Three takeaways from England-USA

By Mike Woitalla

Playing against an England team that seemed to field no offense, the U.S. women still needed a stroke of luck in its 1-0 win in Milton Keynes on Friday.

Alex Morgan scored her 50th U.S. goal on a header in the 25th minute, the Americans did dominate, but the AR wrongly called offside Jodie Taylor, who in the 57th minute buried a rebound after U.S. keeper Ashlyn Harris deflected Fran Kirby’s long-range shot onto the crossbar.

Besides the nullified goal, England didn’t threaten. For its part, the USA had a practice session on how to cope with a packed defense.

Here are three takeaways from the USA's win over England.

1. The U.S. midfield did look better, but …

Last Sunday, in a 2-0 loss to France, the Americans were thoroughly outplayed in midfield. Against England, a far less skillful team than the French, the early going didn’t look good for U.S. central midfielders Morgan Brian and Lauren Holiday, who were flanked by Carli Lloyd and Christen Press.

But after starting off by launching inaccurate passes to the frontline duo of Abby Wambach and Morgan, who were blanketed by English defenders, they finally played more patiently.

A crisp combination by Brian and Holiday led to Holiday’s inswinging cross that Morgan headed home from eight yards. The Americans started keeping possession for longer periods, probing rather than hitting hopeful balls, and finding some rhythm.

It did not, however, translate into another goal. And when the opponents know your main strategy is to feed the front two, the midfielders need to create scoring opportunities of their own.

2. Abby Wambach’s role will be under review.

The USA’s all-time leading scorer, Wambach turns 35 four days before this summer’s Women’s World Cup kicks off.

She was an ineffective 63rd-minute sub against France. She started against England, as Ellis moved Press into midfield, and played the full 90 minutes.

The English backline had so little trouble denying her of the ball that one wonders how effective she’ll be against strong opponents at the World Cup.

3. Key players were missed.

The USA was missing four key players on its two-game Europe tour: suspended Hope Solo and the injured trio of Sydney Leroux, Megan Rapinoe and Christie Rampone.

Solo’s backup, Harris, was tested only once, when she created a rebound that set up the nullified goal. Solo, one thinks, would handle a long-range shot better. Leroux has scored in more than half of her 66 appearances. The central defense is coping without the 39-year-old veteran Rampone. But the lethal forays from wide that Rapinoe provides were needed.

TRIVIA: Morgan’s 50 goals have come in 73 appearances, and at age 25 she’s 10th on the all-time leading scorers list, three goals behind Carin Jennings-Gabarra, who scored her 53 goals in 117 games. No. 1 Wambach scored her 177 goals in 234 games.

Feb. 13 in Milton Keynes, England
England 0 USA 1. Goal: Morgan (Holiday) 25.
USA -- Harris; Krieger, Engen, Sauerbrunn, Klingenberg (Dunn, 79); Press (O’Hara, 90+2), Brian, Holiday, Lloyd; Morgan (Rodriguez, 90), Wambach.
England -- Bardsley; Scott, Houghton, Bassett (Clarke, 90), Stokes (Greenwood, 70); Nobbs (Williams, 81), Scott, Potter (Aliko, 79), Carney; Taylor (Sanderson, 81), Kirby
Referee: Sandra Bastos (Portugal)
Attendance: 14,369

10 comments about "Three takeaways from England-USA ".
  1. Glenn Maddock, February 13, 2015 at 7:35 p.m.

    I think they'll be fine with Abby as a 2nd half super-sub for offensive punch if its a close game. They need to play a possession game, and out-muscle some of these talented teams. Most of the good women's teams cant get a physical as us, so use that to our advantage.

  2. Kenneth Barr, February 13, 2015 at 9:36 p.m.

    One other takeaway from tonight's game was another atrocious officiating mistake. On a play that is specifically described as not offside in the Laws, a perfectly good goal was ruled out by the AR for offside. Coming on the heals of the Vertonghen "offside" when he clearly wasn't because he was on his side of midfield when the ball was played forward, officiating at the highest level of the game has become a serious issue. We hear a lot about "Respect" and "Fair Play" yet these glaring errors by officials who are at the top of the pyramid can't be allowed to continue. The officials involved should be immediately downgraded as they can't be trusted to rule correctly in clear cut situations, never mind those which involve interpretation. Thankfully, this was a friendlyh, not a competitive match. Should this happen in the World Cup, the game will take a needless black eye.

  3. Eric Schmitt, February 13, 2015 at 9:46 p.m.

    The criticism of Ashlyn Harris is totally out of line. The rebound she "created" was a great save that would have gone directly in if she hadn't gotten a hand to it. If that's the only criticism of her you can come up with, Mr. Woitalla, you're reaching.

