New England Soccer Today

U.S. Open Olympics With Win

Photo credit: Kari Heistad/capturedimages.biz

Photo credit: Kari Heistad/capturedimages.biz

The US Women’s National Soccer Team got off to a hot start in their opening 2016 Olympic match against New Zealand Wednesday evening and never looked back, finishing with a 2-0 victory that was perhaps more comfortable than the scoreline would suggest. The win gives the US an early lead atop Group G with France and Colombia playing later that night.

Captain Carli Lloyd took a cross from Tobin Heath in the 9th minute and turned it across her body for a looping header goal. It was the start the US needed, allaying any fears that their World Cup victory tour would have made them flat.

After the US scored early they decided to play a very defensive game. From minute 20 until half most of the touches were spent on possessing the ball with the back 4. The USWNT enjoyed 63 percent possession but it felt more smothering than that. Johnston and Sauerbrunn were both great in the back, but went most of the match untested.

Alex Morgan scored 40 seconds into the second half, a quick passing combination left her free to the left of the penalty spot and she beat the keeper near post. After a slow build up end to the first half, that goal was a shot in the arm.

Lloyd and Morgan both played very well and did their jobs. Heath had some excellent crosses and won some fouls. But she also went in and committed some fouls that weren’t necessary. The US will need her to focus more on being a playmaker and not trying to enforce, so she doesn’t pick up cards and so she won’t be as banged up later in the tournament.

Hope Solo was largely uninvolved in the match. The most activity she saw was picking off a cross in the 92nd minute.

Crystal Dunn was spectacular for the US off the bench. She didn’t record a goal or an assist in the 39 minutes she played, but her speed and willingness to dribble across the middle opened up passing lanes that Pugh was struggling with. Pugh looked a little unsure of herself after getting dispossessed in the open field in the first half and the next 4 passes she made were all backwards. That’s safe, and probably not what Jill Ellis was looking for. Dunn may start over Pugh going forward as she adds more to the offense right now.

One confusing part of this match was the slow build up play that led to crossing attacks. Usually a cross into the box is used when you have better numbers in the box, or a 1 to 1 ratio. Tonight when the US slowly built up to crosses they were usually outnumbered in the box. They could have benefitted from passing the ball around the 18 more and looking to play balls in on the ground. That’s how they scored the Morgan goal in the 46th minute and that’s how they can look to score more against other teams. A more diverse attacking plan against France, who is a far superior opponent, is needed.

The USWNT takes on France on Saturday August 6, at 4 pm.

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