The USWNT Is Simply Too Good

The U.S. cruised through Olympic qualifying despite playing far from its best. As we look ahead to the SheBelieves Cup and beyond, how will the team stack up under its new manager?

(Illustration by Sophia Di Iorio)

A 4-0 win over Haiti. An 8-0 absolute goal fest against Panama. Large scorelines have become the norm for the U.S. women’s national soccer team and this past week’s action in CONCACAF, Women’s Olympic Qualifying tournament, was no different.

Against Haiti, the first goal for the U.S. came less than two minutes into the game when Lynn Williams lost her cleat but managed to keep the play alive and deliver a delectable cross which Christen Press volleyed home for her 52nd international goal. 

Aside from that moment of brilliance from Williams, the U.S. endured a sluggish start. The players’ rustiness was understandable; since the NWSL regular season ended back in October, many players are just getting back into the swing of things. In the first half, the team failed to push forward which allowed Haiti space to attack into and challenge Alyssa Naeher in goal. Haiti even scored off a corner while the U.S. defenders stood frozen in their spots. Unluckily for the Haitians, the goal was ruled offside — although I haven’t the faintest idea of how one can be offside on a corner kick. 

The U.S. took back control in the second half, scoring three more goals and finishing the game with 70% of the possession.

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On Friday night, the U.S. cruised to an 8-0 win against Panama. Lindsay Horan scored a hat trick and Williams notched herself another goal and two assists. Tobin Heath summed up the night for the Americans with a cheeky no-look finish for the seventh goal of the game.

With the two recent wins, the U.S. has extended its unbeaten streak to 25 games since its last recorded loss against France a year ago. The tournament was also the first action for new coach Vlatko Andonovski since he was hired at the end of October.

But if we can be real for a moment, competition in CONCACAF is not really anything to brag about — next month’s SheBelieves Cup is where the real test begins for the U.S., against world-class opposition like England and Spain.

I expect the U.S. to stick with its 4-3-3 formation going forward, but some questions are swirling around player selection. Alex Morgan is out for the foreseeable future as she is pregnant with her first child. The aforementioned Williams is proving herself every time she steps on the field, making it nearly impossible for Andonovski to leave her off the team sheet.

Also, there’s the question of what to do with Carli Lloyd. The 37-year-old was reportedly upset with her lack of playing time under former coach Jill Ellis, arguing that she was in “the best form of her career,” yet didn’t start very many games. In reality, Lloyd was underperforming for club and country following the 2016 Olympics. During the 2017 and 2018 seasons, she only recorded five goals and one assist in the NWSL. Last season, she improved markedly for Sky Blue, scoring eight goals in 14 games, but she hasn’t yet hit those same heights for the U.S.

Against Haiti, she struggled, repeatedly squandering possession and unable to link up with her midfield teammates. Her shooting was poor and her frustrations were there for everyone to see, but she eventually scored the team’s fourth goal late in the game. Lloyd was on the bench for the game against Panama on Friday night.

As a two-time world champion and captain of the squad, Lloyd’s resume speaks for itself. But, she still has a lot to prove if she wants to be the starting striker in Morgan’s absence. On a squad with unmatched depth and talent, no spot on the USWNT is guaranteed — not even Lloyd’s. 

The Sports Girl is a weekly sports column that features a girl’s take on sports. Yes, a girl. Yes, on sports.

A version of this article appears in the Monday, Feb. 3, 2020, print edition. Email Bela Kirpalani at [email protected]

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