The United States women’s national soccer team (USWNT) have been widely regarded as being the best women’s soccer team in the world, winning three gold medals at the summer Olympic games in Rio de Janeiro this year. However, the USWNT have been criticized for failing to win a world championship since 2015, and for their apparent lack of chemistry.
To be fair, the US Women’s National Team’s performance in the Olympics has been questioned before. In the 2012 London Olympics, they had a disappointing showing, with few goals scored in four games. The team had a similar showing in Rio this year, with just one goal scored in three games. However, those performances seemed to show a malaise that was more psychological than actual, and the team was able to rebound in the Women’s World Cup. The USWNT has proven its skill, but it still is not at its peak. In this postmortem, I’ll discuss what went wrong, and what they can do to fix it.
The US women’s national soccer team (USWNT) has been a household name for about as long as there have been US homes. They’ve dominated women’s soccer for the last two decades. But they’ve been beaten before, and here they are at the Olympics, having been knocked out in the quarterfinals, the last team remaining in the tournament that will go on to the final.. Read more about when do olympics start and let us know what you think.
It was terrible enough when the United States’ women’s national team fell 3-0 to Sweden in their first match of the 2020 Olympics. However, the manner in which the USWNT lost made the outcome seem both harsher and more important. Now, the question that USWNT supporters will be asking — and that USWNT players may be asking themselves — is whether that poor showing was a one-off or a symptom of deeper problems.
The United States plays New Zealand in their second Group G game on Saturday (7:30 a.m. ET), so there won’t be much time for them to ponder and seek for solutions. But it doesn’t make the possible flaws revealed by Sweden any less of a concern.
Here are some reasons why the United States may not be able to turn its Olympic campaign around against New Zealand.
They were led astray by an inexperienced instructor.
Try to figure out which game this refers to: Sweden established numerical advantages and then cut off passing lines, causing the United States to lose the ball. The USWNT was unable to counter Sweden’s tactics, instead opting to play reactively. Sweden’s task was made simpler by the USWNT’s poor performance.
You’d be correct if you believed that characterized the USWNT’s 3-0 defeat to begin the Tokyo Olympics. But you’re also correct if you believed it characterized the USWNT’s 1-1 tie with Sweden in April.
In April, coach Vlatko Andonovski stated, “If we play like we did today, it’s not good enough.” “I’m aware of it; no one has to tell me that, but it’s just a chance for us to improve.”
The issue is that the United States has become worse. That April tie, which was Andonovski’s lone loss as head coach of the USWNT until the Olympics, should have raised some warning lights. However, it seemed on Wednesday that the USWNT had not learnt from their mistakes.
That’s not to say Sweden did everything the same as in the April game: the team moved from a three-back to a four-back configuration, which appeared to take the Americans off surprise. However, the United States mistakenly assumed that Sweden would play more cautiously than it has in past tournaments versus the Americans. Instead, Sweden reverted to their April strategy and played even more aggressively.
The Americans did not adjust once they understood what they were in for. Worse, Andonovski seemed unwilling or unable to prescribe the on-the-fly tactical adjustments that might have altered the game.
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Sweden surrounded the USWNT’s wide full-backs, forcing several turnovers in hazardous places and isolating Crystal Dunn in particular. However, by having the wingers drop deep, the USWNT never truly made sure she received the assistance she needed. The Americans were too stagnant, and there wasn’t enough mobility or guys making runs.
The USWNT’s performance only improved slightly with each personnel change, like as putting on Julie Ertz for Samantha Mewis at halftime, since their collective strategy just wasn’t working. That’s where Andonovski comes in.
Andonovski’s first big tournament — he was hired after coaching stints in the NWSL and indoor soccer before that — raises the issue of whether his lack of international experience hurt him.
In a 3-0 Olympic defeat to Sweden, the USWNT appeared adrift. Getty Images/Dan Mullan
The United States Women’s National Team lacked quickness and seemed to be showing its age.
It’s one thing to bring in Carli Lloyd, 39, as a game-winning late-game closer. It’s another thing entirely to put her in at halftime and anticipate significant improvements, especially in a game like the one against Sweden.