  4. John DiFiore, February 13, 2015 at 9:59 p.m.

    Abby's days are numbered...sadly. We can't count on her like we used to. Also, although out-muscling worked in the past, I think it would be a step backward to rely on that. There are too many women's teams that have caught up. And more are coming. We will now simply have to be more creative and better with the ball and off of the ball.

  5. James Madison, February 13, 2015 at 11:53 p.m.

    Better with the ball should be the mantra for the players and player ratings, please, should be the mantra for SA. Discrimination in this respect should end just as in many other respects.

  6. Michael Saunders, February 14, 2015 at 11:58 a.m.

    Being approximately 4 months away from the World Cup, one has to ask oneself does the USA have a realistic chance to win it? One might suggest that the US is deliberately looking to "peak" by then. Not a bad idea, but one has to seriously question that approach based on what we have seen over the past two games. So let's confirm the obvious from what we saw and then let's ask the hard questions:

    (1) England is NOT in the top tier of WC contenders (2) The AR made an atrocious mistake in the England game (3) The goaltending by the USA is not the issue (4) Abbey Wambach is not fit, injured or just "done" to compete at this level.

    Now the observations / questions:
    (a) The US Team is relying on tactics that are no longer applicable. Hey Mike, "out-muscling" should not be an option: Just watch France, Japan, Germany and Brazil and you cannot help but realize it. Possession is nice but where is the creativity? Crosses into the box should not be the "only" option. Wonder what the data analysis would reveal regarding the percentage of goals scored by the US by kick or head over the past 8 years? Add set pieces into the equation, including corners, and I'm afraid that the USA reliance on their height rules the day
    (b) Is it a lack of talent? Seems to me whenever I hear that we are missing 4 of our top players, we are admitting that the talent pool is sparse. Must re-state the obvious with a Tony DiCicco quote: “France is one of the teams that can win the World Cup. England is not" (c) Is it the "coaching"? Seems to me that the coach is unsure of herself. Where were the adjustments to the game situation both in the France & England games? Is it because she came on as an "interim" coach, or is it that she may be the only coach that can deal with "old" stars. Problem with the latter is that that style of game is no longer competitive enough to win
    (d) Lack of quickness: I was frankly amazed at the lack of quickness by the US Women, coupled with just poor decision making. One has to believe the team is "fit", so I only can assume that there is lack of confidence by the team in believing in themselves... Goes back to the points made about coaching ....

    Realize that hindsight is 100%, but the choice of coaches since Pia Sundhage left is most certainly an issue with the team. To be clear, the team makeup can be competitive; but, unless there are fundamental changes made in their approach, the chances of winning the WC, let alone getting into the semi-final, are very dim. Could a new coach change that at this stage? Probably not. Hopefully, I'll be proven wrong; but even if we somehow do make the final, changes must be made for the Olympics and the 2019 WC. US Women's Soccer has done so much for the growth of the game both in terms of the sport itself and the recognition of women in sport, that it would be a shame to allow it to falter.

  7. R2 Dad, February 14, 2015 at 12:35 p.m.

    Started watching the France game on ESPN3 and the US looked good for the first 2 minutes, then the wheels fell off. Everyone has now learned the way to gain traction is to pressure our back line into making long balls forward. And our backs are unable to do anything else with the ball. Just getting it to our midfielders on the ground is too much to ask. We have good talent in the attacking 3rd, but World Cup teams will starve them of the ball.

  8. beautiful game, February 14, 2015 at 1:21 p.m.

    Hope Solo, a key player? As for the team, not enough efficacy and simplicity of play.

  9. Bruce Gowan, February 14, 2015 at 7:47 p.m.

    Holiday and Brian were better but still not good enough in the center midfield.Lloyd is not the right player to play outside mid. Wambach can only be effective is the team plays long balls at her. At the end of a game trying to protect a lead Wambach is a liability because she does not protect the ball well. This team will be a better team when Wambach retires and the team can play a high speed possession game with pressure all over the field.

  10. James Froehlich, February 15, 2015 at 7:27 p.m.

    Totally agree R2dad----Is it possible that the US-centric arrogance that has infected the US men's development for years/decades has ALSO affected the women's development BUT has been hidden by the advantage that US women's soccer gained from the early acceptance of women's team sports in the US??? If the rest of the world's women's teams are beginning to leverage their much older soccer cultures, then it's time for US Women's organizations to do some in-depth evaluation of their own player development--just like the men!!!

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