The United States won Group D at the Women's World Cup and beat Colombia, 2-0, in the round of 16. Now they are quarterfinals-bound and, on results alone, the team looks like they're flying high. But they're not.
As has been the case for more than a year now, the U.S. looks flawed, ineffective in the attack and not just playing well below their considerable talent level, but a step below the couple best teams in the world. When the U.S. comes up against Germany or France -- as they will if they beat China in the quarterfinals -- they will do so as underdogs because of their inability to show variety in the attack or any sort of ability to create from the run of play.
The U.S. is entirely dependent on crosses, long balls and, especially, set pieces, for their goals. Is that a problem? Manager Jill Ellis doesn't seem to think so.
"Most goals in World Cup tournaments, the majority of them come on set pieces," Ellis said.
Um ... about that.
Unfortunately for Ellis, her statement isn't a vague, theoretical thing. It can be proven and the stats show that only 22 of the 126 goals in this summer's World Cup have come from set pieces.
So the majority of goals do not come set pieces. Not even half of the majority do. Only 17 percent of World Cup goals were on set pieces.
But the U.S. will continue to rely on physicality on set pieces. When they come up against Germany or France, they'll beat them when the ball is dead and, when they have the ball, possession, tempo and creativity will continue to wane because of set pieces. After all, that's where the majority of goals come from, at least in Ellis' world.
The U.S. might still win the World Cup. They only have to beat China, pull a small upset and then win a final to get it done. That's entirely possible, but don't bet on the Americans playing up to their potential. They're not even trying to.
If you wanted to sum up the entire U.S. team for more than a year now, there you have it.