into the net. However, Heath could have run onto the ball with pace and forced the defender to make a more proactive decision. It’s hard to criticize a play that worked, but the thing is, the USWNT did this kind of play all day. The likes of Morgan and Heath consistently slowed down when they got in the box instead of going straight at goal. As a result, when they were forced to deal with several defenders instead of one, the play would fall apart.

In contrast, take a look at how Carli Lloyd created this goal.

Lloyd gets confronted by a defender and she responds by going hard towards the byline. And the result was the second goal. There’s all sorts of caveats with making this comparison. Lloyd was in a very different circumstance with room in front of her, whereas Heath had a defender between her and the end line. But that directness still wasn’t there. And that’s raising questions, particularly from Alex Morgan. Morgan didn’t score in either of the three tune up matches and she hasn’t really looked as sharp as we have come to expect. She’s not clicking well with the other players, even though the likes of Heath and Rapinoe are VERY familiar faces. And that’s something that’s bugging me going into the World Cup.

Still, it’s a minor thing. The US scored three goals against a team that couldn't do anything but pack it in. The real test will come in a few weeks in France.

What even are Positions really?

This is a quick note because I don’t really have much to say about it, but apparently Jill Ellis is not done tinkering with her fullbacks. Midway through the match, she took off Crystal Dunn, shifting her backline around, and pushing Tobin Heath to left back. Which is weird. Apparently, she served as basically a wide forward from there.

That’s the kind of statement that fills me with dread, but probably/possibly isn’t actually worth fussing over. I certainly would be way more confident when players were actually playing in their normal positions, but, hey, maybe I’m a bit too rigid for Ellis. Right now, having Crystal Dunn run into the center of the box to get on headers from right back seems to maybe be working, so, what do I know?

Last thing, apparently it’s now a regular thing for Julie Ertz to sport a bit of gauze in her face.

Happy Memorial Day, everyone.