In the aftermath of a 4-2 victory after the Americans trailed, 2-0, here are a few observations of how they came back against France:
MORGAN’S MOBILITY. Alex Morgan’s finishing and breakaway speed aren’t her only weapons. Her smart, incisive runs along the back line forced French head coach Bruno Bini to re-align his defense at halftime.
Yet bringing in Laura Georges for Ophelie Meilleroux didn’t help the French all that much, as they couldn’t contain Abby Wambach in the air nor stop Morgan’s work on and off the ball. Wide players Megan Rapinoe and Tobin Heath increased their influence in the second half, during which the Americans tacked on two more goals to complete a 4-2 comeback win after they had trailed, 2-0.
After Wambach headed home a Rapinoe corner kick to cut France’s lead in half, Morgan gracefully tapped a Wambach knockdown over French keeper Sarah Bouhaddi to tie the match. Following a great shot by substitute Carli Lloyd – from a Rapinoe feed -- that gave the USA a 3-2 lead early in the second half, Morgan poked home her second goal following a great left-wing run and centering ball from Heath, freed by Rapinoe.
CLUMSY CLEARANCES.France scored its second goal in the 13th minute, after the Americans squandered several chances to clear a ball, and another scramble in the second half yielded a shot that Eugenie Le Sommer, the other halftime sub inserted by Bini, fired over the crossbar. Several American players during the sequences were simply overpowered in the tackle by the French, who expended a lot of energy as the USA rallied and struggled for much of the second half.
The Americans were also beaten numerous times on the corners, with Kelly O’Hara at left back and Amy LePeilbet on the right side stranded by France’s clever wing play. Centerbacks Rachel Buehler and Christie Rampone were at times caught in bad positions deciding whether to challenge or drop, and the Americans needed time to gain a foothold in midfield after Shannon Boxx went down with a hamstring injury and was replaced by Lloyd.
GOING FORWARD. France and the USA shouldn’t be seriously troubled by remaining group games with Colombia and North Korea, but both teams need to address their defensive shape and aggression going for second balls. No questions about the USA’s spirit, however, nor the potency of Morgan and Wambach up top, supported by the wide players and center mid Lauren Cheney, who didn’t see much of the ball until the second half.
Great credit to Lloyd, who as an emergency replacement helped solidify the middle and came up with a trademark goal at a critical point in the match. Her performance typified much of what this team is about mentally; it shook off the shock of conceding two early goals to beat a good team going away.