What is possible to learn from playing an opponent you beat 4-0 just a few days ago? Well pump the brakes a bit. First, despite the scoreline, Colombia clearly tried to stay organized, were very tough in one-v-ones, and were playing together for the first time in well over a year with a young and underpowered squad. And despite all that, they stayed committed to their defensive work for a full 90 minutes, making them a great team to play against in terms of seeing what breaks down a specific game plan from your opponent. Vlatko Andonovski said as much in US Soccer’s matchday preview, calling Colombia a “very technical team” who can break things down with short, accurate passes and can handle a lot of one-v-one duels while being very confident on the ball. Those are areas he said that the staff has flagged for the team’s defensive focus.
On the other end, Andonovski said that he wants to see the team look more sophisticated in their attacking, particularly finding their finish in front of the goal. He said the thought the team had been doing well at improving on creating scoring opportunities; now they just need “the killer instinct.”
For personnel, we’ll definitely get some rotation. Mal Pugh is out with some kind of mild injury, and Sophia Smith is still a scratch after picking up a slight injury during warmups for the first game against Colombia. She was originally supposed to go in at halftime of that game as a left forward, but will now be held out as a precaution. Will that mean once again playing Catarina Macario more on the left side and covering a lot of that ground through the Macario-Horan-Dunn triangle? Maybe not that specific combination, since Andonovski also mentioned that rotation will be “significant” and that players that we didn’t see play or start may start for this second game. Andonovski said he was interested in seeing those different combinations of players to evaluate how they work together.
Those who didn’t dress for the first game: Mal Pugh, Ali Krieger, Tierna Davidson, Ashlyn Harris, Andi Sullivan, Aubrey Bledsoe, Sophia Smith, Jaelin Howell, Emily Fox, Alana Cook
As an interesting side note, he also said that the Sophia Smith injury was obviously unexpected, but that he and his staff will typically run through 11 or 12 subbing scenarios to be prepared for all kinds of situations.
In terms of specific players, there’s a strong chance we may see Ali Krieger at fullback. Andonovski specifically said fullback, not center back, which is interesting given that she seems to have shifted into the center more or less permanently at this point in her career.
Overall, Andonovski said that he was dissatisfied that them wasn’t at their best, but was aware that while they aren’t where they want to be, this is January camp after a very strange, very slow year when there was barely any club soccer for most of them, let alone international level challenges. The team appears to be still in data-gathering mode versus Olympic-preparation mode, leaving that final roster (mostly) wide open.
USA vs Colombia, game 2
Friday, January 22
7 PM ET / 4 PM PT