The United States seemed lethargic and slow to respond, and they might have utilized a lift in pace and intensity. A guy like that, though, was not on the United States’ bench. The lone player in Tokyo who matches that description, Lynn Williams, a fast 28-year-old, did not make the gameday squad. (She didn’t even make the first roster until the International Olympic Committee decided that alternates may play in any game.) Meanwhile, Alex Morgan, Christen Press, and Tobin Heath, the starting front line, are all 32 years old or older.
Stina Blackstenius and Lina Hurtig, Sweden’s two goalscorer, are both 25 years old. Young, muscular, and explosive, the Swedish front six was a force to be reckoned with.
While it’s possible that the US assault struggled to get past Sweden’s back line due to a lack of youth, Andonovski better hope it’s something else. It’s plausible: the USWNT has never lost despite being the oldest squad at the previous two World Cups. Furthermore, all of the American players, from veterans to Olympic debutantes, seemed to be equally slow.
However, if the USWNT doesn’t play with greater energy against New Zealand, the roster’s age will become a factor.
As the USWNT prepares to play New Zealand, Lindsey Horan thinks on the team’s shocking defeat to Sweden at the Tokyo Olympics.
What happened to the USWNT’s mentality?
Yes, the whole USWNT had a terrible day. Yes, the tactics of the USWNT were no match for Sweden’s strategy. The Americans’ most serious issue, though, was their harried, frightened, and despairing attitude. Simply stated, they didn’t resemble the United States Women’s National Team.
When asked why the Americans are so difficult to defeat following the 2019 World Cup final, Netherlands player Danielle van de Donk explained: “Their attitude is their strength. They’re not going to give up. They’ll never stop fighting.” So, how did that squad fare versus Sweden?
In his first time in command of the USWNT in a big tournament, Vlatko Andonovski gets off to a slow start. Getty Images/Dan Mullan
On Friday, Lindsey Horan told reporters, “It was spoken about a lot and it needed to be mentioned: the mindset.” “It seemed like something was missing, and we couldn’t figure out what it was, but that’s never the case with the USWNT. Anyone who has played for this squad understands what I’m talking about. The mindset is always there, regardless of the tactics used or the technical execution used.”
It would be easy to blame the empty stadiums in this pandemic-plagued Olympics — after all, the popular USWNT is used to playing in front of raucous home crowds, even when playing abroad — but with each generational shift in the USWNT, the culture established decades ago by the founding members of the team risks eroding. If that occurs, the USWNT would face much more serious issues than tactics or player selection.
Horan said, “That was a good little reminder versus Sweden — I say ‘nice,’ but it was awful.” “Now it’s up to us to demonstrate who we are and how tough we are versus New Zealand.”
Fernando Palomo discusses how Sweden became the first team to defeat the United States Women’s National Team since 2019.
The United States Women’s National Team’s supremacy may be waning.
For years, it has been a common notion that the world is “catching up” to the USWNT. It hasn’t occurred, however. (Do you know who won the last two Women’s World Cups? The United States of America.)
However, the forecasts will come true at some time, and the rest of the globe will “catch up.” The issue is, when will it happen? Is Sweden able to demonstrate that this has already occurred?
Realistically, a single result or tournament will not enough to demonstrate this. It’s been going on for a while: European clubs with a lot of money and a lot of experience building successful soccer teams have started investing in the women’s game, which will counteract the USWNT’s built-in advantage — Title IX, which encourages colleges to provide top-tier resources to female soccer players and encourages players to take soccer seriously in order to earn scholarships.
Just glancing at Sweden’s roster reveals the country’s steady growth overseas. Take Kosovare Asllani, for example: she was one of Sweden’s greatest players and now plays for Real Madrid, a world-famous club that didn’t have a women’s team until 2019. LHurtig, one of the goal scorers, is a member of Juventus’ women’s team, which has only been around for four years.
The rise of women’s soccer across the globe is unlikely to spell the end of the USWNT’s reign as a global force. Title IX will continue to be a strong advantage, and young Americans will grow in European powerhouses if it is the best path, as Horan has done at PSG and Catarina Macario at Lyon. However, it will make winning a competition such as the World Cup or the Olympics much more difficult.
There was a time when the United States Women’s National Team was part of a tiny and restricted club of “excellent” teams. Who group has grown, and in these tiny Olympics with just 12 teams, there are more teams that should be considered gold medal contenders than not.
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